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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Needing to be Catholic

The Anchoress posts a wonderful treatise on a question she was posed: do Catholics need to be Catholic? I can relate to the question because I have many friends who are not Catholic but I believe would be welcomed by Christ when they stand before him, counted among his flock. Their Christ-likeness challenge me with the same question posed to me: do I need to be Catholic? The eloquent answers given by the Anchoress express my own affirmative answer: yes I do. The Anchoress is right, God down the ages does not change, and is not really affected about our Catholicism, but I need to be Catholic because of what being Catholic offers to me: sacred traditions of the Apostles and the Church Fathers that guide us, the sacraments that nourish us with life, and the Word of God that teaches us. These all speak of Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I wouldn't dream of giving up the Holy Rosary that helps me relive important mysteries of the gospel and the life of Christ. Nor would I want an empty cross that doesn't have a Christ on it to remind me of the price for our redemption and that the suffering I occasionally undergo can be a holy suffering. Most of all, I could never give up the celebration of the Eucharist, the Mass, that nourishes me with the bread of life, the body of Christ. Ultimately, being Catholic is exactly how I answer Christ's all-important question: who do you say I am? He is the Christ, the son of the living God, and I follow him as best I can by being Catholic. The day I (personally) cease to be Catholic is the day I stop following him. I'm not implying that non-Catholics aren't Christians, but personally, I'm following Christ by being Catholic.


Ron said...

Well said! And of course, all religions (such as Buddhism or the protestant heresy - yes - heresy!) have partial truth. What the Catholic Church claims is that she has the "Fullness of Truth" and it can be found nowhere else. That's why everyone should become Catholic. It's simple really. By the way, most of my friends are protestant and know what I believe regarding their religion so I'm not taking cheap shots.

Jeff Tan said...

It may seem simple, but I've read lots of conversion stories and the journey is always very difficult and generally takes years. Becoming Catholic seems to start with removing that thorniest of fences dividing Protestants and Catholics: animosity.

The advice I've always heard from those that have made the journey has often been to focus on the 90-95% overlap between their faith and ours, when engaging in charitable dialogue. For example, the Lutheran-Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification deals with that thorniest of Protestant doctrines: sola fide (by faith alone). By emphasizing the vast overlap, we can reduce the animosity (that both sides may be guilty of) and put things in perspective: the gap is not impossible to bridge.

Brilliant former Protestant ministers, such as Venerable John Henry Newman, found their way to Rome by studying Scriptures, history and the Church Fathers. So it's important for us to challenge our Protestant brethren to do the same thing: study and prayer. They can't object to that!

One of my favorite authors, Mark Shea, has often cited these words of St. Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:21): "Prove all things, and hold fast to what is good."

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I would say, apart from any questions about doctrine, which are secondary, because the only the Catholic Church claims to be the continuation of a Man who claimed to be the destiny of every person.

Jeff Tan said...

Well, technically the Orthodox Churches have the same valid claim, since they are served by their patriarchs who can trace their ordination through 2000 years up to the Apostles themselves. I hope to see the day when the Catholic and Orthodox Churches will once again be united as one holy catholic church. What a powerful witness that would be! Naturally, the same hope goes out to the Protestants. The Anglicans, I think, are already being drawn almost steadily into the Catholic Church. That we may be one as our Christ and our Father in Heaven are one! That would be a great day!