Why are YOU Still a Catholic? Sometimes it is a Struggle

Photo, Elizabeth Scalia
Photo, Elizabeth Scalia

I remember sitting next to a a woman on a plane who was so passionate about her new Evangelical church. It was inspiring to watch her, and to hear her excitement. After she got done telling me all about it, I told her I was Catholic.

She excitedly said, “Oh, then you should come to my church. I was Catholic…but this church has awesome music and great preaching.” I looked at her, smiled and slowly said, “I wouldn’t leave the Eucharist for anything!”

Her demeanor changed and she said, “I wish I was that convicted about something.” I said, “You can be.” (Kelly Wahlquist, on Facebook)

Well, the responses have been rolling in since we invited the whole Catholic world to tell us Why are YOU Still Catholic?

Having linked, in that piece, to many blog responses, I had thought to use this post to highlight some answers I’ve received via email, like this one from Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, which I reprint with her permission:

I remain Catholic because I need the Church. In my view Christ’s departing words to His disciples emphasize the importance of carrying on His mission together, as a unified whole, and promises us several things to help bind us to one another. The Holy Spirit joins us as a community to guide us toward salvation, and the Eucharist brings us together as family in this journey. I believe the tradition of the Church represents the historical guidance of the Holy Spirit, and it is comforting to know that so many people throughout time still reach out to us now to help us in our sojourn, through the teachings, writings, artwork, and institutions of the Church. And it is only through the Church we can receive the Eucharist, which heals us individually and as a sometimes-broken community.

It is because of the everlasting life of Christ (which is a part of the mystery of the Eucharist) that the Church is ever-renewed, which means the gates of hell will not prevail against her. Without the Holy Mother Church, I would be all alone — but with her, I know that I am never alone, and that I will always have the help I need to keep growing in my love of Christ.

That’s lovely, and it expands on many of the answers I was reading, which went heavy on the “It’s the truth!” and “For the Eucharist!” — perfectly sound answers, of course, but strewn among those variations-of-a-theme (and some moving personal tales of reversion and one surprising poem!) I had expected some admission of the real struggle that can be part of living Catholicism.

That came today, via Mary DeTurris Poust, writing at her blog:

Always I identify with Peter, who never fails to screw up but somehow gets it on a deeper level. He doubts, he denies, he runs away, but Jesus sees through it to the faith that lives inside him. I pray Jesus can do the same with me, see through my mistakes and missteps and failures to the faith that is sometimes shaky, often lukewarm, but always present. For my entire life my faith has been the air I breathe. Like the beating heart we don’t question until it starts to fail, my faith has been beating inside of me for almost 53 years, often without my taking the time to stop and admire its steadfast rhythm and life-giving power. Until someone asks me, “Why stay?”

Will Duquette has a very good post up, too:

When I first came to grips with Catholic thought on my way back into the Church, I was surprised to discover that it cast light not just on God but on, quite literally, everything else. We have two things we know to be true, says the Church: the universe around us, and the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Both come from God, and ultimately they cannot be in conflict.
Consequently, you might say (and I do) that a scientific theory is in accord with the Catholic faith precisely insofar as it accurately describes reality. The Catholic faith is big enough to encompass all of the physical sciences without competing with them.

But it goes farther than that.

Indeed it does, read away. Meanwhile, Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble has a guest-poster — an affiliate with a Benedictine Community — who tells her own tale:

I know exactly why I remain a Catholic; it is because I am making a choice, a choice that every day of my life I am making and will continue to make for the rest of my life. I could tell you it is because I firmly believe in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and all of her doctrine, or because I am becoming a religious sister, which is absolutely true, but again I am making a choice. If I were to look at our faith as if it were a bunch of strict rules and regulations first and foremost before anything else, well then it would not be a choice would it?

Artur Sebastian Rosman has also given a guest room to write in his space, and Emily Edmondson wears it well:

The Church is the sign which reminds that through Christ’s sacramental presence, human persons are destined to be united with God.

Rebecca Lane Frech is appreciative of the squabbling family:

It’s a rambling, diverse, and varied group; and yet we all claim the same heritage just as we claim the same family name. We are Catholic, all of us. While our outside appearances may look nothing alike, the indelible marks the Sacraments have made upon our souls mean that we all bear an uncanny resemblance to each other. We’re kin, all of us, reaching way back to the very foundation of our Church…The fact that our patrimony includes the Fullness of Truth and the gift of the Eucharist? That’s the best inheritance anyone could ever hope to receive.

I have received several emails wondering why I was soliciting answers to the question, and observing (as someone also did in a Facebook thread) that the project didn’t seem especially evangelical — it didn’t seem likely to convert non-Catholics.

That’s probably true, but perhaps this little exercise is intended not for the world, but for ourselves; perhaps it is meant to get us really thinking about why we remain, as a means of both strengthening us and helping us to familiarize ourselves with our true answers. Perhaps it is a means of shoring us up for challenges ahead, when we will need to have our answers, our justifications for faith, at the ready, and clearly articulated.

I have no idea what the Holy Spirit is doing with this; I’m just co-operating with the energy I felt pushing me into it.

A little bonus: Everyone knows the church will change; everyone is wrong

More responses: (and more are coming, so check back!)
Frank Weathers: For Pascal’s Thoughts on the Mystery of Corpus Christi
Sarah Damm: One box opened another box, and then another
Kamilla Ludwig: An exhalation of burden
Kate Garbino: Three Popes in my lifetime, have taught me…

Lisa Mladinich: Because I am a sinner, in a church full of them!
Ryan, Age 20: We need the church now, more than ever…
Felix Whelan: Because the whole world is wrong
Diana vonGlahn: A faith neither built nor broken by its people
Christine Johnson: The Church is my first true love
Rick Becker: Walker Percy, Merton and a Playlet

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