Our society is becoming less and less religious, and those who take their religion seriously are increasingly viewed as being different. And even in the Catholic Church, when only 25% of American Catholics attend Mass every Sunday, those who do attend weekly (or daily) Mass may be seen as zealots. But how do we respond when family or friends tell us that we’re taking our faith too seriously?
Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, a listener named Nancy called and explained that she has been accused of being a fanatic because she is passionate about her Catholic faith. Nancy said:
My mom is a very devout Catholic and has told me that I have become a fanatic. I unfortunately was away from my faith for a long time and, thanks be to God, in the last couple years I have come back and am head over heels in love with it. I try to do everything I do now through the eyes of my faith – from how I raise my children, to what we listen to on the radio, what we watch on TV, etc. And my mom says, ‘Oh Nancy, you’re becoming a fanatic.’
To me, that would be like ignoring my children to go to adoration for five hours or something like that. That’s what I would view as a fanatic. I don’t think I am, but I don’t know what she’s seeing, because I’m trying to view everything through my Catholic faith.
Patrick responded, “Without knowing you, without hearing anything more, I can 100% guarantee you that you’re not a fanatic. And the reason I can is that you just mentioned you returned to your faith and that you’re now taking your faith seriously in a way that you weren’t before. You are not a fanatic, you are now a mature Christian.
That’s what is happening. You have grown into a mature understanding of your faith, you take it seriously, you see the value of the gifts you have been given by God in the Church. And you’re acting accordingly – you are acting like a mature Christian.
Now an immature Christian, and I’m not accusing your mom of being an immature Christian, but an immature Christian will look at that and be bothered by it. Because deep down inside the immature Christian realizes, ‘I should be doing that too. I should be praying on a regular basis. I should be reading the Bible. I should be going to the sacraments. I should be stepping up my game because that’s what it means to be an adult.’
Adults act like adults. Kids act like kids. Adults step in, step up, do what’s necessary, and take care of business because they’re adults. So without any other details, I get the sense that your mom is bugged by the fact of your serious approach to these truths of the faith, and your approach to these duties to be a good Christian. That rankles her, and it bothers her at some level because it is a reminder to her that she’s not doing some of these things.
Now, I don’t know in her case, but if I had to guess that would be my guess. Let me give you a Bible verse that I think would be helpful. In Revelation chapter 3, Jesus is speaking to the different churches, He’s talking about their strengths and weaknesses. And He says to the church at Laodicia:
‘I know your works, you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot. Because you are lukewarm and neither cold not hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. For you say ‘I am rich, I have prospered and I need nothing,’ not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes that you may see. Those whom I love I reprove and chasten, so be zealous and repent.‘
That word zealous is another word for fanatic, but in a good way. Jesus is saying to all of us to be a fanatic in the right sense of the word, and that is to be zealous. Commit yourself whole-heartedly. Be an adult, not a child. Take it seriously.
Sit down at the kitchen table and walk through that passage with her and ask if it’s possible that what she’s seeing in you is somebody who is trying to live out the meaning of this passage.”
Listen to the full conversation below:
The Patrick Madrid Show airs weekdays from 6:00 – 9:00 a.m. Pacific on Immaculate Heart Radio.