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Cafeteria Catholics

Have you ever heard of a “Cafeteria Catholic”?  The term was popularized a few years ago when Maria Shriver declared that she is a “Cafeteria Catholic.”  Shriver is the wife of former bodybuilder, actor, and governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Last week she was publicly humiliated when her husband admitted that he fathered an illegitimate child over 13 years ago.  The mother of the child is their former housekeeper.  The housekeeper only recently gave up her job of cleaning the Schwarzenegger home, after carrying on her illicit relationship with Schwarzenegger over a period of several years.

In October of 2008, Shriver who is the daughter of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of President John F. Kennedy, told a reporter:

I have a dispute with a lot of the Catholic Church.  Even though I consider myself a Catholic in good standing, I disagree with a lot of the teachings of the Church…. I don’t believe that if someone’s divorced they shouldn’t get Communion.  I don’t believe that people who are gay shouldn’t be accepted into the Church…. I’m pro-choice.  I believe women should have that right.

Shriver made sure to tell the reporter that she prays and goes to church by saying, “I start every one of my days praying.  I go to church every week.  I went to Catholic schools my entire life.”  Even though Shriver considers herself a “Catholic in good standing,” she went on to say, “I pick and choose… I think I’m probably a ‘Cafeteria Catholic.’”

The word “cafeteria” is defined as “a restaurant in which customers serve themselves or are served at a counter.”  When you go to a cafeteria, you are allowed and encouraged to pick and choose from a variety of different foods and desserts.  A “Cafeteria Catholic” is an individual who picks and chooses the Catholic doctrines, principles, and beliefs he (or she) is willing to accept and abide by.

In my opinion, Catholics can generally be divided into four different categories: (1) Devout Catholics; (2) Committed Catholics; (3) Cafeteria Catholics; and (4) Lapsed Catholics (or what is more commonly referred to as “fallen away” Catholics).

A Committed Catholic is a Catholic who: (1) believes in the teachings of the Catholic Church; and (2) willingly and unequivocally follows and abides by the teachings and rules of the Church.

The word devout has different meanings to different people.  Very few Catholics have ever considered what it takes to be a devout Catholic.  I’m going to give you my definition.  If you disagree with me, I would appreciate it if you would take the time to post your definition of a devout Catholic in the comments section on the home page of Adoration.com.

The word devout is derived from the word devotion.  The word devotion can be traced back to the Latin word devotio, which means to act; and the word devovere, which means to vow.

The dictionary definition of the word devout is to be “devoted to a pursuit, belief, or mode of behavior.”  The definition of devote is: “to commit by a solemn act” or “to give over or direct (as time, money, or effort) to a cause, enterprise, or activity.”  The definition of devotion is: “religious fervor; an act of prayer or private worship – usually used in plural; a religious exercise or practice other than the regular or corporate worship of a congregation.”

So based upon all of above definitions and my understanding of the Catholic faith, here’s my definition of a devout Catholic: A committed Catholic who willfully and regularly engages in acts of worship and service that go beyond the requirements of the Church.

A few examples of going beyond the requirements of the Church are attending Mass more than once a week, praying a daily rosary, and providing service to the Church and to others.

A devout Catholic engages in additional acts of worship and service out of a sense of obligation and urgency.  This sense of obligation arises out of the person’s humble recognition of the fact that his (or her) abilities, talents, and skills are gifts from God to be used to assist others in their journey toward heaven.

I believe that one of the biggest surprises we’re going to experience when we meet God is how all of the talents, abilities, skills, and traits that we take for granted, were generously handed to us on a silver platter.  Since we tend to take personal credit for who we are and what we’ve become, we frequently fail to recognize that if we hadn’t been blessed with the gifts God gave us (including the people who influenced us throughout our lives), we would have been no better off than the bum on the street.

We’re all familiar with The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14–30), in which Jesus passed out talents to 3 different individuals.  The amount of talents that were given to each of the individuals was based upon the abilities of the individuals.  Two of the servants invested and multiplied the talents they were given.  For his own selfish reasons, the third servant buried the talent he was given.  While our Lord rewarded the two servants who multiplied their talents, He cast the useless servant “into the darkness” where he was destined to experience “wailing and grinding of teeth.”

We were all given certain “talents” by God to be used to worship Him and to provide acts of service to others.  Some of the “talents” God gave to me were: (1) the ability to take complex problems and issues and simplify them so others can understand them; (2) the ability to use storytelling to persuade and influence others; and (3) the ability to manage chaos without being paralyzed by people, problems and issues that come up.

What talents did Almighty God give to you?  Are you using those talents to worship Him and to increase the number of souls who will enter into His Kingdom?

This weekend (May 21 & 22) St. Philomena is holding its first Stewardship Weekend in the school gym.  There are going be representatives from a variety of parish groups and ministries that are in need of your talents and skills.  Some of the organizations that will be represented are: Religious Ed, Liturgical, Prayer Chain, Adoration, Choir, Christ Child, RCIA, Church Cleaning, Parish Council, Young Adults, St. Vincent de Paul, Welcome Committee, Scrip, Sr. Jeannie’s After Studies Group, Auction, PTO, Gardening, Athletics, Youth Group, Men’s Club, and Boy Scouts.  The gym will be open from 5 to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Do you know how to pray?  Can you clean?  Do you have a green thumb?  Are you good with people?  Do you have leadership skills?  How good are you at solving problems?  Are you patient with children?  Are you patient with adults?  Are you ignoring your obligation to worship your Creator and share your gifts with others? Stewardship Weekend isn’t about money.  It’s about your willingness to take an active role in the growth and spiritual health of our Church Community.

When you come over to the gym, stop by and see me (or one of my family members) at the Adoration table.  We’ll have a key available to give to you so you can get into our new Adoration Chapel to worship our Eucharistic Lord.

To be frank with you, the last place I want to be this weekend is in a school gymnasium sitting at a table waiting for people to stop by.  And by the way, I don’t like having to write these articles every week either.  But as a devout Catholic, I realize that I have an obligation to share the gifts God gave me with other members of His community.

I hope to see you this weekend.

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4 Responses to “Cafeteria Catholics”

  1. Anne Says:

    Harry, I truly appreciate all of the work you put into writing these each week. I’m sure it is a lot of work, but you truly do have a gift and are certainly using it to bring people to God!

  2. Marie Says:

    I enjoy reading these every week as well – thank you for sharing your writing talent with us and for organizing Perpetual Adoration. Our parish is much richer because of what you do!

    (PS This is Marie from the Young Adult table. It was nice talking with you!)

  3. admin Says:

    Thank you Marie for your support. I hope and pray all goes well for your upcoming delivery and for your young family.

  4. admin Says:

    Anne – I appreciate you taking the time to show your support for what I’m doing. Thanks for your comment.

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