I am so often asked, “Why do you stay?” Meaning why do I stay a Catholic in a Church fraught with division, corruption, prejudice, power? The short answer is: The unity of the Eucharist. The longer answer is: There is a need for the questioning soul in this very human faith called Catholicism. In no way do I think my questioning of my faith helps others as much as it aligns me with the solid and, yes, holy company of others whose theology and spirituality leverage influence and some direction for all of us who look to follow the teachings of Christ. So, the community of believers is an important reason why I remain a committed Catholic. These believers are in almost every parish; they are part of organizations like FutureChurch and Catholic Call to Action, and St. Vincent de Paul Societies to name only a few. I study the pantheon of theologians who are deeply intellectual while still in touch with the human fragility that makes the every day life of millions of believers sometimes comforting and sometimes challenging. I stay for all of this.
The holiness I experience in many other believers who live the Beatitudes as a personal creed, like feeding the hungry in soup kitchens, engaging in parish trips to provide aid to poor countries, taking the elderly to doctor appointments, providing meals to grief-stricken families are examples of love as taught by Jesus. The amount of charity done by Catholic organizations and parishes in every diocese in the country is staggering. The social agencies of Roman Catholicism have always ranked the highest in American social concerns. I stay for this.
I know that some Catholic Charities have been compromised for their beliefs. In Philadelphia, Catholic Charities has been told not to allow gay couples the right to adopt children. This makes me question. But soon after, there were gay couples who managed to adopt through other channels and I am heartened by the Catholic groups supporting them. I stay for this.
This brings me to the elephant in the room. How should Catholics react to the recent question of President Biden’s worthiness of receiving the Eucharist because of his stand on abortion? Remember, this is not an excommunication; his diocesan leader can refuse to observe it. To his credit, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington said he will not refuse Biden Communion. Gregory is a brave man to go against some of his brother bishops who favor not administering Biden communion. But he also muddies the water for those more conservative bishops. The informed and non-political Church leaders who confront their hierarchical brothers are worth our attention and support. I stay for this.
My monthly prayer group of extraordinary women, mostly Catholic but also including the yeast of believers in other faiths, raise the bread of Eucharist by their kindness to each other and their willingness to learn as well as pray for the needs they bring to our table. I am overwhelmed by their insights and their prayer. I stay for this.
Each one of us has to decide why we stay in the faith we have chosen or in which we were raised. The key is that we need to make a meaningful choice. Often when we begin to seek a faith or belief, we are led to a religion. Never, ever be afraid or timid about becoming a believer in a religion. That community needs you, even if you are the quiet type, the non-joiner, the person who prays with others but likes to get to the parking lot without so much as a nod to anyone else. God will find a way to use you. If you are open-minded, willing to learn and most of all wanting to pray in community, you will be led to a fulfilling life in faith. And that will be the reason why you stay.
And never, ever stop questioning, discussing, learning. Every religion needs its thinkers, its revolutionaries, its challengers. Every ordinary believer needs to learn all he or she can about the faith they believe in. This learning will set you on the course of valid questioning and thus deeply appreciating the content of your faith. And this is why you will stay.
For this week, ask yourself if you have a deeper relationship with your faith and with Christ, in order to be a questioning, yet faithful member.
Think about asking someone in your parish or any parish if you can meet to learn more about faith or Jesus.
Do not be timid!!! I cannot tell you how often someone walked off the street to begin such a discussion with me when I was teaching and while I was director at a retreat house. Do it!!!
The first part of Matthew’s Gospel is the teaching part. You will find in Chapter 7, verse 7, “Ask, and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds, and for him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Reflect on this reading and take the initiative to ask, seek, and knock. May you know the power of God’s love!