23

Being Uncomfortably Catholic

carrying-the-cross-dailyIt was such a weird assignment. But, then again, it was a college sociology class, so that may explain a lot.

Assignment? Deliberately do something counter to social mores, observe reactions of those around you, and write about it in your journal.

One student – a middle-aged man with a large beer belly – went to McDonalds and ordered a Happy Meal. He asked for a boy’s toy and proceeded to sit directly in front of the counter and eat the meal himself.

Then, he played with the toy.

Another student entered an elevator and stood in front of the closed elevator doors – staring at the other people in the elevator rather than standing face-forward in silence like everyone over the age of five has learned to do.

I remember the assignment because it was extremely uncomfortable. I like to fit in. I care what people are thinking about me. I feel this crazy compulsion to explain myself to perfect strangers even when I merely suspect that my actions might not make sense to them.

I don’t like breaking social mores – ever.

I like to blend.

But the world has changed. Catholics cannot just blend in with society at large. We stand out because we stand up for Christ and His Church, and we hold to Church Teaching.

There was a time when that meant there wasn’t very much difference between Catholics and the rest of the grown-ups in the United States.  Yes, there was Mary and the Pope and no-meat Fridays, but in general, we could blend.

Today, people look at us like we are a grown-up who just purchased a Happy Meal and is entertained by the toy inside.  Today, people think we are as odd as the person in the elevator who faces away from the doors rather than staring at the closed doors in silence.

No college assignment required. We break social mores all of the time.

And it is kind of uncomfortable.

At a glance, our Catholic practices and beliefs don’t make sense to the public.  But they do make sense. There is a Truth here that is so deep, so rich, so eternal that we must not sacrifice it to feel like one of the crowd. The stakes are too high.

Now more than ever, we must be the salt of the Earth – even if the world has lost its taste for this kind of salt.

More than ever, we must be the light of the world – even if the world likes to dance in the dark and play dangerous games with their eternal souls.

The world may like us to follow along blindly. But we cannot. The Shepherd is calling us to follow after Him.

So, we stand and face the people in the elevator when we stand up for the unborn, for holy matrimony, for chastity, for beauty, for sacrificial living, for suffering-made-holy, for the immigrant-among-us, for peace and peaceful resolutions to conflict, for the aged-and-infirm, for family meals and family values, for Mass attendance because Jesus IS waiting for us in the Eucharist. The crowds may say we are only playing with McDonaldland toys when we pick up our rosaries and light candles in the Adoration Chapel.

Get used to feeling uncomfortable under the gaze of the world. St. Paul’s prediction is upon us:

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.  For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. II Timothy 4:3-7


Denise Bossert is a convert to the Catholic Church. She is the daughter of a Protestant minister.  In 2005, she converted to Catholicism after reading books by Carmelite saints. Her syndicated column called Catholic by Grace has been published in 50 diocesan newspapers. She has also written for Catholic magazines and appeared on EWTN’s Journey Home and Women of Grace.
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  • john_koenig

    Great piece, save for the not so subtle push for amnesty. The Church needs to realize that the majority of Catholics, especially those who have come to this country legally or have parents who did so, are never going to accept amnesty for lawbreakers.

  • Deliberately do something counter to social mores, observe reactions of those around you

    Easy: proclaim the most “offensive” truthful dogma of the Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, but proclaim it as tradition has always proclaimed it; in the strict sense.

    How the Church has always interpreted it is now called the “strict” interpretation because of the liberal speculation that was placed into Denzinger by the heretic Karl Rahner, and is included in the JPII catechism @ CCC 847. This liberal speculation of “no fault of their own” effectively neuters the Church’s age-old dogma of “outside the Church is no salvation.”

    “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)

    “We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.)

    “The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.)

    Proclaim the truth boldly and watch the liberals and protestants call you intolerant and bigoted.

    We Catholics are not bigoted or intolerant; although we must proclaim the Truth, that there is but one Church, and like Noah’s ark, there is no salvation to be found outside of it.

    • guest

      Are all those good Buddhists in China going to hell? Are all those good Hindus in India going to hell? Are all the peace loving Moslems going to hell? Are all those people who live and die without ever knowing anybody named Jesus Christ going to hell? Are all those faithful Protestant Christians condemned? Universal condemnation, except for the RCC, is not the teaching. What about all those Catholics who are not Roman? What kind of god do you believe in? Not the Lord Jesus. What makes you so self-righteous and judgmental? Try love. It never fails. Also, try a little humility; it seeks love. Pope John Paul 11 was not wrong about salvation.

      • Yes, all Buddhists. All Hindus. All Muslims. All Jews who reject Christ. They are all anti-Christ, as 1 John 2:22 states, because they reject the Son.

        We do not know about those who die without ever hearing the Gospel.

        We objectively know by defined dogma of the Church that any one of a heretical or schismatic sect, who is not joined in communion with the Roman Pontiff, cannot achieve the beatific vision, and will not be saved. This even includes some of my family. It is hard to say but it is defined dogma of the Church which must be believed.

        All Catholics joined to the Roman Pontiff are in union with the Body of Christ.

        These are not my opinions… this is the defined dogma of the Church! Solemn pronouncements of the Popes! How presumptuous and judgmental are you to reject these infallibly defined dogmas of the Church?

        Pope John Paul II taught material heresy… if not actual heresy…. concerning salvation. Take this quote for example:

        “… The yearning for the unity of Christians joins hands with the wish for the unity of all the human race. The new conception of the people of God has replaced the old truth on the possibility of redemption outside the visible bounds of the Church. This premise shows the attitude of the Church towards the other religions, which is the basis for recognizing values which are spiritual, human, and Christian at once, extending to religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism… The Church wishes to undertake a dialogue with representatives of these religions. Here Judaism occupies a particular place.”
        1963, Wojtyla, in Malinski, Mon Ami Karol Wojtyla, p. 189, cited by Leroux [Frossard], pp.6-7, emphasis mine.

        Did you catch that? “The new conception of the idea of the people of God has replaced the old truth.” He is referring to the liberal speculation of CCC 847. It is impossible for a defined dogma, a truth to be held in perpetuity, to be “old” and “replaced.”
        Yes, Card. Karol Wojtyla, these religions of anti-Christ do indeed occupy a particular place, in Hell!

        • guest

          Anyone who assigns huge groups of people to hell could not be living in the Spirit of Jesus. You sound almost joyful about it. Do you really believe you are saved with such an attitude? Even condemning members of your own family? Church thinking does evolve over time. At one time the Jews who became the first Christians thought the messiah and salvation were for Jews only. You are a sorry person in need of much prayer on this issue. May your journey bring you closer to the inclusive heart of Jesus.

          • Excuse me? Did Christ not say that wide is the path to perdition and that many go there? Matthew 7:13.

            There is one Church. Matthew 16:18.
            There is one Lord, Faith, and Baptism. Ephesians 4:5.

            I tell my family members what the Church has always taught. There is only one Church, just like there was only one Ark, outside of which is no salvation.

            “I’m a sorry person.”
            If proclaiming the dogma of the Church of Christ, the Holy, Apostolic, Catholic Church makes me a sorry person; then so be it.

            We’re so used to hearing sugar-coated, limp-wristed, “I’m OK, You’re OK” nonsense, that when someone proclaims an absolute truth, that outside of the Church is no salvation, people think that they are being mean (insert limp-wrist and, like my son did at 3 years old, poke out that bottom lip).

          • guest

            I have backbone, thank you. It’s not easy to blog back to a noisy gong and a clanging symbol who prides himself on being a professional catholic. Try growing some love. Look into yourself and find out why you are so prideful, angry, and superior. BTW are you Christian?

          • I’m not a “professional Catholic.”
            I’m a convert from the apostate tradition of Pentecostalism.

            How is it prideful to hold to the dogmas of the one Church?

            How is it prideful to say that anyone that does not accept Christ as their savior, objectively, will not receive salvation?

          • guest

            You did not accept Christ as your savior in Pentecostalism? Really? What were you doing there? That group is all about accepting Jesus as their savior. Lots of Catholics have gone there to meet Jesus and commit their lives to Him as their Lord and Savior. Like many adult converts your thinking is too black and white. Catholic tradition of Christianity is much more nuanced than you understand at this time; there is gray in Catholic thinking and teaching. This is better understood by those raised in the faith. Moreover, doctrine has and does develop over time, something better understood by life long Catholics as well. An all-just, all merciful God does not condemn or allow the condemnation of most of the human race, as you seem to think.

  • Tish Morgna

    I must agree with John about the inappropriateness of that push for amnesty. It is not a sin to desire the illegals to go back to their own country and THEN try going through the legal channels regardless of how long they have to wait. It is also no sin to deny those people who wish to enter the U.S. to destroy it through overwhelming the systems within.

  • John Mac An Leisdeir

    Thank you for this post, Denise. I agree that we need to stand out and stand up for Gospel values. These have always been against the thinking and mores of society in general. I’m afraid I can’t see how the other commentators on your post can be so exclusive when Jesus was quite the opposite.

    • guest

      Thank you for that last sentence. Jesus is inclusive; we should be the same.

      • Struble

        Those who worship at the altar of the trinity of inclusiveness — tolerance, diversity and choice — will, if given the chance, persecute those who prefer to worship Jesus in the Holy Trinity. Search your biblical concordance in vain for the word inclusive.

        • goral

          They have not only been given a chance, they’ve elected a president who is all inclusive to all the leftists, perverts and GLT’s. I believe the last group is actually a sandwich of inclusiveness.

          Sorry, straight pants are excluded.

        • guest

          Be careful. You may be inventing your own Jesus to confirm your own prejudices. And Pharisee sickness is common among those who see themselves as superior in their own exclusive club.

  • CatholicGirl

    I agree that the Church teaches there is no salvation outside of her. But we are also taught that, if at the moment of death, there is perfect contrition, then there is also salvation. Who am I to say God cannot find perfect contrition in a non- Catholic? I choose not to judge others for one simple reason. I want Christ to judge me as I judge others, as we have been told will happen. I am a sinner, yet I want to be in Paradise with Him. So yes! I am Catholic. Yes, I am “uncomfortably” Catholic, even to Catholics, because I choose to live under the stricter rules of meatless Fridays and Ember Days and Lenten Fasts. Yes, I choose not to judge because Jesus told us to leave that to Him, and that He would judge us as we judge others. Yes, I live my faith daily.

    • Who are we to say, yes, but objectively they cannot be saved… because they do not belong to the Body of Christ.

      Jesus said, you are the light of the world, a city seated on a hill cannot be hid. The Church, Body of Christ, is visible for the whole world to see. Non-Catholics do not belong to Her.

  • AugustineThomas

    At least they’re not feeding us to lions. Am I right?

    (Although I suppose that would be preferable to abortion.)

  • Marietta

    “for the immigrant-among-us…”
    Denise, there are two kinds of immigrants – the legal and the illegal (i.e. lawbreaker). In order not to be misunderstood, you must make the distinction between them.

  • Patti Maguire Armstrong

    Great article! It reminds me of the book I recently read, “Dangers to the Faith” which explains how we are attacked from every side these days. It’s is a comfort to have others calling a spade a spade and knowing that we are in this together.

  • k-brez

    People who come to the country illegally often do so out of desperation. Don’t we, as Catholics, as Christians, have a duty of charity towards them? There is a better response than one of justice.

  • k.c.thomas

    We should feel proud to be counter cultural when we uphold Christ and his Church

  • k.c.thomas

    We should feel proud to be countercultural when we obey Chrisy and his Church