Loving your neighbor: What it means to be Catholic

One’s faith often serves as a special center point in their life. Of course different religions hold different beliefs and values, yet all of them share a similar set of key values to live by and live for. Theology teachers Mary Beth Sandmann, David Sandmann, and Teresa Davis all believe that the paramount virtue of being Catholic is loving God and thy neighbor as thyself. Theology teacher John Norman shared a similar sentiment and said that being Catholic “means that we see others just as Jesus saw others (and sees us) …with love and compassion.” Theology teacher Jeff Hutchinson-Smyth said that to him, being Catholic is “taking to heart; taking seriously the call to practice a love without limits; love without borders and boundaries.” In 1 John 4:8 it says: “Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love.”

To be Catholic is to love. To be Catholic means to love thy neighbor that doesn’t look, vote, act, or love like you do. Mary Beth Sandmann said, “To love God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind, is to love our neighbors [as we love] our self, and that includes those who are hard to love.” To know God is to love, and to love is to know God.

During the Jan. 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, some Capitol rioters believed they answered God’s call. In a Feb. 11article by Peter Manseau with The Washington Post, Manseau said that many rioters “believed God wanted them to do this… [and] not only was this assault accompanied by Jesus flags, Bible quotes and loudspeaker sermons, it was undertaken — according to many of the attackers themselves — in Christianity’s name.”

Davis said, “Anytime that I have seen racial slurs; racial hate, [or] homophobic statements and Jesus’ name is attached to it, I really wish those people would be quiet, because that is not Jesus’ way.” Davis added that “During the [Jan. 6] insurrection when there [were] people with crosses and confederate flags… and talked about Jesus? Those two things can’t stand in the same room… and that goes also [with] not loving our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.” 

“Can one follow Christ, in the Catholic faith, and still be racist, actively discriminating against African Americans, immigrants, and others?’ My understanding of Jesus and the Catholic Social Teachings of the Church would say ‘absolutely not…’ Jesus loved his family and friends, and those who were marginalized,” Norman said.

In American abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ first autobiography, he recounts the time where his master, Thomas Auld became Christian at a Methodist camp meeting. Douglass believed this would make Auld more “kind and humane” but Douglass wrote that “If it had any effect on his character, it made him more cruel and hateful in all his ways.”

The word “religion” (coming from the Latin root religare) means “to bind” essentially meaning that whatever one’s religion is, it grounds them and offers them value and peace. Hutchinson-Smyth doesn’t see all religions as faith based and God seeking. A religion is often seen as a faith based way of centering one’s life, when really the root of the word can mean that any one person’s set of beliefs can count as their own personal religion.

 “I think that’s one way of taking God’s name in vain: When we, in [His] name, do something very contrary to loving our neighbor,” Theology teacher Mary Beth Sandmann said. “I think God is also pretty clear that our neighbor is more than the people who are just like us,” Sandmann added.

Thumbnail image courtesy of @eriincunnane on VSCO.

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