Why I Am a Catholic…

…is a very difficult question to answer, not because I don’t have a good answer, but because I have too many answers to fit in 200 words.  Chesterton sums up the quandary in his delightful book Orthodoxy:

But a man is not really convinced of a philosophic theory when he finds that something proves it. He is only really convinced when he finds that everything proves it. And the more converging reasons he finds pointing to this conviction, the more bewildered he is if asked suddenly to sum them up. Thus, if one asked an ordinary intelligent man, on the spur of the moment, “Why do you prefer civilization to savagery?” he would look wildly round at object after object, and would only be able to answer vaguely, “Why, there is that bookcase . . . and the coals in the coal-scuttle . . . and pianos . . . and policemen.” The whole case for civilization is that the case for it is complex. It has done so many things. But that very multiplicity of proof which ought to make reply overwhelming makes reply impossible.

So, in the 17 words left me:   God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Mama Mary, Intellectual Depth, Merciful Humanity, Profundity, Beauty, Love, and Hope.

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  • kirsten

    A- to the -men, Mark. And WORD.

  • midwestlady

    I only have 2.
    1. History. The Catholic church is the one that didn’t split off the main one.
    2. The Eucharist.
    That’s it.

    I’m Christian for a lot more reasons than I’m Catholic. The only really holy people I’ve ever personally known weren’t Catholic. I’ve never known any really holy Catholics.

    • Molly

      Both true and a great start. I really do pray, though, that you don’t always feel like there’s something that steals your joy in the Church.

      • midwestlady

        I have met a couple of high profile religious frauds during my time as a Catholic though. Including one who was removed from his comfortable position by the Vatican personally. ROFLOL. I’ve been Catholic a long time. It’s been interesting, even when it hasn’t been much else.

    • Steve

      Didnt we break off the MAIN one (Judism)

      • Mark Shea

        “Do not think I have come to abolish the law and the prophets. I have not come to abolish, but fulfill.” Jesus is the fulfillment and completion of the revelation to Israel. The various Judaisms are reactions against and rejections of that fulfillment, or of other expressions of Judaism.

        • midwestlady

          Correct. Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism. And the Catholic Church is, by virtue of its history, the main one. The only other one that might be able to make that case is, as someone has noted above, Orthodoxy, which stems from the Church of Constantinople, where Constantine took it. But it’s less global than the Catholic one in nature, and was so, even before the recent push for globalism. Christ’s church belongs to no small group of cultures or sub-cultures. It is for the whole world, and the Catholic Church most clearly bears that property, not the Church of the East. No discrediting them, but if they are part of the trunk of the great tree of Christianity, they aren’t the main part of the trunk. The Church of Rome is, where Peter died, and from which the Gospel went out to the world.

          Besides, Judaism doesn’t recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah and I do. He is my Savior and Lord.

    • Dustin

      “The Catholic church is the one that didn’t split off the main one.” Don’t the Orthodox say otherwise, that the Bishop of Rome broke communion with the other patriarchates and put himself and his church outside the bounds of the historical church? One may disagree with them, sure, but it’s a different way of examining apostolic succession, seeing it as a multi-channeled tradition rather than a single trunk with branches leading out of it.

      • midwestlady

        Well, if you’re trying to scare me away, you’re not doing a great job of it, Dustin.

        In 1054, the Patriarch of the East and the Pope of the West excommunicated each other, yes. But it was as much a political & cultural thing as a religious thing, and the resentment between the two wings had been simmering for a long time, several hundred years by then. The East does have apostolic succession, I believe, as Rome does. Many other groups that have split off don’t. That doesn’t make them equal in all ways.

    • http://soulsagabooks.blogspot.com/ Brian Niemeier

      I challenge you to become one with God’s help, and I shall try to do the same.

    • J-Jay

      Midwest Lady,

      If you don’t know any holy Catholic people, try expanding your circle of Catholic friends and acquaintances. Look for a local Catholic study group or even a different parish. I am convinced you will encounter holy Catholics out there. I’m a cradle Catholic but was a very lukewarm one for many years. When I began to truly embrace and believe the Catholic faith, I felt much as you did – that the only holy people I knew, the only ones who really tried to live out their faith, were non-Catholic Christians. That was because the number of Catholic friends and acquaintances I had was very small. Once I started investigating other parishes and Catholic activities/groups in my city, I was joyfully surprised to find many Catholics who were alive and on fire with their faith.

      A blessed Easter Triduum to you.

      • midwestlady

        Actually, J-Jay,
        I’ve tried that for years and I’m giving up on that. I’m widening my circle to include all Christians. I’m tired of the stunted, rude and patronizing behavior of many of the Catholics I’ve met around here.
        It’s encouraging that you know some holy Catholics, but I don’t. I don’t find it surprising that you might find holy people in other places in the world, places where Christianity is spreading anew. But it’s not particularly helpful, in the practical sense, for those of us who are here. I am in an area where there are typical American parishes and I get around quite a bit and already know a lot of people.

        • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

          Funny, every Catholic (and most non-Catholic Christians, and even I’d wager a few non-Christians) I know is holy with a perfect holiness: the Spirit of the Holy One of God abides in them.

          Also, every Catholic I know – and every other Christian, and every non-Christian for that matter – is a sinner, and throws up obstacles to that Spirit. But I claim this point of pride: I know none who erects so many obstacles, nor so persistently, as I do myself.

          • midwestlady

            So, all you have to do is get baptized and follow the rules and you’re good to go, right?

            • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com Robert King

              If by “follow the rules” you mean “keep the commandments” – which are boiled down to Love God and Love your Neighbor – then yes, that is exactly right.

              If by “follow the rules” you mean “adhere to a bare minimum standard of not committing mortal sin” – I don’t think anyone can make a bare minimum their standard and actually meet it. The minimalist mentality inherently puts self first, before God and before Neighbor, and this is itself contrary to the commandment.

              That is exactly why I fail, exactly the obstacle that I place between God’s grace and my heart: that I put myself first.

              • midwestlady

                We either have a definition problem around the word “holy” or we have a logic problem around the claim that everyone you know is automatically holy no matter what they do. Nevertheless, this is pretty typical of the kinds of things some Catholics claim. I’ve heard this sort of thing before, but I don’t buy it. I’ve seen too much genuine evidence to the contrary.

                • Mark Shea

                  “Holy” means “set apart”. It doesn’t mean “morally good”. Paul calls the Corinthians “holy” and then spends two letters teling them to shape up and knock it off. His moral exhortation to them is best summed up as “become what you are.” The Church is a hospital for sinners before it is a communion of saints. http://www.crisismagazine.com/2011/there-aint-no-pure-church

                  • midwestlady

                    St. John of the Cross, and most of the other major spiritual writers in Catholicism, identify growth in virtue as the gold standard for spiritual growth. Now, I can accept the idea that some people don’t really care about spiritual growth, and thus are willing to accept a lack of moral growth. That doesn’t surprise me. What surprises me is that they might think that a Church like the Catholic Church should consider that development so laudable that they might be willing to defend it as the status quo. As if the Church wasn’t really about growing spiritually or growing closer to God, no matter how difficult that might be personally.

                    I mean, maybe it is the case that the Catholic Church is nothing more than a hereditary club. I really don’t know at this point. I had hoped for more. I’ve been Catholic for nearly 30 years and have fought to deny the obvious for more than half of that period, but I can no longer deny what I’ve seen with my own eyes many many times.

                    • Molly

                      If you mean at this point in history many Catholics in the Western world are Catholic in name only or because of some cultural tie, you’d be correct. But this isn’t because they aren’t or can’t be holy, it’s because they weren’t well catechized. Which is the whole point of the teachings of the last three popes (JPII, BXVI and now Francis) culminating in the New Evangelization. I would say from the ages of about 35 to 55 (that’s a generalization obviously) you see the “fruits” (or lack thereof) of this lack of catechization. The Catholics of the younger generations are amazing me more and more however, and I think it’s quite exciting.

                    • Molly

                      And an honest question: do you consider yourself holy, in your definition of the word?

                    • midwestlady

                      No. Do you?
                      But I think it’s something that Catholics should be interested in, seeing as how it’s a religion. Purportedly at least.

                    • Molly

                      Honestly? Sometimes I do. Sometimes not. There’s times when I think, “God is amazing that He brought that out in me, what I just did was truly holy” and sometimes I know I’m flat out refusing to cooperate with the grace that’s offered and I’m behaving horribly. And a lot of the time I’m admittedly not really thinking about it because I’m making a kid’s lunch or folding laundry or cleaning the house. But I guess you could call those things holy because it’s me acting out my vocation as a wife and mother, even though I’m not praying or studying or sitting in adoration. Honestly, I come here to learn, to find fellowship with other Catholics, to grow spiritually, and I end up spending more time trying to be right in the com boxes. If holy is being “set apart”, it depends on when and where God wants to set you apart and if you respond. Quite possible your encounters with people that frustrate you are during a time when they’re not responding, which doesn’t permanently qualify them (thank God) as holy or not holy, or they’re during times whey they actually are being holy, it’s just not something that you, not being in the intimate circle of their own relationship with God, recognize as such.

                    • midwestlady

                      Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can get all that and a cup of coffee too, at Starbucks. Maybe people who’ve never been non-Catholic don’t realize this. Pagans love their kids beautifully and do laundry too.

                      Your religion is supposed to help you become closer to God and help you to understand what God wants so you can do it out of love and gratitude for Him. That’s the whole point of it. If it doesn’t do that, religion is pretty pointless.

                    • Molly

                      Okay, now you’ve completely lost me, and somewhat insulted me. Did I say anything about Pagans much less accuse them of being bad moms? I mean, you can get “all what” at Starbucks?

                    • midwestlady

                      If what a person wants is a nice life with all that normal stuff in it–love and satisfaction and normal striving to be loved by your friends and family and all that–and holiness is not an objective, then you don’t need to go all this trouble to do that, Molly. Maybe a lot of Catholics don’t realize that, I guess.

                      Religion is about growing spiritually every day of your life, so that you can understand and serve the Lord because you personally love him. And then you love others (and grow in virtue) because he loves them. That’s the point of it. If religion isn’t discipleship, I don’t know what it is. It’s kind of pointless if that’s not what it is.

                    • Molly

                      We’re not onto the same idea of holiness here. I’m using the Church’s definition, and I’m not sure what definition you’re using. It seems, often, that it’s a conglomeration of what draws you to Catholicism (Eucharist, history), and what seems to be a prejudice against everything else about the Church. That somehow, the Church has the Eucharist, but not the Gospel, the Church has historical authority because it’s old, but most of it’s teachings are at best hard to accept and at worst wrong. And I get the idea you know Church teaching pretty well, you just don’t like about 70% of it? One’s experiences as a convert/cradle Catholic have no impact on Church teaching. And it’s truth is not changed by people’s sins.

                    • midwestlady

                      I’m not buying it, Molly. That may be in some document someplace, but that’s not really what most Catholics actually do. And the resistance to talk about spiritual growth and the nastiness of most Catholics on this very topic is the proof of the pudding.

                      Look, I’ve been Catholic now for almost 30 years and I’ve spent a lot of time watching and learning. You’re not going to be able to convince me otherwise, when I’ve seen it with my own eyes for years. It is what it is.

                    • Molly

                      You do understand that the Church is the body of Christ correct, and he’s the head? It’s not just a human institution but also divine? No we don’t worship the Church. But this Church is not just some human institution just like all other denominations that happens to be right about the Eucharist and therefore is probably the right decision. I’m not putting the Church on a pedestal because of itself, I’m putting the Church on a pedestal because God put it there. Same thing with Mary. You don’t seem to understand that.

                  • Molly

                    Yes, that’s all true. And marriage, and parenthood, and the priesthood and religious life, and a celibate single life, are all the daily enactments of this virtue. They are where you “serve the Lord”. This is why the Church teaches vocation vocation vocation. Discerning your vocation (which is what I was talking about, not about living a comfortable, “normal” life, which most people’s are anything but) and how to live it out is the GOAL of spiritual growth. You grow in spiritual works of mercy in order to live out the corporal works of mercy. This isn’t my interpretation, or my feeling about it, or my idea even, this is well established specific and available Church teaching.

                    • midwestlady

                      Christianity is not first and foremost about living out some kind of institutional role, abstracted from Jesus Christ. Sorry, but it’s not. That’s backwards.

                    • Molly

                      You are missing my point by so far a distance I can’t catch up to you. Bottom line: you don’t get to have an authoritative say on what Christianity is about. An official Church teaching trumps your own interpretation and experiences every single time. You won’t feel peace about Catholicism until you come to terms with that.

                    • Molly

                      And you don’t understand what a vocation is. Go to your catechism and look it up.

                    • midwestlady

                      Again, I’m smack up against the cultural thing which trumps historical Catholicism with postmodern Catholics in the Church all the time. You don’t even realize that, do you?

                      You don’t worship a Church. You worship Jesus Christ. Get that straight.

  • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

    For me, all I can say is what I said after I converted: This feels right.

    Then the priest told me “relax son, from this point out it only gets worse. I didn’t say you’d be free from crisis, just that with God’s grace you get through it in the end.”

    Was quite a day lol.

    • Kathy Wikman

      Yes, I’m with you Kevin. This feels right and yes God’s grace is the fundamental survival tool.

    • midwestlady

      That was an interesting thing for your priest to say, but I can’t say that I disagree with him on the first part of it. Being Catholic has been a strange trip, indeed. I never would have imagined at the beginning what I would find, and what I wouldn’t find inside.

      • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

        Now that I think of it, I really had no clue what to expect. I was an 18 year old kid with a ton of free time on his hands to study who, once I realized it “felt right”, really just winged it when I came into the Church. I wasn’t expecting anything. I was just willing to see where it took me.

        Children are brash and impetuous like that, willing to make life-altering decisions with no expectations and winging it. Yet maybe that’s why Christ called us to become like children…..

  • Molly

    Add Communion of Saints to that list for me!

  • Stu


  • merkn

    I believe it because it’s true.

  • Cheri

    Adding: Tradition

  • Steve S

    “You did not choose me, but I chose you…”

  • Bella

    I am sorry that Midwestlady has not met any holy Catholics. I know so many that I cannot count them. However, they are in four continents! I travel and speak all over the world, and while I do not want to name names, I know a number of people from the various John Paul II institutes, editors of both the American and British Magnificat, verym very holy members and priests of some of the incredible ecclesial movements and Societies of Apostolic Life, Secular Institutes, etc.; I have been privileged to speak along side some of the holiest Archbishops and bishops in the US (you already know who they are – you can certainly guess!)—- and this does not include my non-English speaking friends in Spain, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Italy and many more countries.
    I am NOT simply speaking about intelligent people or good writers – I mean truly holy people. I am thinking of one right now, a young consecrated layman who has brought hundreds of young people into the church and into the joy of Christ. I am thinking of the severely suffering people I met from mideast countries and from Vietnam at World Youth day who lived such faithful lives and who wept with joy – literally – for the chance of being with so many praying, believing Catholics, even if only for a week.
    I am thinking of of several people I know who are dying – a famous Catholic writer; an unknown local actress; a young boy – all Catholics, all very holy, showing me how to die as John Paul II did.
    I could go on and on and on but the combox post would be too long. If anyone is stuck in their local suburban parish, or anywhere where they do not get to see and meet holy people, I and many, many others can ASSURE you that these living saints are out there, and I for one am eternally grateful to Go that I count so many of them among my friends, and I pray that I may learn to be even 1/100th as holy as they are.

  • Maolsheachlann O Ceallaigh

    An article with the title “Why I am a Catholic” cannot be long enough– the subject is infinitely interesting!!

  • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

    For shame, that was 19 more words. ;)

  • Mike

    Good answer. Being Catholic is also a great, great joy.

  • Barbara

    Good passage. For me it came down to “If God is really present in the Eucharist then….holy sh*t!, why isn’t everyone Catholic? Literally, that was it. All of the other stuff just suddenly ceased to matter all that much compared to that awesome fact. All the issues of authority and moral law and whether the Church was behind the times or not, all of the gripes about bad priests and bishops and scandals and misogynism and all of the other bones the world loves to gnaw on…seemingly in order to justify a hereditary centuries-long mass apostasy just fell away like a chattering crowd suddenly parting before the entrance of the King. Funny thing was, after I finally said yes to it all of those other things suddenly re-shuffled, gathered back around and confirmed that choice as the right one, just as Chesterton describes. If God is not present in the Eucharist, then the whole thing is tosh and we are suffering from a mass-delusion. If He is, then nothing else matters. That blazing fact burns to ashes any discursive shading we can throw over it.

    • Kathleen Lundquist

      What Barbara said.

  • Christina

    Because it is True. (four words – BAM!)

  • http://www.rosariesforlife.com Dave

    midwestlady, where in the world (I guess, where in the midwest) do you live, that you haven’t met any holy Catholics? I assume that by “holy”, you don’t mean “perfect.” I meet holy Catholics everywhere I go. I meet other holy Christians too.

    • midwestlady

      Like I’m going to tell some guy on the internet where I live. Give me a break!

      • Dave

        I wasn’t asking for your address! But that’s fine…ignore my question.

  • Neil

    *I was an 18 year old kid with a ton of free time on his hands to study who, once I realized it “felt right”, really just winged it when I came into the Church. I wasn’t expecting anything. I was just willing to see where it took me.*

    Wow, it’s like looking in a mirror.


    Amen Barbara.
    Thank you.
    Paraphrasing Flannery ~ If it’s just a symbol to hell with it.
    The Eucharist is what keeps me a Catholic Christian. I’m very very grateful to God for gracing me with that belief many years ago at a daily mass.

  • Sharon

    Why am I a Catholic – well first of all my parents were cultural Catholics and had me baptised and sent me to Catholic schools. Second of all I am Catholic because I believe that Jesus founded the Catholic Church and I want to be a member of the Church He founded. I don’t like being a Catholic much these days – I wake every day and wonder what scandal will be the talk of the town, what ignorant rants will spew from the comboxes, what priests will wipe their feet on Holy Mass etc etc Who would want to be a Catholic these days? But that’s what I am for better or for worse.

    • midwestlady

      Thank you. Your answer is honest and I appreciate honesty. It’s very rare these days.

      • Melissa Fry

        You should be proud to be a Catholic, midwestlady. You could be far worse, like a Jew, I mean not even Christian.

        • midwestlady

          Luke 18:11

          New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

          11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

        • midwestlady

          Take that passage from the Bible any way you want, but I had to place it here, because what you said is almost exactly like it. This might give you food for some careful and discerning thought at least.
          PS. I guess I’m not surprised you didn’t realize the structure of what you said was so much like the structure of this sentence in one of Jesus’ parables. Most Catholics don’t read much scripture.

          • Jon W

            Hey, now you’re doing it on purpose.

          • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

            Concern trolling 4TW!

        • Mark Shea


  • Jon W

    It was the perfect fulfillment of everything my Evangelical parents had always taught me and modeled for me when I was growing up.

  • johnnyc

    Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
    Jesus founded the Catholic Church.
    The Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth.

  • Molly

    Well regardless of our differences MW, I do wish you a blessed Easter.

    • midwestlady

      Yes, Molly, I wish you a Blessed Easter too.

  • SouthTexas

    I’m a little late, but have enjoyed reading comments and exchanges on “Why I am a Catholic.” I married a cradle Catholic thirty-five years ago and converted. Her family was Catholic, mine was Protestant (most of them still are). It was the right decision and I have never looked back, thanking God for placing this wonderful woman in my path at that juncture in my life.
    Cradle Catholics typically don’t know as much about their Church as converts do; they’re born into the faith and that’s that? Converts typically commit to reading and listening to everything they can get their hands on until that void that beckoned them gets filled. A program currently underway in the Catholic Church targets the cradle Catholic. It’s called “Catholicism” and is perhaps the most exciting study program to hit the Catholic Church in many years. The series was prepared by Fr Robert E Barron, author, speaker and theologian. This program is truly “Word on Fire.” My wife and I have enjoyed it so much; we acquired a copy from Amazon.com to share with other members in our family and anyone outside the family who is interested. The study is comprised of 10 episodes and runs about one hour per episode. This program is a good exercise for any and all Catholics and Protestants too. The continuing problem Protestants have with the Catholic Church is simply what they “think” it is. If they would only take a real step to and find out what it “really” is, they would be pleasantly surprised?
    Midwesternlady’s comments portray a certain discomfort in her faith. I can only say stay the course and never give up on the Catholic Church. Forget the humans that present an ugly side, they are everywhere in the world (inside and outside all Christian Churches) and we will never be free of them until Christ returns. Each one of us is one-on-one with God and no one else really matters. Being a Catholic Christian make sense. It has the history and it has the Eucharist (John 6:22-65). Then Peter said: Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe, and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God (John 6:68-69). What Peter said to Christ is a similar question I entertained in my mind about Christian Churches. To which one should I go? I found my answer in the Catholic Church; it has the Eucharist and its liturgy is built around Christ. I have come to believe and am convinced that the Catholic Church is truly Christ’s Church as it has been since Peter led the Church following the Resurrection. Happy Easter!

  • Scott

    Midwest Lady: Start some form of contiuous adoration in your parish and you will discover how many holy Catholics there really are. Catholic would be saints don’t always jump out of the woodwork but they are there, truly they are.

    • midwestlady

      It’s not anywhere near that simple, Scott. I can tell you that from experience. In my travels, I’ve seen many interesting things, and let’s just leave it at that, okay. I know that nice-looking–even ardent looking–passive activity can be no indicator of anything.

  • Scott

    South Texas : You state that we are “one on one with God and no one else really matters”. I cannot think of a more UNCATHOLIC attitude than that one. The Church is the family of God and we are reborn into that family through baptism. We are in this together dear! Get to know your family.

  • SouthTexas

    Scott, through baptism we are reborn as sons and daughters of the Father. I didn’t say I didn’t like anyone, I have no problem with people and like to get better acquainted with them when the opportunities arise (inside and outside the church). All I said is bottom line stuff … one’s salvation glory is between he/she and the Almighty Father.