Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why Am I Still A Catholic?

Given my assertions about the "True Church" last week, why do I continue to identify myself as a Catholic? The revelation I am called to share does not always mesh with the Church's doctrines and teachings. In so many ways, it would be sensible to part company. But there is something that continues to draw me to the Church. I know that God still desires for our paths to be intertwined.

Jesus is my role model in this task of reconciling the seemingly incompatible. He was born a Jew, lived as a Jew, and died a Jew. His purpose was to serve God and he did this as a Jew. Yes, his words and actions were often unorthodox for the Judaism of his time, but he never claimed to be anything other than a faithful Jew. Hence all of the stupid bumper stickers proclaiming "My boss is a Jewish carpenter."

And yet, Jesus' followers say that he intended to create a new religion separate from Judaism. While this might seem like wishful thinking on the Church's part, it is also easy to recognize Christianity as the logical extension of Jesus' teachings. Even if you deny him the omniscience of God, it is hard to believe that Jesus had no clue as to the path his apostles would take after his death.

So for better or worse, Christianity, not Judaism, is the family that Jesus left behind. And while none of the branches of the Christian family are the True Church, the one that most aspires to embrace God's family in all of its messy, chaotic, and thoroughly catholic glory, is the Catholic Church. Yes, I was born and raised in the faith, but this assessment is not the result of blind allegiance. Like most cradle Catholics, I am all too aware of the Church's many disappointments. Despite these flaws, however, it is still the best manifestation of God's family that I know.

And the place where I see this most clearly is the Communion of Saints, a teaching that insists that wherever we are going, we can only get there by traveling together. This truth is also the subject for a set of tapestries that hang in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels here in Los Angeles. What I love about them is that they depict the saints mingled together, ancient and new, famous and ordinary, regardless of “official” status. These tapestries, and the Truth they depict, tell me that the Catholic Church is something far greater and grander than an organization run by the Vatican.

"Family is not religion, but something far more powerful. It is not an organization to join, but a fellowship to accept. It is who we are at our very core. Family is birth, death, and all the joy and tragedy in between. We may run from it at moments, but we will never truly be apart from it."

Catholicism is the family that chose me in baptism, and that I chose in confirmation. The Church may be a dysfunctional family, but abandoning it won't make it any better, nor would doing so sever its ties to my mind, heart, and soul.

Again, I look to Jesus, who never abandoned his Jewishness. It was essential to his faithfulness to God's family, and yet he birthed something that is not Judaism. I cannot begin to imagine what the revelation I am called to share will produce. But I know that if I am to remain faithful to the family, I must continue to embrace my Catholicity.