Len Calabrese, a friend of mine, wrote an article for the series “Why I Am Catholic” in his parish’s Gesu News. Thinking that his reflection is a good refresher for all of us Catholics, I asked Len for permission to share it on my blog. Here’s hoping that it evokes a deeper appreciation of your faith and prompts you to ponder why you are still Catholic:
Why am I a Catholic? These days that question is typically asked more often in the form of Why are you still Catholic? My response is both simple and multi-dimensional, straightforward and complex. For me being Catholic is a central, vital part of who I am since it is so bound up with how I know and experience Jesus the ground of my very being. Because I am a cradle Catholic, the faith is intrinsically interwoven with my family and Italian ethnic identity. My mother taught me to pray and modeled a strong devotional quality which still marks me. My father, later in life, practiced his religion with a holistic attention to community and the public arena. Helping others was a core part of my parents’ value system, which certainly influences my understanding of the Gospel and why Jesus came.
My adolescent and early adult rebelliousness led me to struggle with my Catholicism and relationship with God. I especially was deeply troubled by so much suffering in our world, so much of it in innocent people. I continue to wrestle with those issues, but I am grateful that Catholic Social Teaching provides me the framework not only for understanding, but also for meaningful action.
I have been truly blessed to know wise, pastoral priests and religious who led me to grow as a person and a Catholic. The Second Vatican Council was a great vehicle for deepening and maturing my faith. Its emphasis on the primacy of a well-formed conscience, the affirmation of the lay calling to work for peace and justice, and the reassertion of the universal call to holiness have all lighted the way of my faith journey, especially in times of challenge and confusion.
The sacraments are major parts of my life, especially the Eucharist and Penance. Where else can I enter into such intimate communion with Jesus; where else can I experience the forgiveness of my sins; where else can I be reminded of the sanctity of my marriage and family life? All of that helps me to encounter the Incarnation, to remember more frequently that God is all around me, loves me, and calls me to co-create the world.
I value the Catholic tradition of faith building upon reason, while at the same time passing on a tradition of mysticism and contemplative prayer. I love that Catholic worship can be so sensory, can inspire great music and art, and value beauty in so many ways while continuing to reach out to the homeless, the refugee, the immigrant, the lost and the least in our society.
I am certainly aware of the serious problems and issues in the Church, but I also believe that Jesus does not abandon us. The Holy Spirit is alive and well working among us and within us. So I continue to believe, to hope and to pray that I can grow in the faith, accept God’s grace, and love more authentically. I know that a great cloud of witnesses, men and women across the ages, still root us on and offer inspiration. I trust that Jesus the Christ goes before us, loving us and including us in his mission of proclaiming God’s reign of peace with justice, dignity, compassion, and love for all.
Why are you Catholic?