My grandmother celebrates 100 years of being a Catholic. She will most likely be a Catholic till her last breath as all my other grandparents were. Me? I’m a mere forty-year cradle Catholic. I own that it hasn’t been easy to remain a faithful daughter of the Church, particularly during my turbulent twenties. There was a period I disagreed with, questioned, and criticized Holy Mother Church. There were times I watched people I love abandon their baptismal promises. Still, I remained true to my heritage.
Why? Why am I still Catholic? It’s for the same reasons why people disagree, question, criticize and leave the Church:
1. The Eucharist. A mystery or a symbol to some, but the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord in the host is clear as the Catechism 1376 puts it, “because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread.” I am more than happy to remain in the Church where Jesus is really and truly present, and where I can be united to Him in receiving Communion.
2. Blessed Virgin Mary. The Church exalts the Mother of God as the perfect apostle and bestows dignity to womanhood. Since Mary was “preserved free from all stain of original sin” (Catechism 966), she is the role model for every Christian. The scripture on the wedding feast at Cana illustrates that she is a powerful intercessor to our prayers and that devotion to her is the fastest, surest way to unity with Christ as she encourages us: “do whatever [Jesus] tells you.” Our Lady is, to me, all that and a mother who cares about my everyday concerns, with the end goal of the sanctifying my soul. “Don’t be afraid of loving Mary too much,” St. Maximilian Kolbe said. “You can’t possibly love her more than Jesus does.”
3. The saints. By the rigorous process of canonization, the Catholic Church venerates the saints as humans who blazed the path on how to live the Christian life and who “provide us with examples on holiness.” The saints also obtain favors for us as they “do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as the proffer the merits which they acquired on earth.” (Catechism 956). Just like any good friend, saints inspire and pray for me. The journey of my spiritual life is easier with their assistance.
4. Penance and Reconciliation. Undoubtedly, the Church houses both saints and sinners. Knowing our fallen nature, which tempts us to sin and often characterizes us as Pharisees, Christ established the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a means for contrite sinners to obtain absolution for our sins. Jesus told St. Faustina “When you approach the confessional…I myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden in the priest.” Never have I heard more powerful words than the merciful ones voiced at the Sacrament of Reconcilation: “I absolve you from your sins, may God give you pardon and peace.”
5. Purgatory. Purgatory is the place where all who die in God’s grace and friendship but are still imperfectly purified undergo purification after death so as the achieve holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. (Catechism 1030). Purgatory as a manifestation of God’s mercy gives me hope that even if I can’t overcome my faults during my life on earth, I still have an opportunity to be sanctified by God’s justice so that I can one day enjoy the beatific vision.
6. Suffering. Suffering is inevitable in our lives because of man’s free will. The Catholic Church makes sense of suffering when it teaches that suffering can be untied with Christ’s passion in atonement for sins. According to St. John Paul II, suffering also increases our capacity for selfless love and hones the virtue of humility. Since scripture says that carrying my cross is necessary to share in Christ’s redemption, the Church not only explains suffering’s purpose but also offers me graces from the Sacraments to endure sacrifice.
7. Magisterium. Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church as the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” to sift through the muddled moral issues that confounds our modern age (and every age) so that she can provide clear guidelines on right versus wrong. “To the Church belongs the right always and everywhere to announce moral principles.” (Catechism 2032) In every moral issue it has addressed, the Church has illustrated wisdom that only comes from the Holy Spirit. I rely on this wisdom to guard my soul from evil and to direct me on the path to eternal life as much as I rely on the promise of Jesus that “the gates of hell shall never prevail against [the Church].”
I could go on and on. The truth in the Catechism and experience of millions of Catholics over two thousand years are inexhaustible. I don't know how far back my Catholic roots go. But I hope I am not the branch that withers and rots off a steadfast family tree and I pray that I leave Catholicism as a fruitful legacy to my children, and generations after them.
Catechism 2030: “It is in the Church, in communion with all the baptized that the Christian fulfills his vocation.”