In a few short months, our country has faced a global pandemic, widespread protests, riots, wildfires and hurricanes. In addition to all of that, it’s a presidential election year. The pandemic, societal tensions and the upcoming election have all sown discord in our country and between the members of our church. However, unity is a key component of the Catholic faith, being the first of the four marks of the church (one, holy, catholic and apostolic). So how can we as Catholics strive to truly be one, as the Son and Father are one?
I believe the answer to greater Catholic unity lies in a return to our roots. We must rediscover our Catholic identity through the beauty of our traditions and the teachings of Holy Mother Church.
From chapel veils to St. Lucy day celebrations, the Catholic Church has a tradition for every aspect of life. Feast days and solemnities abound in Catholicism, reminding us that ours is a religion of joy. Traditionally Christian holidays (holy-days) have become largely secularized, so we must remember to put both Christ and Mass back in Christmas. Making a point of celebrating one’s patron saint’s feast day can help us live out the liturgical calendar. For centuries, faithful Catholics have harbored a deep reverence for the Eucharist and a strong devotion to our Blessed Mother, and we would do well to follow in their footsteps. Since Latin is the official language of the Roman Catholic Church, having a rudimentary understanding of common Latin phrases can help open our eyes to the depth of meaning in the liturgy.
If we as Catholics desire unity on a social and political level, then we should ensure our personal beliefs rest on the firm foundation of our faith. According to Pew Research, only 35 percent of Catholics attend Mass at least weekly, despite the fact that attendance of Sunday Mass is a precept of the Catholic Church (one of the bare-minimum requirements below which one is no longer considered in full communion with the church). Equally disturbing is the fact that only one-third of Catholics in America believe in the true presence of Christ Jesus in the Eucharist. Over half believe that physician-assisted suicide and abortion are not intrinsic evils, and a mere 18 percent of Catholics interviewed said they believe everything the church teaches.
These numbers express just how fractured we are and how far we have strayed from the truth, painting a rather bleak picture of the faith in America. Perhaps we now need missionaries in our local parishes even more than in distant lands. An approach to catechesis that prioritizes the passing on of theological and moral truths could be part of the solution to this crisis. However, we mustn’t forget the church teaches that parents are the primary educators of their children. This means that we must also encourage families to live out the faith in their own homes.
In this time of division, it’s up to Catholics to grow closer to Christ and to one another. If we want to foster unity in our society, perhaps we ought to first focus on the things that should already unify us, and ensure they do.
Aidan Jones is a young Catholic writer and filmmaker currently residing in the north woods of Wisconsin. He is a parishioner of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior.