I was homeschooled all the way from elementary school through high school. Now I go to a Catholic college. My faith has always been part of my identity, but I did not truly appreciate it until the past few years when I began reading about why I believe what I do. Thinking about the intricate details of Catholicism could now qualify as one of my pastimes, and I love talking about why I am Catholic.
I am not Catholic because it feels awesome to have old white guys bossing me around.
I am not Catholic because I am a bigot or homophobic.
I am not Catholic because I was raised that way.
I am not Catholic because I want to shame the rest of the world into being Catholic.
I am Catholic and follow the teachings of the church because I believe it is the one, true church Jesus Christ founded which has been given the gift of the truth.
“So.” you say “you’re okay with being bossed around and following archaic pedophile priests around like a dog on a leash?”
“Actually” I say “it sounds like perhaps you’ve heard some misconceptions about my faith. Pull up a seat and a cup of coffee and let’s talk about it!”
You see, just recently I happened upon this article by a young woman named Mia whom I would love to sit and chat with for a while. Why? Because her story makes me sad. She grew up going to Catholic schools, but wrote about her take on Catholicism which really concerns me. It’s all too common to see these stories of people who are Catholic but do not represent church teaching. Unfortunately, this is often due to a severe lack of our doctrine being represented in Catholic education. I want to do my part to dive into what the church really says.
Here are a few points that stood out to me:
She says: “Religion will always be imperfect, because HUMANS created it.” But Jesus started the Catholic Church when he transformed Peter into the first pope. He said “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church”. He handed him the keys to his kingdom, which was an ancient way of symbolizing that the master is entrusting his property to someone else while he was away. The pope is kind of like Jesus’ babysitter and with the tools Christ left us, we have carried on since then.
Mia talks about how the church needs to change saying: “So, yes, the Catholic Church needs reformation but it WILL ALWAYS need reformation. This is because the clergy caters to the needs of human parishioners and, being that our race is in a continual state of progression, so too must the Catholic Church.”
It’s absolutely true that the church must work to meet the needs of an ever-changing body of Christ. However, this does not mean that we have to change core teachings, which seems to be what she was hinting at. Changing times doesn’t mean the truth changes.
Next she says “Whether you are carrying a cross up to Calvary towards salvation or trying to traverse the Noble Eightfold Path to reach personal self-awakening, it doesn’t really matter. You are trying to better yourself; you are trying to prescribe meaning to the seemingly incidental nature of life. This can be achieved through Judaism, Islam, Atheism, Hinduism etc.”
Honestly, I’m not sure where this comes from. As a Catholic, it’s strange to hear this because it sounds very Protestant to me. You know, just accept Jesus as your savior and we’re all good, right? I absolutely love the Protestants I know, and have learned so much from them. This point is a major difference in our beliefs though. Jesus said that if we want to follow him to take up our cross and follow him. He didn’t say “be a good person and do whatever the heck you want to do”.
Imagine you were a football player. You’re an AWESOME player if you help score touch downs and win points for your team. You couldn’t be that great player if you didn’t follow the rules, and ran around like a crazy person with the ball. It’s just like the Catholic Church. Jesus gave us guidelines to follow to become the people he created us to be. He gave us referees to call the shots in our bishops and pope. If we don’t follow the rules, we’re not going to be very good at being Catholic. So, yes. It does matter how you climb the mountain.
There’s a lot more detail I could go into with Mia’s post with her note on gay marriage and more. That’s for another day, though!
All this to say, Mia’s story makes me sad because the way she addressed some things makes it obvious that she, like so many people, has a notion of what the church is that isn’t entirely accurate. (Soon to be Saint) Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” and that couldn’t be more true.
Mia, and all those reading this: when you delve into the beauty of Catholicism, I promise you will find a deeper appreciation for our church than you ever expected to have (even when it comes to the gay marriage issue). Please, before claiming things about the church, do your due diligence and read what the church teaches, not what you think it says. You can read the Catechism of the Catholic Church here online, which is a great place to start looking at why the church says what she does.
My faith informs every aspect of who I am, and being Catholic gives me the freedom of knowing the truth. I follow what the church teaches because even if I don’t understand a certain teaching, I have faith that as I seek a deeper understanding, I will eventually see the truth behind it. It’s not something fluffy I do because it feels good. I am Catholic because it’s what I’ve examined and found obvious to be true.
Maybe you think differently? Did you agree with Mia? Tell me your story!