I recently read “I Like Being Catholic: Treasured Traditions, Rituals, and Stories” edited by Michael Leach and Therese J. Borchard. It is a wonderful collection of reflections from people in all walks of life on all the enjoyable things about being Catholic. Many spoke of the wonderful diversity that we find in the Church, quoting James Joyce, “Here comes everybody!” At a time when so many find so much to criticize about the Church, this was an incredibly uplifting optimistic portrait of our faith.
It is interesting to note that “I Like Being Catholic” was published in 2000. Those were somewhat easier days for the Church, before the sex abuse crisis came to light and before Pope John Paul II went on to his eternal reward. There is no doubt that the Church is going through growing pains, and will come out stronger and better for it. In the meantime, however, as we struggle to move forward, it can be helpful to embrace a more positive outlook and reflect on the things that we enjoy about being Catholic.
Here is my list (in no particular order). I invite you to leave a comment and add your own favorite aspect of being Catholic.
1) The mass. We have such a gift in the mass, in the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I enjoy the ability to go to any mass anywhere and know what is going on. It is often when I am at a Church in a strange place that I appreciate most what it means to belong to something bigger than my local community.
2) The sense of community. The community that exists within my parish and the Church at large is the lifeblood of my existence. I truly don’t know what I would do without them.
3) The sacrament of Reconciliation. I don’t go to confession nearly as much as I should, but when I do, I am so grateful for the gift of being washed clean and getting to hear the words “I absolve you from all your sins.”
4) First communions. There is something about seeing children receive the Body of Christ for the first time that always bring tears to my eyes.
5) Life rituals. I love the way the Church has sacramental ceremonies for all the big moments in life: baptisms, confirmations, weddings, holy orders, and funerals. From cradle to grave, we are wrapped in God’s grace.
6) The music and art. Our Churches are beautiful to behold. Whether traditional or modern, the architecture is designed to give glory to God. The art that the Church and our faith have inspired has shaped western civilization. The songs also give praise in wonderful ways. From Gregorian chant to the folk group music of the 1970s and 1980s that I grew up with, the songs stay with you and bring the scriptures and our faith to life.
7) The saints. I can’t imagine life without our friends up in heaven. The stories of their lives inspire and encourage, and their prayers for us are always welcome.
8) Catholic schools. My parents attended Catholic schools. I spent 20 years in Catholic schools and now my children attend as well. The dedication of the religious communities that founded them as well as the lay people who staff them today is very inspiring and has changed the lives of millions for the better.
9) Catholic social agencies. From hospitals to soup kitchens to homeless shelters, Catholics practice what they preach about reaching out to those in need.
10) Our Diversity. People of every color in every nation, from red states and blue states, rich and poor, with different languages and backgrounds, all come to the Eucharistic Table. We are all brothers and sisters in the Lord. There is room for everyone.