What a contradiction it can seem in today to be an intelligent, well reasoned young person and yet also be a practising, devout Catholic.
Especially when you live in a nation (New Zealand) where 34.7% of people affiliated themselves with no religion in 2006 (and surely thats gone up considerably since then, following previous trends). The media (including most of the time social media) would have you think that religion doesn’t exist, is corrupt in multiple ways, and no one actually subscribes to that any more. The general population seems quick to criticise, even if they are ‘religious’ themselves. This would all have you believe you have no soul, there is no God and all that religious stuff is pointless.
I became a Catholic properly in my late teens, out of an family that’s life views ranged from being completely devoutly athiest (or dabbling in other practices) to Pentecostal Christian/Catholic.
I was drawn to Catholicism.
Perhaps it was after a childhood of ups and downs – early parental divorce, multiple school changes, house and town moves, step parents, eldest child responsibilities and my own teen insecurities. Perhaps because it was good childhood memories of going to mass with my grandparents and the good base I had from evangelical Sunday School. Perhaps because of the good friends I made who went to youth groups and Catholic youth camps.
But I remember at the time feeling peace when I was near a church. Life was busy, and full of noise, and the Pentecostal Church I had grown up in had had great music and preaching and all that. But when I was at the Catholic Church I found peace. I loved the physicality of the sign of the cross and kneeling and all that. But most of all I found hope and consolation in Christ, hope that I had had before but that was magnified so much more with the physicality of the Eucharist and witnessing traditions such as the Stations of the Cross.
And then there was the teachings of the church. Things that people struggle to rationalise with and seem so contrary to common sense to most non-Catholics and even Catholics.
The real Eucharistic Presence of Christ. Male unmarried priesthood. No contraception. No abortion. Heterosexual marriage, and no sex or living together outside of that. Confessing to a priest. Attending Mass.
Being a Catholic in the modern age isn’t an easy road. When the world is so contrary to church teaching, a Catholic who wants to live as a Catholic has to look closely at church teaching and find out as much as possible.To believe in these things you need to REALLY believe them. Understand them and not just take them on face value. On face value they make little sense, until you find the reasons why. You need to act upon them. You need to believe and seek Truth. The double life isn’t easy and people will look for hypocrisy in every thing you do.
People will seek weakness, simply because what you live when you live real Catholicism is so radical. They will encourage you to seek a “way out” that they think is for your own good and happiness. Perhaps they will think you are brainwashed and part of a cult. They only know things they have heard about the church, things the media has said, or what they learnt in Catholic school. This is often a completely false version of what the church actually is. After all, in the words of Fulton Sheen:
“There are not one hundred people […] who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”
Over the next few posts I’m going to attempt to explain why the church teaches what it teaches on a few different topics. So then you know…