Why I Remain Catholic

Elizabeth Scalia, aka The Anchoress, has invited Catholic bloggers to answer the question “Why do YOU Remain a Catholic?”

This is a most excellent question and one that, in the present age, all Catholics should stop and ask themselves. In the wake of abuse scandals, against a world that sees us as backwards and bigoted, and facing daunting challenges in evangelization, all the faithful should have a ready answer for why they remain when remaining seems, in the eyes of the world, so foolish.

I have many and varied answers for why I remain Catholic: because of the beauty of the liturgy; because the Church, despite all the flaws of her members, remains a force for good in the world; because I was raised Catholic and finding a new spiritual home sounds like way too much work. But the most foundational reason is that because the teachings and worldview presented by the Church constitute the most consistent and coherent set of propositions I’ve encountered — coherent in that it matches my own experience and observations about the nature of reality, and consistent in that it is systematic and non-contradictory. (Indeed, the systematic nature of the faith was one of the things that contributed to my spiritual awakening in college and beyond.)

What’s more, this worldview helps me to see beyond my own myopic vision and to overcome my own self-interested biases. This is part of what is meant when we describe the Church as a hospital for sinners — it strips away our excuses and denials and distorted passions, allowing the root of the problem to be diagnosed, treated, and cured by the Master Physician.

Of course, all of this would be as nothing if it weren’t for faith, since it is faith that allows us to see the coherence and consistency of Catholicism. Our faith is not scientific; it does not rest on demonstrable proofs or repeatable experiments. I agree with Chesterton that “original sin… is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.”

And that is the paradox: faith doesn’t make sense from this side. It’s only by crossing over — by taking the proverbial “leap of faith” — that we get the proper perspective and can begin to retrain ourselves to see the world, ourselves, and God as they really are.

And that’s why I remain Catholic: I have crossed the chasm and become, to paraphrase the Apostle, a fool for Christ, even as I follow him imperfectly in starts, reversals, and blind reaching. Yet it is in the striving to achieve holiness that the world takes on meaning and hope is made manifest — not due to our own efforts, but because in the reaching we find God, in his infinite mercy, reaching out to us.

Where else could I remain?

Episode 012 – The Catholic Briefcase

briefcaseMany Catholics experience a disconnect between their worship and prayer on Sunday and their “normal” lives the rest of the week. They may fail to see how their faith impacts how they live, or they may just not know how to integrate their spirituality into the rest of their lives. How can we help people live out their faith the other six days of the week — especially in the places where they spend the most time away from home, their jobs?

This month I had a conversation with Randy Hain, senior editor of the Integrated Catholic Life eMagazine, co-founder of the Atlanta Catholic Business Conference, and author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work. He talked about his book and about how the “average Catholic” can live the faith in the secular business world.

Click to Play – 012 – The-Catholic-Briefcase

Book Review: The Catholic Briefcase

How Catholics live their lives in the public square is one of the hot button issues in the Church. For evidence one need only look at the recent USCCB General Assembly, where issues of religious freedom and political pressure where at the forefront of the conversation. And while these macro-level conversations are vital for a Church that does so much public good, I sometimes wonder if we aren’t missing the boat by failing to talk about how the average Catholic lives their faith when they aren’t at Sunday Mass.

Fortunately, Randy Hain’s The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work seeks to start that conversation, at least as it pertains to Catholics and their work lives. In doing so he draws both from his own experience as an executive seeking to integrate his faith with his work, and on the experience of other Catholics (through interviews included in the book) living their faith in the workplace.

Of course there are many obstacles to being a person of faith in the modern business world, from concerns about policies (official or unofficial) against talking about faith in the workplace, to uncertainty about the best way to broach faith topics, to incongruities between faith and business culture. Hain acknowledges each of these and offers gentle suggestions and tips for overcoming them. He also offers practical advice for nurturing a spiritual life as a busy professional, reflections on the relationship between love and work behavior, examples of good stewardship in the business place, and advice for managers and executives on the Christian understanding of leadership.

Each chapter includes several reflection questions, which makes this an ideal book for a small faith community or gathering of Catholic professionals. Hain also includes an excellent series of appendices with additional resources including recommended books and web sites, a œDaily Examen for Busy Business People,  and even a blueprint for starting a local Catholic business group. These resources will help people put the material from the book into practice. (Personally, I’m already seeing if there would be interest in a Catholic business group in our area.)

I would recommend The Catholic Briefcase for any Catholic professional interested in deepening their spiritual life and looking to integrate a Christian outlook in the business world.

Disclaimer: I received a free manuscript of this book from Ligouri Publications.

Faith of my Grandfather

My paternal grandfather never talked about his experiences serving in World War II. I do know that he repaired radios in the African theater, and made it into Italy, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge. It wasn’t something he reminisced about or gloried in. He even refused any military honors at his funeral a few years ago. For my grandfather, the war was something in his past, and while he was proud of his service, he just as soon it stayed there.

(My maternal grandfather also served in the war, in the Pacific, but he died well before I was born.)

Similarly my grandfather never talked much about his faith, but his actions spoke clearly. We always started meals with a prayer, family reunions usually began with a Mass, and his house sported a number of old-fashioned religious paintings and plaques. Even after my grandmother got sick he would still drive her to Mass every Sunday, pushing her wheelchair into church and holding her hand during the service.

By the time I was born my grandfather was already retired but he still volunteered around his parish doing odd jobs: fixing the AC, clearing fallen tree limbs, cutting the grass. The latter I even helped out with when I was older, and while the parish paid me well for my efforts, I never saw my grandfather take a check for his work. Today the parish shed where we kept the rakes and others tools has a small plaque in it dedicated to his memory.

My grandfather’s faith was a strong influence on the family. His three sons all had strong faith lives, and even today the vast majority of his grandchildren practice the Catholic faith — a pretty remarkable feat when you consider current trends among young adults. I am grateful for the example of simple faith and humble service he gave me, and today I remember him and all the veterns who have safeguarded our freedoms over the years.

May the love we share in the Eucharist, heavenly Father,
flow in rich blessing throughout our land
and by your grace may we as a nation
place our trust in you
and seek to do your will.
Through Christ our Lord.

Adapted from the Mass for Independence Day; © 2010 International Committee on English in the Liturgy

A Sign from God

During the French revolution, when nothing was esteemed unless it were new, a philosopher named Reveillere drew up plans for a new religion which he considered would be a real benefit to humanity. He went to Barras, then a member of the Government, and asked his advice as to the methods by which the new religion could best be spread. Well,’ said Barras, ‘my advice is to get yourself killed on Friday, and rise from the dead the following Sunday.’

The philosopher’s answer is not recorded.

– Rev. F.H. Drinkwater, Catechism Stories Part I: the Creed (1939)

Santa Claus and the Necessity of Magic

Tony Woodlief had a wonderful reflection in the Wall Street Journal a few days back on Chesterton, Santa Claus and why believing in the “deeper magic” is necessary for Christian faith:

I suspect that fairy tales and Santa Claus do prepare us to embrace the ultimate Fairy Tale, the one Lewis believed was ingrained in our being. New research from the Université de Montréal and the University of Ottawa indicates that children aren’t overly troubled upon learning that Santa is a myth. But the researchers remained puzzled because while children eventually abandon Santa, they keep believing in God. Lewis would say this is because God is real, but Mr. Dawkins fears it is the lasting damage of fairy tales. While Mr. Dawkins stands ironically alongside Puritans in his readiness to ban fairy tales, Christian apologists like Lewis and Chesterton embraced them, precisely because to embrace Christian dogma is to embrace the extrarational.

Today’s Christian apologists, by contrast, seek to reason their way to God by means of archaeological finds, anthropological examinations and scientific argumentation. That’s all well and good, but it seems to miss a fundamental point illuminated by Chesterton, which is that, ultimately, belief in God is belief in mystery.

As an unabashed fan of Lewis, Tolkien and Rowling I heartily concur. When we seek to banish fantasy literature from our children’s reading we do them a grave disservice — ultimately, by inoculating them against that sense of mystery, awe and wonder that is necessary to accept the gift of faith in the first place.

Santa Claus may not be a substitute for the divine, but he is certainly cut from the same cloth as Aslan, Gandalf and Dumbledore. That children embrace him should not cause us scandal; he is a doorway to the “deeper magic.”