Catholic by Choice

As a Christian in full communion with the Catholic Church by choice, I welcome the opportunity to enter into a robust dialogue with other Christians. I also welcome the opportunity for interreligious dialogue with other religious believers. Finally, I welcome the interchange with those in our day who are called seekers. This kind of dialogue and interchange is what is so unique about participation in Beliefnet.


With this column I am pleased to introduce the “Catholic Corner” of Beliefnet. As a Christian in full
communion with the Catholic Church by choice, I welcome the opportunity to enter into a robust dialogue with other Christians. I also welcome the
opportunity for interreligious dialogue with other religious believers. Finally, I welcome the interchange with those in our day who are called
seekers. This kind of dialogue and interchange is what is so unique about participation in Beliefnet.

I am convinced that
those who follow Jesus Christ in the Third Millennium are living in a new missionary
age. The Culture in the contemporary West is not unlike the cultures that
Christians in the first few centuries encountered. Our task is the same, to
present the fullness of the Gospel message as the answer to every human longing
and the path to a new life. We do so out of the greatest motivation, love. We
want to give away freely what has been given to us freely, the love of God made
fully manifest in Jesus Christ.

In a homily (sermon)
which he delivered right before he was be chosen to succeed the late John Paul
II in the Chair of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI (then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger)
referred to Western Culture as being  under the influence of a
“Dictatorship of Relativism”. Relativism is an ideology which claims
there are no objective truths which can be known and by which we can guide and
govern our life. Rather, everything is “relative”. The echo of this
error resounds every time we hear the notion that there is “your
truth” and “my truth”. In short, to the proponents of
relativism, there is no objective truth.

The Christian claim is
quite different than the emptiness of relativism. It contends that there is
truth – and that it can be known. In fact, the Christian claim is that Jesus
Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Incarnate Word of God, is
Himself, in the words recorded in the Gospel of St John, the “Way, the Truth
and the Life” (John 14:6). Further, that Jesus Christ is the path to the
Father and in His Sacred humanity He is the true revelation of who each one of
us can become, by grace, as we respond to His invitations.

The Catholic Christian
claim is that by being baptized in to His Body, which is the Church, we are
made new and capacitated to live differently.  Our choices truly matter.
In a very real sense, we do not just make choices, our choices make us. St.
Paul told the Christians in Corinth, “whoever is in Christ is a new
creation: the old things have passed away; behold new things have come.”
(2 Cor. 5:17) That transformation in Christ is an ongoing process and our
choices, our exercise of freedom, is at the heart of the journey.

For the Catholic
Christian, to belong to Jesus Christ is to belong to His Body.
Participation in the Church is not an optional extra, but the place where we
live our lives “in Christ” for the sake of the world. The early
Christians would never have even considered such a thing as a churchless
Christianity. Here are a few expressions which confirm this truth of the essential
nature of participation in the Church from early Christian leaders:

“Let us love the
Lord our God; let us love His Church. Let us love Him as our Father and her as
our mother” (St. Augustine) “No one can have God as his Father who
does not have the Church as his Mother” (St. Cyprian) “For where the
Church is, there the Spirit of God is also; and where the Spirit of God is,
there the Church is, and all grace. And the Spirit is truth.” (St.
Irenaeus of Lyons)

The Bishops of the
Catholic Church at the last ecumenical Church Council called Vatican II, wrote
these words in a teaching document on the Church called Gaudium et Spes (Latin
for “Joy and Hope”),”The truth is that only in the mystery of
the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first
man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the
final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully
reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.” In other
words, we discover the fullness of what it means to be a human person in Jesus
Christ. Through Him, we also find the way to our own authentic freedom and
flourishing, the salvation which is found in Him.

I write this column as a
“revert” to the Catholic Church; one who returned home to the
Catholic Church – by choice. Though, as a child, I was baptized as a Catholic
and reared in a family which identified as Catholic, I wandered far away from
the Catholic Christian faith. As a teenage hippie, I searched for truth, in many
diverse places. That search led me on a very circuitous path. I was, before the
word became as popular as it is today, a seeker.

Through my sincere
search – and through all of the questions that accompanied it – not only did I
come back to faith in Jesus Christ, but I journeyed back into the heart of the
Catholic Church. I am therefore a Catholic by choice. I choose to stand in the
full communion of the Catholic Church as a Christian. I try to live my life now
in the heart of the Church, for the sake of the world. I am not alone. In fact,
there is a growing resurgence underway in the Catholic Church reflecting what
is called a “New Evangelization”. You will read about it here on the “catholic
Corner” of Beliefnet.

In this column I will
discuss the reasons for this choice and explain the Catholic Christian faith.
We will consider together what it means to be a “Catholic by Choice”.
We will ask – and answer- questions about what Catholics believe and why. For
example, we will consider what Catholics believe about salvation; the Bible,
the Church, the Sacraments, the Resurrection of the Body; our relationship with
the world – along with a host of other matters concerning the Catholic faith,
which is ever ancient and ever new. 

We will do so in this
virtual worldwide public square called Beliefnet – where believers of various
religious traditions gather and where so many seekers come to explore.

One of my favorite
missionary encounters is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, the book in the
New Testament which records the growth of the early Christian Church. It is
found in the 17th chapter. It recounts the Apostle Paul’s missionary encounter
in Athens, where he preached “Jesus and the Resurrection” to all who
would listen. Some Athenians, who were philosophers, brought Paul to the Areopagus, on Mars Hill, where he was
asked to explain the faith which he professed.

We read this account,
“So Paul, standing in the middle of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way
you are very religious. For, as I passed along, and observed the objects of
your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’
What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.” (Acts
17:22, 23)

Paul, formerly known as
Saul, became a follower of Jesus and His “Way”. This term, “the
Way”, was used to describe the early Christians before they were even
called Christians at Antioch. (Acts 11:26, 22:4) Paul embraced this faith after
severely persecuting the early Church. From the moment of his encounter with
the Risen Christ – which is recounted in three places in the Acts of the
Apostles – he sought to tell everyone who would listen to Him the Good News.
This is what the word “Gospel” means, “Good News”.

It is Paul’s manner of dialogue in the Aereopagus which will be our model. In a sense, Beliefnet is a virtual Aereopagus, a digital Mars Hill. It is a very special “virtual” public square inviting such dialogue at the beginning of the Third Millennium, a new missionary age. Paul presents a model for the kind of interreligious dialogue which we can be engaged in this digital Mars Hill. He did not compromise his claim or alter his message. He showed respect and courtesy for his listeners as he proceeded to proclaim the fullness of the Gospel. That is the goal of “Catholic by Choice” and the operating principle for the “Catholic Corner” of Beliefnet.

There is a hunger in the
heart of every man and woman for God and for the truth. Blaise Pascal referred
to it as a “God shaped vacuum” and the Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine,
expressed it in his Book entitled “The Confessions” where he recounts his own
journey to the Catholic faith, in these words, “You have made us for
yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

Welcome to the Catholic Corner of Beliefnet. We invite our Catholic friends, all Christians, indeed all people of all faiths as well as all people of good will who are seeking life’s meaning to visit with us regularly. We have gathered several regular contributors who will offer share their insights on the Catholic Faith, Catholic Culture and the Catholic Way of living the Christian Life.

In a wonderful discourse on
the Kingdom of God recorded in the thirteenth chapter Gospel of St. Matthew
Jesus tells us, “every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and
the old.” We will reach into the treasure house of 2000 years and present
the ancient, yet ever new, Catholic Christian faith. Again, welcome to the
Catholic Corner. You are always welcome here.

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