practicing vs. doing

Instead of practicing being a Catholic … we should be doing our Catholic Christianity at all times. Loving God with all our hearts. Loving others. Welcoming everyone, caring for those in need, forgiving those who offend us or do us wrong.

Father Michael spoke last Sunday about being a “practicing” Catholic. He began his homily by saying he hates the word practice. He doesn’t want a doctor who practices medicine, for example – he wants one who knows what they are doing! He went on to say that when people think of a “practicing” Catholic, they think of someone who goes to Mass, goes to confession, says their prayers, and fasts during Lent – in other words, someone who does Catholic things a couple of hours a week or at certain times of the year. Instead of practicing being a Catholic, he went on, we should be doing our Catholic Christianity at all times. Loving God with all our hearts. Loving others. Welcoming everyone, caring for those in need, forgiving those who offend us or do us wrong.

Don’t get me wrong – I definitely believe that the typical Catholic “practices” are worthwhile. Going to Mass lets us gather in community to praise God and share the Eucharist. Prayer lets us quiet our minds and listen for God’s guidance, as well as thanking God for all he gives us. Fasting lets us remove outside distractions from our lives so we can concentrate on what we are called to do. Going to confession lets us set down any burden of guilt for things we have done, and allows someone to remind us of the forgiveness God offers.

But, of course, we practice those things to strengthen ourselves for the real doing – becoming the eyes and ears and hands and hearts of Christ in the world. Before anyone points out the hypocrisy in my saying this, rest assured that I am painfully aware of how far I fall short in doing it myself. I seem to be in a season of my life that takes all my energy to keep my head above water, when I wish I could be doing more for (and with!) others. I’ll just keep praying that this time will pass quickly and that I’ll feel more like myself soon. That’s something productive I can do during all those hours I spend lying around!

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