“Ask a Priest: Do I Really Need to Mingle With Other Catholics?”

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Q: I am a new convert, having completed RCIA last year. After going through what I call the honeymoon period, where I loved all things Catholic, I now find myself wanting to be alone in my faith, rather than mingling so much with other Church members. In other words, I want to go to Mass, be pleasant, and then come home without having to engage in all the hugging, kissing and talking. Frankly, it annoys me. Am I able to do this and still be a “good” Catholic? -T.L.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Welcome to the Church! It is good to hear that you love all things Catholic. Perhaps a few observations can help you.

First, Catholicism is a blend of private and public acts. We have a private prayer life, but we also have a public prayer life (this includes the liturgy). We have moments alone with Christ, but we should also have moments in community with fellow believers.

Catholicism is not merely a “me and Jesus” religion. In fact, one of the sure signs that we are growing in love for God is that we grow in love and concern for our fellow man. “Whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God* whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).

So you might want to see how much your faith is being expressed in an ecclesial and social way. That is, Catholicism lived well is Catholicism that reaches out to help people. It doesn’t close in on itself.

Now, this reaching out to helping people isn’t the same as “hugging, kissing and talking.” Your reference might be to the socializing that goes on between the end of Mass and the exit of the cars from the parking lot. That’s not the kind of reaching out I have in mind. I’m thinking of the kind that gets people involved in charity projects, youth work, visits to shut-ins, helping out at pro-life agencies – that kind of thing.

Another important aspect of growing in our Catholic faith consists of fellowship. As Christians, we cannot grow if we take a Lone Ranger path. God likes to work in our lives through other human beings. We need faith-based friendships, people that we connect with who share our faith. This kind of fellowship can be relatively formal (joining a Bible study or a men’s or women’s group at the parish, for example, or getting involved in an ecclesial movement). Or it can simply consist of a small group of Catholic friends who make a point of spending time together and encouraging one another to keep growing in holiness.

You might want to see if you can complement your life of prayer and sacraments with some kind of apostolic work and fellowship. Perhaps there is a group at your parish that needs help. The possibilities could be endless.

Such charitable work will help to reinforce your faith, not detract from it. We often receive much more than we give, when it comes to works of charity. (By the way, if you are interested in a good book about the particular needs of the Church at the parish level, see Forming Intentional Disciples.)

Maybe this is a topic you will want to take to prayer. Spend time with Our Lord in the tabernacle. And keep an eye on the horizon that he might be inviting you to see. Loving all things Catholic includes loving Catholics, after all.

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