Well, its the day after Easter & brand new Catholics are filling the online forums with thanksgiving. I remember that feeling... but I haven't been able to retain the force of it. I'm happy for them, I really am. These days, I'm still thankful that I'm a Catholic, but I'm also troubled & weary from all the things I've seen (or haven't seen). Church is supposed to be the place we join our relationship with Him to one another's in order to strengthen one another, as iron sharpening iron. But it seems like many are just clanking chunks of metal, bustling for elbow room or brushing past with nothing more than an acknowledgement of common faith, sans practice. Have we forgotten that its the practice that makes us sharp & able to sharpen others?
We were told in RCIA that the Church is one body, unified under Christ in heaven & the Pope is His vicar on earth. But there's so much division in the ranks. I'm not just talking about the 20 or so different rites within the Catholic church alone. Within your average parish, it seems many people have chosen to pick & choose what they want to adhere to & simply discard what they don't agree with. I consistently hear the excuse that we are American Catholics & we don't believe the superstitious mumbo jumbo those "foreign Catholics" believe in. Among these so-called superstitions include teachings regarding Mary, purgatory, communion of the saints, the necessity & validity of reconciliation & even the reality of the Eucharist. Throw in the disdain of the various devotions such as the Rosary, the LOH & the myriad of Novenas out there & you might have yourself an average American Catholic.
Some people don't consider Mary anything significant, nor do they consider the saints viable prayer partners. Some don't believe in purgatory, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist or a priest's authority to consecrate, forgive or absolve... Some are known to receive communion in a state of sin (even mortal sin) & don't bat an eye because they have their own opinions about what actually constitutes sin and / or they believe everyone is welcome at the Lord's table regardless. Perhaps they were told the Confetior or Kyrie absolves them at the beginning of Mass. Perhaps they believe the Eucharist will cleanse them or that they don't need to go to confession because God knows their hearts. My favorite has to be that God is love & there's no condemnation because a loving God can't possibly send people to hell. Whatever the reason, it seems apparent that what happens at the Mass isn't "real" for a lot of folks... its just church, just an obligation, its what we've always done... Maybe I'm way off base here, but I was under the impression that these more traditional, even superstitious things (now often rejected or overlooked) are the very things that set Catholicism apart from Protestantism... for centuries. Until now. We are a Church increasingly dulled by the division of popular opinion.
May God bless the neophytes & protect them from the rest of us.