man-person-woman-face in PostI can’t say that I’m an expert on what is or isn’t normal. But recently I’ve begun to challenge some definitions of “normal” that, for most of my life, I had accepted without question. Now, I find that I’m more prone to question what is considered “normal” in lots of areas of my life.

When I was in high school, my goal was to have a high school experience as close to the Happy Days TV show as possible (given that I went to high school in the 1980s.) I wanted to do well in my classes, have lots of friends, be a cheerleader, and date a football player. I managed to do most of those things but I found that I had to work hard to maintain that “normal” existence. Even though I’m an extrovert, I’ve always been a bit of a homebody who liked down time. That part of my personality didn’t jive well with my “normal” high school existence. I’d like to say that I had some big revelation at that point in my life that helped me to find my way to my true self but, the reality is, that was a lesson that I learned slowly over many years. It was a lesson that I began to learn in high school but one that I’m still trying to completely internalize even now.

The same could be said of my spiritual life. When I was younger, I thought being holy meant being serious and somber and not having any fun. I thought that sainthood wasn’t for “normal” people like me. I also thought that living my faith just meant going to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days and blessing my food before I ate it.

When I entered college, I found myself seeking out better answers to my questions of faith. As I found those answers, I fell in love with God and His Church more and more. Fast-forward many years, and I started writing about my faith and speaking to groups about it hoping all the while to spark something within others that would set their hearts on fire with their faith just as my heart had been set ablaze with love for my Lord.

Was my zeal “normal” for a Catholic? I guess I can’t really answer that question. It may or may not have been normal for someone else but it was definitely “normal” for me because it was what God was calling me to do with my life. In her book Forming Intentional Disciples, Sherry Weddell talks about the fact that we, as Catholics, assume that someone in love with the Lord and living their faith is being called to the priesthood or religious life. There is an underlying assumption that zeal for your faith isn’t “normal.” It’s only something reserved for “special Catholics.” You know, the ones that become priests or nuns or choose another religious vocation. Weddell contends that ALL of us should be filled with that zeal regardless of our vocation. Zeal in the form of active discipleship should be normal for all Catholics, not just a select few.

Of course, not everyone is called to speak or write about their faith. Not everyone is called to religious life or the clergy. But ALL of us are called to live our faith with great love. That’s the new “normal.” At least, that’s what I want it to be.

What is your idea of a “normal” Catholic?


Copyright Laura B Nelson 2015
Image credit: CCO,,, public domain