Friday, 2 September 2016
Why Be Catholic? (1)
One of my young nephews asked me “Why I do you go to Church when we don’t?” I responded simply: “Because I’m a Catholic”. He came back with, “Well, why are you Catholic and we aren’t?” I gave the simple reply that “It’s the only Church that Christ started, and so I trust it to teach the truth.” But his question started me thinking: how did my conversion to Catholicism come about? I was eight years old when I first asked to become a Catholic, and several factors were responsible for this desire.
The first was noticing that the family across the street went to Church every Sunday. When I asked the same question as my nephew, “Why don’t we?” and I received the same answer: “Well, we aren’t Catholics so we don’t have to”. I instinctively realised that “Well, if God is GOD, then we should have to”.
The second factor was seeing the film, “The Song of Bernadette”. I developed a great love for the Lady of Massabielle; a love that continues to this day, and always hoped that one day I would to have the opportunity of visiting the Lady’s chosen grotto.
The third was doing history in school when I discovered that the Church of England to which our whole family nominally belonged, had been started by Henry VIII so he could get a divorce –that did not sit well with me; I wanted to be part of the Church Christ started, not one Henry VIIII started.
A fourth factor was noticing that there was a lot of bullying in our school and a lot of what we now call ‘dysfunctional” families in our area. It occurred to me that unless people had a higher authority to account to (God) then we would stay bullies and family life would always be disrupted by alcohol and violence.
The fifth factor was the desire to become a priest. Knowing that few people took God, heaven and hell seriously, I stood in our garden one day contemplating how I could bring people to consider them. I wanted to erect a huge cross in the garden but knew that was out of the question -and at that moment that Father Smith passed our garden and I thought, “That’s it! I’ll be a priest, then when people see me they will have to think about God!” My family advised me to “be a Vicar because then you can be a priest and get married”, but I remember saying, “No. I want to be a proper in priest”. I was 8 years old when seeing Father Smith stirred my vocation that day, but I did not become a Catholic until I was 20 and my mother booked me and her on a pilgrimage to Lourdes with the local Catholic parish: I simply decided that if I was going to Lourdes I was going as a Catholic, which I did. I am very grateful that I was instructed by the local priest using an abbreviated version of the Penny Catechism, wherein Catholic teaching was clear and precise. It spurred me on to buying F J Sheed’s Theology and Sanity and Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, both of which stood me in good stead for discerning good and bad teaching in the seminary.
At any rate, having been asked the question by my nephew, I thought a short series of posts on ‘Why Be Catholic’ might be a good idea. Part 1 follows.
WHY BE CATHOLIC (1)
BE CATHOLIC BECAUSE CATHOLICISM HANDS ON GOD’S SELF-REVELATION ON TO US
[a] I am a Catholic because Catholicism alone has unbroken lineage of pastors and teaching back to Christ, and thus hands on to me (to us) the self-revelation of God: Who He is, and what His plans are for humanity. It gives mankind an understanding of the world, ourselves and our destiny; an understanding that surpasses man’s intellectual explorations of the world, ourselves and the meaning of life.
[b] God is the Supreme Being in whom life and existence originate. While we can say “I have life; I have existence, we cannot say “I am life; I am existence” -only God can say that, because life and existence are His nature: He does not ‘have’ life and existence; He IS life and existence. Existence and life can have only one point of origin (there are not two origins to the universe). Existence and life thus arise together in the same ultimate cause of all that exists: God. I might encapsulate this by saying ‘God is Living Existence’.
[c] Everyone has an in-built instinct for God; it is an instinct meant to propel us toward union with Him and with His life, happiness and peace. Some express this instinct in overtly religious ways, as do Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims etc., others express it in misdirected ways by believing in such things as fate, luck, karma, superstition, astrology or the occult, all of which are belief in ‘unseen forces’ -and therefore substitutes for God. Without connection to God as the source of our being we can never be truly content, because the foundation of our being is absent. Depressions can only be worse without connection to our foundation; anxieties more intense without connection to our foundation.
[d] The human person instinctively seeks perfect life, happiness and peace, but we can never find it in this imperfect world. Yet the drive to find it is powerful. What religion brings is knowledge of and a hearing of the call to seek God. It also calls us to be the best we can be; the kind of person who, when we die, will have people saying “the world is poorer without”. What the chasing of pleasure (via alcohol, drug use and sexual license and easy money through criminal activity) brings, will be people saying “the world is better off without him”.
[e] I am Catholic because it is the home of science. Science being the enquiry into what creation consists of and how it works, goes hand in hand with Catholicism -which has pursued scientific enquiry for centuries: the scientific method being formalised by Rev. Roger Bacon; the Big Bang discovered by Rev. George Lemaitre; the Mercalli scale for measuring earthquakes (still used today) developed by and named after Rev. Mercarlli. In medical science the laws of genetics were discovered by Rev. Gregor Mendel; cell cytology pioneered by Rev. J. B. Carnoy; chemical digestion in human physiology first described by Rev. Lazzaro Spallanzani; the fallopian tubes named after the anatomist Rev. Falloppio; the glandular-lymphatic system first described by Rev. Niels Stensen (who also founded the science of geology by developing the correct theory of sedimentary rock, geological strata and the origin of fossils).
Although many assume there is a conflict between science and religion this isn’t the case: science tells us how the world works; religion tells us why we are here –and how to live in the world and make use of its resources in moral ways that lead to God. Conflict only occurs between religious bodies and scientists when the scientist says “Because we can do A, B or C, we should”, making no reference to God’s revelation of what is right and wrong.
N.B. the ‘Big Bang’ so clearly points to God that when first discovered it is reported that the Quantum Physicist David Bohm said its discoverers had “turned traitor to science to find answers convenient to the Catholic Church” (cf. Why Does the World Exist?: One Man's Quest for the Big Answer By Jim Holt, American philosopher, author and essayist). Further, while the Big Bang describes how the universe was created, the (unproved) theory of Evolution simply posits how creation developed over time (akin to the Bible’s poetical ‘seven days’ which simply describe huge amounts of time for, “To you Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day” (ps.90v4; 2.Pet.3v8). So neither the Big Bang nor Evolution contradict the Bible.