I once entertained the idea that I would prove Catholicism wrong. I would convince my wife, through the overwhelming historical evidence I was so sure to find, and then we would start shopping for a non-Catholic church to join. Ironically, many of our readers find themselves in a similar situation: shopping for a spiritual home. The idea stopped me cold.
Recently I wrote a post about decision making. One of the key problems that anyone facing a decision has to grapple with is search costs. If you tend to be a maximizer or optimizer, you agonize over decisions. You search high and low for every shred of information about a product, or service, in the hope that you will land upon the optimal choice that will deliver happiness etc. In your quest to know everything (as a maximizer, you need complete information), your search costs are high, gargantuan.
The idea of searching for the one best church among a multitude of denominations was daunting, to say the least. I saw it as an exercise with about as much spirituality as searching for the right country club. I want to go where I feel welcome, and where I am comfortable. I want to go to church with people like me. So where to begin? The phone book? No, you start satisficing by limiting your search costs. You seek referrals and the opinions of others.
I have an idea! Why not go to the church that we helped build while I was a child? Surely my Mom (who lives in my hometown too) still goes there. But no luck: she had moved on, as many of your family members may have too.
Then why not try to decide why Mom chose to become a Presbyterian instead of remaining a non-denominational Christian, and go to church with her? Or maybe keep going to the Catholic Church with my wife and kids while I pondered further. Inertia is another side-effect of monumental search costs. I told myself I would use this inertia to prove that Catholicism was in error! Or not, as it turns out in my case.
“Sandy C” sent this comment the other day on Webster’s post sharing, which shared a comment from our dear reader Mujerlatina. Here’s what Sandy wrote:
Mujerlatina’s story actually gives me great comfort because of her statement “The mysticism, the Real Presence, the devotions and popular piety all continue to call me ‘home.’” As an former Evangelical hurt by a string of pastors who thought the church was “all about them”, I find great solace in thinking the Catholic Church is what is says it is. It IS the Real Presence. It is bigger than its historical excesses before the Reformation, the recent abuse scandals involving American priests, criticism over Vatican II and the “watered down” liturgy, any one priest and any one Pope. Too many Evangelical churches I’ve known revolve around the pastor and when the pastor moves on (by choice, retirement, scandal, or whatever), the church changes so as to be unrecognizable. I need more. I need the promises of Christ that “I will never leave you,” and “I will not leave you without a Comforter” and “the gates of hell will not prevail against it (the Church).
I agree with these sentiments. As a guy who sat in the pews with my cradle Catholic wife for 18 years before I heeded “the call,” I was unaffected by the priesthood too. Priests came, and went, like good soldiers for Christ. The congregations always endured. Was I unaffected? My wife was not overbearing about her faith. If anyone was overbearing about faith, it was me.
I was well on my way to becoming a Pharisee—sure that I knew everything that I needed to know about being a Christian. In fact, I found out that I was the Prodigal Son’s older brother and that the Church is not “all about me.” It is not about being comfortable, but about being loved. As I wrote in a post on courage a few days ago, look at the Catholic Church and what she believes in. Is “to be popular, to be comfortable” one of her trademarks? No, the Cross is her trademark.
In the readings for today, St. Paul exhorts Timothy:
For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. (2 Timothy 1:6-8)
This isn’t the newfangled “prosperity gospel” that has become popular of late. This is the hard road, the Sermon on the Mount. I find strength and solace as I travel this path and am thankful for the many graces the Sacraments provide to succor the flock as we follow our Shepherd down this rough path.
In today’s Office of Readings, St John Chrysostom exhorts us to remember that St. Paul, great as he was, was human like us:
Are you surprised at my saying that if you have Paul’s merits, you will share that same reward? Then listen to Paul himself: “I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth a crown of justice awaits me, and the Lord, who is a just judge, will give it to me on that day – and not to me alone, but to those who desire his coming.” You see how he calls all to share the same glory?
Now, since the same crown of glory is offered to all, let us eagerly strive to become worthy of these promised blessings. In thinking of Paul we should not consider only his noble and lofty virtues or the strong and ready will that disposed him for such great graces. We should also realise that he shares our nature in every respect. If we do, then even what is very difficult will seem to us easy and light; we shall work hard during the short time we have on earth and someday we shall wear the incorruptible, immortal crown. This we shall do by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all glory and power belongs now and always through endless ages. Amen.
I thank God that I recognized the call in time.