Most of us – along with thousands of Catholics in Orange County and millions throughout the world – attend Mass every Sunday. We go because it’s an essential element in our lives. Through the years it has become part of our spiritual DNA.
After Mass concludes, we meet and mingle with our faith community, eventually say goodbye and make our way home – back to our secular lives.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Living as a Catholic can be – maybe should be – a 24/7 endeavor. That said, what steps can we take to really live in our faith beyond Sunday Mass? What can we do to boost our faith?
“The best-kept secret about Mass is that at the end we are sent out into the world to put our faith into action,” says Father Jerome Karcher, pastor at Saint Vincent De Paul Roman Catholic Church. “It’s dangerous to say that we just go to Mass and everything ends on Sunday.”
Father Karcher says one thing cannot be overemphasized: “Have a life of daily prayer. Prayer is our lifeline to God and a conversation with Him about our lives and our call to holiness.”
So, for starters, develop a daily prayer routine. Although life may seem to be busier than ever, we have more than enough time for prayer if we plan, schedule and commit to it. Start with just five or 10 minutes a day.
What else can we do? Here are a few options:
- Study – Knowledge is power, both personal and spiritual. Attend a parish Bible study group, take apologetics classes, and read the Bible and Catechism, along with the great Catholic authors.
- Focus on the Eucharist – If possible, seek out Christ in the Eucharist through daily Mass and reflect quietly before the Blessed Sacrament every week. No time for daily Mass? How many hours of TV do you watch each week?
- Join a church ministry – Sharing our unique God-given gifts with fellow parishioners is a great way to show God our appreciation.
- Go to Confession – Receiving the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is a powerful way to ask God for forgiveness of our sins and a great way to receive His mercy.
- Invite a friend to Mass – An invitation can make a tremendous difference to someone who has drifted from the faith or feels alienated by the Church.
- Join a retreat or workshop – They never fail to rekindle our passion for God’s Word and our love for Jesus.
- Stop, breathe and listen – Pause for a few minutes during the daily grind and listen to what the Lord wants for us. Stay present in the moment and cultivate silence from within to shut out the “noise.”
Despite doing all we can to boost our faith and live as good Catholics beyond Sunday Mass, we need to be reminded that we are human beings, not human doings.
“It’s more about who we can be than what we can do,” says Katie Dawson, director of parish faith formation for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. “If we are living the life of Christ within us, we’ll be a different person than if we were living as a natural man or woman. We will be more aware of the needs of a broken world for the love and mercy of God, and we will seek ways to carry that mercy into the world.
“We have a misunderstanding of the Christian life if we think only about doing,” Dawson adds. “The Christian life is being incorporated into Christ, and all our actions proceed from the changed identity.”
This changed identity may lead to volunteerism, an important way we can live as good Catholics. The Diocese of Orange, the center of Catholic life in OC, 714-282-3000; rcbo.org, is a great place to start.
“We have a great need for volunteers in the Diocese, both from an administrative standpoint – helping to organize and manage events, for example – and hands-on things, like setting up and taking down tables and chairs, checking people in and so forth,” Dawson says.
An even variety of volunteer opportunities exist at the parish level.
“The parishes are the Diocese, and most people will access volunteer programs at the parish level,” says Father Karcher. “By assisting your parish, you’re assisting the Diocese.”
Volunteers can help in community outreach; create flyers and banners; assist with children’s liturgies, participate in Bible study groups, sing or play in music ministries or lead grief support groups; serve at Mass as an usher, lector or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion … many options are just a phone call away.
For additional volunteer opportunities, check out Catholic Charities of Orange County at 714-347-9600 or ccoc.org.
If you have trouble choosing a volunteer activity – or taking steps to boost your faith – remember: “God will call us into action,” Dawson says. “He will call us to acts of love and generosity, but those actions will proceed out of our loving relationship with God, not out of an effort to earn our way to Heaven or to earn God’s approval.”