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What is Casual Catholicism? Its Defining Symptoms and Five Cures

I am re-blogging this from Ascending Mount Carmel. With the Year of Faith looming large, this fantastic post just hit the spot. I know some casual Catholics who pick and choose, condemn and criticize. I find it hard to be around them. This is where practising Catholics need to be strong and courageous enough to continue conversations and ask and answer pertinent questions that will get these ‘Casuals’ to take a closer look at the Faith. In my opinion, the ‘Casuals’ need conversion and straight talking, firing shots straight from the hip!

We all know the term “cafeteria Catholicism” by now – simply put, the one who picks and chooses from elements of their faith and leaves the rest behind.  But what about “casual Catholicism”?  Ever heard of this?

Casual Catholicism cannot be precisely defined, but it certainly has its trademark aspects.  I’ll list a few hallmark elements of what could be said to define a casual Catholic:

1.  A casual Catholic treats the Eucharist as a light snack, as a symbol and nothing else, as merely a “wafer” and some wine.  Holy Communion is just something one “takes” at Mass out of custom, not because they are in a state to do so, or are desirous of receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  No, it’s just the thing that one does.

2.  A casual Catholic really knows about as much about their faith as one might know about the fine print on a box of Lucky Charms cereal by heart.  Ask them who St. Augustine was, and they’ll shrug. Ask them about the Council of Nicaea and they’ll probably give you the most quizzical look of all time.

3.  A casual Catholic only goes to Mass when they have to – Sundays at best, Christmas and Easter at worst.  Casual Catholics never go out of their way to do anything extra.

Those are just a few observations I have made – of course, not everyone has time to engage in copious study of their faith, nor are they able to go to Mass when they aren’t required to.  People are simply busy sometimes.

Nonetheless, casual Catholicism (one might also all it “nominal Catholicism”) as a phenomena is one of the worst ills plaguing the Church.  The world begins to assume that Catholics don’t really care about what they believe in.  Protestants begin to view Catholics as never picking up a Bible, and simply as being duped by “smells and bells” or as merely being born into something they don’t really believe in.  In effect, casual Catholicism can be summed up as being one giant spiritual shrug.

So how do we cure the haphazard, shrugging nature of casual Catholicism, whose only great manifesto are the words “I guess…yeah…sort of…whatever”?  I’ve come up with some ideas – by your leave:

1.  Go to Confession for venial sins, and not just mortal sins.

From what I’ve gathered from the lives of the saints, they went to confession on a continual and constant basis for even the smallest of faults.  Of course, I’m not encouraging over-scrupulosity; no, I’m encouraging spiritual growth.  If we never approach the sacrament of God’s Mercy, how can we know it in that way?  How can we overcome the scars and little wounds of daily spiritual struggle if we only go to the Healer when a limb has been lopped off?  As St. Francis de Sales writes, “Our Savior gave us the sacrament of penance and confession to His Church so that we may be cleansed from all iniquities no matter how often and how greatly we have been defiled by them.”1

Much of the problems in the Church today, I think, stems from the fact that many view sin in a casual manner, that hell is just a symbol or non-existent, or that God will just forgive us anyway therefore don’t worry about it.  Yes, God will always forgive us – but if we presume upon God’s Mercy, then we become little more than antinomians and sloths.  As Seneca once wrote, “You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply – though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last.”2

Therefore, cultivate a healthy awareness of sin in your life – we all do it, we are all sinners.  It is recognizing it, repenting of it, and running to God everytime we do sin, that makes all the difference.

2.  Adopt a devotion.

There is nothing quite like the Catholic prayer life – and yet so many seem to make no use of all its splendorous avenues to the Heart of God.  If one’s prayer life is dry, if lukewarmness is filling one’s soul to the brim with stagnant, muddy water, then it’s time to adopt a particular devotion.

Saints abound – which one speaks to you?  Have you studied their life or their spirituality in order to compliment your reading of the Scriptures?  Choose a patron saint – if you’re lucky, one might voluntarily choose you!

Plus, there is much more to the world of Catholic prayer than simply the Rosary, though the Rosary is arguably the greatest prayer in the Christian West.  Understand too that it is a most beautiful, most wonderfully all-encompassing prayer I think in the Western Christian tradition.  But there is so much more – the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Rosary of the Seven Dolors, the Rosary of the Most Admirable Heart of Mary as prescribed by St. John Eudes, the prayers of the Divine Office, the Angelus, and the sweetest prayer of the Christian East – the Jesus Prayer.

I would also add that a great way to invigorate and give extra meaning to your prayer life is to pray for others in some way.  Pray daily for the souls in Purgatory, pray daily for those suffering in other parts of the world, pray Acts of Reparation to the Sacred Heart, pray for whatever group or persons speak to your own compassionate heart the most.

3.  Listen to sacred music.

I am sure this suggestion probably comes off a little out of left-field, but nonetheless, for me, music is a particularly excellent way to be edified and contemplate the things of God and holiness.  Ignore the vacuous modern praise and worship pop songs, and explore instead the beautiful world of Christian music as it existed for hundreds of years beforehand.

Also worth checking out are Jocelyn Montgomery’s angelic renditions of the music of St. Hildegard of Bingen, as well as the Georgian Orthodox Choir led by Nana Peradze.  If your heart is not moved by such music…

4.  Study your faith.

“It is very profitable to occupy oneself with reading the word of God in solitude, and to read the whole Bible intelligently…One should likewise nourish the soul also with knowledge of the Church.”3

I am firmly convinced that if more people took even a little time to really know their faith, even on a basic level, the Church would be strengthened by leaps and bounds.  Put away the pop theology books and Christianity-section “bestsellers”.  Read something of substance – if one is nervous to dive in too deep, always begin with the greats like C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton.

Frankly, aside from finding the time in a busy life and schedule, it is inexplicable to me why a Catholic would not want to explore their faith and soak it all in.  Bask in the history and tradition and lives of its members, sponge up all the theology and spiritual writings you can!  Ours is a fascinating faith – enjoy it and learn about it.

5.  Ask Yourself – “Who is Jesus to me?”

By asking this question of yourself, you will find out where your spiritual life is at pretty quickly.  More importantly, however, it will cause the gears to turn in your mind and soul.  St. Bernard of Clairvaux used to ask himself daily in the monastery, “Why am I here?” – so should we all ask ourselves why we are Catholic, why we believe, and what we hold Jesus to be.  Who do you say that He is?


Two happy, festive celebrations.

Over the past two-week period we have had the pleasure of attending two engagement parties and both engagements were celebrated by our fabulous neighbours: Basel and Anwar and their family. They have three children and their daughter and one of their sons got engaged a week apart from one another. Their daughter Innes enjoyed festivities  under a beautifully decorated marquee, with guests popping in throughout the day  in order to congratulate the happy couple, their parents and siblings. These celebrations lasted well into the night and continued over the course of the following week, with visitors arriving from far-flung places across Britain. We were warmly welcomed on our arrival and were invited to help ourselves to the most delicious selection of desserts one can image. Our glasses were kept full to the brim and we were made to feel most welcome and very much part of the festivities. We have become good friends over the past ten years. It was an honour to be part of a joyful occasion. This was the first engagement party we have attend here in the UK and I can’t remember the last one we did attend. I think it goes as far back as 27 years, and that was our party!

The week after one celebration we attended the second engagement party, that of their son, Haidar. This was held at a hall not far from where we live. And what a wonderful celebration that was too. It included a decorated seating area just for the special couple which  included items of special significance. The bride-to-be wore a beautiful shimmery long dress with flowers in her hair while the future groom walked around as proud as a peacock, looking just as dapper in his shimmery tie and carefully selected suit. It was just lovely to be part of this joyful occasion.

An engagement is s special preamble to the BIG event of marriage and should rightly be given our full attention and recognition. The couples mentioned above have not lived together and their anticipation of their marriage is palpable. I look forward to attending never to be repeated celebrations of  the huge events of marriage in the coming year.

Image taken by 1catholicsalmon

The Mystery of Suffering: How Should I Respond?

In the past two weeks Great Britain has been privy to the devastating mental and physical suffering endured by  Tony Nicklinson, 58, who had unsuccessfully sought permission from the High Court in England to end his life with the help of a Doctor. He wanted to end his ‘dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable’ life after he was left paralysed below the neck following a stroke seven years ago.  Mr. Nicklinson wept uncontrollably after the judgment and said it meant his anguish would continue.  It has haunted me and remains at the forefront of my thoughts.

His experience has left me thinking about what life has in store for me and how I would cope if I were faced with a disability such as his. This kind of life story is one which will make us all think.

Never in human history has suffering been more readily relieved than today. And yet, paradoxically, we have never been more afraid of suffering.

Our forebears would find this very odd. For them, horrendous suffering was ubiquitous, the bane of rich and poor alike. For example, before anesthesia, the agony of surgery may have killed more patients than surgical procedures helped. As Thomas Dormandy put it in his splendid medical history, The Worst of EvilsThe Fight Against Pain, “the searing pain of knife and saw” almost always caused patients to fall “into a state of shock on the operating table . . . Speed was essential. Prolonged pain not only hurt. It also killed.” No wonder John Adams, after witnessing the searing agony of his daughter’s one-and-a-half hour mastectomy, said he felt “as if he were living in the Book of Job.”

Pain was an integral part of life: If a man suffered appendicitis, he died in agony. If a man contracted bone cancer, he died in agony. If a man became infected with tuberculosis, he died in agony. Then there were the non-terminal illnesses and injuries like gout, carbuncles, migraines, arthritis, and broken limbs. Suffering was the hard price one paid for being alive.

Happily, those bad old days are mostly long gone, at least in the developed world. Thanks to tremendous breakthroughs in modern medicine, suffering has been pushed largely into the shadows. Surgeries no longer kill from the pain. Hospice and palliative care offer tremendous relief for even the most painful chronic and terminal diseases. The problem today isn’t primarily one of preventing agony, but rather, our sometimes inadequate delivery of efficacious and timely palliation. (Quoted from First Things)

Suffering surrounds us. Mental and physical illness, poverty and starvation, wars and violence of all kinds overwhelm individuals, communities, entire nations. We ourselves experience suffering. It might be broken relationships and alienated families, accidents and disease, failed dreams or boring jobs, in dying and death. How many people suffer from addictions, abuse and other forms of violence! Suffering is a Mystery. It cannot be explained outright because each individual case of suffering is unique to the sufferer. These responses are as equally unique to person going through the suffering. Although we humans often try to escape suffering, the truth is that suffering is an important part of life.

In times of crisis, we have to intentionally exercise our faith, purposely and courageously reminding ourselves that God’s ultimate purpose is to bring each person into a deeper and deeper communion with Himself. This communion begins and grows here on earth, but it reaches its fulfillment only in Heaven. The battles, struggles, sorrows, and often horrible sufferings we face on our earthly pilgrimage are inescapable in a fallen world; but God, far from being absent in the midst of them, has transformed them into channels of grace, gymnasiums of virtue, and bridges to greater wisdom, mercy, and spiritual maturity.

Date to remember!

Listen up Londoners…support needed for our Catholic radio station!

Fundraising launch for the new internet radio station, ‘Heart gives unto Heart’. I can’t wait to listen in myself. In the meantime I’m going to support the launch. They are advertising for volunteers for a variety of jobs that need doing. Perhaps you would be interested enough to lend a hand? Here is the link to the website itself.

Great explanation of the real presence of Christ in the eucharist.

My Heroine of the Olympics: Meseret Defar

An Orthodox Christian, Meseret Defar,  entrusted her 5km race to God with the sign of the cross and reached the finish line in 15:04:24, beating her fellow Ethiopian rival Tirunesh Dibaba, who was the favorite to win. Teary-eyed, she proudly showed the picture of the Virgin Mary with the Baby Jesus that she carried with her for the entire race. After the finish, she took it out, knelt down and prayed, then kissed it and showed it to the cameras several times. She was one of a number of athletes who openly shared their belief in Christ. These athletes left the BBC commentators at a loss for words when praying or blessing themselves,  and the UK blogosphere has rightfully commented on this. (Read here for a good example.) 

Today on the feast of The Assumption, our Parish Priest linked the homily with the obvious love of and dedication to Our Lady that Meseret Defar has. Her joy at winning the gold, was accentuated beautifully by her display of gratitude to Our Lady.

He encouraged us to contemplate our Christian Journey and consider it similar to that of a life of an athlete having many facets such as:  sacrifice, dedication, failure, emotion, fighting a battle of will, vision, an ultimate goal and determination. Our ultimate goal being to reaching Heaven one day. He referred to Our Lady’s Journey of Faith as a model we can look up to for inspiration and enlightenment. One which contained all of the above elements, not withstanding pain and suffering.


You Don’t Know Jack…about the Assumption

A favourite quote from a favourite Saint.

A favourite quote from a favourite Saint.

“The most deadly poison of our times is indifference.” – Maximillian Kolbe, martyred priest at Auschwitz

Catholic Dating : 12 Safety Rules

I came across this advice here, and wish I had been given this advice when I was a teenager.My mother is not Catholic and my father was not a practising Catholic.



Follow these rules and make sure your companion keeps them too, then you will be able to look your children in the eye when you have to guide them on their way to marriage and family life. If your companion isn’t willing to keep the rules they are not the person you thought they were, and if they are going to let their passion run wild with you, then maybe they would have done that before – and are not the Catholic you think they are.

 While dating is part of life it should, like marriage, not be your only social outlet. Even marriages require that the spouses keep their outside friendships to prevent the spouses becoming stale and narrow, and while friendships must never dis-empower a marriage, dating should not dis-empower friendships.
1.  Be sure your life is based firmly on prayer, reception of the Sacraments and scripture reading so that you have the spiritual strength to fight temptation.
2.  Never be alone together or sit alone together in a car: such seclusion only gives space to say or do something you wouldn’t say or do in front of your parents or your priest,  which probably means they shouldn’t be said or done at all. Instead, spend time with one another’s family: get to know your date in a family context; go out as part of a group; get to know what your date is like socially. Seclusion, remember, is a precursor to what is intimate and sensual.
3.  Watch your conversations: they can be used to convince one another that you are not doing wrong; while innuendo’s introduce talk of sex in a hidden (occult) way.
4.  Make your time together active times: go to a dance, to a walking day, to a fairground etc. and always have a back-up plan so that you are not left with an unexpected space to fill. The devil finds work for idle hands…
5.  Make sure your activities are wholesome: sensual activities or watching erotic films even in a group can arouse the passions.
6.  Dress appropriately and modestly; dress to look good, but not in order to make your body a focus of attraction: that would be to arouse lust and to use lust as a magnet.
7.  Avoid actions that cause arousal: if you don’t want to get burned, don’t arouse smouldering embers. Passions are powerful and lead us astray: don’t be ruled by your feelings but by your head. Inflamed emotions are hard to extinguish.
8.  Be honest about yourself: do not ‘act’ as you think a man or woman should act; that is to deceive: be truly who you are. If you try to impress by ‘acting’, you will have to maintain that act throughout life to keep them happy.  If you aren’t genuinely devout, don’t act as though you are; if you are genuinely devout, don’t act as though you aren’t.
9.  Be honest with yourself: we are all weak and broken, and we endanger our own soul and that of our date if we think we are strong enough to go ‘this far but no further’.
10. Keep any kisses to a quick peck; keep mouths closed, and don’t let a quick hug become a cuddle.
11. End it as soon as you realise this is not the person for you.The purpose of dating is to find your lifetime spouse, so as soon as you are aware that you cannot live with your date’s attitudes, values, habits, dynamic etc., end the relationship -first of all, it cannot go where you need your life to go, and second of all, it is unjust to lead your date any further on.
12. Don’t be secretive about your dating: let your family and friends share in your joy; after all, what has to be kept hidden is not of God. Also, secrecy provides an intensity between you that is not actually about you but about the dating; the secrecy becomes the bond but can be misread by you both as being about you, when it is not.