Here's the thing with Catholic guilt: it really is useful when applied properly.
Now, I know any non-Catholics reading this must be thinking, "Right, like it's healthy for people to be guilted into believing in God. That's why there's so many ex-Catholics!"
Well, my brother or sister in Christ; you are absolutely correct.
In my experience, when I first began to take my faith more seriously, it was first out of guilt. I was at a great Catholic school and always had the opportunity to receive the sacraments, go to adoration, pray the rosary, study scripture or whatever else my little pious heart could desire.
Only, I didn't want to do it out of love for God; I usually felt compelled to do these things out of concern for how other students would see me and what God would think if I neglected to take advantage of the plentiful opportunities that campus gave me to spend time with Him.
I would go to mass not because I wanted to necessarily, but more because I wanted to look holy or I was afraid God would somehow not love me as much as I didn't.
"Aha!" You skeptics will say, "See? You are guilted into being a Catholic! You're trying to earn your salvation through liturgy and Marian devotion!"
Again, you are entirely correct. But you know what? That's not the Church's fault. It's entirely my own.
You see, the way I saw my relationship with God is a sign of my own disordered view of how I related to Him and other people. Often times, due to lack of self esteem (or whatever, I'm still trying to figure it out myself) I'd try to earn people's love because I was sure there was no way they cold possibly just love me for me. I mean, it didn't make sense. How could our Savior die for me with no strings attached? It just seemed too simple.
Well, the more I allowed myself to ask that question, the more I realized that it really is that simple.
Of course God thirsts for our hearts and longs for us to be in union with Him, but He redeemed us regardless of what we do.
Now, I know what this sounds like: I've been saved and that's that! Well, yes and no. Obviously, God died for every soul, but it's up to us to reject or accept His love. On a daily basis.
That, I realized, is why I felt guilty. Not because God would no longer love me but because I chose my snooze button over the Eucharist, being the center of attention over keeping my mouth shut and allowing someone else to tell a funny story, a movie before bed over praying with Our Lady.
Obviously God will always love me no matter what, but can I say the same?
That is why I am so grateful for the blessing that is Divine Mercy Sunday.
This is the feast in which God reminds us that He doesn't care what we've done. Yes, we may have rejected Him in the past, but that is not what matters to Him. What matters is if we choose to love Him above all else.
It's a tall order, but He asks no more than what He's willing to do Himself.