Saturday, June 20, 2015

Why I Stay Catholic

I had many reasons not to be Catholic when I decided to be Catholic. I was baptized Catholic as a baby, but as I got older I didn't like what the Church taught about Mary, sex, gay marriage, contraception, the pope, and you know, like, all the rest.

I actually stumbled back into the Church very much by accident. After a tiring and determined period of atheism, I went through a series of belief exchanges trying to find "where I fit." After I realized I was more or less a deist, I quickly realized I didn't believe deism made sense. I couldn't fathom a created world not crumbling apart from the care and attention of its first cause. I examined Islam, Judaism, various sects of Protestantism, and eventually came to my own set of personal beliefs about God and the world. I wanted to be anything but Catholic. I wanted to believe in freedom and love and compassion, which was not Catholicism (or so I thought).

It was around this time that I happened across the Catechism of the Catholic Church I received as part of my Confirmation process in high school. Here was my chance, I thought, to get a sneak peak into what the Church taught so I could be more equipped to refute it and more ready to defend myself from its oppressive tyranny.

And instead, I was floored. This was poetry. This was beauty. This was intellectual. This was true. I found that Catholicism had all the answers to all the questions of my mind. But, I won't get too carried away with that story. That is why I chose to be Catholic. But, it is not why I stay Catholic.

Because, most importantly, Catholicism has all the answers to my heart's aching, burning questions. I stay Catholic for one primary reason: Jesus Christ, the God of the universe and Lord of heaven and earth, through whom I exist and in whom I live and move and have my being, wants to be one flesh with me. I have a deep yearning thirst for unshaking, eternal love. And I find that in the Eucharist.k

In many ways, I am a different person than I was three, four, five years ago. Still in many ways, though, I am very much the same. I am fickle. I am irritable. I lack patience and humility. I care deeply for humanity, and I am regularly disappointed and devastated by the lack of compassion displayed by those who claim Christ as their Lord.

Every now and then, I grow weary. I get run down. I suck. People suck. Sometimes I even ask myself why I stay Catholic.

And the answer is always just a short drive away, waiting for me in the perpetual Adoration chapel.

The Eucharist is the source of my hope, life, joy, peace, and the very meaning of my life. I stay Catholic because, if I lost the Eucharist, I would lose everything that makes my life livable. I stay Catholic because I believe this radical love story is true. God became my sustainence. He became my nourishment. He became food and drink for me. Out of love. Because He wants such a radically close intimacy with me that He dwells within me not only spiritually but physically.

I stay Catholic because this Eucharistic love enriches my life in such a powerful way that my life would be over if it were ever taken from me.

As I mentioned earlier, I received a Catechism during my Confirmation preparation. But, at my Confirmation, I received graces that would enrich my life as soon as I was willing to receive them several years later. And by the grace of God, at my confirmation, I took Peter as my Confirmation name.

And like Peter, if even the world walked away from the gift of the Eucharist, my heart, though perhaps confused and exhausted, would beat to an unchanging rhythm: Master, to whom else can I go?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ did y'all's mamas ever teach you about respect

It seems like no matter what Pope Francis does, somebody somewhere has a problem with it. Whether it is his meeting with a transgendered person, or his meeting with a gay activist, or whatever, somebody FREAKS OUT about how obviously Pope Francis is going to ruin the Church.

Today I read several comments from people concerned that they "couldn't tell what side the pope is on." Because he doesn't click with their application or interpretation of how they live out their Catholic faith, he's a heretic who wants to destroy the Church from the inside...or something.

Even worse, it goes beyond questioning. Some outright call the Holy Father a heretic; some outright accuse him of abandoning orthodox principles; some outright gossip about him "liking attention too much" or "needing people to like him."

Without exaggerating in the least, this behavior from Catholics is disgusting.

Not only is Pope Francis a human being and therefore inherently owed a certain level of respect and reverence as being created in the Image of God, he is the Vicar of Christ on earth. He is permanently marked and set aside for Christ in a unique way as a priest, and he is owed due honor and respect from the entire Catholic faithful as the successor of St. Peter. This respect and reverence is due Pope Francis in a special way not because of who he is, necessarily, but Who he represents; and by the grace of his reception of Holy Orders, Who he represents is eternally knit into the fabric of who he is.

And if anyone doubts that Pope Francis is the representative of Christ on earth in a unique and special way, simply pay heed to his behavior and the responses it gets. He is a man of character, compassion, and orthodoxy, who understands that the Person of Jesus Christ is what is central to the law and not the other way around. He meets and eats with sinners, he identifies with the downtrodden, he is a beacon of hope and a voice crying out for repentance and mercy.

And people hate his behavior. He is kind, so they aren't sure if he's faithful. He is generous and unassuming, so they aren't sure if he's Catholic.

Does this remind you of anyone? Has anyone else in all of human history been met with hostility and disdain for being compassionate and identifying with the outcasts of society and those who are seen more as political issues more than human beings? The Pope is truly the Vicar of Christ on earth.

So go ahead, if you like. Run to the law to crucify his character in spite of his never having advocated for its abandonment. Openly criticize this man carefully chosen for this time in history who is bringing life back into the Church. Mock his personality. Strip away his reputation and spit in the face of all the good work he's done.

I only ask that you remember Whose he is, Who he serves, and the Man he represents as you do it.