There is a good deal of polarization in the church these days. One only has to scan the various blogs and news sites to appreciate the depth and extent of it. All of this makes me wonder about myself and where I stand in all of this. I go to Mass on Sundays at my local parish which is a scant block away. I struggle with daily Mass though I usually manage to attend during Lent. I am what the Knights of Columbus would call a practical Catholic and am in fact a 3rd degree member. I will never ascend to the 4th degree because the next time I wear a suit and tie in church I will likely be lying down in a box. I can be stubborn that way.
I attend my local parish church because I believe in the virtues of a community of place rather than a community of preference. Rubbing shoulders with a variety of people who may not agree with me on all things seems to be helpful. Moreover I rather enjoy the sense of community I get when I run into a parishioner on the street and stop for a chat. The local thrift store is run by parishioners and I often drop in for a chat on my way home from a shopping incursion. The last time I was in there the ladies were complaining of the lack of heat. I suggested that there were one or two books there that might be consigned to the fire.
I do not attend celebrations of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form on any regular basis. The closest one is over an hour away with a transfer. As a matter of fact I don't find the old rite particularly edifying. Perhaps it is the memory of one too many priests rushing through the liturgy. I missed most of the furor, having left while the Mass was still in Latin and they were just beginning to experiment with the dialogue Mass. By the time I returned everything had changed. There are some liturgical practices that make me cringe and it would do my heart good to hear more Latin from the choir.
I believe what the Church teaches but I do not spend a great deal of time researching these things. I read the Catechism, the Bible and one or two volumes of documents but I am confident that if an illiterate can be saved then the amount of reading necessary can't be all that much.
The question at the head of this post... indeed the question at the heart of all this is "What is a real Catholic?" We are all required to accept the dictum "outside the Church there is no salvation" but is that enough? How are we to understand this statement? Must we also be a member of the right party or faction? Must we take the right things seriously? Must we be the right kind of Catholic?
Why do I believe at all? How do I even know Jesus is risen? Witnesses who have seen these things have testified to them and I believe them. They have staked their lives in witness to these things. Am I a real Catholic?