8. The practice of faith is glorious
The Church makes sense of our lives through its rich traditions and disciplines, created and time-tested by millennia of the faithful, and handed back to each new generation as a gift from the Church. We are free to take these practices as our own and fold them into our lives, or create new forms of prayer and feast and devotion. There are new saints born every year, old devotions rediscovered, new devotions created by the people of God. The wealth of the faith is astonishing: lore and legend, food and drink, prayers and devotions, Holy Days, name days, saint days, art, song, festival.
The sacraments sanctify life. Ritual gives shape to life, making concrete that which is abstract, and elevating the great mysteries of existence into grand acts of worship that encompass all the senses. The mass itself opens to a door to eternity. Heaven and earth kiss, and we worship as one with saints and angels.
9. Tradition allows the Church to guide us
Beyond the simple tradition is the Tradition: the teaching of the Church itself. Christianity breathes with two lungs: Scripture and Tradition. Scripture is the written word of God compiled for use by the Church. Tradition is the wisdom embedded in the Church itself, and handed down by word of mouth and the teaching offices directly from the apostles and their successors. Churches that dispense with Tradition and keep only the Scripture are not merely ripping Scripture out of the context in which it was created: they are depriving themselves of fully half of what it means to be Christian.
10. Catholicism has a deep well of wisdom to offer
The person who is his own counselor has a fool for a teacher. There is no question you have that the Church has not already considered. For thousands of years the greatest minds mankind has ever known have pondered life and all its meaning and messiness, and they have left this vast deposit of wisdom for us like a treasure hoard. I could read the rest of my life and never exhaust its riches.
11. The Church transcends the age
“Get with the times” is the worst advice anyone can ever offer. The “times” are almost invariably stupid and cruel and wrong, the new “wisdom” they offer nothing more than raw emotion, passing trends, and sentimentality. No one can see a thing while they’re standing on top of it. It is only from a distance that it becomes clear. Our current age is a vicious one: anti-human, selfish, and devouring itself with mindless consumption.
The child of his age is adrift on a stormy sea, buffered by winds of change.
The Catholic is on bark that sails steady and shall never capsize.
As the Prophet said: ‘The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.”
Our Truth is beautiful. That beauty is an emanation of the mind of God. I don’t mean merely the art and music and literature that we have produced, but the beauty of communion itself. There is beauty in the people of God gathering, in all our failings and fallen nature, gathering in communion to lift our hearts to the Lord.
There is beauty in a child held over the baptismal font.
There was beauty in the withered body of my father as the priest said the prayers and anointed him with holy order to sanctify his brokenness and prepare him for his journey to God.
We are fallen, but we are redeemed, and thus we are beautiful.
Redemption did something remarkable: it gave us back the material world. Matter is not evil as some would have it. Matter is God-created, and can thus be made sacred. To the Catholic, the world is charged with meaning and capable of being a channel of grace. It is a wonderful and glorious creation, and even at its ugliest in disease and pain and tragedy, it can provide remarkable opportunities to encounter the living God.
A lot of people don’t realize it, but Catholics recognize one reason for existence: happiness, which is the attainment of the perfect Good. We are called to be a people of joy, in perfect beatitude. Of course, we’re not. But we recognize that we are called to be so, and in recognizing it, we are given clear goal for all our yearnings. Unlike the world, the Church does not mistake pleasure for happiness, because pleasure is transient.
Pleasure is not an end in itself. The modern world does not understand this, which is why we feed our appetites rather than our souls. Man is drawn to God, Who is that perfect Happiness.
We resist, because we are fallen. We have forgotten our purpose, and lost our sense of meaning. We have forgotten that our bodies matter, and that they carry us forward to an end that will be a new beginning. We forget that the “world is our ship and not our home.” We should find joy in our journey, but keep our eyes on the horizon towards which we sail.
And, like John, I write these things for one reason: so that your joy may be complete.