Thursday, November 03, 2005

Why I am a Catholic

Someone on another website asked me the following question. Do you feel reconciled to some of the things your chosen faith has said/done? Do you feel a struggle? How do you feel about that shared religious experience?

There are so many ways to answer this question! There are also so many ways to challenge one's own religion. I could probably write 10,000 words on the subject. I will try and be brief and I can only be brief due to time constraints. I'm sure I won't do the question justice. If I didn't answer something or didn't answer to your satisfaction, pester me!

I was born and raised as a strict Roman Catholic. I remain one, I suppose, because I haven't found anything better to replace it. But one could say simple inertia is another reason I remain a Catholic. I do want to say that I have a number of friends that I love who are of the born-again/evangelical Christian persuasion who are profoundly real and authentic Christians and who I would take a bullet for. Repeat: take a bullet for.

Real Christians are the most joyful people. Real Christians are also the most loving people around. Unfortunately, Catholics, as opposed to other groups, can be a miserable lot, me included.

We Catholics know we are hypocrites. That's why we go to church--to get saved! We're also the church of the unwashed masses; no elitism here.

I think that despite all the criticism and failings, that on the whole the Catholic Church has done more good for the world than any other institution. I think that today, the Catholic Church is the greatest force for good in the world.

We Catholics like being Catholics. The historian and journalist Garry Wills, although very critical of the Catholic Church and the Papacy has written a whole book titled, Why I am a Catholic.

It is a very balanced religion that accommodates human differences and failings comprehensively. It has a large, long and rich tradition of art, music, literature, philosophy, and spirituality.

Most people are confused, believers and unbelievers alike. Religion and worship are not primarily about the imposition of rules and morals. True religion is about one's relationship to ultimate reality. Call it God or Jesus, if you will. Any rules, morals or customs, etc. must be derived from, or flow from that relationship. Historically and in practice, especially in the Roman Catholic Church, sometimes the message gets taken for granted so that it becomes a cliché or pious platitude that no one thinks seriously or critically about. Praising God becomes as unauthentic as saying Good Morning to an acquaintance you pass on the street. Sometimes the message gets obscured, overwhelmed by other concerns or drowned out in all the noise.

I admit some of what I choose to believe and adhere to is done on faith.
I do not think that I am one who you could say has unqualified blind faith. I am of the "faith seeking understanding" type. However, if I do not understand something, I often defer and take the path of mere faith. I trust in God and my church.

Existentially, the truth is, men and women are lonely. We try to numb that loneliness in our activities, good and bad: self-illusion, politics, drugs, sex, art, money, busy-work and ideologies, etc. In their attempt to have a relationship with reality, the true man or woman of faith experiences even more loneliness than the rest. This propels us into trying to cultivate an even deeper relationship with that reality. Ultimate reality, that is, God, is totally other, but with the Incarnation, God gave us a companion.

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