There are many ways we define ourselves. We might define ourselves by our physical characteristics (I am tall, black, white, blonde), by our relationships (I am a mother, a father, a wife, a son), by our occupation (I am a doctor, a student, a lawyer), by our stage in life (I am in college, in high school, retired, just married), and the list goes on and on. These various definitions need to be prioritized to see who we truly are. Are we more concerned with our occupation or our relationships? With our relationships or with our physical attributes? I often think of this for myself. How do I prioritize the varies definitions that I fit into? What would the first few terms be that I use to define myself? I am a wife. I am a daughter. I am a sister. But first and foremost: I am a Catholic.
Being a Catholic comes first in my life because it defines everything else that is important to me. Being a Catholic is not about following rules, standing up and sitting down in Mass, chanting prayers, and carrying rosaries. Being a Catholic is about following Christ. It is about striving to live like our Lord commanded. It is about growing closer to God, helping to spread God’s love with everyone around us, and worshipping the Lord for all we have been given. Among the many things we have been given, being Catholic gives me even more.
Catholic is my religion and my faith. My faith in Jesus and His saving grace! Being Catholic offers me a way to pray using my own words or prayers given to us by our Lord and various holy Saints throughout time. It gives me an opportunity to worship God in His holy church each Sunday. To praise Him in song many times throughout the Mass. It means I can receive my Lord in the flesh each Sunday during Holy Communion. It means I can trace back the roots of my religion to Jesus himself. I can follow a line of men who have served as the human leader of Christ’s Church here on earth starting when Jesus said to Peter, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) From Peter to Linus to Anacletus to Clement and on and on throughout time I can trace a line all the way up to Pope John Paul II and now to Pope Benedict XVI. And what’s more, Jesus has told us that the gates of the netherworld will not prevail against His Church! I know that despite the bad times, our Church will stay strong in faith and will be protected for all of time.
Being a Catholic gives me hope. I have hope for whatever lies ahead because of my faith. I know that my God will always be with me. I know that what we have here on earth is only temporary. That our time spent here, while it seems long to us, is only a small portion of eternity! An eternity that we can spend with Christ because of His great love for us and His sacrifice for us on the cross. Even in the worst of times, I have hope because of my faith.
Being a Catholic allows me to love. 1 John 4:16 says “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” Without God, we cannot know love. Without God’s love for us, how could we begin to love anyone at all? God loves us so much that He creates us all with free will. He loves us enough to let us make our own decisions. He loves us through our triumphs and through our mistakes. He loves us despite all our sins. To remain in God, we must believe in His deep and everlasting love for us and show Him that we love Him too. We can show our love for God through our thoughts, our actions, our words, and our relationships. To live like Christ lived we show God we love Him. To speak the word of God and spread hope to others, we show God we love Him. And through the love we have in God, we are capable of building our own loving relationships. It is because of God’s love for me and my love for Him that I am capable of being in love with my husband and being loved by him in return.
Certainly I must say that the Catholic religion is more than just what I have listed. And I do not believe that only Catholics will be in Heaven, nor am I condemning other religions. But if someone were to ask me to define myself, I would say I am a Catholic. I am a Catholic because I can’t imagine my life any other way. I am proud of my Catholic faith and religion. I love that through the Catholic faith, I grow closer to God. With millions of other Catholics around the world, I pray and praise God and I hope in salvation. I know the love that God has for me. And I love Him. And through that love I can know how to love others. I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, and many more things. But I am nothing without my Catholic faith and my God.