Let’s get two things out there: I am a terrible lover, and I’m not known for being an extraordinarily loving either.
A terrible lover – what does that mean?
It means I’m self-absorbed, arrogant, and selfish.
I also have high expectations from people, whether it be something like expecting people to follow traditional societal norms (like marriage->cohabitation->baby) or whether I expect my Bishop to crack down on the liturgical insanity that exists in so many parishes.
And to top it off, if I have an opinion, I have to be heard.
This sad reality has come to the forefront of my prayer life through specific interactions and personal situations I’ve had with both Catholics and non-Catholics alike over the last few months.
So that’s my first point: I don’t love well, and I believe it is fundamentally undermining the possibility of my non-Catholic friends and family of considering the Catholic Church as an option.
Could you and I be the very reason somebody will never consider becoming Catholic?
Question for you: by and large, what do you think are the first five or six adjectives a non-Catholic would use to describe practicing and devout Catholics today?
While I don’t know that I could hit it right on the head 100%, I would bet that a randomly chosen, non-Catholic on the street who was being honest might list characteristics like strict, traditional, stuck in the past, and judgmental.
While it might be good to see words like, ‘traditional’, one word that I do believe would consistently be lacking is “loving.”
My second point? The lack of ‘loving’ being first on that list needs to change. More on that in a second.
Third: what about you? What five or six adjectives do you think a non-Catholic friend or family member would use to describe you if asked?
“Oh, Jane? Well, she’s nice I guess. She’s really Catholic – like, really strict and stuff.”
Again, I could be off on this with how negative I make it out to be.
But with any case, the problem is the same: I believe that we as Catholics are not known for being extraordinarily loving; not by the media, not by the general public, and most tragically, not even among our own non-Catholic friends and family members.
This is a huge problem.
In fact, I know that I’m not known among my friends, family, or anybody else for being an extraordinarily loving.
If one of my family members outside of the Church were asked to describe me, I think they would answer something like, “Ryan? He’s religious, a strict Catholic. Slightly arrogant, but successful and generally happy by and large.”
Unfortunately “religious, strict Catholic”, “successful” and “generally happy” are not qualities that will result in a smile and a “well done, good and faithful servant” when I’m next in line.
And it certainly doesn’t result in new baptisms or reconciled souls.
Extraordinary love does, though. Perhaps its time to recommit ourselves to finding ways to love in extraordinary ways, both as a response to the Lord’s own extraordinary love toward us and as act of love for the salvation of the world.
“By this,” our Lord says, “By this they will know you are my disciples: that you have love for one another” (John 13.35).
(Shorter) Prayer of St. Patrick’s Breastplate
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise.
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
Christ, be my all.