This week I am gathered with my brother priests for our annual convocation at Fall Creek Falls State Park. Our speakers are Matthew Kelly and Allen Hunt from the Dynamic Cathlolic Institute. The institute has been recently engaged in research meant to determine what are characteristics present among the most engaged US Catholics. Their research has shown that only 7% of Catholics in the United States are highly engaged in their parishes. While this sounds like a depressing statistic, the good news is that by spending time learning about that 7%, their research has revealed four characteristics that are present among those who are most engaged in their faith. Knowing what these four characteristics are can help pastors and others who work in ministry to give the 93% the tools that can help them be more connected to the Catholic Church.
The four signs of a dynamic Catholic are:
1. Prayer. It should not be surprising that those who are most engaged in their faith spend regular time in prayer. God is the source of our faith, and so spending time with him frequently should be a no brainer. There is one significant thing to be said about how the most engaged Catholics pray, however. While most Catholics would say that they pray, the most engaged ones have a routine of prayer, meaning they pray the same way, in the same place, at the same time. In other words, they come at prayer with a plan.
2. Study. The second sign of a dynamic Catholic is study. Study in this case means that these Catholics are life long learners. They are continually striving to learn more about their faith and never feel they are finished. Too often I have encountered those in our Church who feel they learned everything they need to know about the Church when they finished Catholic school or CCD. Those who are most engaged know that there is always more to learn, that we can always go deeper with our faith.
3. Generosity. The most engaged Catholics in our parishes are the ones who are the most generous. Matthew shared with us that as much as those conducting research interviews tried to steer the questions aways from a focus on money, those who were the most engaged kept bringing the conversation back to it. This makes sense to me, as my experience is that our values are revealed by how we spend our money. If we are generous with our money, we will be generous in other areas of our life as well.
4. Evangelization. The fourth characteristic is one that is near and dear to my heart. While many Catholics seem to limit the meaning of evangelization to people going door to door trying to make sure people “get saved”, the more simple definition is simply that we share our faith with others. This can happen in many ways and is at the heart of the Gospel.
Would you like to be a more dynamic Catholic? Try strengthening these four areas of your life and see what happens. Or try to find ways to help others in your life to do the same.