I was chatting to a friend recently who said something that really struck a chord in me. He said (and I paraphrase) “sometimes I wish I wasn’t Catholic so I didn’t have to constantly choose between a ‘normal life’ and a ‘Catholic life’ ”. At the time I felt disconcerted but I couldn’t really put my finger on why. I asked him “well what’s your faith like?” and he responded saying “oh no. With the faith stuff I’m 100% there. It’s just living a Catholic life that I struggle with”. And I get it.
Though I’m not a young man, I am a young woman living in an age where pornography is everywhere, where woman are most often portrayed as objects, where the “ideal lifestyle” is shining at you and blinding you from every other Instagram account. An age where the virtues of chastity, modesty, humility and self-control are laughed at. It is hard to be Catholic now, just as it was hard to be Catholic in the early days of the Christian Church. Though the battles are different the battle still remains.
I struggle with my faith. I struggle daily to prioritise prayer over social media, I struggle to celebrate true goodness, I struggle to trust God’s plan for me. However, one thing that I no longer struggle with is having to choose between ‘a normal lifestyle’ and ‘a Catholic lifestyle’. Because being Catholic doesn’t limit my choices, rather it has expanded my horizons and opened my eyes to the truth of human dignity, the true meaning of courage and the glory in real beauty.
Being Catholic doesn’t mean I have to choose to stay indoors on a Friday night instead of heading to the pub. Rather it means I recognise the value of friendship and the negative affect alcohol (or rather the overconsumption of alcohol) has on those friendships.
Being Catholic doesn’t mean I have to choose to not make out and sleep around with guys, rather it means I recognise the innate dignity of the human person, I acknowledge the true meaning and purpose of sex, and use my body in a way which responds to these truths.
Sure, there will be times when we are tempted, and then a choice will have to be made. You will have to be courageous and walk away from situations which are dangerous for the health of your soul. Just like someone on a diet will have to walk away from certain foods that are dangerous for the health of their body. However the emphasis is not on ‘what I can’t do’ but rather on what my goals and priorities are, and how certain decisions will help or hinder my success in attaining those goals.
As Saint Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians “Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25) The choice is not between living a ‘normal life’ and a ‘Catholic one’ but rather between the eternal peace and joy of heaven or the short lived peace and joy of earth.
And once you decide to live an authentic Catholic life, one in which your choices are based on pleasing God rather than yourself or others, you will realise that the life you lead is normal. And that integrating your faith and your lifestyle is the best thing you ever did. You will lead a life that will bring you more joy, peace, fulfilment, perspective, and entertainment than any other lifestyle you were choosing to live before. You will be living in such a way that “has stood the test and (you) will receive the crown of life.” (James 1:12)