By BILL CLARKE, Commentary | Published January 10, 2019
“In life, we can easily become complacent. Life is full of routines, and routines eventually become habit. At times, our spiritual lives can become more of a habit than a passion.”
-Waking Up Catholic, Chad Torgerson
What is a “good Catholic”? A response that we might have is that a good Catholic is someone who regularly attends Mass, receives the sacraments, puts an envelope in the collection basket and gets involved in parish activities.
In short, “good” Catholics might tend to feel that their faith heritage is alive, well and adequate. But let me pose a question, “Has your faith become more of a comfortable habit, something you may take for granted?”
Why do I ask the question? I’m not in any way being critical, but if your faith has unintentionally evolved into more of a habit than a passion over your adult years, there is a powerful reason why you need to evaluate what being a “good” Catholic actually means, especially for seniors.
The more time I spend with seniors and senior ministry, the more I have come to realize that seniors have unique spiritual needs. Some may think that the “silver hairs” in the parish have a mature spirituality that needs little, if any, additional formation. I’m now beginning to see that seniors have a much stronger and more immediate need to do whatever it takes to strengthen their faith.
Let us not forget that our primary purpose in life is to achieve eternal salvation. When we breathe our last breath, we will be judged on how well we have followed the Greatest Commandment: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:37-39).
A committed Catholic
I offer two thoughts to help you on your senior faith journey.
First, take your faith to a new dimension in your relationship with God. Make prayer a routine part of your daily life. God is always there to listen and help. Talk to him as you would talk to a dear friend. Develop or expand your prayers to include the Blessed Mother and your favorite saints. They will intercede for you.
If you are retired, consider attending Mass more frequently and experiencing the power that the Eucharist can have on your attitude and daily life.
Talk to your pastor and director of religious education to learn about programs the parish may have in senior adult faith formation. More parishes are beginning to see the need for programs to address the impact of the senior population explosion.
Second, if you aren’t already active in parish ministries, get started. Every senior has a lifetime of experience and wisdom that is strongly needed in all parishes. If you wonder how you can better serve your neighbor, one answer can be found in parish ministries. For instance, two great examples are the Knights of Columbus and the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Getting involved in parish ministry worked for me when I became a teacher in our parish RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program. It was through the process of teaching our faith to eager converts each year that I realized what a gift God and my parents had given to me. Through this ministry I developed a deeper and more personal relationship with God and my faith. After all these years, I’m beginning to understand what being a Catholic actually means.
There is a difference between being a “good” Catholic and a truly “committed” Catholic. It’s like the difference between dating and marriage. A married person makes a lifelong commitment of mind and body to total love and faithfulness.
If you are a “good” Catholic, God bless you for maintaining your faith, but as the opening quote suggests, “At times, our spiritual lives can become more of a habit than a passion.”
If your faith has become more of a habit, perhaps it is time to “Kick it up a notch!” as Chef Emeril Lagasse says.
Bill Clarke, former business executive, teacher and senior citizen, emerged from his third retirement to serve as associate director of professional development for the archdiocesan Office of Formation and Discipleship. To send Bill thoughts on this topic, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.