The U.P. Catholic – July 18, 2014
A few years ago a close relative asked me, “Do you still believe that stuff?” after finding out that as an adult I attended church on a regular basis. With conviction, I said, “Yes,” and we moved on to other subjects. Sometimes I wonder if I should have had a more thorough answer, but I think the conviction was a better witness than a lot of words.
“Do you still believe that stuff?” is a question I now ask myself, on occasion, and can still answer, “Yes” with conviction.
When I was in high school, Sister Patricia told my class that at some point in our lives we would have to choose our faith. Even though we were being brought up, for the most part, in the Catholic faith, to have an adult faith, we would have to make a choice.
She remains correct. While the faith can be handed down, it’s still something that has to be chosen. Just making the motions or being a “cultural Catholic” is a pretty shallow faith.
It’s tough to be a Catholic in the public square, and it’s not getting any easier. Popular culture claims to be tolerant and likes to say, “Judge not,” while condemning us for not conforming to its ever-changing whims. Even politicians court votes by making a mockery of the faith, distorting its doctrines and traditions beyond recognition.
Going against the crowd in areas of the faith where I have a strong understanding and conviction isn’t overly difficult for me. I’m not a fan of conflict, but if something is right, it’s right, and mob mentality is not going to sway me. What’s tough is the stuff that puts me in conflict with family and friends. Some teachings are difficult and sometimes I just don’t know how to respond in a way that will be helpful or clear.
I think we need to be able to explain the basis of our faith, even when we’re at a loss on a particular teaching. In part, 1 Peter 3:15 reads, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope…”
Your reasons for hope – and faith – in the teachings of the Church may be much different, but here are mine in a nutshell.
Why not quit religion altogether?
Jesus is my friend. We have a personal relationship through prayer, Holy Communion and Eucharistic Adoration. I may drift and go my own way at times, but Jesus is always faithful. He draws me back like a good friend does.
Why stick with the Catholic Church?
Jesus gave the Keys – authority in teaching and more – to St. Peter. The pope, the successor of Peter, continues in that authority, as well as the bishops who are in communion with him. That authority wasn’t given to me or anyone else. Claiming my conscience trumps anything I don’t like doesn’t cut it. It becomes my responsibility to inform myself (and my conscience) on difficult matters through trustworthy sources. That means I don’t get to pick sources that teach what I want to hear and claim to be informed.
Here’s what I’ve personally found:
Although I’m far from a Scripture scholar, the more I study both Testaments, as well as Church documents, this stuff fits together in a remarkable fashion. “It’s a God thing,” as they say. There’s no humanly-possible way people could have made this stuff up and made it fit together so perfectly. The other thing is time and time again, when something of the Church doesn’t make sense to me, the more I study it, the more the Church’s position becomes clear. So, I’ve learned to give the Church the benefit of the doubt. If something is unclear to me, it just means I need to learn more, to pray more.
So, if this doesn’t sound very scientific, it isn’t. It’s faith.
“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1)