“People engage and disengage in their marriage. People engage and disengage in parenting. People engage and disengage in their personal finances,” declared Matthew Kelly, pacing along the stage in the Anaheim Convention Center Arena. “And people engage and disengage in the church as well.”

In the first of two presentations during the recent Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, Kelly focused not only on “slacker” Catholics, but on Catholics who are concerned for the future of the church, but don’t know how to help. 

“Most Catholics,” the best-selling author said simply, “don’t believe the future can be bigger than the past.” 

What’s needed to stem this way of thinking — and to stem, and eventually turn around, the flood of Catholics leaving the church — are game-changers, he said. 

Turning things around, changing the game — those sound like major undertakings, and they are; but Kelly emphasized that true game-changers are simple. They are not complex answers to difficult problems. 

To counter the challenges facing the church, there’s no need to brainstorm a new national or international program. In fact, the solution is much more basic: It is for each of us to transform ourselves. 

“Part of our mission as Catholics is to transform the world,” Kelly said. “Our challenge to transform the world will always be a challenge to transform the individual.”  

New Year’s resolutions to the contrary, self-transformation is not an easy task to undertake — and part of it is because of our mindset: true change can be draining. “We’re more interested in surviving than we are in thriving,” Kelly admitted. “We’re more interested in maintenance than in mission.” 

The early Christians captured people’s attention because they were so different; their very lifestyles made them stand out from the crowd, Kelly said. The way they loved — forgiving their enemies, a complete turnaround from the old rule of “an eye for an eye” — was a radical departure from the norm. 

But today, Catholic Christians tend to blend in with the crowd. As Kelly put it, “We don’t live differently, we don’t love differently, we don’t work differently.” Our countercultural roots have withered. 

After sharing two game-changers his organization, The Dynamic Catholic Institute, has undertaken — a book give-away at Christmas and new programs for major sacramental moments in the lives of Catholics — Kelly invited each attendee to implement a game-changer to implement in his own life. To give his audience a running start, he offered three game-changers to choose from: reading the Gospels for 10 minutes each day for a whole year; receiving the sacrament of reconciliation once a month for a whole year; and keeping a Mass journal to track suggestions (one from each Mass) for ways to become a better version of one’s self. 

The ripple effects of these efforts to re-engage in our faith and to become better people — the people God created us to be — will go on to transform our parishes, schools, dioceses, and the Church as a whole, Kelly said. 

“There’s nothing wrong with Catholicism that can’t be fixed by everything that’s right with Catholicism,” he declared. 

“This I know for sure: the world’s in need of changing, and there’s no group of people in the world better positioned to effect that change than Catholics.”  

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