Thursday, May 03, 2007

Why I Am Catholic

Living in Wheaton, we Catholics are just a wee bit on the defensive. Unlike Chicago proper, we are the minority here. Certainly, there is no persecution or anything malevolent occurring. Actually, it's quite the opposite. I have wonderful neighbors whom I respect and admire. I've said it before: I'm really happy here. The reality, however, is that Wheaton, Illinois is largely comprised of evangelical Christians. And sometimes you just want to be around more people who believe and worship like you do.

Maybe that is why I'm really pleased about our newly elected leader in our little town. He is Wheaton's first Catholic mayor. How silly is it that I feel like we scored one for the team? Joking aside, I am told that this is big for these parts, the so called "golden buckle of the bible belt". As recently as 30-40 years ago, some Catholics had a hard time in this once "dry" town. Some felt ridiculed and mistreated by their fellow Christians. That's hard to imagine now but I don't doubt it is true. The Catholic Church has always had detractors.

The slights that you occasionally witness now are mild but noticeable. Sometimes even kind of funny. When we considered buying another house in the neighborhood, the builder proudly noted that one of the art nooks could proudly house "one of our Catholic statues". I just started laughing and he turned three shades of crimson. I asked him if he also had any ideas about where in the home we could dedicate our shrine to the Blessed Mother.

When I started parochial school in 1975, my grandmother was fearful that her mother-in-law, my great-grandmother Whistance, would find out and be upset. Lord only knows what those nuns were bound to do. They worship idols and saints! Great grandma was a certifiable holy roller. A card carrying member of the Assembly of God. Her great-granddaughter at a Catholic school? Let's just say the subject was avoided.

The fact is that I have loved my Church from the first day I entered Queen of Apostles (San Jose, California) in Fall, 1975. As a child, I felt great warmth, guidance, and love there. It was literally a salvation, a sanctuary from my chaotic, sometimes scary home life. I never felt limited or stifled by the routines and structure. If anything, I found solace. I knew that in this loving, nurturing environment, I was safe and protected. Far more than I was at home. Through their teaching, I knew that life as I then knew it was not a road map for the future. I could do anything and be anything because God had a plan. It was up to me to simply listen and follow through.

As a young adult, I lost my way as many do. Like a wayward child, armed with youthful arrogance, I wanted to go it on my own. I wanted to do it may way. So, I eschewed what I then perceived as rules intended to subjugate. It took me many years to fully realize that God doesn't impose rules to spoil our fun or to arbitrarily impose control. Rather, like the best parent, He knows what is best for us. And He gives us the free will to do it our way, even if such choices are destructive and empty. But there is always redemption once you've found your way. And love. More than we can possibly imagine or understand.

I truly appreciate the pageantry and ritual of the Church. It serves to remind all of us that the worship that we engage in is far larger than the life we know; it is truly elevated. And our ultimate salvation is not of this world. Signs and symbols all around to remind us that God's love is both ethereal and immense.

The Catholic Church has gravitas. It's not a start-up with a questionable future. Blue chip all the way. I can remember visiting a Pentecostal church as a child and witnessing their form of communion. Saltine crackers on a plate. Even as symbolism, I thought they missed the point. I remember thinking that they forgot the ham and cheese.

We recognize Communion as a gift from God, his actual body and and his blood. Receiving Communion is an intimate and reverent act. Children are taught for lengthy periods of time in order to participate in the Sacrament. We remind ourselves during the Mass, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed".

Yes, there have been many problems in the Church, especially over the last several years. I'll address that in another post. Suffice it to say, all families have problems but you just don't up and leave your family. You work it out and you keep trying, the best way you can.

We're a Catholic family and happy to be so. I hope to be worthy of all the blessings that we receive on a daily basis. And I hope to see more of us in Wheaton in the years to come.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

learn more about free will. A dog e.g; has instinct, no free will. We have free will but that doesn't mean choosing between good and evil. We're not allowed to choose evil ever. If we didn't have free will we'd be animals. It's early, I had a better explanation. Sorry.

Leigh said...

Huh? And your comment is relevant to my post because?

JoannaB said...

Hi, reading one of your older posts - I went to a Catholic School and there must have been something there that drew me 'home' from an evangelical church years later. My home life was unsettled to say the least. I always felt that communion was much more important than the emphasis that was put on it at the evangelical church. In fact one Sunday I attended, before I became a Catholic, the pastor was so irrevent about the communion that I refused to partake at all. One more reason to make the transfer. I find the Catholic church to be secure and welcoming and a place of certainty. The rock that the Church is supposed to be - that we can depend on.