What anchors you boat?
What would you say if someone came up to you and asks, "Why are you Catholic?" Maybe it's something that you have asked yourself. What was your response? Maybe you're asking that very question right now.
How would you answer it?
If you've never thought of it until today I suggest -- actually no, I challenge that you take the time and really ponder this question because every Catholic needs to address it.
Be clear though that the question isn't "Why am I a Christian?" which, arguably, is an easier question to tackle. For a Christian, the reason is obvious why they're not a Muslim or a Buddhist: Jesus Christ.
But what do you say when you're faced with a choice between the many Christian denominations and churches? Why do you believe in the Catholic faith and not Lutheran or Mormon or Baptist? It is a crucial question and there are three reasons, right now, why it's important for us to personally address this question in our lives.
First, there are many Catholics today whose best answer to this is a shrug of their shoulders and a quiet, "I don't know". Personally, it was my response when I first asked this myself. I wasn't satisfied with that and you shouldn't be either because to leave that question unanswered jeopardizes the very reason for our spirituality and religion. We need to seek out answers that we could firmly stand on.
Honestly, at the time I had decided to explore this question, I was very afraid. I feared that I wouldn't find any answers or that I would find myself with more questions and confusion. I feared that it might even lead me away from God. But I soon realized that this is a healthy fear that was brought upon by our love for God. What we are really afraid of was that we would end up losing God.
Be assured that God is the source of Truth and if you seek with an open heart, a humble spirit and a true desire for Truth, you will enrich your faith and relationship with God greatly. "Seek first the His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you" (Matt 6:33). As Blessed John Paul the Great said, faith without reason leads to superstition whereas reason without faith leads to nihilism and relativism.
This leads to the second reason for our need to answer this question: the cultural war in North America.
We live in a society that has been constantly trying to define and re-define our moral values. Sadly, a lot of us Catholics are buying into this notion that you can define your own personal morality. This is, unfortunately, the result of Catholics not having a firm understanding or resolve in their Catholic faith. They stand on the shifting sands of relativism instead of the two thousand year old, rock solid foundation of the Church. Pope Benedict XVI said in a homily:
"How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking? The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth**...We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.***"
** Joseph Ratzinger. Homily of His Eminence Card. Joseph Ratzinger. Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice. Vatican Basilica: Dean of the College of Cardinals, 18 April 2005, par. 10 *** Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice; par. 11.
In our world today, however, these "ideological currents" that rock our "small boat" are very subtle. They try to implore on our human desires and passions that if we do not have the anchor of the Catholic Church, can sweep us far off our course towards God. They'll bring up words like "rights" and "choices" and "liberty" and "freedom" but when you bring these issues under the light of Christ and the Church, the underlying message it brings is a culture of death and dictatorship; rights, choices, liberties, and freedom for selected groups at the cost of the rights, choices, liberties and freedom of others.
When people discard objective truth, they have to come up with a new set of "truths". The dire consequence of this moral relativism is that we lose sight of the need to protect the dignity of every person, most particularly, the need to protect the weak and the most defenceless, all in the name of public interest. This need to protect the dignity of every person, from the unborn child to the most elderly, is what defines our humanity. It is what separates us from animals. If we were to eliminate this intrinsic Truth, it leads to the devolution of our humanity. I cannot even begin to fathom where that ultimately leads our society.
The third reason for this challenge is the fact that we often forget that we are in the midst of a battle. The father of lies tries constantly to divide us and separate us from the body of Christ. As Christians we are specifically targeted by Satan and his demons and they try to pull us away from our service and love for God. And often times he does this through other people who will criticize, judge, libel and spread rumours and lies about us and the work we do for God. They will attack our leadership, our ministry and they will even attack our faith.
This is part of our service and relationship with Christ. Everyone is subject to criticism especially those who stand up for Jesus. Did you know that there are people, so-called Catholics, who themselves think that they are more Catholic than the pope? It's unfathomable but they do exist. And if you do come across some of these editorials and opinions and they make you ask questions, do not be afraid. Seek the answers to these questions and shed the light of the virtues of the Holy Spirit and the teachings and Traditions of the Catholic Church on them.
Our best defence is to clad ourselves in the armour of God and to stand firm with the pillar and foundation of Truth (1 Tim 3:15). Also remember that Satan can masquerade as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:13-14) and he will feed us with half truths and subtle lies and if we are ignorant of the Truth, we can be misled and misguided.
The Internet can both be a gift and a curse for us. While dissenters have used it to propagate their agenda against the Church, it has also been a useful tool for shedding the light of Truth on these false claims. The teachings of the Church have never been so readily available and you can find resources online that may not otherwise be available to us before.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has been made available online with a Search engine at http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm
Also, you can access official Church documents at the Vatican's official website at http://www.vatican.va/phome_en.html
And you can also find lots of information in the Catholic Encyclopaedia at the New Advent website: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen
Finally, I am not saying that we should all become theologians and apologists. But rather we shouldn't be content with "I don't know". We need to delve deeper into our Catholic faith. Remember that one of the spokes in the essentials of our spiritual life is study (prayer, study, service, fellowship, and the Sacraments). We need to take our learning to include not just studying the Bible, but also studying the Traditions of the Catholic Church and its rich history. So that the next time someone asks us about our religion, we can proudly and surely say, "I am Catholic" and know definitely the reasons for it.
Bro. Oliver Arcilla