Six Obstacles to Being Authentically Catholic

Photography © by Andy Coan

Photography © by Andy Coan

Why is it difficult to be the same person at work, home, church and with our friends?  I have observed this problem for several years, but lately I have become more aware of the challenges people have with consistently being “real.”  In a few recent discussions with friends, I received blank stares and perceived a lot of discomfort when I advocated for being the same person at all times and for being transparent about our lives with others.  Why is authenticity, especially Catholic authenticity, so uncomfortable?

My instincts and own experience lead me to think the root cause of this occurred for many of us at a young age.  The first time we felt pressure to “fit in” with a particular group in school, we began down the path of conformity that only accelerates as we grow older.  In college, we may have heard from our professors (or our parents) that we need to keep work, faith and our personal lives separate.  We may have feared being judged or criticized in those early jobs for sharing anything personal which only hardens into a compartmentalized mindset as we grow in our careers.  I want to believe that deep down most of us desire to consistently be our real selves, but don’t know how to get there.

Logic should tell me that it is inevitably harmful to suppress my true self for a sustained period of time, yet many people perceive there is no other option.  Do you love being a parent, but feel awkward about discussing your kids at work?  Do you desire to spend more time with your family, but worry about speaking about this with your boss?  Is your Catholic faith important to you, but perceived intolerance among friends and work colleagues keeps you from discussing it?  Have you ever been faced with a difficult ethical or moral dilemma, but remained silent or chose the easy way out rather than advocate for doing the right thing?

Obstacles to Authenticity

Let’s address some of the obstacles that may prevent us from being authentic Catholics.  I am making a base assumption that you agree with me on some level that authenticity is important and that many (though not all) people have a desire to be more open, transparent and authentic.   Here are a few of the obstacles that prevent this from happening:

  • There could be a lack of self-awareness.  Do we even know that there is a problem?
  • Fear of people not liking the real us.  Fear of not fitting in.   Fear of being judged.  Fear of persecution for our religious beliefs.  Fear of not moving up the career ladder if we don’t fit the right corporate mold.
  • Lack of confidence in our opinions.  Lack of faith in our convictions.  Lack of courage to defend the truth.  Lack of knowledge about our faith.
  • Attachment to an income level and lifestyle that requires unhealthy compromises.
  • Conforming to society’s march towards political correctness, universal tolerance and acceptance of things which are in direct conflict with our faith, values and principles.
  • Relaxing our standards because it easier to go along with the crowd than take a stand.

This list may be as painful for you to acknowledge as it is for me or you may have a different list.  The questions I have been asking are unsettling, but necessary if a more authentic life is to be pursued and embraced.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Embracing the REAL You

Have you ever replayed pivotal moments in your life over in your head and regretted your actions or words?  Ever feel a twinge when your mouth said one thing and your heart/head felt another?  Perhaps these feelings are your conscience trying to get your attention.  It could be the Holy Spirit.  Maybe, just maybe, it is time to consistently let our true selves be seen by others.  But, is there an upside to having the courage to embrace who we really are?

The answer is a simple yes, because we are made for Heaven and not this place.  We are here to help ourselves, our families and everyone else get to Heaven.

I am writing this article from the perspective of my Catholic faith, although I believe anyone can find value in what I am saying.  As a Catholic reaching out to other Catholics, I challenge all of us (including myself) to show real courage and step up in our defense of Christ and His Church.  The Church is under siege on multiple fronts and is often attacked for its unflinching defense of Christ’s teaching.  We can no longer remain passive and be Catholic only at Mass on Sundays, but somebody different the rest of the week.  Consider the words of Archbishop Charles Chaput in Render Unto Caesar“Don’t lie. If we say we’re Catholic, we need to prove it. America’s public life needs people willing to stand alone, without apologies, for the truth of the Catholic faith and the common human values it defends. One person can make a difference – if that individual has a faith he or she is willing to suffer for” (pg 197).  We can and should make a real difference through our prayers, our voices, our writing and at the ballot box.

After you read this reflection, please prayerfully consider if you need to be more authentically Catholic.  I don’t know many of us who couldn’t stand some improvement!   Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to guide our actions and give us courage.   Let’s be joyful and set a good example for others by being unafraid to be our true selves.  What is required of us is not easy, but our Lord will help us if we offer up our burdens and concerns to Him in prayer.  He gave His life for us on the Cross.  This sacrifice requires a faithful and courageous response from His followers.

With confidence and purpose, with our ultimate destination in mind, let’s all try to be a little more authentic today.


Looking for a Catholic Speaker? Check out Randy’s speaker’s page and the rest of the ICL Speaker’s Bureau.

Randy Hain, Senior Editor and co-founder of The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work which was released by Liguori Publications. The Catholic Briefcase was voted the Best Catholic Book of 2011 in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards.

Randy Hain’s exciting new book, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith was  released by Liguori Publications in November, 2012. Along the Way was recently named Runner-Up in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards for Best Catholic Book of 2012. Learn more here. His third book, Something More: A Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life, was released in February, 2013. All of Randy Hain’s books can also be purchased at your local Catholic bookstore, Amazon or www.liguori.org.


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18 Comments

  1. I relate so much, since I was pretty much a go along with the crowd type person in high-school and early married life, even though I really loved God. I compromised all too often but by the time I turned 25, I knew I had to stand up for my faith, or get swallowed up in the world’s muck and mire. It has become a great joy to me, to witness to people, whom the Lord places in my path…sincerely trying to be ‘real’ by showing them the love of Christ. The more I do this, the more I want to do more of it. When I do behave in a way less than ‘authentically Catholic, it’s off to confession, for a dose of grace to start afresh! Something else that helps greatly…is great articles like the one I’m replying to! Good spiritual reading is essential – Thank you Randy Hain for supplying this in no small way!

    1. Thank you Nellie. I appreciate your kind words and know that I also have to work hard at this each day. I appreciate that you do so much for the world through your beautiful art!

      In Christ,

      Randy Hain

  2. Part of the challenge is that folks do not understand what it means to be Catholic (your third point) – includuing the majority of cradle Catholics. Unfortunately, since folks do not fully understand the faith, they do not fully appreciate it, nor defend it.

    Our faith is filled with some many gems of beauty, that for the most part goes unnoticed. Hopefully that tide is turning with the New Evangelization that calls us to embrace our faith and then share it with other…

  3. Ive been cohabitating with a girl I asked to marry me back in 2009. It started as a “temporary” thing for me, but in reality it has become a “trial marriage”. In all fairness I have come along way to being more marriageable over the past years but she still refuses to marry me. I would love to be more authentic in living my faith, but I feel like a fraud and until I’m married I feel like it would be best for me to stay away from The Church lest I cause scandal. I feel like I’m in some sort of purgatory but I know I have no choice but to continue on. So maybe that should be added to list. “inability to conform ones life to the teachings of the church” or something like that.

    1. Blake, you say you “have no choice,” but you do. After four-plus years with this woman, have you considered the possibility that she will never marry you? Relationships are a two-way street, and cohabitation issues aside, none are healthy when one partner forces the other to go against his/her conscience or deeply held values. Turn to the Lord in prayer, go to Confession, and discern–both alone and with your girlfriend–what’s right and best going forward. I will pray for you both.

  4. Honestly it is not that complicated. We fail to lead Christian lives in all aspects because we don’t have intimate prayer with our God whom we should depend on for everything. We fail to realize the truth of the Eucharist and the meaning of a Eucharistic centered life.

    1. John,

      It really should not be, but many who call themselves Catholic are so in name only. They do not practice their faith or if they do, may be only going through the motions.

      God bless,

      Randy

  5. My experience was the violent response by people in the 1950′s south to learning I was Catholic. It was hard to understand why we had two Parishes just blocks apart one black and one white. It didn’t make sense to me. The KKK was strong in the town..

    We moved many times ended up in a Morman town.. It made me a better Catholic defending the Church nearly everyday… Then Vatican II happened and I ran out of arguments when the truths of the Faith were being challenged everyday…

  6. Great topic, Randy. You should clarify that being authentic doesn’t mean acting identically in all situations. Yes, we live according to Christ’s truth in all we do, but my roles as wife and mother require different gifts and talents, and each are different from my roles as friend, employee, sister, etc. I avoid using “separate,” as “the real me” isn’t any of these individual roles, but a mysterious and blessed combination of them all. My coworkers know I am a mother and support me in that vocation, but I don’t “act” like a mother at work.

    Also, I don’t understand the difference between conforming and relaxing in your context. I offer this alternate list: 1=blindness (lack of knowledge), 2=fear (lack of faith/hope), 3=ignorance (lack of wisdom/counsel), 4=attachment (lack of freedom, misdirected love), 5=conformity (lack of courage/strength).

    God bless to all.

  7. What a great article! I wish I had written it.
    Yes, it is so hard to be truly genuine.
    For my part, I am basically a coward. I need the grace of moral courage.
    It is painful to examine myself, to expose my self-centeredness, my pride and my sins.
    Perhaps this is why I avoid frequent confession.
    But the Church has the antidote: humility and trusting in God’s merciful love.

  8. I think there is no label that should go before the word Catholic except Roman. I have personally watched what Al Kresta on avemaria radio call the “amnesia” that was the poison dripped into our veins by dissidents inside and outside the Church. The poisoning was very gradual. First, little steps, then a few more. At first, we thought these strangers were like us and liked us. They weren’t and didn’t. I’m talking about the Hippies of the late 1960s. In a 5 year plan that spanned 1968 to 1973, they turned human sexuality and the family upside down. We were told babies were no longer a gift from God but something to be feared, that porn, strip clubs and topless bars were OK. They were legal, right? We resisted and they persisted. The misuse of human sexuality today is at the core of it, since they wanted their world to be our world. Wake up. Listen to Pope Francis. He is saying precisely the same things I heard when I was a boy.

  9. I took one for the team this past June when I refused to attend my niece’s second wedding (first marriage not annulled) based on my Catholic beliefs regarding marriage. Needless to say it was not well received and I had to endure many hurtful remarks. I was the only one in the family not to attend, a very lonely position to be in for sure. I felt empowered at the time but now have to live with the consequences of it. It’s been hard but I don’t regret it. I know it was the right thing to do. I love the Lord and His Church so much and there is nothing more important in my life.

    1. I don’t see why you love of God and the church should have prevented your attendance at this wedding. Jesus consorted with plenty of so called sinners in his lifetime.

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