Six Attitudes to Avoid
One of the most puzzling questions in life is “Why is it that some people believe in God and others do not?” We have all had experiences where we have known someone who seemed so dedicated to their faith only for them to stop practicing later and we have all also witnessed people who were confirmed atheists and agnostics all of sudden become ardent believers.
The Catholic Church teaches above all that faith is a spiritual gift from God and there is nothing that we can do to earn faith. The Catholic Church also teaches that God gives this gift in one form or another to all. The question therefore is not whether or God will us the gift of faith but rather what can we do to better prepare ourselves to receive this gift in its entirety.
An analogy might go something like this. A young boy goes to his grandparents’ house for his birthday. He already knows that he is getting a bicycle from his grandparents for his birthday and so he is very excited. When he arrives at his grandparents’ home he received his bike and rode it around his grandparents’ neighborhood for hours. It was only later in the day did he realize that there was going to be a problem. His parents did not bring a car large enough in which to take the bicycle home with them. The boy received the gift but he was not disposed to take full possession of the gift.
Fr. Benedict Groeschel in his book: Stumbling Blocks and Stepping Stones: Spiritual Answers to Psychological Questions lists six things that people do that leave them ill prepared to accept God’s gift of faith fully. The six attitudes are secularism, silly religion, simony, immature faith, doubts, and arrogance of intellect. Let us take a closer look at each of these.
Secularism: Fr. Benedict Groeschel defines secularism as the idea that religion is recreational. If a person does not integrate one’s faith into every aspect of their lives and only practices it when he or she has time for it or when he or she wants to practice the faith. Think of the story of the seed that fell on the rocky path and among the thorns. Our faith life must pervade our whole life if it is to take root and be deep enough in times of crisis.
- Consider talking to someone(s) who in your opinion takes their faith seriously and ask them why their faith is so important to them?
- Make a commitment to celebrate your faith fully even when it is inconvenient like on vacation, etc. Often when we make sacrifices for something, it helps remind us how important something is to us.
- Get involved in a parish organization where you can use some of your talents for the good of the community. Faith should touch all aspects of our lives and not simply be reserved for Church services.
Silly Religion: The second thing Fr. Benedict Groeschel focuses on is what he calls “silly religion.” I refer to it more as “ego-based faith.” When a person practices his or her faith in an attempt to get attention and praise from others he or she often neglect essentials part of the faith like prayer. They may be very active members of their Church but they do not take the time to get to know God and once they are no longer getting attention or they find a new way to impress people they leave the Church.
- I think from time to times we can all find ourselves practicing either one of these two things. It is important that when we do catch ourselves doing these things that we work extra hard to solidify our relationship with God through prayer and to do some acts of penance that no one can see.
- Take the time to thank one or two other people for the work that they do for the Church.
- Put something spiritual on top of your to do list each day.
Simony: The term “simony” in the Middle Ages referred to the problem of bishops paying the pope in order to become a bishop of a more financially secure diocese. This problem in the Church has thankfully been resolved and is in the Church’s past. Fr. Groeschel uses this term to name the phenomenon of people placing too much faith in a human person in the Church.
The problem of simony, as Fr. Groeschel describes it, is a widespread problem in our Church. It demonstrates itself most obviously when people threaten to leave the Church because they do not like the way something is being done or a person in a leadership position. How many times have you heard of people leaving the Church because of this priest or that person? They have overlooked that at the heart of our faith is Jesus Christ and not the person they are mad at. St. Augustine once said “The Church is a hospital for sinners not a hotel for saints.” There was only one perfect person in our Church that is Jesus Christ and He is the center of our faith.
Immature Faith: As people grow up they gain an image of God in childhood. They build this image from what their parents, teachers, priests, friends, etc both say and model to them. Developing this image is a part of healthy mental and spiritual growth. The problem comes in the fact that as we enter into adolescents and adulthood, we need to move beyond this image and come to understand that God is much more than we can ever imagine. This can only happen through prayer as we personally develop a deeper relationship with God we begin to understand that there is more to who God is than anyone can tell us.
- What is your image of God? Do you see God as a judge, friend, etc.
- Take some time to read Sacred Scripture especially the Gospel to learn more about who Jesus is. Try to read them as if it was for the first time.
- Talk to others about who God is to them
Doubts: Doubts by themselves can be a good thing and can help one’s faith grow if they are address in the proper way. The problem with doubts is that they can build up if we do not address them and eventually they can flood out any remnants of faith. Remember that the Catholic Church has many ways in which to learn about one’s faith but there are also many within the Church who claim to teach what the Church teaches but in reality are pushing their own agendas.
- Talk to your parish priest about your doubts. You wouldn’t go to your mechanic to talk about medical issues so why would you simply talk to your friends about a serious issue to your faith.
- Take time to study one’s faith. I recommend reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and checking out Fr. Bob Barron’s website www.wordonfire.org
- Take some time to do some spiritual reading.
Arrogance of intellect: There seems to be a belief that is growing in our society that human beings always make the right choice. I think that this is happening because no one wants to admit they might be wrong and no one wants to confront another’s beliefs. All we have to do tough is look at the world around us and see that we human beings do not always do what is right. God gave us free will to decide to do good or bad but not to decide whether our choices are good or bad. Think of the Chaos that would emerge in the world if everyone could decide what was right and what was wrong. How could we hold anyone accountable for his or her actions?
- Take time to daily examination of conscience.
- Take time to pray to ask God for guidance in life’s decisions. Remind yourself that God really wants what is best for you.
- Take time to join an accountability group or a prayer group. Good friends will always keep us humble in a way that does not burry our self-esteem but rather shows us that others are here to help us become better people.