What it takes to be a good Catholic



Do the words "Cafeteria Catholic" merit the negative connotation given them in the media?

Why, one is given the impression that there is a rebellion in the offing against the Church? In my mind there are no perfect Catholics; even saints can only strive to be such. Just consider the Penitential Act recited at mass: "I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do. Now, who can measure up to that in the perfect sense? From the day of First Communion, Catholics are told specifically what it takes to be a good Catholic. All Catholics are aware of this and carry such teachings with them for the rest of their lives.

For that reason, I say: Once a Catholic always a Catholic. For an analogy, consider a driver who wishes to be the perfect driver. On a given day, he may only crawl through, not stop, for a stop sign or a right turn on red; he may hurry to beat the light on caution; or he may fail to yield the right-of-way to another vehicle.

He knows better. And since he knows good drivers do not do such things, he will make a note, mentally or subconsciously, not to violate the rules of the road again. He may err again and again; call him a "cafeteria driver," if you will. He may incur a fine. But there is always forgiveness, and an opportunity to work on his driving again.

But he knows what is expected of him. The rules are all there, explicitly expressed by the Registry of Motor Vehicles. It is important that the rules be constant. In too many religious denominations, what is considered right or wrong may vary from one church to another. This is a major reason, that the Catholic Church is not a democracy. Otherwise, everyone would be "doing his own thing" from one parish to another, and the difference between wrong and right would be hazy and unclear, or simply a matter of choosing a parish that suits one's behavior. Rules can be tough, more so for some than others. "Cafeteria Catholics" have shown a dislike for them. Looking upon them as a guide makes compliance easier. Remember, there are no "perfect Catholics," the rules have been with us since childhood when the nuns first introduced us to our catechisms. Very helpful is a thought Father Peter Gower, pastor of St. Mary of the Bay Church, Warren, gave his parishioners in last Saturday's sermon. He praised what sacrifices parishioners were ready to make during Lent. Also, he felt, one of the nicest things to do over Lent is to strive to become a better person.

Then, how wonderful it would be to look back over the Lenten season and say: "I'm a better person today than I was before Lent started."

Leon Urban