It always breaks my heart when I meet a fallen-away Catholic. It also breaks my heart knowing that so many young adults are spiritually lost and don’t have any particular religion or spirituality.
I’ve said before that I envy those who converted into the faith because they came into the Church with their eyes and heart so open. Cradle Catholics have the highest amount of Catholics who are either name-only or choose to leave the Church altogether. This cradle Catholic, however, is here to stay.
Tod Worner has a wonderful post on why he chooses to stay in the Catholic Church. This particularly jumps out at me:
This Bible, this Catechism, these witnesses and thinkers, these holy experiences – this Truth – this is why I am not leaving the Catholic Church.
But in hearing the news, in considering the hypocrisies or scandals, in witnessing the squabbles and pettiness, in reflecting on the unChrist-like behavior that can fester in members or structures of the Church, surely this is reason enough to leave the Church, isn’t it?
Was Peter a sinner when Christ called him “The Rock” upon which the Church would be built? Was Paul blameless from his moment of conversion? Did the Apostles ever lose their way? Did Church Fathers fight with one another? Did Saints ever squabble? At its root, the Church has two criteria for membership: A belief in Jesus Christ and being a sinner in need of redemption. Put another way, the Church is comprised of hopeful misfits and that includes leaders as well as followers. If Christ had faith in his hopeful misfits, shouldn’t we? Other than Christ and his Church, to whom shall we go? Politicians? Social engineers? Celebrities and athletes? Novelists? Philosophers? Will they be devoid of fallibility? Will they offer a better form of redemption? Will they understand us better?
I find it interesting that Catholicism acknowledges that it’s not a perfect church, that it’s broken, filled with imperfect people. People often forget how the disciples were portrayed as total dimwits and emphasized their mistakes in the Gospels. Wouldn’t the disciples wanted themselves portrayed in the best light possible? Apparently not.
In a similar way, I’m always drawn to stories of saints who struggled, like St. Augustine or Ignatius of Loyola, and even Saint Therese who had a lot of internal emotional conflict. It’s also why I love Pope Francis. His flaws are a bit more obvious than John Paul II or Benedict, but I still see him becoming a saint in the future because he wants to serve God before anything else. Even if he can say a lot of off-the-cuff remarks or says things we may not agree with, he follows the Jesuit motto of “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.” He shows that the life of the pope isn’t an easy one, but he embraces the responsibility.
I don’t consider myself to be a great apologist. I struggled with my high theology classes in college. I don’t know much about Church History. I’m not a convert. So who am I to say why the Catholic Church is worth staying with?
I choose to stay Catholic because I’m still learning so much about it. I see so much beauty within the Church every day, whether it’s in the children I teach, the stories of the converts, the lives of the saints, or the little miracles that happen after a petition prayer.
I’m staying in the Catholic Church because we choose to admit that we’re not perfect. We choose to go against what society says about the haves and the have nots. We are not perfect, entitled special snowflakes. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, but we aren’t perfect. Yes, Lady Gaga, God makes no mistakes. Humans, however, are very very prone to doing so. The fact that we exist doesn’t entitle us to have whatever we want. It just means that we have the responsibility to live our lives as God wants.
I’m still a Catholic because God continues to change me. I started out as a child constantly seeking attention, honor, and acceptance from my peers. As a teenager, I was pretentious, thinking that I was the smartest girl in school who also had the coolest boyfriend and was better than the cheerleaders and student council members. I carried that pretentious attitude with me to college, when the desire to find my place there came at the cost of my future being less than clear.
I don’t have the safety net of a college campus anymore. I’m still learning how to act like a normal, functional adult in spite of my social awkwardness and obsessions over shows nobody watches. In spite of all this, I feel like I’m more on the road to sainthood than I was back in college. And I’m not saying that out of pride. I’m saying that because as I get older, I find that I still have a lot to learn about the world, about myself, and about my faith. Being Catholic teaches me humility through serving others. It teaches me to be strong even when my emotions want me to fall apart. It shows me that there is still good in the world through its people. We may be flawed, but we try to be our best.
I stay in the church because of the beauty that comes out of the brokenness of it all. Like the stained glass windows often associated with the Catholic Church, each of us is a piece of something, giving beauty to a greater whole.
In other words, I’m Catholic because it is true, beautiful, and good. It may not be safe or easy or even “nice,” but I love it.
P.S. Shoutout to everyone on the Patheos Catholic blogosphere who’s also standing up for the church!
Elizabeth Scalia, O Captain, my Captain!
Denise Bossert gives her perspective as someone who identifies as a “foreigner” like Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth.
Tom Zampino, the Giles to my Buffy.
and Kate O’Hare. Burn the land and boil the sea. You can’t take the Church from me!