Do You Practice “Take Home” Catholicism?

The other day I was thinking about the difference between “eating out”,  “fast food”, and “take home food”.  I realize that, for many folks, there is no difference between these three terms. However, the more I thought about it, I began to see a difference, not in general terms but, more importantly, in emphasis.

The concept of eating out has been identified with eating away from home, where less work is involved since one does not prepare the meal, with payment involved, providing a change of pace from the norm, expecting a commercial transaction of some kind ( food for payment), and most often involving a big meal with some provision for small snacks taken outside the home from time to time.

In contrast to eating out, fast food is taken to be a quick, convenient meal making way for more time spent with other parts of life.  It would seem absurd, for example, for a family to go to a fast food place and then take two hours to eat the meal there. People associate fast food with eating out because fast food places are outside the home, but the two are not completely compatible. In other words, most fast food places involve eating out, but not all eating out involves going to a fast food place, since one can eat out at a restaurant and take three hours to eat one’s meal there.

The concept of take home food, however, is quite different than the two above.  While it does overlap, as all three of these concepts do, it is not really the same thing. In a sense, most of the food we eat is take home because we buy it outside and take it home to eat. More generally, however, take home food is considered practically synonymous with take out food, which is food prepared outside the home but taken off the premises to be eaten in the home or at least somewhere else, as in an office etc.

The central theme of eating out is seeking an occasional or at least planned convenience outside the home for a price. The key focus of fast food is, of course, quick convenience to make way for other, seemingly more important, life events. The emphasis of take home food, however, is obtaining food outside the home which one then brings back to one’s place of living of working to consume and, possibly, share.

While you may be wondering what any of this has to do with Catholicism, I ask you to consider if, in fact, you are practicing your faith out of mere convenience, rote habit, occasional entertainment, or simply to fulfill some duty.  Do  you look at your faith as something you obtain for one hour out of 168 hours in the week ( if that) where you pray, sing, read deep spirituality, eat a cookie, and then go home?  Do you seek a pre-packaged faith prepared by someone else which you can quickly consume in church and then go about your business once you escape from church premises? Are you looking for an easy faith, prepared by someone else, which does not require any work on your part?  Is your focus more on gulping down the practices and particulars of worship like some hamburger rather than actually saving your soul while helping others save theirs?

I suggest that you consider developing a deeper, more fulfilling, form of Catholicism.  Perhaps you may look into beginning to practice a “Take Home Catholicism”  in which you partake of what church has to offer seriously and with focus consistent with its importance and then, just as importantly, you then go out and take what you have been shown inside the church outside in your life, your work, your interactions with others, and in your home.

What good does praying and singing devoutly in church do if followed by arrogance, disregard, negligence, mockery, disrespect, and mistreatment of others once you are outside?  What good does it do to shake everyone’s hand inside the church if you follow that up with banding together with your sacred clique and alienate others later?

Jesus did not like those who publicly practiced devout faith but did not follow those rituals up with practical, real applications of that faith in the rest of their lives.  He did not like hypocrites, and those who sing hymns, pray prayers, and then later patronize, mock, and alienate others through their arrogant self-entitlement and feelings of superiority are surely hypocrites.  Make it a practice to practice what you preach, and to speak only if such speech will bring others to Christ, as opposed to bringing yourself up in other people’s eyes or popularity.

Take your Catholicism home, or you will starve your faith and your salvation in the long run.

Gabriel Garnica, 2014


When It Comes To Their Faith, Many Catholics Stick Their Foot in It

A foot doctor once told me that, when it comes to taking care of their health, most people largely neglect their feet. “People’s concerns and care, it seems, begin with their head or brain, then their hearts and lungs, then their lower internal organs, followed by their legs and, lastly, their feet, which they neglect until things have really gotten very bad”  he complained. While I realize that some of this may just be a frustrated doctor upset that people give as much care for their feet as they should, I have to generally agree with him.  I, for one, have tended to worry about seemingly everything else regarding my health than my feet, usually putting off anything of concern until after the other “priorities” have been dealt with.

What does any of this this have to do with our spiritual health?  Well, for one thing, we treat our Catholic faith exactly as we do our feet.  It seems that most of us have a ranked priority list of concerns and “to-dos” and our faith is somewhere down near the basement of that list.

How much are we preoccupied with what others think of us, and what we have to remember?  These concerns of the head or mind seem to be near the top for most people. Taking the liberty of poetic license, how much time do we spend worrying about what we need to get “ahead” and rise to the “head” of the pack?  Don’t we spend tons of time wanting to become the head person in some group or organization, to be considered the “brains” of the operation?

Likewise, how obsessed are we with how people perceive us, with our appearance, with “looking” the parts we play?  How often do we judge by appearances, and look at people and situations with this society’s twisted, biased and secular eyes?  Continuing, how careful are we to only say what people want to “hear”, and of “hearing” only what is convenient to us? How much time do we spend “talking” about others, and defending or explaining ourselves regardless of whether what we have done deserves or can even be solved by such efforts?

We often say that we “smell a rat” but do we ever smell our own faults?  Do we stick our neck out for others, or are we cutthroat in our evaluation of them?  Do we find it necessary to “get something off our chest” oblivious of how our self-serving rants and efforts may hurt others?  Are we drinking this society’s moral kool-aid and making our own stance for our faith toothless by rationalizing, diluting, and apologizing for who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to stand for?  How often do we swallow our pride and try to bring peace and forgiveness to a situation?

Where is our heart?  Is it with Christ, or with this false, manipulative, and hypocritical society? Where is our soul?  Is it taking the express train to perdition, or is it anywhere near where Our Lord wants it to be?  When faced with the many temptations of this world, do we go with our moral gut, or do we take the easy way out and just follow the most popular route? Have we developed an unhealthy taste for sin, able to stomach almost anything without much moral revulsion?  Are we constantly turning our back on our Faith, treating it like some convenient hat we wear whenever it is convenient?

Do we sit on our comfort level rather than pray on our knees? Do we reach out to people and does our claim to be faithful have a leg to stand on?

Lastly, do we relegate our faith to a daily footnote, touching on it only when there is nothing else to do or when we cannot avoid it any longer?  Like the feet, our Faith provides the foundation for where we will go and how balanced we will be there. However, that Faith should not be treated like the feet.  It should be housed in our minds, hearts, and souls, and feed the rest of our existence with its influence.  When we keep our Faith at our feet, it is an uphill journey for it to impact our lives.  However, when we keep that Faith in our minds, hearts, and souls, it can more easily spread its influence throughout our existence.

The next time you think about where your Faith resides in your life, get off your feet, shake a leg, and get it into your head to get to the heart and soul of the matter.

Gabriel Garnica, 2014


Dust off Your David



We have all heard the story of David and Goliath ( 1 Samuel 17) whereby the Philistine and Israelite armies faced each other on opposite sides of a steep valley, ready to do battle, but knowing that the first army to charge would be at a disadvantage below the other one. To make matters worse for the Israelite army, the Philistines were led by a giant named Goliath, who was much bigger, stronger, and terrifying than the meanest, toughest, and largest football player we can think of. Goliath spent forty days mocking God and the Israelite army, challenging them to send their best warrior in a winner take all match. Saul, the King of Israel, and his entire army were terrified of this guy, and were practically paralyzed in fear and frustration, not knowing how to get out of this situation, much less ever dream of solving it.  In fact, Goliath seemed so much better, stronger, tougher, and bigger than they were, that it started to seem that the easiest thing to do was just give up an surrender. Have you ever faced a test, situation, problem, challenge, or bully that seemed unbeatable?  Were you sometimes tempted to just give up, thinking that it was easier to just run, hide, or avoid what was facing you?  Now you know how the Israelite army felt.

Well, David, the son of Jesse, was a shepherd, and his father sent him to the battleground to find out how his brother were doing. When David heard Goliath mock and defy God, and saw how scared the Israelite army was, he volunteered to fight Goliath himself, which must have made everyone on both sides laugh. After all, they all figured, a teenage shepherd armed with a slingshot and rocks would have to be crazy, stupid, delusional, arrogant, or all of the above to even think that he had any chance to beat a giant, experienced, mean, armed warrior like Goliath. What both sides did not realize was that David was none of these things; He just loved and trusted in God so much that he put all of his faith, efforts, and chances in God’s Hands. He knew that what he was doing was the right thing, and that was all that mattered. Sure, his opponents, and even people who were supposedly on his side, mocked and criticized him but, in the end, he knew that the only Judge, the only Referee, who mattered was God, and that as long as he was doing what God wanted, everything would be alright in the end.

Have you ever seen someone being mistreated, bullied, or made fun of?  Has someone ever tried to make you do something you knew was wrong, or go against what your parents and family have taught you? People who do and say bad things often want others to agree with them, and they will try to push and even force you to go along with them. Why do you think  David refused to think and act like the crowd wanted him to?

Do you know what an underdog is?  Have you ever been an underdog?  The dictionary tells us that an underdog is someone or a side which is expected to lose to an opponent which seems much better, more talented, prepared, or the popular choice of most people. There is that word again, “popularity”; popularity is like ice cream,  pizza, or macaroni and cheese; we all like it, but that does not always mean that it is the right thing for us. That is because what most people like, prefer, or would do is not necessarily what God wants us to do or be. Following God means listening and following God’s Word, His Commandments, and the examples of Jesus, Mary, and the saints.  Praying and coming to Church are very important, and God wants us to do these things, but it is not enough.  We have to go out and try our best to be like Jesus to others. What good is praying and coming to Church if we then go out and ignore or disobey what God wants us to do?  What are we doing if we call ourselves followers of Jesus and then go out and ignore, mistreat, bully, or expect special treatment without treating others as special?  Jesus taught us to love and serve others, to be unselfish not expecting everything for ourselves, to not always look at things from our interest or agenda, and to genuinely care and feel happy for others. If we are not doing these things, we are not following Jesus and obeying God, no matter how much we pretend we are, and we are certainly not being a good example to others either.

The world considers the story of David and Goliath the ultimate underdog story and, as a fan of the Mets and Jets, I know a thing or two about underdogs. However, the popular speaker and writer David Gladwell challenges us to see this story in a different way. The world, the popular view, is that David somehow managed to overcome great disadvantages to beat someone he should have lost to, but that is only looking  at things the way the world measures things.

By the world’s view, Goliath was an unbeatable, experienced, powerful, imposing, and popular opponent expected to win; and David, was a small, insignificant, foolish, punk daring to stand in Goliath’s way. However, Gladwell tells us that Goliath likely suffered from a disease that made him a giant, that he was slow, had bad vision, and was not the brightest person in the world.  We know that Goliath did not respect, credit, or obey God from his actions and words that day, and that he took all the credit for whatever went right. By Heaven’s view, David was a fast, creative, resourceful, intelligent, courageous expert in hitting a target 100 feet or more away with a slingshot and stone who used God’s gifts to maximize his performance. Above all, he loved, trusted, and believed in God above everything, and everyone else. History will tell us that he was certainly not perfect, and had many faults, as we all do, and he accepted the consequences of those faults, but it remains that he offered what he did on that valley that day to God, and humbly gave God all the glory, praise, and credit for it.  He did not seek glory, credit, fame, or any selfish interest for himself on tht day, but rather offered his God-given talents in the service of God.

The world today is Goliath. It  seems to have many advantages, to make a lot of sense, and to have all the answers. It pretends to know right from wrong, and is very happy to push us to follow its preferences on how to be more popular. It mocks and disrespects God and those who follow and love God often, and expects them to grow up, get a life, figure it out, and change to be more inclusive, more positive, and make people more comfortable. It is more concerned with its depiction of truth than what truth really is, and is increasingly intolerant, even while portraying itself as a champion of tolerance, of any views which oppose its version of truth.  It wants us to apologize for being Christians, to surrender our loyalty to God, and to give up trying to follow a poor Carpenter who ended up nailed to a cross for making the wrong people feel comfortable and the wrong people feel uncomfortable.

We can be the Israelite army, shaking in our boots, expecting to lose, apologizing for even being  around, preferring to run and hide, mocking those in our ranks who even try to follow Christ, and  forgetting that faith and belief in God always beats earthly fear and threats. Some people say Jesus was our First David, fighting evil for us on the cross, and they may be right. However, make no mistake about it. If Jesus was David for us, it is our turn to be David for Him.  We all have a David inside us; all we have to do is dust off our David, find the God-given talents God has given us to serve Him and others, take out our slingshot, and find the stones to do what God put us on this earth to do.

Gabriel Garnica,  2014.