At Patheos, several bloggers wrote about why they are Catholic in 200 words or less. In that spirit, here are seven reasons why I am Catholic.
Here comes everybody!
There is a tremendous amount of diversity in the Catholic Church, which many Catholics take for granted. At mass, I see people from all over the world of all races and all economic backgrounds.
Most of our social lives are segregated. We tend to only associate with those who look like us, those who talk like us, those who act like us. Many churches are just as segregated. (Unfortunately, so are some parishes.) But the Catholic Church is for everyone.
People literally from all over the world waited on Pope Francis’s election and watched his inauguration. He leads a Church for everyone, not just for people like him or people like me.
No, Catholics aren’t the only ones still reproducing, despite what your NFP instructor may have told you. It’s that the Catholic Church accepts and welcomes children along with everybody else. They are part of the family, not something to be seen and not heard.
On Easter Sunday, the priest invited all the parents of newborns (born since last Easter) to stand. There were quite a few of them and they all got a round of applause from the congregation. It is hard for the wider culture to understand this, but the Church is pro-life because the Church really likes children, not because she is trying to spoil grown-up’s fun.
Furthermore, the children are there in mass. They aren’t shuffled off to a “children’s church” or “nursery”. Mass is for everyone, not just for grown-ups. Besides, sometimes the commentary of the three year old behind you is the most interesting part of the liturgy.
2000 Years of History
At my mother’s parish, there is a poster on the wall with all the Popes. It starts with St. Peter and ends with Benedict XVI. Some of them have been saints. Some of them have been scoundrels. There have, however, been no breaks in the line. Nor have there been any major deviations in doctrine from the Bishops of Rome. The best Popes defended the faith and spread the gospel. The worst Popes were too busy scheming in Italian politics and appointing their illegitimate sons to Church offices to bother changing the faith.
Pope Francis is the latest in this long line of Popes. Although Pope Francis’s style is quite a bit different than his predecessor’s, we know that the faith will not change. We know that the Church will continue on because it has continued on before. A change in personality at the top will not lead to the end of the Church.
When a reporter asked the then Cardinal Bergoglio about his “orthodox” beliefs on the usual hot button issues, he replied, “Yes, I am Catholic.” The new Pope is, indeed, Catholic, and all is right with the world.
The Church is run by incompetent fools, therefore God must be behind it
We all know about the various scandals in the Church, from the horror of the sex abuse crisis to the embarrassment of Vatileaks. We also know that the Vatican can be tone-deaf and bureaucratic at times. (Benedict XVI had a particular knack for saying things that could be misunderstood or quoted out-of-context.)
This is nothing new. Dante famously put several Popes in his Inferno. Even after the resurrection, St. Peter bumbled his way through the Acts of the Apostles. St. Paul called him out as a hypocrite for not eating with the uncircumcised, a major issue in the early Church.
It’s not just at the top, nor is it a product of Vatican II. Flannery O’Connor used to tell the story of a Southern Baptist friend’s reaction to the (pre-Vatican II) Mass.
Flannery often invited her friend to Mass. Finally, one Sunday the little girl got permission from her mom to accept Flannery’s invitation. Flannery could not wait for the Mass to be over so she could ask her little friend whether she liked it. The little girl said: “WOW. You Catholics really have something special. The sermon was so boring, the music was lousy, the priest mumbled the prayers of a language nobody could understand, and all those people were there!
Yet, despite the chronic incompetence and corruption, dull masses and boring homilies, the Catholic Church not only has been around for 2000 years but it continues to grow. Surely God must be behind it.
It is a Logical, Intellectual Faith
Critics of the Catholic Church portray Catholicism as superstition. They portray Catholics as an ignorant people, slaves to the whims of some distant hierarchy.
This is completely false.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a summary of what the Catholic Church believes. It has answers to the deepest questions about who we are, what our purpose is, and how we go about living it. Whether you like the answers it gives or not, everything in there has been studied in depth, discussed, and debated. None of it was arrived at lightly. It all fits together as part of a well integrated whole.
I like to think of the product of many, many lifetimes of Bible studies.
Nor does Catholicism “rest on its laurels”, because “we’ve always done things this way”, but it continues to seek the truth. It does not hide from the modern world, but engages it. It wrestles with it. It looks to the world—and even to other faiths—to find the good and the true. “Jesus” is not the secret password to get into heaven, but God among us, showing us the way to Him.
Yet even if we have missed this very important message, the Catholic Church teaches that all of nature points the way to God. God is not hiding from us, He has drawn us a map. Our human reasoning is not untrustworthy and wicked, as some believe, but exists to point us toward God’s Truth.
The Catholic Church has something for the intellectual, the child, and everyone in between.
It is a real, tangible faith
I recently read an article where yet another Episcopal bishop was denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Apparently, Jesus just wasn’t there and the Apostles just decided that his message was so important that they had to spread it anyway.
The Catholic Church rejected such nonsense as heresy about 1800 years ago. The Risen Christ was REAL. Mary Magdeline talked to him. He appeared to the Apostles. Thomas put his fingers in the wounds. He ate fish with the apostles. He walked with the men on the road to Emmaus. After all, “if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.” 1 Corinthians 15:14.
The Church believes that miracles still happen, and takes great lengths to verify that there is no known natural explanation for the alleged miracle.
Blogger Leah Libresco writes that “Catholicism has resisted Invisible Dragon in the Garage Syndrome fairly well.” Bold and controversial as the Church’s claims may be, they are not imaginary nor do they point to some vague “spirituality”. They are real and concrete.
I admit, a big part of why I am Catholic is that I am a bit of a sacrament junkie.
Sacraments are real instruments of God’s grace. They aren’t merely rituals and they aren’t merely symbols. As Flannery O’Connor said, “If the Eucharist is just a symbol, then to Hell with it.” If the Eucharist is not the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, then it’s just stale bread and cheap wine.
It was studying pop Psychology that led me back to the Church. The Eucharist, with the belief in the Real Presence, is such a highly sophisticated and sublime act of worship that there’s no way that a bunch of uneducated Galilean fishermen could have come up with it. And you can get it EVERY DAY. Not just on Sunday. Not just once a month. Not just once a quarter.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), too, is a far more sophisticated act than the early Church could have realized. Dan Ariely explains the economics of Catholic Confession. (Segment begins at 6:14)
Reconciliation about far more than just asking God to forgive your sins. It is about bringing about a change in the penitent and we can see how, exactly, that works.
The Marital Act is a very tangible instrument of God’s grace in the Sacrament of Marriage. 😉 (It’s hard to wrap my brain around the idea that sex can be sacramental, but it is. And why not? It brings the couple closer together and it brings forth new life.)
Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick, too are more than just empty rituals, but real, tangible, instruments of Grace.
I am a bit of a junkie for Grace.
Which is why I am Catholic.
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