It is human to chafe at the yoke of subservience. For sentient beings, the receiving end of authority is rarely easy or comfortable. Yet for outside observers, public and humble acquiescence is a state where traditional Catholics apparently thrive. Our well-advertised penchant for guilt, our rote rituals, and our eager genuflections may lead others to describe us, but these casual observations should never define us. There is a profound difference between being subservient and being a servant.
If obedience to God was an omnipotent and directionless command, any intelligent and reasoning being would eventually lose their way, but reflective Catholics understand our direction from God is to be citizens, not subjects. Rather than enslave us, our demanding God gave us authority over — and responsibility for — the land and the seas. Our savior Jesus Christ further defined that responsibility with a requirement to love and to serve, not as indentured slaves, but as loving servants of our human civilizations and caretakers of Gods gifts.
The bowed heads and genuflections that traditional Catholics are so often categorized by are not signs of meek acquiescence, but instead an acknowledgment of our need for communion with our Lord. It is an acknowledgement of our human weaknesses and our need of spiritual support. We need the light of heavenly beacons to be sure, but just as important, we need the support of fellow believers to stay the course. Only together do we find the courage and strength to live the lives we aspire to live.
So, the next time a friend teases you about your Catholic guilt, your kneeling adorations, your memorized prayers, and your whispered confessions, why not try to explain to them how it actually works. Explain that being Catholic is not an inherited birthright but is instead a conscious and ongoing choice, that the call to serve is not always easy but it is always rewarding and that you serve your family and community with charity and love, not because of some supernatural or primal fear, but because your heart rejoices at the call to duty.
And the next time an “Easter-service” parishioner engages you about your wear-it-on-your-sleeve faith, explain to them that you are not Catholic because your parents were but because you have chosen this path in communion with the Lord. The baptism that your parents arranged for you does not make you Catholic. You are Catholic because it is the life you have chosen to live. You are Catholic because of the rocky paths that you have tread since that long-ago and unremembered day of holy water and scented oils. You will not be presented to your maker as an infant in a flowing white gown but as a tested human being — an unchained spirit who was gifted free will and a lifetime of temptation and still chose a humble life of decency, charity and service.
Explain your “Catholic” confidence by asking these straightforward questions. With the Lord Jesus walking at my side, how would it be possible to not be confident? My Lord Jesus walks with you too, so why not reach out and take his hand?