by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
Last week, I shared the tenth through sixth of my top 10 reasons why I love being Catholic. This week, I complete the list with reasons five through one.
- Church of truth and rich intellectual tradition: There are some who believe that we are living in a post-truth society. In a culture where relativism reigns — where you can have your truth and I can have my truth even if we contradict each other — there is no objective truth.
In a society in which we claim not to know when life begins, what marriage is, and we celebrate individuals who claim to be a gender that does not correspond to biological reality, I find the Catholic Church’s defense of objective truths accessible to everyone through reason to be both refreshing and brave.
Catholicism asserts that faith and reason are siblings, not enemies, because they share a common desire to seek truth. We are blessed to have a catechism that offers a coherent understanding of reality and explains the breadth and depth of our Catholic faith based on reason and revelation.
The Catholic Church has a rich intellectual tradition that includes both extraordinary theologians — e.g., St. Augustine, St. Anselm, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton, etc. — as well as distinguished scientists, such as St. Albert the Great, Roger Bacon, Nicholas Copernicus, and Father Georges Lemaitre, to name only a few. In our Catholic understanding, faith and reason are partners in the pursuit of truth.
- Sacrament of reconciliation/penance: Although facing the reality of our sinfulness is never easy or pleasant, the ability to confess our sins to a priest, delegated by a bishop — a successor of the apostles to whom Jesus himself empowered to continue his ministry of mercy — is a great comfort and source of peace.
I once heard a Lutheran seminary professor describe his understanding of this sacrament as the opportunity to preach the Gospel to the individual. Jesus came to liberate us from the enslavement of sin and separation it created between us and our creator.
When we go to confession, we admit our sins. In effect, we are expressing our particular and unique need for God’s forgiveness in our lives. When we hear the words of the prayer of absolution pronounced by the priest, we experience in a very personal way the freedom from the tyranny of sin and the healing of our alienation from God.
Jennifer Fulwiler, the former atheist who is now a devout Catholic, made her first confession as a young adult in her 20s. She describes leaving the confessional thinking: “I cannot believe this is for free.” What a grace to be able to experience the joy and peace that comes from receiving the sacrament of reconciliation.
- Mary, Queen of All Saints: On the cross, Jesus entrusted his mother Mary to John, and John to Mary. In so doing, Our Lord gave his mother to the church as our mother also. We are so blessed to have such a rich tradition of Marian devotions through which we honor the mother of Jesus — the mother of God.
Mary is also considered the first disciple. Mary’s “fiat” to being the mother of Jesus models for us the willingness to embrace God’s will, no matter how difficult or complicated it may seem.
Another of Mary’s titles is Queen of All Saints. In our Catholic spirituality, we not only have the opportunity to have a relationship with Mary, but with thousands upon thousands of saints who provide us with incredible examples of following Jesus. Through prayer, we can develop friendships with these saints and receive from them support and encouragement. It is great to have friends and intercessors in heaven!
- The Eucharist: What an incredible gift to have the living Christ become present to us in the sacrament of the Eucharist! At Mass, we touch Our Lord’s sacrifice on Calvary, but also his victory of life won on Easter. Our God desires to commune with us so intimately that he gave himself to us in this Blessed Sacrament.
Every time we receive Our Lord in the Eucharist, we are afforded the opportunity to experience a profound encounter with the second person of the Trinity. Through this Blessed Sacrament, Jesus renews his life within us and we become living tabernacles, living temples of the Lord.
I am pleased that so many of our churches have eucharistic adoration chapels, where parishioners can come any hour of the day or night to be in the presence of our eucharistic Lord. What a blessing to have this unique opportunity to come into the presence of the living God! Eucharistic adoration is a time where we allow Our Lord to penetrate us with the miracle of his unique presence in the Eucharist.
- Friendship with God: The most beautiful element of our Catholic faith is our belief in a God who desires to have a personal relationship and friendship with us. We believe in a God who created our world, the universe and the entire cosmos. However, we do not believe in a God who set the cosmos in motion and now is dispassionate about his creation, remaining aloof and indifferent to what happens on our tiny planet — Earth.
We believe in the God of revelation who made us the masterpiece of his creation, fashioning us in his divine image. Unlike any other creature, God gave us free will — the ability to choose to love him or not.
Even after our first parents had rebelled against God, desiring to become their own gods and lords of their own universe, the Lord does not abandon us or allow us to wallow in the misery resulting from our sin. In the person of Jesus, God came on a rescue mission to heal our broken hearts and our alienation from him.
Pope Emeritus Benedict described the essence of our Catholic faith as an encounter with a person, the person of Jesus Christ. We believe in a God who knows us by name and loves each of us uniquely. God desires to have friendship with us. He wants us to have abundant life in this world and eternal life with him and all his saints forever.
It is great to be Catholic!