By Fredi D’Alessio
Catholics are identified as such in varying degrees by their explicit or implicit words or deeds. Some may reveal that they are or are not in full communion with the teaching authority of the Church (the Magisterium). There are many who claim to be good Catholics because they accept all the dogmas of the Catholic faith.
They suppose that they are required to believe or obey the Holy Father only when he speaks ex cathedra in solemnly defining a doctrine of faith or morals. They claim that unless the Church makes an infallible pronouncement in a formal way one is free to dissent. Such is contrary to the official teachings of the Church as clearly explained in section 25 of the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium). 
“…religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will …” (Lumen Gentium)
Even when we distinguish between solemnly defined doctrines of faith and morals, which must be believed and are unchangeable, and Church discipline, which may be reformed, we are called at all times to be fully obedient. But is mere obedience enough to make us fully Catholic?
“The message of the Gospel invites us not merely to become disciples of Christ and children of God, but to enter into a process of transformation in Christ” (Dietrich von Hildebrand, Transformation In Christ).
What a different world would we live in if we were all transformed in Christ!
“Our surrender to Christ implies a readiness to let Him fully transform us, without setting any limit to the modification of our nature under his influence” (Transformation In Christ).
“This radical readiness to change, the necessary condition for a transformation in Christ, is not actually possessed by all Catholic believers. It is, rather, a distinctive trait of those who have grasped the full import of the Call, and without reserve have decided upon an imitation of Christ. There are many religious Catholics whose readiness to change is merely a conditional one” (Transformation In Christ).
“Our proper and ultimate vocation is to be transformed in Christ – that is, to become saints. ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification,’ says St. Paul” (Transformation In Christ).
“The saints do die to themselves, in the sense of being absorbed by their love of Christ, losing themselves in Christ, and only thus do they find their true selfhood – their self as intended by God” (Transformation In Christ).
Unlike the rich young man, may we always stand ready to do what God asks and what we know in our hearts He wants – not merely what He commands. Only then will we rise above mere obedience and begin doing what it takes to become fully Catholic – to become saints.
Let us turn our focus to the person of Holy Father John Paul II who has made such a transformation — who indeed is an alter Christus.  A genuine full communion with him calls for more than mere obedience and reverence – it calls upon us to accept and embrace his teachings and follow him in thought and action to the point that we become like him. What a different world would we live in if we were all transformed in the likes of Pope John Paul II! [3-4]
The message I hope to convey (aided by Dietrich von Hildebrand) is that we should all strive to be Catholics to the degree that the founder of our Church, Christ Jesus, desires of us. If we begin by being transformed in the likes of John Paul II, Vicar of Christ, not only will we be in full communion with him, but we will have also crossed the threshold of that process of being transformed in Christ. [5-7]
1 “It is our belief that we have in the bishop of Rome the Peter upon whom Christ at Caesarea Philippi established His Church. In the light of this faith our Lord’s words to Peter: ‘Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church,’ become at once promise and fulfillment. Has not history taught us, and are we not seeing every day, that it was, and is, and will be this one rock which supports the Church of Christ, and with that Church a living faith in the Incarnation of the Son of God? There is a sacred and profound significance in the fact that Simon’s appointment to be the rock of the Church was preceded by his confession: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God’. For faith in Christ, the Church and Peter: these three things belong together. Where there is no Peter, where men have broken faith with him, there the fellowship of the faith perishes and along with it belief in Jesus Christ. Where there is no rock, there there is no Church; there there is no Christ” (Karl Adam, The Spirit of Catholicism).
2 “The fundamental object of all her [the Church] educative work, of all her instruction, preaching and discipline, is to make the Christian a second Christ, an alter Christus, to make him, as the Fathers express it, ‘Christ-like’. This one highest aim of its endeavor gives Christian morality its inner unity. There is no two-fold morality in the Church, since there is but one Christ to be formed. But the ways and manners in which men strive towards this goal are infinitely various, as various as the human personalities which have to mature and grow up to the stature of Christ. Very many of the faithful will be able to form the image of Christ in themselves only in very vague and general outline. Yet, just as nature at times sees fit to give of her best and to manifest her superabundant power in some perfect types, even so the fullness of Christ which works in the Church breaks out ever and again in this or that saintly figure into brilliant radiance, in marvels of self-surrender, love, purity, humility and devotion” (Karl Adam, The Spirit of Catholicism).
3 All quotations taken from Transformation In Christ by Dietrich von Hildebrand pertain solely to Christ – not to the Holy Father.
4 To have been “transformed in the likes of Pope John Paul II” is to have imitated him “to the point that we become like him” – having been changed in character, our personalities have been transformed. There is no correlation to the “mystical experience” and “theological foundations” which are related to the “transformation in Christ”.
5 “And where Peter is, there of a truth the gates of hell rage against the fellowship of the faith. There Marcion comes, and Arius, and the renaissance and rationalism, and the gospel of worldly culture. But still we abide in the Upper Room, gathered round our Lord and Master. Where Peter is, there is Christ. For us Catholics, faith in the Son of God, loyalty to the Church, communion with Peter: these things stand in an intimate and necessary connection. And therefore since we desire not to abandon Christ, we do not abandon Peter. And therefore is it our quiet but confident hope, a hope set in our souls by our Lord at Caesarea Philippi, that it cannot be otherwise, that it must be so again, that all who seek Christ shall likewise again find Peter” (Karl Adam, The Spirit of Catholicism).
6 “God has called upon us to become new men in Christ. In holy Baptism, He communicates a new supernatural life to us; He allows us to participate in his holy life. This new life is not destined merely to repose as a secret in the hidden depths of our souls; rather it should work out in a transformation of our entire personality…
Almost all the prayers of the ecclesiastical year refer to the succession of stages that leads from Baptism, imparting the principal of supernatural life, to our actual transformation in Christ – to the full victory in us of Him whose name is holiness” (Dietrich von Hildebrand, Transformation In Christ).
7 The “threshold of that process of being transformed” being a level of accomplishment – within the “succession of stages” – that equips us to advance toward the goal set for us by God.
“Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:22-24)
To quote Dietrich von Hildebrand one last time “These words of St. Paul are inscribed above the gate through which all must pass who want to reach the goal set us by God. They implicitly contain the quintessence of the process which baptized man must undergo before he attains the unfolding of the new supernatural life received in Baptism.” (Transformation In Christ).