Why I Am a Catholic in 200 Words or Less

Patheos asked. So…..

I am a Catholic because I have had several undeniable experiences of God usually while I was praying in front of the Eucharist. I have also had several terrifying experiences of a dark, intelligent presence that was so full of hate that it would have eaten me and all of us long ago unless Someone stronger was keeping it in check.

I said this once to an atheist, but she doubted me saying, “If God loves everyone, then why hasn’t He revealed Himself to me in the same way?” It’s humbling, but I don’t have a good answer for that. Maybe because you don’t pray? Maybe He did and you were so blinded by pride and disdain that you didn’t see it? Maybe He has and you are lying to us all and yourself? Maybe you are just some kind of nut who really believes everything came out of nothing, and then beauty came too? Maybe I have a keener sense of the obvious than you? Or, most likely, maybe the experience I had was earned for me by the prayers and sacrifice of some long dead ancestor? I dunno. But I don’t have the guts to be disloyal to the revelation I received.

  • Stephen Sparrow

    With a long experience of talking with atheists I’m convinced there are none who are genuine, those who claim to be atheist are merely folk who say “NO”. A genuine atheist would be completely indifferent to the rest of us but they never are – they must declare themselves to be devoid of “meaning”, which is a classic example of sawing through the branch they sit on. Further to that I “believe” finite things to be incapable of bringing themselves into existence. The universe is finite. All finite things must draw their existence from the infinite – the imperfect from the perfect. It’s a no brainer. And as for the oft repeated aguments based on the existence of evil – I’m content to let Simone Weil have the last say with these two quotes.
    “If God does not exist because of evil, then what can evil take from a world devoid of meaning?”

    “When a contradiction is impossible to resolve except by a lie, then we know that it is really a door.” Simone Weil 1909 – 1943.
    Novelist Walker Percy was once asked by a reporter, “Why are you Catholic?” He replied by asking “What else is there?”

    • barbaranicolosi

      Beautiful, Stephen. Thanks especially for that quote of Percy’s. Honestly, when I first received the question I considered just writing, “To Whom else shall we go?”

  • http://canwecana.blogspot.com Karee Santos

    Barbara, I have felt that malevolent presence, too, but I never extrapolated from that experience that Someone stronger must be keeping it in check. Thank you for shedding new light (so to speak) on what I experienced.

    • barbaranicolosi

      Thanks, Karee. Actually, I should admit that myself first got the idea from Davy in one of my favorite books, “A Severe Mercy.” As I recall, she had a terrible experience of a sexual assault, but she came away from the emory of the hate in the face of her attacker with a certain conviction that there must be a good in the universe that was stronger. heck out the book if you haven’t read it. It’s a treasure.

  • Alex Terego

    Because I am a cradle Catholic the question Patheos asked should be re-stated for me: “Why am I still Catholic?” I wrote a book about this and it took up 400+ pages, so 200 words is a challenge. Here goes.
    Catholicism has always appealed to me because it satisfies me on two counts: Faith And Reason. God’s Truth, made man and dying forsaken so that we can be saved is a compelling statement of faith in and of itself. It is made more compelling, however, when one arrives through reason at the inevitable conclusion that there are only be two certainties that we can possibly apprehend – the finite and the infinite, and, as Father Hans von Balthasar wrote, “They meet at the Cross.” That works for me.

    • barbaranicolosi

      Nice, Alex. The 200 word thing was, of course, the defining aspect of the assignment. I think maybe the overlords at Patheos introduced it thinking it would be a greater incentive to us to actually get it done if the assignment appeared manageable. But short stories are always harder to write because economy is a challenge. The truth is, why I am a Catholic isn’t reducible to a thirty second sound bite, and I could have added many other reasons. For example, although I have found an intellectual home in Catholicism as I have matured, I can’t deny that the real reason I am here is that my parents hauled me into a church when I was ten days old to get baptized, and then assiduously busied themselves about raising me in the Faith. I am a loyal soul and this has always been my home team. Phew.

  • Cynthia Kron

    Loved all you wrote above. Your observation about the keener sense of the obvious is so on target. I know because my sense of the obvious wasn’t so good for a very long time. It can sometimes take years to break down the untruths that we marinate in for most of our lives. At least that is how it’s been for me.

    Fortunately my sense of the obvious has gotten much better. Largely in part to C.S. Lewis and your RCIA class, Barbara.

  • Chris


    Don’t forget that we atheists have hallucinations about many things, not only about gods but we also tend to make up our own reality. In light of your testimony of your experience, your God seems likely to be true. If you think that the Universe cannot come out of nothing (you misquote us Atheists here) but God can then I think I need to consider that God is of different stuff than the material universe. Thanks so much! Brilliant!

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  • TruckinMack

    I often say that Atheists are lousy at charitable work. Work where you swap blood and sweat helping the less fortunate. The thing is, once you work this closely to help another human being you come to realize that they have a soul. This realization is a game changer. The Atheist may try to cling to their belief that there is no God, but they might as well tilt at windmills. The damage has been done. It is only a matter of time before the now ex-Atheist must find a church, synagogue or temple where they can worship.

  • Cambrai

    Thank Barbara. true.