One Mistake We Make When We Want to Make a Difference as Catholics by Shaun McAfee

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Do you have Catholic heroes?

When I converted to the Catholic faith I was on fire to make a mark. Having been into blogging before I converted, my conversion gave me a deep zeal and the new information I had learned was quickly converted into content. But it ran out quickly. The more I wanted to be like my heroes, the more impossible that became, and the more frustrated I ended up.

Perhaps you didn’t notice, but there are many Catholics who are just crazy about Catholics. I mean it. I mean it like I mean I absolutely love thick cut, applewood smoked, crisp and greasy bacon. There’s a serious error many commit and I’m guilty of it, too. And I’m not talking about the bacon.

It all began when…

No, it didn’t ever really begin. It’s sort of ingrained into us. We have a problem with being innovators sometimes. We see something that entertains us, and we want to replicate it. We grow to look up to someone, and we want to be just like them. We create this picture in our mind of what a successful Catholic looks like, and we convince ourselves that we cannot be good Catholics or fulfil our purpose until we achieve X, Y, Z.

Imagine the pressure!

Imagine the pressure of the ambitious seeker who read Tim Staples just once, had to convert, converted and the whole nine yards, then felt the call to convert other souls—cause after all that’s what the Bible says we’re called to do—and got started. This person read every book, listened to Catholic Answers Live every day, and was determined to make their mark. Then, just a few months later, the blog this person started wasn’t getting traffic. There was an initial spike, but the ideas were running out, too. The zeal was not converting to numbers as quickly as his/her conscience had. Suddenly, it all seemed like a waste of time. How was this person ever going to replace Scott Hahn?

For real, that’s the idea some people create in their mind. Especially bloggers; but it happens to so many Catholics. The zeal sometimes creates tunnel vision for us, and we create one single lane that we must follow in order to feel like we’re making a difference.

It makes sense, really. But don’t fall into this trap! It’s terribly attractive to look at our Catholic heroes and want to be just like them. While it’s healthy to follow their example, it’s not healthy to narrow our vision on God’s will. Doing that only suffocates our openness to the Holy Spirit and deafens His voice.

I think the pressure people put on themselves when they gain their newfound zeal caused tunnel vision in many people. To avoid this, here’s a couple things to keep in mind:

First, you must focus on personal holiness before you step out and attempt to education and evangelize others. I’m not talking about being a hypocrite, because removing the log in your own eye is much more about clear vision than about hypocrisy. There are nine fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Interestingly, God chose the dove to represent the Holy Spirit, whose wings are made up of nine main feather stems. You must develop the fruits of the spirit in order to truly take fight.

Second, after developing your personal holiness and taking flight, you’re able to use the corresponding gifts of the Holy Spirit. But be conscious of the temptation of that tunnel vision. God has a unique plan for you. What would the world look like if we were all Scott Hahn? There would be a lot of Bible knowledge and handsome beards. No, seriously: remember that Martha’s revelation was understanding that there is something more important that impressing ourselves (and others) with our works. What really matters is how we spend our time with God. Mother Angelica didn’t get into the art of media until her later years. She was able to be so effective because she made priority of the Mary duties, then the Martha.

Third, be yourself. The world will tell you that you need to go out into the world and find yourself. But what you really need to do is find the One who already knows who you are. When you get to know God, whose depth of closeness and relationship is endless, you’ll really get to know who you are.

Hero worship can create a false sense of duty and achievement, contentment and virtue. There’s so many ways to be Catholic. It might not be apologetics or writing. It might be having a certain amount of children. It might be a degree you have to get or a teaching job you have to have. It could even be the priesthood or cloistered life. Whatever it is, don’t be over-eager. The only thing you need to be eager about is knowing and developing your relationship with the One who is eager about you. The rest falls into place.

Check out this article and others at Shaun’s home at the National Catholic Register – http://www.ncregister.com/blog/smcafee/

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