In the past few days, I’ve seen a lot of chuckling based on Bill Donohue’s scandalous plugging for his ghastly-looking book, of which Amazon only has one copy left. I’ll pass on buying it, myself. Our dismay has led to some fruitful conversation– not about the book itself but about what does await the Faithful. Donohue says it’s “health, happiness and Heaven.” The rest of us aren’t so sure.
What does await the Faithful?
What can you expect when you become a Catholic?
We hope to go to Heaven at some point, but can we be more specific?
What happens to your life here on Earth, when you are a Catholic?
Does it really lead to health, happiness and Heaven? Will all the fish-eating and avoiding birth control necessarily promote excellent health? It didn’t for Saint Therese or Saint Germaine. Will we live lives free of persecution? We’re rather famous for not doing so. Will we get along well with our peers, particularly our fellow Catholics? Familiarize yourself with Juan de la Cruz and Joan of Arc. Sometimes the most dangerous place for a Catholic to be is among Catholics.
If you think of it like that, it looks pretty dismal.
So, what will happen if you become a faithful Catholic? Or, if you’re striving to be a faithful Catholic, what will happen if you keep it up?
One thing I can guarantee is that you will suffer. You absolutely will. You’ll suffer a lot. This will also happen if you are not a faithful Catholic, of course. Suffering is something that happens to human beings. If you’re a human being, as I believe most of my readers are, most of your life is going to be uncomfortable and none of it will be absolutely perfect. Some people are going to suffer far more than others, even though they don’t deserve to. This will happen in large part due to the sins of others who should have helped or at least not hurt them, and in large part due to circumstances that can’t be controlled at all, and this is not fair or just. I don’t know why it works out that way, but it does. This I know for sure.
If you become a Catholic, you will have the added burden of suffering at the hands of Catholics. This I also know for sure. When I was a teenager I supposed that persecutions always came from outside, from the mean old Protestants and atheists, but that was a pipe dream. When you’re Catholic you quickly realize that other Catholics are quite good at hurting one another and don’t need outside help. I hope you also meet many of the wonderful, compassionate and saintly people who are Catholic– and there are lots, all over the world, striving to manifest the mercy and compassion of Christ to suffering people. But you’re going to end up in situations where you suffer in ways you wouldn’t if you weren’t around Catholics. And, again, this is going to be unevenly distributed for no good reason. Some people will just have to put up with annoyances like bad sermons, ugly music or an impossible CCD teacher. Some people will be broken as deeply as one person can break another– through misunderstanding and neglect, but also sometimes through deliberate malice. This will happen. It will be horrendous, unfair and unjust. And when it does, it will not be a sign that you’re a bad Catholic being shut out by good Catholics. Not in the least. Some of the best Catholics ever were abused severely by other Catholics. It can happen to anyone.
Life is going to break you one way or another. If you are a Catholic, the number of ways in which you can be broken will if anything increase. But unless Christ returns before we’ve reached the end of our days, everyone, Catholic or not, will break, and we will die, and go before the Just Judge. We will find that the Judge was always among us in the least of His brethren, we will see for ourselves how we welcomed Him, and may He have mercy on us on that terrible day. This is going to happen to everyone.
There is something else that I know, for certain, by faith, because I am Catholic. I know that the Just Judge is in me. His Life is in me. And whatever I suffer, He suffers with me.
If you become a Catholic, you will be baptized into Christ and become part of the Body of Christ. That’s not a metaphor. That will actually happen. If you strive to be a faithful Catholic you will seek the Lord where He may be found, in the Tabernacle and in your neighbor through the works of mercy according to your state in life– no, neither of those are optional, despite what you may have been told– and Christ will reveal Himself to you again and again in those places. When you serve your neighbor, Christ will serve through you. When you repent of your sins, which you’ll have to do wholeheartedly and quite often because you’ll fall many times, Christ will forgive you and heal you. When you receive Holy Communion, you will be receiving the whole of Christ into your body and that eternal Whole will draw you up into Himself. When you suffer, Christ will suffer in you and offer your suffering to the Father as His own. Father will look down on you and see His only begotten Son crucified, and that won’t be some kind of trick. God cannot be deceived. It will be the truth. Your passion, whatever horrible and unjust form it takes, through Catholics or non-Catholics, through nature or economics or bad luck, will be the Passion of Christ. Your joy, however imperfect it is in this world, will be the joy of Christ. Your life story will be a gospel, your vocation will be a path to Calvary, and your death will be a ransom for many, because you are one with Christ.
When this mortal world passes away, Christ will bring you to where He is, and you will have perfect joy in eternity.
That’s what awaits the Faithiful.
Heaven does await the Faithful. Whether health and happiness do depend on your idea of happiness. According to Christ, happy are you when they persecute you.
What we know for certain is that whatever awaits the faithful between here and Heaven, Christ will be there with us.
(image via Pixabay)