Why Be Catholic?

In Catholic, Christianity on March 23, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Often, since becoming a Catholic Christian, I am asked, “Why? Why did you do it?” To answer that question, I began this blog.  See About, particularly the links on certainty, history, unity, authority, and liturgy.

Those five reasons continue to be important. However, now that I am inside the Church, rather than looking in from outside, those reasons look more like inviting welcome mats, placed before the Door. They are valid and objective. They point to the good, true, and beautiful. But they fall short of the richly-hued experience one actually encounters across the threshold, inside Christ’s Church.

Pope Benedict XVI used a better analogy during his 2008 visit to the U.S. He said the experience (and answering the question, “Why be Catholic?”) is like viewing the windows of a cathedral from outside, where they may appear indistinct or even dark.  It is not until one goes inside that the richness, and beauty, and Gospel narrative of the windows is clear, illuminated by the Light.

Then, why be Catholic? Unquestionably the starting point is grace given. Protestants and Catholics differ on the number and nature of the Sacraments. But understanding the nature of the Sacraments is fundamental to seeing the richness available to all who come into Christ’s Church. The Sacraments are not memorials, public professions, or religious rituals. “Christ . . . acts through the Sacraments He instituted to communicate His grace. The Sacraments are perceptible signs (words and actions) accessible to our human nature.  By the action of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit they make present . . . the grace they signify.”¹

So the first answer to “Why be Catholic?” is grace given, for life and eternity. Why would anyone cut-off himself or herself from the power of God offered in the Sacraments? The only reason would be failure to understand something really happens in Baptism, Confirmation, receiving the Eucharist, Confession and Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Marriage, and Holy Orders. But we only know what we have been taught and misinformation about the Church is plentiful.

If the Sacraments are only rituals, then one ecclesial community’s rituals are as good as another’s. But if they are the means through which Christ communicates grace, as scripture and the Church teach, then don’t walk—run to receive them:  supernatural salvation, gifts for ministry, food for the journey, forgiveness and reconciliation, healing, strength for lifelong commitment, and sacred power for service!

That is Christianity Richly.

¹ Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1084.

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