The Catholic Adventure
Myles Connolly, journalist, author, editor, Hollywood screenwriter, departed from this earthly plane in 1964. Not unlike another Connolly I know, he spent his life loving and living his Catholic faith. In his article, Remembering Mr. Blue, Alton J. Pelowski, editor of Columbia magazine, said of Connolly (a former editor of the magazine), "Connolly's life and work were defined by his Catholic faith. While much of his writing and many of his characters were explicitly religious, he did not believe in piety for its own sake. 'To me a book is Catholic if it tells in concrete terms man's relation to his God and to his soul.' he said in the 1951 interview. 'Why can't some of our writers talk about the adventure of Catholicism?'"
Adventure is word defined as an experience that is exciting or, perhaps, dangerous. Throughout history devout believers have discovered the truth of viewing the living of their Catholic faith as an adventure. The Church has witnessed the rise and decline of many cultures and nations, contributed to the emergence of many as well, and brought its theology and morality to the lived experience of these societies. On a personal level, this feeling of adventure permeates one's human interactions and decisions of conscience. There is an excitement to the fashioning of one's character and personality in a way that truly reveals the effects of seeking God in influencing and guiding their thinking and acting. Recently, I met a college student who was entering church to light a candle upon the approach of an important examination. I could see that faith was an important part of her life. She made the telling remark, "It is not easy being a Catholic." I concurred. The Church stands for values that insist on love, in all of its meanings, as the basis of our conduct and the criterion for conscience formation rather than "whatever floats your boat." I blessed and encouraged her on her journey. She reminded me of the words of St. Catherine of Siena, "Nothing of worth is accomplished without much enduring." In the Beatitudes, Jesus proclaims that the life of faith is laden with rewards, but also persecution. Now, as in the past, the Church is a victim of ridicule, misinformation, and persecution. These challenges are all part of the adventure of living as a Catholic.
The 21st Century Church is blessed with friends and plagued by enemies; it must recognize both. The spiritual poverty of this age is obvious and pervasive. The Church – filled with spiritual abundance – is charged with the mission to reach out to the hungry and needy multitude. Evangelization might become the hallmark of this century and prove to be among the sharpest tools in building the Church in this time. Competition for souls, regrettably, comes not only from the forces of evil in the world, but also from other faiths. There is great potential for the vast multitude of inactive Catholics, who still consider themselves as Catholics, to be, shall we say, re-activated in faith. One important factor in affecting change is to develop a strategy establishing a cultural shift away from excessive individualism toward a balance in consideration of the worth of the community. For too many persons, they wake to see in the mirror the false idol of their worship. God is God and we are not. This is the fundamental distinction that opens the door for authentic spirituality. In the absence of this essential belief, there are no limits to the exercise of acts that disregard the value of others. In coping with the 21st Century realities of society, the adventure of spreading the Truth and unity found in the Church opens.
If my compassion is true, if it be a deep compassion of the heart and not a legal affair, or a mercy learned from a book and practiced on others like a pious exercise, then my compassion for others is God's mercy for me. My patience for them is God's patience with me. My love for them is God's love for me.
Those first sacraments, those sacraments of initiation – Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Confirmation – fueled the adventure that we call Catholicism. Until our last breath, the excitement of engaging with the complexity of our own beings and that of others in matters of faith is our true adventure.