A friend asked me this question yesterday while we were sitting in those freaky massage chairs having pedicures – not something I usually do. So perhaps I’ll be forgiven for giving her a pretty lame answer about my family history and that I love the spells and bells. Why couldn’t she have asked me right after Mass when I was really feeling the Spirit? I’ve been thinking it was a pretty disingenuous answer that deserves more attention.
Part of my lack of a good answer is really because I have a real fear of sounding like I am proselytizing. I don’t want to be that person at work that talks about her faith all the time. That’s creepy. I want to be the one that just lives it. Faith is personal and profound and for me it happens in the quiet places in our hearts and is not always connected with words. So I worry about someone being as put off by my talk about being a Catholic as I am put off by protestant evangelicals with fake smiles saying things about how God is moving in a powerful way through ‘Skate Camp for Jesus’. It may be true, but that’s not me.
Christians have given people who love Jesus such a bad reputation that it’s a cliché now – Lord, save me from your followers. Indeed.
But this was a friend who asked me as a friend and being sincere. She wasn’t asking me to “show her the way” or explain a couple thousand years of Church Doctrine and History! She was just curious about why someone would become a Catholic. So I want to try to answer that here, without going into my entire philosophy or conversion story. That’s not what she asked. Thanks be to God.
So, as far as I can put it into words, I’m a Catholic because the rich traditions make me feel a part of something bigger than myself; the Church reaches back to Christ who is the reason I’m a Christian in the first place and that makes it feel more authentic to me as a religion; I like that Catholics stay in touch with the other Saints who have gone before…not worshipping them, but seeing them as family members and friends; there are so many amazingly varied devotions and sacred rituals that anyone could spend a lifetime exploring new ways to be closer to Christ; the Eucharist is a sacrament that touches my heart in an unexplainable way every time I’m blessed to take part; I love the idea that on any day, Catholics in every country are praying the same prayers at the same time through the Mass or the Liturgy of Hours; the fact that social activism and community involvement are so important for Catholics resonates with me, and their politics (for the most part) align with my own.
I know that people have done unspeakably evil things in the name of religion and sanctioned by the Catholic church. But people have also done amazing and heroic things…the Church is made up of humans, so it seems natural that both wickedness and righteousness would come from it. It’s simply beyond both my interest and capacity to make a defense for an institution as complicated as the Church, so I won’t try. There is no perfect religion…because humans construct religion, and we are not perfect. But as for the Truth, I think the Catholics have a pretty good handle on that, for the most part – human rights, non-violence, the sanctity of life…these are all ideals that I believe in, even if the people in the Church don’t always hit the mark.
I find new things I like about being a Catholic all the time….the art, the incense, the legends and history…but the most important reason for me is that being a Catholic has made me feel like I am home.
Thanks for asking.