Have you ever wondered why people who call themselves faithful Catholics often do things that go against our beautiful faith? Or that maybe those same people aren’t doing things that seem so important for our faith?
Maybe you are a baby Catholic, on fire for your new faith, and wondering why many cradle Catholics don’t take advantage of the beautiful gifts we have at our fingertips- Adoration, Reconciliation, or receiving the Holy Eucharist every Sunday (or perhaps even every day). Why aren’t they being vocal about their faith? Why don’t they proudly announce they are Catholics?
Maybe you are a cradle Catholic who was raised praying the rosary, abstaining from meat on Fridays, and who was encouraged to immerse yourself fully in a “Catholic way of living” and you wonder why others- converts, reverts, and cradle Catholics- don’t embrace their faith as devoutly as they should. They often miss Mass but have time to go somewhere else; they don’t abstain or offer some other sacrifice on Fridays; or they don’t even know basic knowledge about their faith.
When you love your faith and want to share it with everyone you meet, it’s hard to understand how others can be so apathetic when it comes to what is obviously so essential to our Catholic faith.
It’s important for us to understand that we each are on our own faith journey to Christ. Some of us have been on this path for a long time; others are just getting started. Some of us, even though we may have only been walking the path for a short time, may have already passed someone who has been journeying for what seems like a lifetime. One person’s path will be vastly different from another’s.
We must remember that no two paths are the same and no two people travel at the same rate.
There are times we will meet each other along the trail, and we may even travel together for a short while; but our path is meant for us and eventually we will part company with one another so that we can continue on the road God has set forth for us.
Because we are not on the same path, our faith lives will be different- sometimes vastly different. We need to know that what may seem like common Catholic sense to us may not even be on the radar of someone who has not come to that knowledge yet. That knowledge may be much further up the path than someone has walked. We also need to remember that even if a person has encountered this knowledge, they may not be in the place yet where they can accept what they have learned. We must refrain from judging where others are in their journey.
There is a saying that goes, “Meet someone where they are at”. This means that instead trying to bring someone to where we are in our faith journey, that we go to where they are at. The problem with this phrase is that it insinuates we must come down from where we are (and that our higher position is a much more important level of faith) to go attend to someone of lesser faith.
Instead of meeting someone where they are, we should strive to meet others where we encounter them. There is a subtle difference in the two phrases. When you meet someone where they are at, this mean you must leave where you are to attend to them. When you meet someone where you encounter them, this means you are both at the same place, at the same time, together. Sure, where you’ve been and where you are going may be vastly different, but at this moment, at this time, you are here together. You have met along the road and now are encountering one another. It’s not a matter of one seeking out the other but instead God guiding you into one another’s paths.
I tend to believe that when God guides us our efforts tend to be more fruitful. When we are led to teach others certain aspects of the faith, we stand a greater chance at a positive reception when we share our knowledge during these faith encounters. If we set out with our own agenda, tracking people down (going to where they are), we may not be successful in our attempts to share what we believe God is calling us to share. However, if we wait until the time is right and present this same knowledge when God puts us in one another’s paths, well, hearts are more likely to be open to hearing the knowledge we wish to impart.
During these encounters it’s important that we are aware of each other’s needs. While we know we need to instruct the ignorant or admonish the sinner if that is what is needed, there are good ways and bad ways to do this. If we waste our encounter by not considering the needs of those we encounter, we may cause more harm than good. In fact, our encounter may cause the other person to veer off his path altogether. It is paramount to choose the right way to address the problems we see. Likewise, if when we meet we simply wish to teach or share new aspect of the faith, we must do so with great care. Connecting with the person in a meaningful way will help us impart what we hope to teach. Additionally, modeling our faith and faith practices when we encounter one another goes a long way to helping others learn and want to imitate, especially when our actions imitate Christ.
During our encounters we need to be ready to learn as well. While we are at a particular place in our faith journey, those we encounter, even if they are not as far along as we are, can share God’s love in ways we may have never considered. Just as a child can teach an adult new ways of looking at life and new information, so too can the people we encounter. If we are open to learning what they wish to impart, they will be more open to accepting what we hope to teach.
We can’t possibly know where or when we will encounter one another. God brings us together at just the right moments in our lives. While our paths may cross for a brief moment, God knows why we have met each other along the path we are on. It may be to enlighten or encourage the person we meet, or it may be so that we can be enlightened and encouraged. We must be open to God’s timing. He will make sure our paths cross at the right moment in time.
We need to stop watching other people’s paths and focus on the one that God has laid out in front of us. When and if the time is right, our paths will cross with those whom God knows we need to meet. When this happens we should be ready to encounter one another with love. If we do so, not only will we meet one another along the path but we will encounter God as well.