Monday, March 10, 2014

What We Do

As a parent, I feel like I’m constantly told what not to do: 
“Don’t spoil your child.”
“Don’t let her watch too much television.”
“Don’t give her junk food.”
“Don’t yell.”

It’s not that I disagree with any of those statements.  (For the record, I don’t.)  It’s the focus on the negative.  Stop telling me what not to do and start focusing on what I should do:
“Teach your child gratitude.”
“Engage her in a variety of activities every day.”
“Feed her a variety of healthy foods.
“Speak to her with love and respect.”

When did our society become more interested in what we don’t do than what we do?  Is it any surprise then that groups of people are defined by their “restrictions”?

“Look at those Catholics! They don’t eat meat on Fridays! They can’t have sex before marriage! They don’t use birth control! They’re against abortion! They don’t….” 

My goodness, we look like a group of highly repressed people, don’t we? What horrible lives we must have! Oh, that we were known for what we do:

“Look at those Catholics! They joyfully make sacrifices to cultivate self-control! They have such high esteem of marriage! They believe that sex is sacred and that children are a blessing! They fight for the disadvantaged and respect the sanctity of life at all stages!  They are so kind and compassionate!  They live such joyful lives!  They follow Christ!”

I like to blame this “emphasis on the negative” on our society as a whole and mainstream media in specific, but it’s time that I’m honest with myself.  We are - I am - part of the problem.  If I live my life in a way that makes it obvious what I stand for then nothing, not even a force like the media, could characterize me by what I stand against. 

Social media is an incredible evangelizing tool for the Church; it’s so powerful that it has been given the name “the New Evangelization”.  It’s where people are and as Catholics, that’s where we need to be as well.  I’m blessed to be part of a large community of Catholics on facebook and twitter and when I think about the majority of information I see shared through these media, I’m sad to say that much of it is exactly what I’m lamenting - articles and statuses and tweets that share what we don’t do, what we don’t support, what we don’t believe. 

I recognize the need to defend ourselves from the many misconceptions out there but, when what we share may be the majority of interactions some people have with the faith, these constant defenses make us appear as a people in chains instead of a people of freedom and joy. 

So I challenge you today to define yourself by what you do and share that person, and the faith behind that person, with the world.  Focus on each action and word as if it’s the only contact with the Catholic faith that the people around you have and make sure that what you do is powerful and cannot be misconstrued.    


  1. Thanks for sharing this - it was just what I needed to hear - I shared about it:

  2. Great, great post! I'm still technically a Protestant (having been advised not to start RCIA until next fall by the DRE at the local parish) but very interested in becoming Catholic…but in my sharing my journey towards the Church with Protestant friends and family, there is a lot of the "negativity" view. One person actually said, "I think it might be possible for a Catholic to be saved, but it's just so much harder for them." The Evangelical view is that salvation is so simple and straightforward: acknowledge that you're a sinner, that Jesus died and rose to atone for your personal sins, put your faith in him, and hey presto, you are saved forever and ever no matter what. Compared with that, anything else would look complicated and seemingly negative.
    I think this really comes out in the differing views on contraception. As a newly married Protestant, I was taught that birth control is a gift which allows us to be intimate in whatever ways we want whenever we want so that we can be "good stewards of our bodies" by not having babies before we can afford them. Of course, don't abort babies if they happen accidentally, and CERTAINLY don't have sex before marriage, but once you're married, anything goes. The idea of chastity in marriage is literally anathema to some of the pastors I used to listen to: if you as a wife turn down your husband, you are in grave sin. Your body should be available regardless of fertility.
    The Catholic view makes so much more sense holistically. Instead of stressing chastity only for unmarrieds and for people with same sex attraction, it means everybody all the time needs to be continent. It's very consistent. And in our society which views continence in ANY area as a negative, we know that it is actual more freeing to belong to Christ than to belong to sin (whether the sin is sexual or not).
    Anyway, great post and I look forward to reading more of your blog!

  3. Mandi, this is a fantastic observation and challenge. My husband got me a gorgeous pendant that says "maintain your joy" and I wear it on the same chain as my small crucifix and miraculous medal. It's a small thing, but it's my way of emphasizing that my faith IS my joy. Now, to live it more fully. :)

  4. Wonderful post, Mandi. Let that joy shine forth!

  5. Your point of how we are always so focused on the DON'T instead of the DO is so true, and applies to so many areas of, parenting, faith, fitness, etc. Your post makes me think of that song, "They'll know we are Christians by our love" (and not what we *don't* do).


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