Originally published in The West Nebraska Register newspaper May 13, 2016 (http://www.westnebraskaregister.com/app.php?RelId=22.214.171.124)
One of the most exciting things to me about the Catholic faith is the fact that there are a billion other people in the world we believe the same things as I do. We are all part of one Catholic Church and we all have the same set of beliefs. Sure there might be some that are stronger is some aspects of the faith than others, but at the core, we are all the same.
That fact has always been shocking and amazing to me.
I grew up in a town of 2,000—St. Paul, Nebraska. I graduated with a class of 43 students and went to CCD classes with about 15 other students. Most of the people I knew from the town were Catholic. Those who weren’t Catholic knew enough about the Catholic faith to respect it and not talk badly about the faith or its members. So, my faith wasn’t tested all that much until I came to college.
Since being in college I’ve heard people say Catholics aren’t even Christian, I’ve heard our faith be called a cult, and I’ve heard people say that Catholics are some of the most disgusting people on this earth. Those comments hurt. And it makes being a Catholic hard.
But, there are a billion other Catholics in this world. And thankfully, since going to college, I’ve found what I consider to be some of the best young Catholics in the world, but I’m only slightly biased.
A couple of my friends and I have started what I guess you can call a “Catholic Book Club.”
We all started reading Matthew Kelly’s Rediscover Jesus, and we each have an extra book on the side we are reading.
Once a week, we get together for lunch and talk about the chapters we read and anything else about the Catholic faith or about the struggles we are dealing with in our lives.
These two girls I meet with once a week keep me honest in doing what I said I was going to do. They, not physically, force me to sit down and take time to read and spend time thinking about and talking with God. They keep me learning about the Catholic faith, about Jesus, and about myself.
In the past month since starting our little book club, I’ve dealt with school and life stresses easier, I’m much happier, and I feel much stronger in my faith.
When teaching Totus Tuus this summer we talked about finding virtuous friendships and also about keeping God in the center of all relationships.
Virtuous friends are the people who help shape you into the best version of yourself. Any relationship that has God at the center is bound to remain stronger than relationships without God. I’ve found that if I talk with a friend about God and my faith, that it automatically “friendship levels up” (becomes stronger).
There are literally a billion Catholics in the world. That’s a billion new friendships that can be formed if we take the chance.
There’s no reason to be ashamed of our faith, of our Church, or of our God.
Sometimes we have to take the risk and make sure the world knows we are Catholic. When I let go of my fear and became proud to be Catholic, it let to two of the greatest, most virtuous friends I have in college.
The best advice I can give anyone is to find those virtuous friends and pray with them, talk with them, eat with them, and hang out with them because having those people in your life will make yours better and will help you to remain strong in the faith.
Be proud to be a Catholic.