Aequalis Omnibus Caritas: for Robin
Yesterday (or was it the night before?) I said something politically incorrect but true over in Amy Welborn's comment boxes. I said that, however much we disagreed with them, the CTA folk and the Wanderers who are coming to town this weekend are still Catholics. One of the more polite and merciful of the crowd that rose up, named Robin, challenged me to define what a Catholic is. And I did.
A Catholic (1) has been baptized in the Church, or has been received into the Church and chrismated/confirmed after having been baptized elsewhere, (2) does not publicly and stubbornly deny any of the truths in the Creed, and (3) hasn't left (gone to SSPX or Spiritus Christi or etc.) and hasn't been thrown out by the bishop.
Robin still wasn't very happy with me: this definition includes every cultural Catholic and cafeteria picker and "carried in." And it ought to, because they are all Catholics. They may be uninstructed Catholics or mistaken Catholics or Catholics who are bad examples, but they are still Catholic, and they are still our siblings.
Declaring anyone to be "not a Catholic" is way beyond my pay-grade as canonically-incorrect quasi-religious, dead bottom of the Church authority ladder by choice and calling. Only the bishop can define somebody or some group as "not Catholic" --- not any of us in Amy's comment boxes. Yet even bringing out the definition of Catholic is awfully close to that poor excuse of a question "what is the bare minimum I have to do to be saved?" and Robin is right to be a mite disappointed with the situation. What's to be done about it?
First, we admit that our brothers and sisters are our brothers and sisters; even the ones we scream at across the dinner table. (Dare I say, even those who've run away from home and are getting lost in the wilderness of places the bishop is not?) We have a duty to care, we don't get an easy out by defining "them" out of the family. They may be prodigals and problem children and pains in the posterior, but they are _our_ prodigals and problem children and pains.
Second, we ourselves set out to live a maximal, not a minimal, Catholic life. We have a rule of prayer we follow every day. We assist at Eucharist as often as we can. We take advantage of Reconciliation frequently. We pay attention when our pastor or our bishop attempts to teach us. We are obedient. We beg the saints to pray for us. We do those "things Catholics do," otherwise known as the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We pray for mercy for ourselves, and we do not judge others. And we set out to do this with a joyful heart and all our strength.
Third, we invite others to share in our joy, and to be supported by the strength we are developing. Our lives should show to those we know and meet that the Lord's love is the one thing that really matters in the end, even if we never speak a word. That the Lord's mercy and covenant fidelity are forever, no matter how many times I fail. We bring others to love the same One we love, "who is all-good and deserving of all my love." Learning the ways of the One we love beyond all else and living in a way worthy of one who is loved by Him follow as surely as sunrise follows night.