Recently there was a question asked of some of the more widely read Catholic bloggers, which they answered with great variety and great poignancy. It was a simple go-round, really. In 200 words or fewer, why are you Catholic? My parish did something similar a couple of years back, and published the congregants' responses in the weekly bulletin. The answers ranged from plain to poetic. One elegant grandmother I know answered in part, "Being Catholic is all I have ever wanted to be." Another gentleman wrote about how nothing in the world made sense to him without the Church's rules to order it. Another wrote about how family and religion go hand in hand and always will, and he couldn't imagine one without the other. As a convert, I have told my story in a number of ways: in print, and on television, and in "on the fly" responses to people asking me at a party. It's not a simple question, although some of the best answers are the simple ones, like "Because it's true." or "The Eucharist." I find my own answer can be contained in one sentence, or could really be my whole life story, because I see now how every experience, from my earliest memories as a toddler to this moment at this keyboard, are and were divinely interconnected and exist for one purpose: to know, love, and serve Him. For me, the best way to do this is in The Catholic Church because She possesses and offers the most numerous graces and helps.
When I was a Protestant, which I was for my whole life save the last three years, it was like living in a basic, builder grade home. It was serviceable, and I had the essentials. But that was all I had. Now I have all the upgrades. Did they cost more, just as they do when purchasing a home? You bet. My behavior has changed, and my level of obedience has changed. My accountability has changed. I give more, in every sense of the word. And, paradoxically, the more I give of myself, the more Christ fills in those empty spaces with something better, something real. Of course, conversion is a process that never ends, as my RCIA director told us many times. When you stop converting, you become stale and dry in your prayer life, you resist or neglect the confessional, and your offerings likely decrease. And for what? What cheap builder grade feature did you hold on to? A television show? The big laugh at the lunch table? A look of envy from another woman at what you're wearing? Why not go for the upgrade? EWTN or better yet, some spiritual reading. A compliment for someone who irritates you. A donation of the fifty dollars you were going to spend on another pair of shoes.
On Good Friday night, my husband and I sat in our living room and watched The Passion of The Christ again. If you haven't seen this film, do. If you have seen it, but not recently, watch it again. See, hear, and absorb what He suffered for you. See the horrible weight of our sins on Him. If this doesn't renew your commitment to Christ and His Bride The Church, then come back and tell me I was wrong in my recommendation. But I know it will if you watch the film the right way.
What I mean by that is to put yourself in the film. And not as an onlooker, a viewer. No. You are Pilate, relativizing truth and "washing your hands" of a situation like abortion or human trafficking. You are Peter, denying your relationship with Jesus out of fear (not for your life, but merely of social awkwardness or a verbal confrontation!). You are the crowd, laughing at his suffering, when you look past an offensive joke or visual about our Savior or His Church, or our Pope. You are Simon the Cyrene, called against your will to carry a cross. Will you respond by carrying it with all your strength? Or will you walk away and let it be someone else's burden? You are Herod, asking Jesus to perform tricks for you to prove His Kingship. You are the Jewish leaders, threatened by His radical teachings, wanting to keep your own wealth and autonomy. You are Judas, selling Jesus for some bag of gold. What is your gold? What are you choosing over Jesus? Popularity? Coolness? Political correctness? Vanity? Sexual satisfaction?
My husband has to avert his eyes when the nails are driven into Jesus' hands. It hurts him too much to see Jesus tortured in this way. I ask you not to avert your eyes. Watch. Imagine our Savior's pain. Now imagine yourself, some two thousand years later, laughing at, throwing parades for, celebrating, encouraging and assisting, remaining neutral about, the very sins that drove those nails into his hands. We cannot. We cannot and still call ourselves "little Christs."
My time on this earth is finite. I try not to mourn the years I spent outside of The Church. I am here now. I have a position to fill, and it is one only I can fill. The same is true for you. There is exactly one of you, and you have a role to play in His plan that may right now be going unfulfilled. Why do you wait? Your treasure here on earth is dust. No matter what you accrue, whether it be material possessions, family members, friends, acclaim, the big win in debate after debate, physical beauty that trumps that of everyone you know, children whose accomplishments shine brighter than those of your friends . . . guess what? Dust. Your expensive education at the best schools out there? Dust. Your job title and pay raise? Dust. Your car, your bike, your hair, your skin, your heart and all its whims? Dust. All that is real and true is Christ, and the more you can get of Him the more you should get of Him and MUST get of Him.
So why am I Catholic? Because my life before Catholicism was like real estate hunting. And when I opened the door to The Church, I knew it was the one. I found my dream house.