Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Take Up and Read: Why I Remain a Catholic



I've been an Anchoress fan since before she revealed herself as Elizabeth Scalia. Today, she issued a challenge to her readers. She asked us to take to our blogs and explain why we're Catholic.  The following is not an exhaustive account, but it explains how I got where I am today.

Karl Weintraub played the angel.

I’m a cradle Catholic, but it wasn’t always obvious that I’d remain a Catholic throughout my entire life. In high school, I was a bad Catholic. I went to Mass grudgingly, and frequently fell asleep during the Homily. (Heck, my parents made me go at 8 am. That’s practically inhuman, for a teenager.) I wasn’t a member of the youth group. I sat in the back of my Confirmation class, writing rants about what a waste of time the whole thing was.  I only had one Catholic friend.  Church was something I did because my parents did it.

My first year in college, I decided that I wanted to be a priest. I was an 18-year-old girl. Mean old Pope John Paul II had said it was impossible for him to ordain a woman. I was consumed with anger and spite. I made up my mind to go and find a religion that would ordain me. 

 I started visiting other churches, but none of them had what I wanted. The Episcopalians were too snobby, and didn’t seem to care for the poor. The Presbyterians had no liturgy and treated vestments like a fashion show.  The Lutherans (ELCA, I’d never met a Missouri Synod person at that point) seemed wishy-washy and lacked a missionary impulse.

Nothing seemed right, so I grudgingly stayed in the Church, devoted myself to liturgical planning, and decided that I’d just have to find some way to get ‘power’ so I could ‘change things for the better.’  Basically, like many kids that age, I was a solipsistic know-it-all. And for a while, it seemed like there was no one who could break through my wall of self-regard and teach me the truth about the Church.

In my third year of college, I took Western Civilization with an elderly professor who’d fled to America during Holocaust and later converted to Quakerism. He was the first person in my life who actually bothered to introduce me to Catholic Theology, as opposed to sentiments that could fit on a felt banner and warmed over superstitions passed on by generations of Irish nuns.

In Professor Weintraub’s class, we read the Didache and St. Augustine and St. Jerome. We read St. Benedict and St. Francis, St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas.  We read Thomas More and Erasmus. We wandered into the Reformation, reading Calvin and Luther, but also Teresa and John of the Cross.  I started to realize that the Church had a deep history, that faith and reason worked together, and that theology was more than the pronouncements of some mean old men in Rome who wanted to keep me in my place.  I began to take the Faith seriously as an object of study, and learned humility as I saw how much there was to learn.

I became a serious Catholic because of Faith and Reason, and that’s why I remain a Catholic. When I learn what other denominations teach, I’m struck by the contradictions, the lack of historical roots, and the plethora of positions that require believers to put reason on hold and simply submit to whatever interpretation of the Bible their current minister holds.  

For all the appearance of hierarchy, the Catholic Church is actually LESS authoritarian than these ‘non-hierarchal’ religions.  The Church teaches that we can understand much of the Faith through reason, and that reason is accessible to all of us. Doctrines can be determined through reason, not just by the pastor’s decree. Mysteries are mysteries to everyone, not just the people in the pews. I can know what is knowable because God gave me reason, I can live with the rhythm of the mysteries because He’s given me faith. My belief isn’t dependent on my emotions, on what sins I’ve recently committed, or on my ability to imagine things.

At the most basic level, I remain Catholic because I’m convinced that it’s true. But I can cleave to the truth because God designed it to be known with the reason he gave each of us.

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