Since this neatly dovetails into what I talked about before, I want to talk a little about why I’m Catholic.
Yes, I know, I have already posted on that, but it needs clarification.
First, let me tell you what did NOT make me Catholic.
- Fuzzy Feelings
- Friendly People
- Perfect People
And etcetera etcetera. So often, when I hear of people converting, they mention how nice the people in church were, or how they just “felt”that it was true. This is especially true with a recently converted Mormon mother. She loves how to point out how much jerks there are in the Church (the one founded by Peter, not by the dude in the woods) and that is true. There are a lot of jerks in the Church.
Mormons talk of a burning bosom, which sounds hilarious and makes me think of burning bras. But basically, that is the Great Fuzzy Feeling that lets you know Truth. Of course, this is the same freaking religion that flip flops on just about every teaching that gets called controversial. I’m looking at you, Polygamous Marriage and No Blacks in the Priesthood, and the Adam-God doctrine, and many many others.
But this is an idea I find pretty accepted as well in Protestant circles (minus mentioning bosoms. bosoms…that is a funny word to say, makes the lips vibrate oddly.)
This idea that a religion is true because of the behavior of the people in it. If the people are good, the fruit is good, right? Sort of…
One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans. All your patient sees is the half-finished, sham Gothic erection on the new building estate.
When he goes inside, he sees the local grocer with rather an oily expression on his face bustling up to offer him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands, and one shabby little book containing corrupt texts of a number of religious lyrics, mostly bad, and in very small print. When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided. You want to lean pretty heavily on these neighbours. Make his mind flit to and from between an expression like “the body of Christ” and the actual faces in the next pew.
It matters very little, of course, what kind of people that next pew really contains. You may known one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy’s side. No matter. Your patient, thanks to Our Father below, is a fool. Provided that any of those neighbours sings out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must be somehow ridiculous.
At his present stage, you see, he has an idea of “Christians”in his mind which he supposes to be spiritual but which, in fact, is largely pictorial. His mind is full of togas and sandals and armour and bare legs and the mere fact that the other people in church wear modern clothes is a real- though of course unconscious-difficulty to him. Never let it come to the surface; never let him ask what he expected them to look like.
–CS Lewis: Screw Tape Letters
This really hits on why I left the Church for a few years, and why I came back. For a long time, I had thought you could tell a good Church by its people. If the people were not sinful, the Church wasn’t. Good Church meant good clean people who slick back their hair, wear stylish yet modest clothes, who come up with slogans and are always happy, peppy, and smiling.
Then of course, I went to one of those nice Protestant churches where everyone dresses nice and looks like the fifties never died…
And learned that they were just as sinful as the Catholics, only to me it was even worse, because a lot of those churches were obsessed with their image, and lied about it constantly. Catholics at least admitted we were a sorry lot.
So, I took a tour through Wiccanism (lol…yeah, it really is pretty lame…) various forms of New Agey stuff (lots of breathy words, and not much else. The nature part was nice though…) a *very* brief sojourn through Satanism (yuck…very very selfish and no, it wasn’t the type dedicated to Black masses or anything like that…) and eventually emerged.
I just wanted to know the Truth. I wanted to know why, and none of these other religions really answered it. In fact, questioning was seen as some sort of rebellion. This wasn’t just by the people- which I could forgive- but it was in the theology. It wasn’t until college that I met a professor who got me to question things.
Coincidentally, he’s über Catholic. But just taking a class that showed that the Saints questioned the very existence of God, and that they got answers…that got me questioning as well. Its in Catholic theology to question and probe everything, and even if people themselves are uncomfortable with it…its actually still encouraged. Really!
After I got over the fact that people in the Church can suck, they can be amazing, they can be smart or stupid- whatever- it doesn’t matter a basket of apples to the Truth, I was able to accept, even when I didn’t understand absolutely everything.
Never, ever choose a religion based on the fuzzy feelings it gives you. Look for the Truth, which doesn’t change with the times or with the wills of people, which makes no apology for itself, which is often uncomfortable and unaccommodating. Look for the Truth which is not afraid to be questioned, which knows that no matter what you throw at it, it will remain strong.
I know that if I question the authority of the Bishop, or the Pope, or the Priest, that if I honestly ask, “Why?” I will get a concrete answer, and not an answer to go pray more about it. I will not get a fuzzy feeling stuck in my chest. I will get a straight answer, and it will be an answer that makes sense whether I like it or not, and it will not be an answer that changes.
That’s why I’m Catholic- not because of people or feelings, community or upbringing or anything peripheral like that, but because of the Truth. I don’t need a huge “moment” to believe, I don’t need a testimony to prove anything, I don’t need an emotional high to come to the Truth. I just need to question.