Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Why I remain Catholic: I need the Sacraments

Elizabeth Scalia raises the question:

How about if Catholic writers from all over the internet — bloggers, reporters, poets, aggregators, newshounds, journal editors, politicians, new-media-storming priests and nuns, Catholics in secular positions — what if they all were to take a few minutes to jot down “Why I Remain A Catholic” and post it where they can, on websites or social media?

The first thought that came to mind was the Eucharist.

I remain Catholic because I believe the Catholic Church is the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church,  founded by Jesus Christ; and, I believe the Sacraments, instituted by Jesus Christ, are the greatest means of grace for my eternal salvation. On my own, I am too weak to combat my human fallen nature, or what we call, concupiscence.  Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, frequently, strengthens my will to love God by following his commandments (John 14:15); and, there is nothing that relieves the burden of sin greater than Sacramental Confession.

As a cradle Catholic, there are some teachings I did not always understand. But, I knew that faith seeks understanding.  At those times, I prayerfully asked God to give me the understanding, while not holding my faith hostage.  Understanding only strengthens my faith, but I leave it to God to grant understanding where he feels it will edify me.  Others who take this approach might relate when I say that sometimes that understanding was granted, weeks, months or years later in the middle of a checkout line in a grocery store when least expected.  I learned to accept the fact that God may will for me to struggle for a time in this regard, or to gain some experience that might help in the end.

I believe Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).  He said the path is difficult and narrow, not easy and wide (Matthew 7:13-14).  The Catholic Church doesn't blow with the wind, but remains fixed on teachings rooted in 2000 years of studying Sacred Scripture and Tradition. God gives me a free will and the greatest challenges I will face, may not be the kind of physical threats and harm that comes to some Christians. Rather, it is the poor use of my free will in looking for the widest and easiest path to take out of any situation.

All good things subsist in truth.  Just as South cannot be North; and 2+2 can never equal 5, truth is fixed. Our relativistic world wants us to believe that truth is dynamic and can accommodate 100 different people in 100 different ways.  I fell into relativism for a period of roughly 20 years, but these words of then Cardinal Ratzinger, before the conclave that would elect him pope, influenced me greatly  and led to my rejection of relativism.

Photo: AP
How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true.

Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An "adult" faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceipt from truth.

One time, someone close to me said I needed to think for myself rather than let the Church do my thinking for me, and that I was somehow being held captive by the Church.  As I pondered that in an Adoration Chapel the thought came to me that I had never been more free when I made the conscious choice to embrace the teachings of the Church, including those I did not fully understand.  Only a free person can choose such a thing.  Faith is a choice, one that God does not force upon us.  But there was a time when I let the world think for me and by virtue of that, was held captive by the world.

We Catholics are an imperfect lot.  We are not saints, but striving for sainthood as we struggle against concupiscence.  As the saying goes, the Church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners.  Each time I fall into some sin, I wound the Church by what others witness in me, or in time not spent on something that gives glory to God. The practice of virtue is not an easy thing, but a necessary thing for the pursuit of holiness.  I'm not the best example of a Catholic in daily life, but each day I get up and try again.  It's for this reason that I have never thought to leave the Church when other Catholics commit sins, some of which cry out to heaven for vengeance. The lesson of Judas Iscariot is that we will always have men of free will who will choose evil over good, and some of them are called to be priests, as Judas was.  Even the apostles showed themselves as sinners who offended Jesus at times, but not beyond redemption and sainthood. Jesus came for sinners, not for saints and the institution of the Church is there to help us understand how to get there and give us access to the Sacraments that will bring us graces to assist us in our struggle for salvation.

There is so much more I could write about why I remain Catholic, from my love of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her many intercessions in my life, to the lessons of Christ crucified.  Some days, I am my greatest cross, but I know I don't carry it alone and Jesus reminds me how to lighten my load (Mt 11:30). Every conflict and difficulty presents an opportunity to practice virtue and join in the redemptive sufferings of Christ (Col 1:24)

I not only remain Catholic, I am proudly Catholic.

Photo at top taken on August 15, 2005 when Fr. Perrone was blessing the people with the Eucharist (Benediction).

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!

- Diane M. Korzeniewski

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