My Life/Teen Life Creating Your Personal Catholic Brand by Nick Bernard Imagine this: you’re walking down the street, you see someone, and you think to yourself, “Wow, they are SO Catholic!” Have you ever wanted to be just as Catholic as that person? Well, you’re in luck! Welcome to my blog. I should start by saying that it’s probably hopeless for you. Branding yourself Catholic is hard work, and only the most elite can even begin to do it. There are no days off, no study breaks, and absolutely no nap times. So, if you were expecting any of that, you should stop reading now and start getting your life together. On the other hand, if you think you can handle it, I invite you to read on and see if you’ve got what it takes to #brandyourselfcatholic. Social Media Are you #Catholic? You better be, otherwise, you should just turn around right now and delete your account. Does your handle have the word “Catholic” in it? If not, I invite you once again to delete your account. If you’re on Facebook, I’d better see that Vatican flag in your cover photo. If you’re on Twitter, I want to see you tweet good morning to Pope Francis every day, according to the Vatican City time zone. If you’re on Instagram, I want to see you post a picture every time you do anything even remotely Catholic. Praying the rosary? Pics or it didn’t happen. Going to Mass? Show the world your church outfit. When it comes to being a branded Catholic, your image is everything. All your social media accounts had better be oozing Catholic stuff — if they aren’t, are you even trying? You’ll need at least one Catholic item in every picture you post and at least three saint quotes/references in each of your captions. If these rules make your captions too long and your photos too hard to gather, sorry. I never said this would be easy. Outfits Equally important to your social media presence are the outfits you choose. Once again, image is everything, so you’ll need to make sure your personal image is pungently Catholic on and off the screen. When you get dressed in the morning, ask yourself, “does any piece of my outfit not look obviously Catholic?” If you answered yes about any of your clothes, throw them in the trash immediately and start saving up for some trendy, #catholic clothes. I’m talking exclusively youth group t-shirts and youth group sweatpants. I’m talking saint images sewn into your sweaters and dresses with the Sistine Chapel on them. Don’t be afraid to use last year’s MET Gala for inspiration — you can never be too Catholic. You also need to have the right Catholic accessories. Your hair should smell like incense 24/7, even if this means waking up again in the middle of the night to put on more perfume. Your beard (if you have one) should always smell like chrism oil — always. And you’ll need to make sure that at every waking moment you’re wearing so many saint medals that, as you walk, you sound like a reindeer wearing sleigh bells. Again, I should emphasize that no one ever said this would be easy. Knick-Knacks True branded Catholics have Catholic knick-knacks — they have Catholic stuff all over the place. I’m talking rosaries floor-to-ceiling. I’m talking swimming in prayer cards. Bookshelves? Overflowing with Catholic books, journals, and devotionals. If you’re really committed to becoming a branded Catholic, then I fully expect you to have already bought at least 75% of all the books ever published about how to live a holy Catholic life as a teenager. You also have to have read the books. If you think that you don’t have time, then you might consider dropping out of the musical or quitting the soccer team, because this Catholic stuff is more important than any of that. Obviously, the most critical place for Catholic knick-knacks: your car. I want to see dashboard Jesus and Mary bobble-heads on your front windshield, and, if you want to put a St. Joseph bobble-head in your rear windshield, I wouldn’t blame you. You rear view mirror needs to have at least seven rosaries (one for every day of the week) on it, and you might even consider adding some rosaries to your side mirrors. Will they blow away in the wind as you drive? Not if you’re a true branded Catholic. The Real Deal Okay okay okay, I was KIDDING! Please disregard all my previous satirical advice, and please just put on a secular t-shirt, sheesh! What I hope to tell you in this final section is that you do not need to brand yourself Catholic to be a faithful Catholic. You do not have to “look Catholic” to be a true Catholic. Your social media accounts do not need to be exclusively populated with “Catholic things” (though they should be populated with holy things), and it is totally acceptable to add a sticker of your favorite band next to a sticker of the Blessed Mother on your water bottle. Being Catholic is not about the way you appear to the world; it’s about the way you present yourself before the Lord. Doing Catholic things is not how you “get holy.” In fact, doing anything of your own accord at all is not how you “get holy.” We do not make ourselves holy by the things we do; instead, we become holy through a personal, active reception of our Heavenly Father’s grace and mercy. And we can live out holy lifestyles (notice here that I didn’t say Catholic) because we approach the Lord with a posture of humility and receptivity. To be holy, you don’t have to be branded as a Catholic. If we truly live into the fullness of life offered by God through the life of the Catholic Church, then we must strive for genuine holiness, not merely for catholicity. Be Holy So, whether or not you look, sound, smell like a branded Catholic, I invite you all as brothers and sisters in Christ onto the journey of being holy — or at least striving to be. In His ministry, Jesus invites us, not so much to a certain lifestyle, as He does to a certain disposition. He doesn’t say, “blessed are they who wear only youth group t-shirts” but instead “blessed are the meek.” Christ invites us to an interior disposition toward His Father’s mercy, and, in its truest form, this disposition ought to overflow into the ways we live and act. They will know we are Christians by our love, not by our saint medals or chrism-scented beards or profound genuflections before we receive the Eucharist. Don’t get me wrong, culturally Catholic things are good — I have a Catholic tattoo permanently inked into myself. Still, when we are put to the test of faith, we will know whether have been truly Catholic by the same test Christ uses in his parable of the Last Judgment: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink.. as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:35, 40). So brothers and sisters, if you take nothing else from my blog today, take this: be holy. Before you make any of your decisions throughout the day, instead of considering whether or not you’ll seem Catholic, consider whether or not you’ll be serving the Lord and actively receiving His mercy and sanctifying grace. The Catholic Church serves us as a shepherd toward holiness and a guide toward the Heart of God; it doesn’t act as a fashion guide or a lifestyle blog. God has given us a great gift in His Church, and I pray that we all might come to appreciate it for what it is — not the ultimate end, but the stepping stones on the path to Heaven.