“From her (the Catholic Church) womb we are born, by her milk we are nourished, by her Spirit we are made alive.” —St. Cyprian of Carthage
During the years I spent living and working with Mother Teresa’s Sisters, I visited the homes of the poor numerous times. The Sisters impressed me deeply with their genuine compassion and concern, not only for the bodies of the poor, but also for their souls. Although they cherished a respect for people of all faiths, they were very intent on giving the gift of Catholicism, and drawing souls into the embrace of Mother Church however they could. From time to time they would visit homes of Protestants who were once Catholic and they would plead with them with such love in their eyes, saying, “Don’t you miss receiving the sacraments? Don’t you remember your First Communion; don’t you miss being able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, and take him straight into your heart?” As they said these things, I knew they were living out the mercy of God because they were living out the truth, and not pushing it aside out of fear. Over and over again, whether it was in lock-down prisons or daily Mass at the crack of dawn, the Sisters reminded me why it is so awesome to be Catholic.
Now, over 10 years later, in my humdrum life as a homeschooling Mom of four little ones I am reminded of this again – in the fitful, waking cry of my newborn being baptized; in the sight of my exhausted husband praying a late night family Rosary; in how easily my daughter forgives me for losing my temper; in the shining of my five-year-old son’s eyes when he finds out we get to go to Adoration tomorrow. As I look at the Catholic world around me, I am reminded of just how awesome our faith is – in the luminous face of our Holy Father as he holds the hand of a poor child; in the unearthly silence of a High Latin Mass and in the sight of Raphael’s majestic religious works.
From the outside looking in, Catholicism can seem either too bland and unemotional, or on the other hand, too daunting to get even involved with. To many it seems like a old-fashioned, packaged religion with stringent rules and requirements. And yet, those of us who have been immersed in the waters of Catholicism and delved into its sacred spirit know that it is like a geode. On the outside it appears to be ruddy, but when it is cracked open, treasures of light, spiritual color and wonders of creation abound for the soul to contemplate. It is a divine mystery and we are truly blessed to have it’s “red carpet” rolled out before us.
As Catholics, we are privileged to belong to the tried and true One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The Catholic Church is the only church that can claim this properly on a theological level and can testify to an unbroken succession of papal authority – Apostolic Succession. As St. Augustine of Hippo once put so beautifully:
The Catholic Church is the work of divine providence, achieved through the prophecies of the prophets, through the Incarnation and the teaching of Christ, through the journeys of the Apostles, through the suffering, the crosses, the blood and death of the martyrs, through the admirable lives of the saints… When we see then, so much help on God’s part, so much progress and so much fruit, shall we hesitate to bury ourselves in the bosom of that Church? For beginning with the apostolic chair, down through successions of bishops, even to the open confession of all mankind, it has possessed the crown of teaching authority.
What a relief to have the Magisterium – a guide to rely on as we try to solve the enigma of life. What a comfort to know God that God the Father has not left us alone on the trek towards our heavenly goal. He has given us the best of teachers to carry us through. Can we fathom a parent who would not love his child enough to give him rules, boundaries and solid guidance?
We can also be grateful for the vibrant religious life that all Catholics, whether mindful of it or not, benefit from on a daily basis. The prayers and sacrifices of all of those clandestine saints tucked away in monasteries and convents are a tremendous help to us all, not to mention a testimony of the preeminence of gaining eternal life. When I was searching for the fullness of Christianity, I was troubled by the fact that the Protestant churches I was looking into almost never (with the exception of a rather wacky Anglican monastery I stumbled upon) had monasteries or convents associated with them, which was something that did not line up with the historical foundations of Christianity itself. If it weren’t for the tedious copying work of medieval monks, we would not have the Sacred Scriptures we have today.