Continuing our blog series, “Our Catholic Faith,” Margie Mandli shares some reflections about a friend who recently left the Catholic Church to attend a non-demoninational church. Margie reflects on the positive outlook and even the opportunities presented to Catholics in these instances to recall their own understanding of the Catholic teachings and be witnesses of faith. Margie and her husband, Mark, along with their three children have been parishioners for about eight years and reside in Kenosha. She is an independent business owner of GEM Communications and Consulting LLC, and serves as ministry leader for Parish Outreach.
Recently, I learned that one of my dear friends left the Catholic Church to join a non-denominational church – the kind that “wow” you with high-tech Sunday services….almost an entertaining sort of experience. You can choose from “loud” and “not-so-loud” services (according to their Web site), whichever suits your preference.This church boasts about its programs for children and youth, allowing all ages to fully engage in the church experience.
Feelings of sadness, resentment and even regret came upon me as I thought about what I could have done to prevent what I considered this tragic occurrence. After I collected my emotions, I began to think more rationally (and less judgmentally). I thought to myself, “It could be a lot worse.” I began to ponder at the thought of my dear friend in search, perhaps in search of something deeper. Maybe she feels something is missing from her life, her husband’s life, and maybe even her young children’s lives. Maybe – just maybe – she’s in search of a relationship with our Lord. And, ISN’T THAT A GOOD THING? Perhaps, her exploration could actually help deepen her faith, allowing her family to grow together.
Nonetheless, I began to ask myself, what does THAT church have that we do not? Because in fact, I always wonder how one could possibly leave behind the Eucharist – the “source and summit” of the Catholic Church, that in which all strength and life is derived. After all, Jesus Christ himself is present in body, blood, soul and divinity. While the Eucharist is central to the Church’s teachings, it’s also quite a mystery, and often difficult to comprehend for many. And, so knowing that this may be a really tough belief to buy into, I decided there ought to be something more as to why people leave the Catholic Church. So instead of fighting it and resenting it, I started to ask myself, “What is it WE DON’T HAVE that this other church COULD POSSIBLY HAVE?”
To explore this question further, I started thinking about situations in which someone is really excited about something, exuding a certain enthusiasm for this new “thing.” It could be a recipe, a new fitness program, a new hobby, a new love, a new vacation home, a milestone in the family such as graduation, birth, or wedding. The list goes on and on. What do all these exciting scenarios have in common? To me, it’s one thing: Passion – A passion for this new found thing or person that will make their life better. A belief that this person or thing can satisfy an interest, a hunger or a need. Isn’t it true when you experience someone who is passionate about something, you want what they have? Their enthusiasm is contagious. Their love for life is obvious. They are attractive in every way. People want to be around them. So, back to my question, “What is it WE DON’T HAVE that this other church COULD HAVE?”
My conclusion: PASSION. Is it possible we may lack PASSION, and perhaps the other church HAS PASSION? Passion for its beliefs. Excitement for the things they offer. Importantly, this church is passionate about the Lord! And passionate in helping people create a relationship with the Lord! To me, the passion they have represents FIRE! Is it possible that the people from this church are on FIRE WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT? Fire spreads. The result: People flock to their church to see what the buzz is about.
Some might argue that there are many Catholics who are passionate about their Church, their beliefs, and even passionate about their relationship with the Lord. But how do we spread that passion to others so that EVERYONE IS UNIVERSALLY EXCITED ABOUT BEING CATHOLIC, THAT PEOPLE ARE DRAWN TO US, where people naturally say, “I want what they have!”
And, so I began to ask, “HOW DO WE CREATE THAT SAME FIRE — A ZEAL FOR OUR CHURCH?” Whose job is it? The priest’s? The Church’s? The Pope’s? Perhaps it’s all of these. But, maybe the real answer starts with me. If I’m passionate about something, logic says I would tell someone about it. So, I sat back and asked myself these questions:
1) Have I told anyone about how powerful the Eucharist is to me, personally? How when I receive the Eucharist, it’s as if I receive one great big hug from Christ. That I can’t wait to receive Him, especially in the middle of the week when I need the most strength?
2) Have I told anyone that when I receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it feels like a deep cleansing of the soul? Have I told anyone that it provides immense spiritual healing? That it makes me more compassionate toward people? That it makes me more forgiving of people? That it makes me ever so aware of my flaws and my reliance on God to pick me up again? That it helps me start anew with my relationship with the Lord?
3) Have I told anyone that the Saints give me inspiration to live my life? That they as sinners in this world, have experienced the same darkness and despair that so often we all do? That they provide an incredible example for having a deep prayer life yet they too experienced struggles to maintain their prayer life?
4) Have I told anyone about the power of the Mass?That in Mass we experience the sacrifice of our Lord on the cross each time, and that once I studied and learned more about the Mass and its full meaning, I realized that it’s probably the greatest gift ever given to us?
5) Have I told anyone about the works of mercy that our Church provides? The hundreds of thousands of people we serve on the streets, in prisons, hospitals and schools? About what my children come home and teach me each day by attending a Catholic school?
6) Have I told anyone about my own personal relationship with the Lord? How He speaks to me…every single day in scripture, through people, through prayer, in my heart? That, if I’m open, He can actually tell me what clothes to wear? What to say to a friend? What not to say? When to be silent? When to help someone?
7) Have I told anyone that at my parish, there is a true love for the Liturgy, which is felt in the people, the music, preaching and hospitality, and most of all the Eucharist? That people have continued to visit us and “want what we have”?
It struck me as I reflected on my friend leaving the Catholic Church: Did I ever share these things with her? Why have I been so silent? Do I consider this gift a private affair –not for sharing? Am I embarrassed or scared of rejection, therefore resort to remaining silent? My prayer for my friend is that she finds what she’s looking for because I love her and want what’s best for her. My greatest hope for her is that she and her family will find our Lord and develop a loving and lasting relationship with Him. Who knows? Maybe next time I see her, she’ll be on fire. Maybe she’ll be able to teach us about PASSION – PASSION FOR THE LORD AND ALL THAT HE IS. Maybe next time I ask why someone has left the Church,instead I should ask: What have I DONE to share my passion?