Why Do I Remain Catholic?

veil, mass, tradition

veil, mass, tradition

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.

I received this writing prompt while I was visiting with my grandkids, ages 6 and 4. I was in the presence of children full of life and love and innocence and wonder.

My first reaction to the question was “what else could I be?” and the ‘remain’ in the prompt could not apply to me.

I am Catholic.

I was born into a Catholic family; Catholic since St. Patrick, so that’s a whole bunch of Catholic DNA running through my veins. I was soaked in the sacraments and Catholic life in our sections of Queens, New York where nearly all the children went to St. Clare School and all the families attended Mass and received all the sacraments, from birth to death and beyond from all the masses offered for their souls.

That is not enough, however, to ‘remain’ Catholic. Though Fr. Dunnigan would disagree. We were taught time and again that our Baptism left an indelible mark on our souls and so, no matter how far we roamed, we would always be Catholic.

I believe that not only because I was taught that. I believe that because I have lived that.

I learned Apologetics at the kitchen table as a child. My father, a lawyer, and my mother, a very intelligent woman, answered questions and quite a few challenges from my oldest brother. Therefore, I learned about faith and reason, and by extension St. Thomas Aquinas and countless saints and scholars of our shared history.

Again, that is not enough. All the learning in the world does not move a soul from an intellectual apprehension to faith, to knowing, to accepting the invitation and having it move your heart and soul so that indelible mark is the center of you.

I was blessed in that way. From an early age, very early, I felt the presence of Jesus in me, filling me with his light and love. This is a grace, unearned, unasked for. Grace.

That Grace has held me fast when I was in turmoil and pain, when I went through times when I wondered if God had forgotten me. But I remembered and the flame, even in the darkness, would flare, and when the flame was hidden, I remembered it and held on to the promise.

This memory and long history of the graces granted me were vital when the sex abuse ‘scandals’ erupted on the world stage, and have not yet been banished.

Those terrible revelations broke my heart, really broke something near the core of me. Near, but not the very core of me.

Was I angry at the terrible truths revealed? More than I can adequately say. I was teaching RCIA at the time of the first big revelations in 2002. I looked at the candidates and prayed that they were choosing to enter the Church not because of some charismatic personality or even intellectual argument. I prayed they were entering because of Jesus, because the Holy Spirit brought them.

When all the arguments fade, and they do, all that is left, all that needs to be left, is Jesus.

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