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Why am I still Catholic? Science, Miracles, Consistency, and the Eucharist

I'm coming back from my Dissertation Desert to respond a challenge made to all bloggers of a Catholic persuasion by Elizabeth Scalia over at the The Anchoress. If the title of this post isn't explanation enough, the challenge is to tell the internet why you are still Catholic. I think my story may be worth telling considering I fit into a few demographics that should have swayed me over to any one of the atheist/agnostic/unitarian/etc. camps a long time ago. 

I didn't really know many other Catholics my age until college and I was never one of those openly Jesus-loving bible study kids. (I thought they were weird.) As a result, I have been friends with everyone but Catholics for most of my life. To this day the best friends I've had in this world were either atheist, agnostic, "spiritual but not religious," or just plain apathetic.

I do not exaggerate when I say that I spent most of my childhood and teenage Sundays daydreaming in church and I am certain that I went to one of the worst CCD programs of all time. I distinctly remember how one boy at CCD was allowed to make his first communion just because he could recite the "Our Father." That's how much of a joke my CCD program was. 

Fast forward to middle school and high school and there I was, a teenager getting blasted day and night with news of yet another sex abuse scandal, another reason why the Church was anti-woman institution, and another story that demonstrated why the Church was outdated and needed to get with the times. Next thing I know, I'm at liberal colleges, taking courses that berated religious institutions (the Catholic Church in particular) in every possible way and assigned a number of literary gems written by heretics and/or antireligious folk.

Considering all that was going on in my life, if there ever was a good time to break free from the claws of Catholicism, it would have been my teenage years and early 20s. The other Catholic kids out there were doing it around this time. Hell, even some cousins were doing it. Yet, for reasons hitherto unknown, I stayed Catholic. Why?

Well, there are a number of reasons why I am still Catholic. For the sake of brevity, I will stick to a few of the most important. 

1. My parents lived their faith and discussed it with me whenever I had questions. Neither of them had a theology degree, but they both answered questions whenever I had them and they taught me Catholicism by example. I watched them pray. I watched them give alms, I accompanied them on pilgrimages. I watched my mom crochet linens for the altar at church. I saw the tears in my father's eyes when his heart was touched by a particular hymn. Also, my parents invested time in my faith formation and didn't freak out whenever I misunderstood something. They took the time to explain things to the best of their abilities, going above and beyond simply taking me to Sunday mass and dropping me off at CCD. They did a good job of opening the doors wide enough for me to have a chance at entering a life of faith.

2. I've been blessed to have some pretty powerful, transcendent experiences. Call some of them miracles and call some of them warnings. I've gotten both ends of the transcendent experience. Some experiences were absolutely wonderful and some were absolutely terrifying, but all of them proved to me (in one way or another) that God existed and that the Catholic Church had the best explanations for these phenomena. I may go into more detail one day, but will leave it here for now. Not everyone has these kinds of experiences and I don't want to imply that everyone has experiences like these or even needs them in order to believe and/or be Catholic. But I had them and they played an important enough role in my own faith formation that it would be dishonest of me to not mention them at all on this list.

3. The more science I learned, the more Catholicism made sense. The world says science and religion are mutually exclusive, but there's a reason why history is so cluttered with Catholic scientists and why so much of science began with the Church in some way. Whether it was the creation of the university system as we know it, the development of the scientific method, or the preservation of knowledge through the dark ages...the Catholic Church continually proves its importance in the development of science as we know it today. 

4. I value truth over popularity. It doesn't bother me if 9% or 99% of the world hates the Catholic Church. I know of every scandal you know of. I've heard every argument against Catholicism that's been made. I've heard all the cliches, all the doom-and-gloom prophecies of the Church's collapse, and all the reasons why Catholics are brainwashed idiots. I still don't budge. Why? I read too much, I study too much, I think too much, and I am too stubborn to simply accept an argument for its popularity. The more I learn about the mysteries, traditions, teachings, etc. of the Catholicism, the more I fall in love with it. 

5. That agnostic boyfriend that became my Catholic husband. If there is one thing that led me to dive deeper into my faith, it was talking theology with my boyfriend. This Catholic girl's complacency went out the window when my agnostic boyfriend and I started having some serious discussions about afterlives, God, faith, etc. Being the scholar that I am, I ended up doing a lot of reading once these conversations started.

6. Catholicism remains the most consistent when it comes to asserting the dignity of all human lives, regardless of what any political party, lobby group, bandwagon, etc. claims. You have to appreciate how Catholicism stands up against so many in order to defend the dignity of even the most despised or neglected life. 

7. Once you fully immerse yourself in the history, traditions, symbols, prayers, etc. there's no settling for cheap substitutions. I was once a huge fan of new age music, especially music with chant mixed into it (a la Enigma). However, new age chants do not hold a candle to the sound of Benedictine monks chanting psalms at 4am vigils. Even the art, stained glass, architecture, etc. looks more authentic in Catholic Churches than it does elsewhere. I find myself actually missing the stained glass artwork of Catholic cathedrals whenever I go to churches with plain windows or modern architecture. Give me the stones  from which the voices of worshipers have echoed for centuries. Give me the beautiful rose windows of Cathedrals built by kings of old. Give me frescoes of the Sistine chapel, the marble Pietas, and the ornate crucifixes that have adorned our Church for two millennia. Keep your whitewashed walls and plain windows.

8. The most important reason is the Eucharist. I didn't truly believe in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist until I was in college...but once I did, there was no turning back. Since then, I have experienced some pretty amazing one-on-one time with Jesus at adoration. I have read up on Eucharistic miracles, and I have sought to understand why Christ would give Himself to us. The more I think I understand, the more I find myself wanting to know and the more I believe. I could never imagine walking out on so great a gift. 


PS. I know we are beyond the feast day of St. Joan of Arc, but I wanted to share my latest piece as I feel it may demonstrate just how much I love the stained glass windows of our Church. I love them so much, they've turned into a bit of a muse for me when it comes to drawing with Sharpies and pencil. Previous drawings include St. Michael, the Annunciation, St. George, and a few others. I drew this particular image as a gift to a good friend who has a special devotion to St. Joan of Arc. I didn't want to spoil the surprise...hence I kept it a secret until now. It's my first work in quite some time (considering my research-related time constraints), but I did have a lot of fun with it and have tried some new things.

I present to you, my latest stained glass doodle of St. Joan of Arc (for the first doodle, click here): 

Pax Vobiscum


*whip cracks in background*

Okay, back to the lab/dissertation.

1 comment:

  1. 3, 4, 6, and 8. To those who say that the Church is outmoded or must change with the times, I say Truth is eternal, and the more one studies Church teaching, the more one sees the logic and wisdom in those teachings.

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