In this post, we will also ask: what is the difference between a Catholic and a devout Catholic? We will finish with the question: do I need to be a devout Catholic?
Definition of ‘Devout’
Let’s begin with what the word ‘devout’ means. Let’s say I am a devout environmentalist. This means I am sold-out for my cause, in this case, as an environmentalist. It is the most important thing in my life. Mother Earth and the environment would mean more to me than anything.
Being a devout Catholic, therefore, means to be completely dedicated to the Catholic Church.
Ways to be a Devout Catholic
There are many ways you might notice someone to be a devout Catholic. Here are a few examples.
A devout Catholic:
1. May attend Mass as often as possible, perhaps every day of the week. This could well be the most significant marker of a truly devout Catholic.
2. Will have a strong prayer life. It is not possible for all devout Catholics to get to Mass often during the week, but one certain marker of a devout Catholic is a near-constant connection with God. They pray daily, and they pray numerous times a day.
3. They often go beyond the bare minimum requirements. The Catholic Church has minimum requirements for Catholics, which are known as the Precepts of the Catholic Church. (You can read about them here). Whilst practicing Catholics all seek to obey these Precepts of the Church, devout Catholics often go beyond these requirements.
For instance, practicing Catholics have to attend Mass at least once a week, but devout Catholics will often try to get to Mass as often as they can. Some devout Catholics attend Mass everyday of the week.
Likewise, the Church obliges all Catholics to go to Confession at least once a year, but devout Catholics may well go multiple times a year. Some indeed go every week or every month.
The central point, of course, is that a devout Catholic takes their religion so seriously that it is the most important thing in their lives. Every day of their lives is focused on obeying the Church and obeying God. This isn’t necessarily true of a practicing Catholic.
A word on being ‘devout’
It is worth pausing a moment and asking the question: how many people do you know are devoted to something? How many people do you know who might even die for what they believe in?
It’s not too common, is it?
Surely that matters, does it not?
Devout Catholics were those who died for their faith in ages past. They were those who wanted Christ more than anything else in the world.
St Paul was a devout Catholic. He gave his life to serving God and spreading the Gospel. He was then beheaded at Rome for his devotion to Christ.
St Peter was a devout Catholic. He offered himself up to God at Rome to be crucified upside down.
St John Paul II was a devout Catholic. He forgave the man who tried to murder him and even visited him in prison.
Even the thief on the cross was a devout Catholic. He wasted his life, sure, but on the cross he had such a change of heart that he begged Jesus to let him enter his Kingdom. All that mattered to him in all his agony and suffering was being with Jesus. Such faith was richly rewarded, and he became a saint.
So even if we spend our lives without God, it isn’t over until it’s over. It’s NEVER too late to become a devout Catholic and to enter the road that leads directly to heaven.
What is the difference between being a Catholic and a devout Catholic?
So to be a Catholic, we only have to have entered the Catholic Church. We do this by being baptised, receiving Confirmation from a Catholic priest and receiving the Holy Eucharist. From that point on, we have been fully initiated into the Catholic religion and can never cease to be Catholic.
So this means that even if we leave the Church (as many Catholics do), we still remain Catholic all our lives. Not that it will do us much good if we don’t return to God by the end of our lives.
We call such people ‘lapsed Catholics’, because although they are truly Catholic, yet they are lapsed, they have ceased to follow the Precepts of the Church.
Then there are Catholics whom we might call ‘practicing Catholics’. These are Catholics who do follow the basic requirements of the Church. They go to Mass weekly. They receive the Eucharist at least once a year at Easter. They go to Confession at least once a year. They do penance (fast) and they give money to the Church (if they can).
It doesn’t take much to be a practicing Catholic, and it likely isn’t enough to get someone to heaven immediately after they die. Ideally, it should be enough to get someone to Purgatory, which is a stop-gap between this life and Heaven. Everyone who goes to Purgatory ends up in Heaven, at least eventually.
Then there are the devout: devout Catholics. These are Catholics to whom the Catholic religion means everything. God, Christ, Mary, the saints, the Faith, the sacraments, the Church: all of this means the world to them. This is the world they orbit. They love it, they are devoted to it, they defend it when necessary and they would maybe even die for it, if God gave them the strength and grace to do so.
Devout Catholics are on the path to sainthood, by definition. To be thoroughly devoted to the Catholic Church and her Faith is the one sure way to get to heaven immediately upon death. There is usually no need for such a soul to go to Purgatory first, because all of their sins have been washed away through their prayers, good works and constant participation in the Church’s Masses and sacraments.
Do I need to be a devout Catholic?
So this brings us to the final question. Is it necessary to be a devout Catholic?
It depends what you want out of life, the afterlife, and eternity.
That depends on YOU and your will.
What do you want out of life? What do you want in the afterlife? What do you want in eternity?
Do you want to go to Heaven immediately after you die? Do you want to be with Jesus, Mary and the saints STRAIGHT AWAY as soon as you die? Or would you settle for Purgatory?
Do you want to be a saint, or would you settle for just doing enough to avoid Hell?
Do you want to be great in the kingdom of heaven, or would you settle for just eventually getting there?
It all depends on how you live NOW, and it’s NEVER too late to change gears and change direction.
If you want to go to Heaven straight away, as soon as you leave this earth, then you should ask God right now to make you a devout Catholic.
It’s really not that hard, you just have to WANT it. That’s the first and most essential step.
However, if you don’t mind too much going to Purgatory, and if you don’t really, really want to go to Heaven straight away, then you can settle for being a practicing Catholic. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s accepted by the Church and it probably describes where most are at.
I think it’s important for us to be honest with ourselves and to be who we are. We can’t just make ourselves saints if this isn’t what we really want to be. We all have different measures of faith and grace from God. But it’s always a good idea to be ourselves and to be who God made us to be.
God might not have created me to be a great saint, but he created me to be ME. I want to be that person, as best as I can. I leave my destiny after this life up to him.
So let us seek God on all of this and find our true selves. Perhaps you are called to daily Mass, and you didn’t even know it before reading this post. Perhaps you are called to pray more, or to join a charity, or to go to Confession, and you didn’t know before reading this.
Let us be real, let us be ourselves and let us ask Jesus what it is he wants from us.
God bless you, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary!