Would that I were a papal scholar and could write a brilliant post on the sede vacante. Instead, I’ll stick with the Catholic theme and tell you a few of the reasons I love being Catholic
1. My family
I had thought about titling this “seven reasons I am a Catholic”, but realized the following picture would suffice were that the prompt.
I love being Catholic because my parents, in their wisdom and the wisdom of their parents in turn, chose to have me baptized on their fifth wedding anniversary, surrounded by family and celebrated with a big cake screaming “God Bless Margaret” in pink frosted letters. (spoiler alert: God blessed me, just like the cake insisted) My faith connects me to the people I love.
2. The attention
As the news yesterday from Rome has shown us, everyone cares about what happens in the church. Sure, sometimes their interest is less than admiring, but it’s exciting nonetheless to have the today show reporting on something and to be able to say “yeah, those are my peeps” (or popes, as the case may be.)
In all seriousness there is something fascinating about this institution which has lasted for 2000 years. Even people who don’t care for the Church are still interested in its goings-on. I am still struggling to articulate why that is.
I am fortunate to sing in the chorus of one of the best symphonies in the world. The one challenge to singing with them is that we are asked to memorize all of our music for performance, which is a time-consuming and arduous endeavor. I squeal with glee every time a Messa shows up on our concert list, because it means that for that program I already know the words.
Some of the world’s greatest music and visual art was either funded by the Church itself or inspired by religious practice and ideas. Though there are some who harp on the music they don’t like, I prefer to focus on all that I do enjoy.
One of the many fun words you learn when you get a masters in liturgy is “anamnesis”, which like many ancient terms can be used many ways but which is often used to describe the remembering of Jesus’s offering of his Body and Blood. This is not just an intellectual recollection but a calling into the present of this sacrifice so that our sacred event is transformed.
Good stuff, eh?
I learn as I get older (and have more memories) that memories are far more than mere thought exercises. Often they are powerful, very real experiences in their own right, and this is validated by a Catholic concept of remembering the past.
The richness of the liturgical life of the Church is what first made me fall in love as a young person. We sing, sit, stand, kneel, speak and eat all as one body, a body not simply contained within the walls of a particular parish but spread throughout the world.
When I was an undergrad I spent my first few years of college in a fog of depression. Through it all I attended daily mass at the lovely stone chapel in the Jesuit residence at my university. The Eucharist did not overwhelm me with any discernable joy, and I was never flooded with God’s healing presence. But slowly life came back to my heart, and I believe that is connected to the ritual I slogged through daily, just as I was slogging through the rest of my life.
On my recent retreat I may have I scandalized my spiritual director by asserting my love for ritual with the quip “Fake it ‘til you make it”. But sometimes that’s the best we can do.
We all have experiences of sitting around a family table and recounting crazy stories about family members old and young, near and far. When Church historians do that, our stories are about Carmelite nuns singing Salve Regina on the way to the guillotine, about popes and patriarchs shouting “I excommunicate you!” “No, I excommunicate you!” Even the heartbreaking stories have something to teach us, both about the zeitgeist and about the ways we are – or should be – called to heroism.
This history also reflects the diversity of the Church, for it takes us around the globe and into countless hearts. We can find evidence of conservativism and progressivism, bravery and cowardice, pacifism and agitation, good and – how to say this? – not-so-good. The Church has made room for many throughout her crazy past, and there remains room for all of us, however broken or not-so-good.
As I wrote through these explanations, I was frustrated by how often I wanted to write “I don’t know”. I don’t know why the liturgy and the Eucharist helped me through a hard time, I don’t know why people care about the Church, I don’t know precisely how the Church connects me to my ancestors.
Somewhere in the mundane details and rich history there is so much room for the things we can’t understand. When those reasons of which reason knows not inflame our hearts, they are accepted by a Church grounded in mystery. The Holy Spirit herself floats around and amongst, trying reminding us of her eternal, inexplicable presence. Through Popes and wars and scandals and tribulations, she remains here, sustaining a body that by all reasonable reckonings should have long been destroyed. May that Spirit remain with all of God’s children, wrapping us in mystery and love.
I offer this as my Seven Quick Takes this Friday – head over to Conversion Diary to read more!