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Four reasons I’m not leaving the Catholic Church

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Stegeman_generalElizabeth Scalia, managing editor of the Catholic portal of the religion blog site Patheos has challenged all Catholics with access to a webpage to take a few moments and tell the world why you are remaining a Catholic. With the permission of my editor, I’m going to use a few pixels of space here to share my reasons, and I invite you to send me your reasons as well. (Click HERE to contact me) I just may piece some of your responses together for another post.

Fellow Patheos writer Tod Worner blogged about why he’s staying Catholic in the wake a of sobering Pew report on religion and Scalia and others started to do the same. Inspired by their witness, I’m tossing my two-cents into the deposit of faith with these 4 reasons I’m NOT leaving the Catholic Church.

Want to know more about why others aren’t leaving the Church? Read Sister Eileen Connelly’s column on the same topic: How could I leave that. Remember to share your story on social media with #WhyImCatholic. 

St. Martin of Tours during a baptism in July of 2013. (Courtesy Photo)
St. Martin of Tours during a baptism in July of 2013. (Courtesy Photo)

4. The Catholic Church is beautiful

I recently looked up a video to see what service was like in a popular nondenominational “free coffee” church in the area. The place was slick, modern, clean. I was impressed. The carpet was immaculate and the performance area incredible.

I bet the worshipper experience there is positive, enriching, and fun.

But there’s one thing I didn’t see. Beauty. There was no awe. No wonder. It was like a high-end movie theatre or sports arena. Any art at all looked like what you’d see in a corporate office

By contrast my home parish of St. Martin of Tours in Cheviot inspires the immediate notion of a sacred space. Marble columns surround the high altar, magnificent stained glass windows show the sacraments and life of Christ, and statues show heroes of the faith; it has it all.

The Catholic Mass may lack laser lights, big screens (usually), contemporary music and free coffee, but I’ll trade the smell of java for the smell of incense any day. The beauty of our Churches and our liturgy are without compare.

The dome of St. Peter's Basilica is seen through trees at sunset in a park near Villa Borghese in Rome Oct. 11. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is seen through trees at sunset in a park near Villa Borghese in Rome Oct. 11. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

3. The Catholic Church has the strength of history

My parish is new by Catholic standards. Established in 1911, its not even one of the 10 oldest in this archdiocese. Over in Italy the Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damien became a church around 527 AD. Another “newer” church is St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, was built in the 15-1600s by names like Michelangelo, Raphael and Bernini (see beauty above).

The bible tells the story of Christ from his birth to his ascension and then a glimpse at the early church. Christianity not rooted in Catholicism (or orthodoxy) stops there and doesn’t pick up again until Martin Luther. In the Catholic tradition, we know when the pen was set down after the Book of Revelation, that an unbroken line of pope succeeded St. Peter all the way to Pope Francis, guiding us along the path to Christ.

Our church shaped history, the borders of nations, the values of the western world. With a long history we’ve had some dark moments, but our appearance through the last 2000 years of human history has been a pivotal force for good.

Other Christian communities have certainly made their mark, but none have impacted the world like the Catholic Church.

My sisters and their husbands look on as Bishop Joseph R. Binzer baptizes their daughters. (Courtesy Photo/John Stegeman)
My sisters and their husbands look on as Bishop Joseph R. Binzer baptizes their daughters. (Courtesy Photo/John Stegeman)

2. The Catholic Church is home and family

For cradle Catholics, our lives have been based in the Catholic church since the beginning. Our parents brought us to be baptized as infants. We trembled into the confessional and dressed to the nines for our first communion in second grade. We were confirmed before the altar. Most of us who are married were married before that same altar, and when we die, we know our final commendation will take place in the same sacred space.

I went to Catholic schools too, so all-school Mass, fish frys, athletic competition and more were all done under the name of St. Antoninus (Pray for us!). Religious education took place in a Catholic context, but so did all of my education until high school.

My second son was baptized this year and he wore my baptismal gown. His brother wore it too. So did my niece, my siblings, and long before that, my dad.

Speaking of my folks, dad’s a music director and mom works the after school program at a Catholic school. I grew up in sanctuaries and school rooms with crucifixes. The Catholic Church is home, and you’d be hard-pressed to get me to move out.

Pope Francis leads the Benediction following eucharistic adoration in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican June 2, 2013. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis leads the Benediction following eucharistic adoration in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican June 2, 2013. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

1. The Catholic Church is true

You had to see this coming right?

Why believe in anything that isn’t true? If the Catholic Church isn’t what it claims to be, membership in it would be a sham at best and hypocritical at worst. But if it is true, becoming a part of it is essential.

It is true.

God became man. He suffered and died for us. He sent us the Holy Spirit and gave us the apostles and their successors to guide us ever since. At every Mass a miracle occurs when what was bread and wine ceases to be that, and becomes so much more. In confession, a different kind of miracle occurs where, standing in for Christ, a fellow fallen man is the instrument of God’s mercy and forgiveness. The sacraments impart real grace, the saints and our Blessed Mother intercede for us and the pope is much more than a man with a pointy hat.

After all, the Church doesn’t promise an easy life. The teachings of the Catholic Church cause one to stand against the spirit of this age. Why do that for a falsehood? I wouldn’t

When Jesus gave his most difficult teaching, that of the Eucharist, that one must eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life, many left. “After this many of his disciples went back: and walked no more with him. Then Jesus said to the 12: Will you also go away?”

Simon Peter, our first pope, spoke up for the 12, and by extension all of us.

“And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”

I can find more entertaining music. I can find better productions. I can find a more exciting Sunday experience. All that is out there to find if I wanted it.

But I want Christ. I want to be filled with Jesus Christ in the intimate, incredible, nearly unbelievable way of the Eucharist. And that’s something you can’t find anywhere else.

Posted June 3, 2015

Columnist’s Note: I’d be remiss not to mention The Catholic Telegraph columnist Michael Daley, who’s entire column run is dedicated to “What keeps me Catholic.” Search his name in the box at top right of this page to find more of his work.

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