Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why Join One of the Least Popular Religions in the World

Why join one of the least popular religions in the world? Besides Islam, there is probably no more misunderstood religion in the world today. Catholicism is often viewed as intolerant, when in actuality she stands for compassion more than anything else.

Growing up Baptist, I learned so many myths about Catholicism that I can barely count them. It's a miracle I was open enough to this faith to see what it had to offer me. These are the gifts I have received this year:

(1) Nothing else makes Christianity real for me, so I can experience it with all my senses and feel myself connected to Jesus in a true relationship. The beautiful, timeless visuals, sacred music, Catholic prayer that helps me feel as if I'm seeing and hearing Jesus speak through the Bible and my heart make Him as real to me as death and taxes.

(2) Nothing else has taught me how suffering can be sanctified and how we can work in union with it, rather than against it, so that suffering loses its power. This jewel of awareness is amazing for getting through tough times.

(3) Nothing else has helped me be fully accountable and honest with myself. Beyond genes and environment, there really is free will. With no one there to say, "Don't beat yourself up," or "don't judge yourself. You did the best you could," I can now face judgment without fear, using guilt as a tool to freedom. Hey, it works for me! Before, I was just repressing my conscience with "not judging" and that could never feel authentic for me. All the work I've done through the years to build self-esteem? No longer important. Good thing, because it really didn't work anyway. I'm now aware of how precious I am to God and I want to offer my gifts and talents in service to him. So, I am very happy with me.

(4) Nothing else has anchored Christianity in a greater philosophical, historical and cultural depth. My mind, emotions and soul can all resonate with treasuring the tradition that preserves the early Church. Many protestants do not trust that the Church has preserved this tradition, but I have come over time to believe that they do. Reading the works of the early church fathers of the first century can show you what I'm talking about.

(5) I can see, not only how my own life ran off track, but how humanity as a whole has become lost. I am able to question the social and cultural "wisdom" that makes up our modern world. For example, are we being edgy and revolutionary to assert the precepts of the sexual revolution? Actually, no. Everyone is doing it. Look around. The question is, "Who is examining their beliefs about doing it?"

(6) The Buddhist tradition and Catholic tradition both produce saints. Both are old religions and both stress learning constraint against worldly pleasures and offer a productive approach to suffering. When people throw together a hodge-podge of ideas and claim to be speaking from the "heart of all spiritual traditions," watch out. At best, they are talking about love, although it will be ambiguously defined. At worst, they are offering a superficial understanding of the many religious traditions in order to further their ego or profit based agenda. I go with the tested, tried and true. Catholicism it is!

(7) There is no "safety" in leaving the world of moral relativism. In fact, it is an act of bravery and a surrender of will. The Christian Way of "dying to yourself daily" is not for the faint-hearted. The rewards are in the development of comfort within the deep, inexplicable mystery that is God. When I am accused of "sheep mentality," I wonder if the person talking to me has done a sanity check.

(8) Prior to coming to the Catholic Church, I had learned to view myself as God (new age concept) or I viewed gurus as gods. Unlike what I was taught as a Baptist, there is no idolatry in the Catholic Church. Rather, there is a very deep reverence for the one true God. I learned that Mary and the saints are not worshiped and adored, but venerated. Huge difference. Yes, I can pray to them but only asking their help to deepen my relationship with Christ. It's like having a conversation with a loved one at their grave. Great tool- support network even beyond the grave.

(9) Prior to coming to the Catholic faith, I was taught that my relationship with myself and God is all that matters, so why have a priest? My problem with this was wondering how to tell how much of the conversation really came from God, and how much just echoed opinions or was not truly from Him. In my classes, I learned how wisdom and discernment come from grace, and although grace is a free gift, it is difficult to receive it when you're not open to it due to sin. Learning to identify and release sin through forgiveness clears the channel. A priest helps a lot with that. The release I've felt through going through this process is profound. This is a peace that is deep to the core and unlike anything I felt in any other "spirituality."

(10) I've been able to learn far more about the Bible than I did as a Baptist. Baptist preachers choose what verses or sections of the Bible to preach about, and since some sections are more popular than others, I never heard certain parts of the gospels until I was at mass. Some of what I have heard is really hard stuff. I could hardly believe it was in there and I definitely needed help to grasp it. Every section of the Bible is studied and read in sequence at mass. We have a reading from the old testament, psalms, gospel and new testament at every mass. Every three years, almost the entire Bible has been covered. I never learned so much in my life.


  1. This is incredible. Catholicism is so misunderstood. I had many of the misgivings you mentioned until I joined the Church. This story is amazing. Keep writing!