I‘m often asked this question. And while I am under the blissful delusion that I can rant and rave on any subject of my choice, this one leaves me stumped. What’s it like being Catholic? Well, it’s like…well you see…hm…
It’s like sex.
Wait, no, people will think I’m 18.
It’s like waking up in the morning, looking outside, and realizing that someone had replaced your ordinary route to work with a roller-coaster, your pen with a sword, and your friends with gods.
It’s like everything smelled of your favorite smell and you never got sick of smelling it.
But not quite.
It’s steak and cigars.
It’s like being constantly punched in the face.
It’s the feeling you get when you think you’ve reached the top of the stairs, but you haven’t, you actually have one step left, and so you trip over it, and while you’re laying sprawled out on the floor, crying, you check Facebook and realize that you have 37 notifications and 700 new friend requests, so you smile to yourself, pour a large glass of red, and read a 1000 year old book about some one who had a similar experience.
This could probably go on for a while, but a realization strikes me. There is one earthly experience that it can be compared to. There is a singular feeling that can semi-adequately and completely subjectively answer the question, “What’s it like being Catholic?”
So let me tell you. Being Catholic is like being in love.
It’s trueth. First there’s infatuation with the Church. Like all hormonal encounters; you don’t seek out this infatuation. You can’t help it; she’s very pretty. Truly, you want to sleep through Mass, you want to ignore the Irish cleric preaching forgiveness, you want to think about your own miserable attempts at attracting women while you’re praying the Rosary, but then – inevitably – you’ll hear something:
“…our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee to we send up our cries, poor, banished children of Eve, to thee to we send up our sighs, mournings and weepings in this valley of tears…”
And you are struck, rather unfairly, by beauty. You shake it off – I’m a busy man, I don’t have time for her – and then you’re side-swiped by this:
To which you say, “Please, no, I’m very fragile. I just came out of a serious relationship and I have commitment issues and I’m insecure about the way I look and – ” Then you hear her speak:
Your head and your heels switch places, and you make some desperately awkward attempt to kiss her. This might be made manifest in the taking on of some devotion, the sudden attempt to understand what on earth is going on around you, or a newfound, annoyed blush when someone laughingly dismisses a Church teaching. You didn’t mean this to happen, by accounts. One cannot control love! you explain to your disapproving mother.
So you start dating. Life is good. You start to tell people about your lover. What annoyed you once – candles are literally everywhere, old ladies never leave the building – you now find endearing. You have a great schedule of conversation, of dating. Honestly, you’d be content to dwell in this existence forever, this wonderful, mutual exchange of affection. But then she demands something. Your entire life. Everything. All of you.
Who knows how she’ll propose this to you. She’ll call you, give you that dreaded, “We need to talk,” and your priest will casually mentioned that we are called to die for the faith. Or you’ll accidentally pick up The Imitation of Christ. However it comes, you are presented with an ultimatum by your lover. And love demands you accept her terms: so you marry the Church. You sell out. You give her everything, because you know she loves you. And there really is no going back.