We are now ten days into our month of Catholicism (specifically Roman Catholicism), but as usual, it feels like a lifetime. I believe this feeling–this sense of being out of time with the rest of the world–comes from the intense and passionate study of the faith. In some ways, I suppose it’s analogous to seminary.
This month is just so busy, so full of social, spiritual, and intellectual life that time slips by like the steady turn of so many pages. I told my wife only a few days ago that December is in many ways a culmination of the best features of this past year.
- Local faith community (I walk there most of the time)
- Highly involved, energetic, and local Mentor (who will become a lifelong friend)
- A treasury of easily accessible information and resources
- Opportunities to personally serve the faith community
- They also have monks
My listing here isn’t to suggest that other months were not enjoyable or worthwhile. Each religion has helped me grow and mature by incalculable dimensions, however December seems to combine all of these in one nice package. This doesn’t make December the best month, just the best way to close what has become the most tumultuous, challenging, heartbreaking, exhausting, exhilarating, passionate, and rewarding year of my life.
But what’s it like for me personally, practicing as a Catholic?
As with any month, I had to overcome past criticisms, prejudices, and overall ignorance about the faith. Once upon a time, I considered the Church as evil and the papacy (we’ll cover that soon) as the office of the Anti-Christ. All of this is slowly fading from my mind.
And all I had to do was ask a few Catholics and read a few books. All I had to do was want to understand.
I was told going into the month that Catholics worship Mary and the saints. It only took a few hours of research and finding out for myself through official Catholic teachings that this is doctrinally untrue. A few folks also told me that Catholics aren’t encouraged by the clergy to read their Bibles. I found this one particularly amusing and unfortunate because the very architecture both inside and outside the church (at least the one I attend) “preaches” the Gospel. Every Mass gives readings from the Bible and every Catholic devotion I’ve received has scriptural references. Every book on Catholicism I’ve read and every Catholic I’ve met demands Bible reading, study, and meditation. The Catholic Catechism–the very scaffolding of Catholic teaching–is littered with scriptural reference to back up its claims.
My view on Catholicism is being overturned. I have statues of Mary and the baby Jesus dissolving my heart with their love. I have saints and martyrs challenging me to give more of myself to God and humanity. I have histories and writings opening Christianity in ways I never saw before because of fear, hatred, and ignorance. Christ himself is coming through in a new and exciting way.
Does this mean that Catholics have all the answers? No, and they will tell you that all world faiths have truth within which should be held in high esteem and honor (Catechism, paragraph 843).
The last ten days, with all the experiences and insights, feels like a lifetime. In only ten days, I’ve overturned false realities I’d lived in for over ten years. I don’t think in any way that the Catholic Church is perfect, because as Lee, one of my new Catholic friends recently said, “…it [the Church] is flawed only in as much as we [humans] are flawed.”
I seriously believe that I could walk away from Catholicism now having achieved my mission of understanding and reconciliation. But we are only a third of the way through the month. I’ve made personal discoveries this month–a culmination of the last year–that will overturn my former self and should I choose to accept the call, launch me like a missile into the rest of my days.
If that’s happening only ten days in, what’s in store for the rest of the month? The beginning of the year…