By Isaac Huss
I was raised Catholic from day one, so it’s probably more fitting to ask, “Why am I still Catholic?”
My mother was a die-hard, bleeding-heart Catholic and my dad was, well, formerly Catholic. Between the two of them, I had up-close-and-personal examples of two differing paths.
My mom insisted upon Catholic grade school and very intentionally raised me and my three siblings Catholic. So I had a very solid foundation… and was also burned out by all things Catholic by age 14. Let’s just say I was excited to try out my dad’s path when I got to public high school.
Then a funny thing happened. As I learned a little bit about how the rest of the world lived, I experienced a personal God for the first time at youth group. The Catholic thing was no longer just rules, regulations, and rituals. I was invited — personally, by my Father in heaven — into a relationship with Him.
Fascinatingly, I didn’t feel like I was missing out by following God. Instead, I felt freer than ever.
I went on to study philosophy and Catholic studies in college, where I learned that faith and reason work hand in hand, not unlike the way my faithful mother and cerebral father worked together to raise me to be the man I am today.
Through it all, from that Church and school where I was raised to the university and everywhere in between, I’ve been inspired by real-life people devoting their lives as priests, sisters, parents, and working professionals — wherever God was asking them to go. These are people bold enough to dare mighty deeds yet humble enough to know that the Church is bigger than any one individual.
So why am I Catholic? Ultimately, it’s how God has revealed Himself and invites me to love and serve Him and His people.
By Maria Walley
I grew up Catholic, but for a good chunk of my adolescence and early adult years, I didn’t exactly act very Catholic.
I thought Jesus was a good guy — you know, a good teacher — but God? Really? Surely, his life was some sort of symbolic story; a myth showing us that divinity was a core component of the human psyche — no different than the story of Buddha. And obviously, all these rules and regulations that the Church spews out were clearly made to control the ignorant masses.
It wasn’t until I heard an argument made by the former atheist, C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity that I realized I had to make a choice about Jesus. This famous argument (the “Trilemma”) goes like this:
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell… We are faced, then, with a frightening alternative. This man we are talking about either was (and is) just what He said, or else a lunatic, or something worse.”
Point-blank: we can’t accept Jesus as a great moral teacher without accepting him as God. He was either crazy, crazy evil, or actually who he says he is. (Which is kinda crazy!)
It was that rationale that made me reexamine my upbringing.
Living a Catholic way of life isn’t exactly easy. Many say it’s because of our materialistic self-centered culture, but let’s be real. It’s never been easy — at least, to do it the right way. Why? In short, because it requires a lot of things that go against our self-preservation instinct. It involves a heavy load of self-sacrifice, self-denial, and a heck lot of self-discipline.
To be completely transparent, I am not always faithful. I slip up every day — some days a lot, some days a little. But I’ve realized that the Church’s guidelines, based on Jesus’s teaching and slowly fine-tuned through the course of two millennia, aren’t built to control us. Rather, they’re built to make us free. (Yes, even that super-countercultural birth control rule — see Humanae Vitae!)
Our image of God isn’t perfect — nor is our understanding. But that’s because our human vision is limited. Ultimately, the rules are here to make our lives richer, to bind us together, and ultimately help us reach a higher place: to meet Him in heaven.
By Hannah Smith
For the greater part of my life, I struggled with the Church and my understanding of her teachings. I saw hypocrisy in her leaders and those who claimed to be Catholic, and hardline teachings seemed authoritarian and oppressive. For me, a rebellious free spirit, these rules were just restrictions to living as I pleased.
I am Catholic now because the structure that I once thought to be restricting and authoritarian has actually been the source of freedom and trust in my life. It is here in the Catholic faith that I have found everything I did not know my heart truly desired — love, truth, freedom, beauty, faithfulness, adventure, mystery, stability, and above all else, a peace that withstands even the greatest of suffering. Because of faith, I know that I don’t need to fear death — in fact, it’s a moment to look forward to because it leads to heaven.
I have seen firsthand the brokenness within the Church. It is a human — and therefore imperfect — institution. Yet the beauty of Catholicism is that it is also a divine institution, and a way for us to grow towards perfection. I have found in the Church — especially in her sacraments and saints — a way to return to truth and freedom.
The stories of the saints compelled me to understand the Eucharist. Participating and praying in the Eucharist compelled me to learn about what the Church really teaches. In reading the Catechism (a compilation of Church teachings), I found that the structure of the Church is in place not to tell me what I cannot do, but to give me the freedom to choose a life of peace and love.
I am Catholic because I’ve discovered that through faith, God has offered me everything my heart truly desires. God has also given me the freedom to choose it. It has forever changed me to choose to enter into this rich and deep mystery of love.
I quickly realized there was only one way to access this wellspring of love: through death. It has only been through complete surrender — death to my selfish desires and ways, death to the fickle opinions and ever-changing themes of the world — that I have found a love greater than myself.
Because this love is greater than myself, it frees me to be most fully who I am. It is a love that welcomes me back with open arms, time and time again, no matter the gravity of injury I have caused, no matter the repetition of my offenses. This is a love that is expressed most fully in Jesus’ gift of His very self in the Eucharist.
His is a gentle love — a simple offer that, when I accepted it, led me to the Church to find its fullest expression, and has left me forever changed.