“But Who Do you Say That I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Matthew 16:15-16.
Have you ever listened to conversion stories? Many Catholic converts tell passionate anecdotes about their spiritual journey to Catholicism. Conversion stories run the gambit. Many converts felt a tug or pull towards Catholicism throughout their lives. Many converts recall times of keen resistance to the faith or frustration with the pull towards the Faith of Our Fathers. After critically studying Catholicism from Scripture to Tradition to Magisterium, some converts note “aha!” moments or “Nooooo . . . Anything but. . . Fine!!” moments. Some fell into Catholicism like a delightful bubble bath or breathed a sigh of relief walking into the home they always sought. Some stumbled into Catholicism for less profound reasons but continue practicing anyways. Others suffered and survived persecution to became a member of the Church.
Catholicism for me was like breathing air both a subconscious and conscious act. Faith came easily to me as a child. Maintaining that childlike trust of faith not easy. As a child, the world was a spiritual place where you used all five senses to experience its beauty, mystery, and truth. Faith was my sixth sense. Catholicism is a fleshy, tactile, and sensual religion that matches how a child explores, experiences, and discovers the world. In many ways, elements of Catholic liturgy and ritual that give some the heebie jeebies reflect a childlike wonder and exploration of the spiritual realm. We use all five senses to seek, worship, experience, and connect with God and the divine.
Catholic means: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. You’re a part of something much greater than yourself as a Catholic yet an unique individual too. Every church housing a tabernacle or altar offering the Sacrifice of the Mass is a home regardless of the location, rite, or language. As a Catholic you’re more aware that you’re an intricate and important thread in a elaborate tapestry of all the faithful both living or dead whether in heaven or purgatory. We receive immense grace from the Sacramental life of the Church, the Communion of Saints, the Holy Trinity, and the intercession of Our Lady. And, yes, we can trace our founder to Jesus Christ and an apostolic succession based on scripture and guided by the Holy Spirit despite concupiscence and human involvement.
“Because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” John 20:29.
But THE ULTIMATE REASON is the source and summit of the Catholic Faith: The Eucharist, i.e., the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The reason Catholic Christians are not and cannot be just another Christian denomination.
Because of our bold claim as Catholics, our lives radically change or should radically change. If we are what we consume and if what we consume is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we become not only a part of the Body of Christ, but the Body of Christ. With that efficacious grace and transformation, we go out into the world and proclaim the Good News! Everything changes or should change: our thoughts, words, deeds, actions, relationships, priorities, hopes, dreams, goals and pursuits. The Faith changes how we: dress, educate, drive, work, socialize, worship, approach sexuality, manage life challenges, celebrate, mourn, suffer, suffer with, marry, procreate, raise children, etc. Etc.
The Eucharist isn’t a magic circle that absolves us from pain, suffering, and trials. Au Contraire! The world rejected Christ and still rejects Christ. As Christians, especially Catholic Christians, we understand our world, our fellow believers, our families, our peoples, our cultures, etc, will reject, ostracize and persecute even kill us too.
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.– Luke 12:51-53
“Thy word’s thy ship not thy home.”- St. Therese of Lisieux. St. John Paul said living the faith would be hard- potentially a white or red martyrdom. But at the end of it all, when the world turns away, when your friends, family or loved ones turn away or turn you in, the grace and peace of truth carries one through. Even through the profound hurt and pain of rejection and persecution, salvific hope and trust remains- a divine purpose and plan.
It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.
-St. John Paul II. Vergata Prayer Vigil at World Youth Day 8/19/2000.