Friday, January 29, 2010

Many are called...

So, in doing my dishes yet again today, I found myself in one of those "theological dissertations" that you can really only have when you're up to your elbows in dishsoap.

This time I was thinking about my siblings.  We're all grown now and out of our parents' homes.  We are doing well for ourselves, at least decently earning a living, etc.  My brother (has cerebral palsy, but that's another story for another blog post)  is single, lives on his own, and works for the town.  My sister is divorced, lives with some roommates in a farm house, and works for the local Catholic hospital.  I'm the youngest of the three of us, and am the only one who still practices the Catholic Faith.

I began to wonder how this happens in families, that only a select one or two out of a family of children uphold the Teachings of the Faith.  I mean, in my situation, we were all given the same opportunities to learn and love the Faith growing up.  My sister and I attended the same all-girls' Catholic High School, we were taught from the same Sisters, learned the Catechism at the same time.  My brother went to Mass with our family and learned the same lessons as we all did growing up.  We actually weren't "cradle Catholics" in that my sister, my brother, and I all entered the Faith in our teens.  So if anything we were even more "on fire" with our Faith than many of our Catholic peers.  By and large we were given the same chances to grow in, and to live, our Faith.  Then I wonder why I'm the only one who still strives to live the Teachings of the Church.

I know I'm not alone in this conundrum, as my husband's family has the same situation (although slightly different, as his family members still attend Sunday Mass, but they all contracept, love Dan Brown, and believe pretty much in relative morality.)  I started to try to justify our lifestyle choices in that many are called but few are chosen, and my husband and I were given singular graces to have the nuclear family and Faith that we do.  And there is truth to that, but I would ardently reject that notion that these same graces weren't offered to my siblings (or siblings-in-law). 

Faith in family life (meaning you, your spouse, and children) comes down to an act of the will.  It must be a conscientous choice of "yes Lord, I'm going to follow you and abide by the tenets you have established in your Immaculate Bride, the Church".  It cannot be that it just "happens", that some children "get the Faith" and some just "don't".  And I think its good to look on these things, and "ponder them in the heart", to learn that valuable lesson before my own children are grown with children of their own, deliberating the Faith and whether or not to follow it.

This moment, this fiat, this choice to "come and follow" our Lord has to come at a point.  And I think the graces necessary for that moment, for that choice, must come to us in the Sacrament of Confirmation.  I think Confirmation is the opportunity for God to send the call, and for us to respond.  Because, at least in North America under standard theological norms, young adults receive the sacrament of Confirmation as their "graduation" from CCD.  At least that is the way it is perceived and in most cases, presented.  And while no one feels love lost for not spending Tuesday and Wednesday nights in the Church basement with a bunch of their CCD classmates, coloring pictures of St. Therese and playing with Tickle Me Jesus, there is a sense of relief when those "Faith Formation" classes come to a close.  But is that really all Confirmation is?  Recently I had the random and wonderful opportunity to meet Raymond DeSouza, a Catholic apologist, and a worker at Human Life International.  He had the most clear and defining portrayal of what the Sacrament of Confirmation really is.  I quote him here, "At Baptism, we become citizens of God's Kingdom.  At Confirmation, we become soldiers of God's Kingdom."  I found that to be very profound, and could correlate it by looking closer at this kingdom.  Children in a nation act and respond to their government  differently than their parents do.  At Confirmation we're given a moment in which to take on our citizenship in an adult way, as our parents do.  No more hand-holding, no more forced "Faith Formation" classes, no more "you're going to be grounded if you don't get to Mass on Sunday" moments.  We must take up the Cross as adults and follow after our Lord, or sadden him when "many turn away".  At Confirmation its our chance too, to honestly and humbly say, I am still a child in my Faith, help me grow.  At this point we can honestly assess that we are not ready (and not base it on some arbitrary age requirement that given enough time will change anyway) and continue to live as children in his kingdom until we are prepared for a life in the Faith.  Or we can pray for the guidance and wisdom to answer His call depending entirely on His grace to help us along the way.  Or we can just go through the motions and get it done, and then become derelicts in the Faith.  Sadly, I know of many of my Confirmation classmates that have chosen the latter, and now don't even practice the Faith.

So when we look at siblings, friends, and other family members, its important to note that they are still being called.  Constantly called back to the Faith, to the Father.   We must witness to them in Charity and Truth, even when our lives fall on deaf ears.  But I don't believe that the gift of Faith is the same as the gift of music or the gift of writing in each child.  Christ would not give up any one of these "least of our brothers" (no meaning implied in that), even if has to offer this gift again and again and again.  I believe that when it comes to the Faith, that "all are called, all are chosen".


  1. AWESOME post, Patty!

    I am living the same story, with the same ponderings...adn yes, often while doing the dishes or showering. Those moments are so routine and often quiet that they do become contemplative in nature.

    Seeing that my siblings (and even my father) and my husband's siblings aren't practicing Catholics but more practicing moral relativists is a sadness for me and a reason for prayer. My husbands family was more Catholic than my own, and it still happened. And so I worry, what will happen to my children?

    My siblings were not confirmed, I was. But my husbands siblings were all confirmed... and yet, I know that the Holy Spirit continues to try to soften their hardened hearts.

    The message is to worship your intellect and the choices that make you feel good and that religion is weak sentimentalism...yet...everyone goes to heaven...and they've bought it. Why? Because ti allows them to feel mentally superior and allows them to contracept and give others the choice to abort babies...and sleep in on Sundays...

    Being a Catholic requires that you change...surrender to your desires and trust in the path of many far brighter than yourself who relinquished their doubts to the beauty of our Church's teachings. It's harder. It's also not all about me, my entertainment. It's about reverence, real reverence to Him.

    Why was my heart softened? I thank God that it was and that the Holy Spirit works on my reconversion every day as I struggle to follow the True Church. Thank you for reminding me and for giving me hope.

    Let's pray for conversions together.

    Here's a great prayer.

    Prayer to St. Anthony for conversion

    Loving Saint Anthony you always reached out in compassion to those who had lost their faith. You were especially concerned because they had lost access to the healing words of Jesus found in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and in the nourishing presence of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

    Intercede for (name) who has stopped practicing his/her faith. Reawaken in his/her heart a love for our Church and the sacraments, and enkindle in his/her heart a sense of forgiveness for the ways he/she might have been hurt by members of the Church who fell short of the teaching of Christ.

    Finally, St. Anthony, help me to respond to my own call to conversion so that I might become an example of someone who has found great peace in the arms of Christ. May the joy I experience as a Catholic be an invitation to those who are lost to come home again to the Church which we love. Amen.

  2. Wow JMJ! What a beautiful prayer, thanks for posting that! I love St. Anthony (he's my daily companion...St. Anthony where did I put...(insert item here:) but I never even thought to pray to him for those who had "lost" the Faith! Great prayer!!!

  3. Hi Patty! Good to "meet" you and great post.

    I totally agree - when thinking about fallen away family members/close friends I often think "there but for the grace of God, go I".

    I mean, it's true that within families we're for the most part given the same types of upbringing, same catechism classes, etc, but we are still different people from each other despite our genes. I sense that those who have fallen away haven't done so all at once (although that does happen now and again...) but it's more of a gradual path of choices, faults and failures that have brought them to where they are now. I would hazard a guess to say that some might not even realize they aren't TRULY following the Catholic Church's teachings anymore (at least, those who are still nominal CAtholics...). This thought tho makes me realize more and more how EASY it is/would be for me to fall away, and not think twice about it!! Scary...which usually brings me to my knees, praying that I may keep on keepin on that narrow path, then also praying for the loved ones who have fallen away.

    And yes, I agree with you too that the Holy Spirit is constantly attracting them back to Him...He's very attractive you know ;) - and maybe their re-conversions will serve other purposes that we won't see until we're with God in heaven! There is always hope!

    Thanks again for the interesting post!

  4. Rock on Sarah! Thanks for the response!