So, while I was walking down the aisle of a local supermarket recently, a very nice gentleman passing by asked me, out of the clear blue, “How are the Steelers going to do this year?” That was it. No, “Are you Bishop Tobin?” or “Hi Bishop, how are you doing?” or “I’m surprised to see you here, Bishop,” just “How are the Steelers going to do this year?”
I found it really amusing, and very interesting that the gentleman recognized me, even in casual clothes, and immediately identified me with my favorite sports team. But it got me thinking, on a deeper level, about how people identify us. And how we identify ourselves, particularly when it comes to religion. Do people identify you as a Catholic? Do you consider yourself a Catholic? And, if so, what is it that makes you a Catholic?
Are you a Catholic because people of your national heritage are typically Catholic? Are you a Catholic because you were baptized Catholic many years ago? Are you a Catholic because you show up for Mass on Christmas and Easter, and for funerals and weddings? Are you a Catholic because you carry a rosary, wear some medals, and have some statues at home?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this: “Fully incorporated into the society of the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization.” (#837) It goes on to specify that membership in the Church includes the profession of faith, the sacraments, acceptance of church governance, and communion.
In other words, you’re not a Catholic just because you say you are. Your membership in the Church presumes both institutional and spiritual union. Being Catholic means you are baptized, of course, but that’s only the beginning, not the end. It means that you go to Mass regularly, receive the sacraments, keep the Commandments, obey the authority of the Church, support the Church, and practice charity. “Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however, persevere in charity, is not saved,” the Catechism pointedly says.
If you say you are a Catholic, then, if you are a member of this “team,” it has to mean something. It can’t be just a relic from the past, or a cultural convenience. It has to make a significant difference in your life, every day and all the time.
By the way, to answer the gentleman’s question, I’m not at all optimistic about the Steelers this year.
Something to think about: Are you a Catholic?