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Mass at St. Vibiana's, Los Angeles

According to this article, the number of Roman Catholics in the United States has continued to grow. Our numbers have increased 1.25% over the last year to just over 68 million believers. If you look at the statistics for the other Top 10 Christian Denominations, you will find only slight increases or decreases.

Lord Disraeli, a British prime minister during the latter part of the 19th century, once said that there were three kinds of lies, “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” In this instance, we have statistics which show us that our beloved Church is still leading as far as membership goes. We must ask ourselves, however, who is a Catholic these days and what on earth does this mean?

The word “Catholic” means many different things. As I have come to understand from being in the Church for three years, the term can denote almost anything from cultural liberals to ultraconservatives. On the one hand, you have those that are for women’s ordination and then there are those on the opposite end of the spectrum who believe that the Church and society should go back to the 1950s when everything was just swell. And then, of course, there are those of us that are stuck somewhere in the middle.

Yet these ideas are not what it means to be a Catholic. A Catholic is ultimately a follower of Christ and one who obeys Him. A person can call himself many things including Catholic, but if he doesn’t obey God then he isn’t any of those things. As Our Lord said, there will be those at the Last Judgment who will turn to Him and tell who they are and He will respond that He does not know them. Why? Because they did not follow Him with all of their heart, strength, and soul.

We must ask ourselves where we fall among the 68 million in this survey. If we have lapsed, we need to ask ourselves why. If we are not doing everything we can, then we need to discern a way that we can. If we do not regularly attend church, then we need to ask ourselves what it is that prevents us.

This kind of self-examination is fruitful and will bring us much more fruit in the future. For by knowing ourselves, we will be better equipped to serve others and build up the 68 million in our country by our example.