Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Definitions


Today, my husband posted this on his Facebook account: "Scientists have supposedly proved that women are the less decisive sex. The study also found that men are more likely to leap to 'black-or-white' judgments, while women, on the other hand, tend to be open minded and 'see more shades of gray'.

In the study, more than 100 people were asked whether each of 50 objects fitted partially, fully or not at all into categories. Women were 23 percent more likely to select the 'partial' option. Their 'indecisive' responses were to questions likely to stimulate debate, such as 'Is paint a tool?' or 'Is a tomato a fruit?'"

Men, Women, and the Use of Language

I argued that this was not proof that women were indecisive, but rather that they were far more precise in their use of language than men.  A woman who states that something is white does not mean that it is kind of whitish - she means that it is exactly white and not ecru or beige or any other color. I think that, if anything, this study highlights why there are communication problems between men and women.  Men speak in general terms, using a very broad brush to cover a lot of ground, while women use a thin, narrow brush to etch out all the details.

What Does It Mean to Be Catholic?

Oddly enough, this same communication problem occurs between Catholics. It comes down to definitions. When I was a child, we called ourselves Catholic and we truly believed that we were.  However, our practice of the faith was limited to an hour on Sundays and another hour for religious education. Once we were outside the walls of the church, we gave no thought to participating in Bible studies or learning our catechism or any other activity that might have helped us grow in our ability to know, love, and serve the Lord.

As a teenager, I attended Catholic school, began to read the Bible, and to pray the rosary. I called myself Catholic and sincerely believed that I was, but I not only dissented from many of the core Catholic teachings, I also actively disobeyed them.

Catholicism Is Not Self-Defined

As I have gotten to know more and more about the Catholic faith, I have come to realize that no matter how much I may have called myself Catholic when I was younger, I was not. Real Catholics are obedient to Christ's teachings proclaimed through Sacred Scripture, preserved through the Magisterium in Sacred Tradition, and pronounced through the authority of the Pope. We do not leave our faith behind when we head home from Mass, we incorporate it into every aspect of our lives.

Real Catholics are not perfect, and may not perfectly live the Gospel, but they strive for that perfection and seek forgiveness for the times when they have failed that perfection.  Real Catholics understand that while God can be found everywhere, the only way to receive Him as nourishment is in the Eucharist and only in communion with other believers.

Real Catholics don't go to Mass because they have to, but because they desire to sit at the table of the Lord and listen to Him speak to them. Real Catholics understand that all life is precious, because all life is a gift from God to the human race, and therefore all life must be protected from the moment of conception through natural death.

You Can Call Yourself Anything You Like. That Doesn't Make It So.

The truth of the matter is that I can call myself an orange, dress in orange, have memorized every fact regarding the uses and nutritive value of oranges, talk about having grown up dangling from a tree limb, even point out the tree from which I grew and none of that makes me an orange.  What makes me an orange is being one, just as what makes someone a Catholic is being one.

You can call yourself Catholic, talk about growing up Catholic, have read every encyclical and every Church document, memorize the Bible and the Catechism, pray a rosary daily - and this still does not make you Catholic. Obedience to Holy Mother Church and to her head, Christ Jesus, is what defines a Catholic as being a Real Catholic.

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