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Practicing, or Not Practicing?

Someone once said to me that he had a friend who was not a "practicing Catholic". We use this term often, but what does it mean? In the past, the terminology would have been "unfaithful Catholic", but I suppose that is too offensive. Americans work hard to avoid offending anyone these days (except God). To say someone is "not practicing" almost sounds like he just switched brands of toothpaste, rather than turned his back on God.

So then, what is a "practicing catholic"? Would we consider someone who is doing just what the Precepts of the Church say (no more, no less) to be a practicing Catholic? Not really, since the Precepts are given as the "bare minimum", not the median, of faithfulness. Yet, many people consider themselves practicing Catholics who do not even reach the bare minimum of the Precepts. A practicing Catholic, as the term should be used today, would mean someone who is regularly and consistently engaging in and performing the essentials of the faith. This is someone who also seeks to do more than is required; he recognizes the importance of devotions that are done completely from a person's own willingness and not out of mere requirement.

Since the term "practicing Catholic" is not actually bad, but is also not very specific, it may be good for us to seek to move away from it. No, I am not looking for new ways to offend anyone (it is already too easy to do that). But we do, however, need to be clear in what we mean and point out when someone who thinks he is "practicing" the faith is actually falling short of the grace of God. Therefore, it might be a good time to return to the concept of an "unfaithful" Catholic as opposed (of course) to those whom we call the "faithful". It might just be the very thing that makes someone realize that his compromise of the faith is not a good thing.


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