Dear Fallen-Away Catholics: 10 Things You Should Know About What You Left Behind

Dear Fallen-Away Catholics,

Perhaps you left the Church because you disagreed with some doctrine. Or maybe you just gradually stopped going to Mass. Or maybe it was some combination of the two. Either way, you’re gone, and we really miss you and wish you would come back.

I myself never really discovered Catholicism until my mid-teenage years. I was really a fallen-away Catholic right from the get-go because I come from a family of fallen-away Catholics. My attendance at Mass and CCD was very spotty growing up. Then, just when I was ready to completely leave the Church, I experienced a powerful conversion that changed my life through the grace of God.

I say this to highlight the fact that I have not always been a devout Catholic. In no way do I desire to talk down to you or judge you, because I know how you feel. I was there. With that out of the way, I present to you the top ten things I wish I had known about Catholicism earlier.

10. CCD doesn’t even scratch the surface. Remember those dull days sitting in a church basement while some catechist read boring stuff to you and you wanted to be doing literally anything else? Well, that’s not Catholicism. Oftentimes, parishioners are pressured into teaching CCD and they might not be super well-informed about the faith themselves. Further, the materials used in CCD don’t get to the juicy stuff. Our faith is not merely a moral system, which is what CCD often reduces it to. There’s so more to it. Dive in. For AP-level CCD, visit this site.

9. The secular world biases us. This happens subconsciously. How often do secular news sources take a certain slant on the goings-on in the Church? How often do teachers and even some textbooks reveal their own biases and opinions on matters regarding the Church? Pretty soon, you have this general sense that Catholicism is just plain wrong, but you can’t point to any super specific examples because everything happened so subconsciously. I know because that is precisely what had happened to me. Here’s a challenge: next time the Church is in the news, read a secular article about it from, say the New York Times, and then read an article about it from a Catholic news source, such as the Catholic News Agency. Note the differences in assumptions the articles make and the topics they choose to focus on, as well as general themes.

8. You are allowed to question Catholic doctrine. In no way do I intend to belittle Catholic doctrine. What I mean to say is that you can and should look into the doctrines. You’re smart and you want answers to why the Church teaches what she does. I didn’t realize the following for a long time: the Church actually has reasons for her teachings. Her teachings are not arbitrary. Explanations of Catholic doctrine are widely available all over the Internet. Another important corollary point here: it’s okay if you have trouble accepting a doctrine. You can’t just flip a switch and say, “Yes, I accept this wholeheartedly.” You could say that, but it might not be genuine. Just be open to the possibility that Catholic doctrine x is true. You deserve time to research, think, and pray about it. God gave you reasoning capacities and a conscience; you were made to seek Truth.

7. There are passionate Catholics out there. It seems like a lot of Catholics are not passionate about their faith. Beyond Mass, participation levels in parish life can be quite low. With this sort of atmosphere, one can start to wonder if there’s something wrong with Catholicism. I come from one of the most irreligious states in the country, and even I’ve been able to find passionate Catholics here. There are many Catholics who are truly on fire for their faith, and the impact Catholicism has had on their lives is incredible: you just have to look in the right places. Go to a retreat or a Bible study, or volunteer at your parish. You’ll find them.

6. You don’t want to make your spiritual journey alone. We live in the age of the “spiritual but not religious” movement. Those with this mindset reject organized religion and espouse a merely personal spirituality. Before I truly discovered Catholicism, I kind of had some sort of a spiritual life going on, and I didn’t think I needed an organization of some sort to help me achieve my spiritual goals. Then when I became an active part of my parish, I realized how much more progress I made when I was with others and under the guidance of the Church. When we want to make academic progress, we go to a college where we earn a degree by fulfilling the requirements of our institution and learning from those wiser than us. No one questions this. Likewise, when we want to make spiritual progress, we go to a church where we follow moral teachings to the best of our ability and learn from those wiser than us. Further, having Catholic friends will help you stay on the straight and narrow.

5. Priests are sinners too. Many Catholics left the Church because of the sex abuse scandals and the Church’s response to them. Indeed, these scandals were a dark point in the history of the Catholic Church, and my heart goes out to all the victims. Naturally, people wondered, “How can we be part of a church whose leaders are so corrupt?” The sins of the priests who committed these crimes certainly delegitimized Catholicism in the minds of many. I’d like to make an important point here: priests are sinners too. In no way does that excuse their behavior, but it make it clearer how Catholicism can still be legitimate even when certain clergy have made serious mistakes. The Church is run by humans, and humans mess up. We can’t look at our clergy as gods on earth because that’s not what they are. Priest confess their sins to their fellow priests, by the way. Pope Francis goes to Confession too. Also, a side note: according to this article from the Washington Post, about 4% of priests are sex offenders. Again, I’m not excusing any of their crimes, but also according to this article, this proportion is consistent with estimates of sex offenders in other similar fields and other religions. What I mean to say is, it’s inexcusable that sex abuse happens, but it’s not a problem limited to the Catholic clergy.

4. The Catholic Church, est. 33 AD. The Catholic Church is old. We have an extremely rich body of teachings that have been in the making for 2000 years. So many brilliant minds (St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!) have been refining Catholic teachings for many, many years. Catholicism is “the original,” so to speak. Here’s how it went down: Jesus started His Church in 33 AD (but he didn’t call it that–it was the group of all his followers). The Church flourished an grew under an unbroken line of popes, beginning with St. Peter, His disciple. Then in 1517, Martin Luther decided the Church had been getting it wrong for 1500 years. (His disagreements went beyond the corruption in the Church at the time–that’s something your high school history class doesn’t usually mention. He disagreed with many intellectual points as well.) With Martin Luther came the Reformation, which saw the creation of various Protestant denominations that changed doctrines that had been in place since the earliest days of the Church. Basically, if you want to experience Christ’s Church as close as it was to when He started it, you need to be Catholic. (For more insight into what the early Church was like, I recommend the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch (circa 110 AD), St. Justin the Martyr (circa 110-165 AD), and St. Irenaeus of Lyons (circa 140-202 AD), just for starters.)

3. Catholicism is *really* intellectual. Sometimes religion is viewed as childish because it seems to require adherents to blindly follow rules. Hopefully it’s become evident from my earlier points that this is simply not the case with Catholicism. We have a vast body of 2000 years of writings that explain why we believe what we believe. Some of these writings get into some really hardcore philosophy. To see what I mean, try reading St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica.

2. Mass is really exciting when you know what’s going on. Before I truly discovered Catholicism, what I hated most about the Church was the Mass. It seemed so boring! What I was really lacking was proper context. I didn’t understand that the whole Mass is really centered around the miracle of the Eucharist. I didn’t understand that the Eucharist is a miracle. I had no context for any of the Scripture readings. I didn’t understand that the Mass is centuries old. It was kind of like walking into a movie for the last 5 minutes and trying to understand what was going on.

1. The Eucharist IS Jesus. This is, I would say, the mosimportant Catholic teaching. And somehow, I never learned this in CCD. (As I mentioned before, CCD totally does not scratch the surface.) As Catholics, we believe that the Eucharist really is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. At communion, we are literally eating Jesus. Upon hearing this, this sounds repulsive and somewhat batty. How could we be eating Jesus if communion clearly looks like bread? And do we really want to eat Jesus? Doesn’t that sound like cannibalism? There is so much to say about the mystery of the Eucharist. And, as I’ve mentioned time and time again in this post, we have 2000 years of brilliant minds that have given us the resources to understand why we believe what we believe. Below I’ve compiled some of the resources on the Eucharist that helped me the most as I was learning about this sacred mystery.

How what looks like bread can actually be Jesus

    Summary: Using Aristotle’s metaphysical theories (which were in place long before the time of Christ), while the Eucharist has the accidents of bread and wine, their substance changes from bread and wine to the Body and Blood of Christ when the priest utters the words of consecration. Basically, the appearance of the bread and wine remains the same while what it actually is changes. 

The Biblical basis for the Eucharist

Summary: Jesus tells us to eat of His Body and Blood. When those listening to Him leave in response, He doesn’t stop them and say, “It was just a symbol!!” Instead, He repeats Himself three times. 

The Old Testament foreshadowing of the Eucharist

Summary: Jesus’s sacrifice mirrors the Passover sacrifice of the Old Testament. For Passover, Jews sacrifice a lamb and then eat it for the forgiveness of their sins. Likewise, Jesus sacrifices Himself for the forgiveness of our sins, and we eat Him, the new lamb. 

What the Church Fathers thought of the Eucharist

Summary: The early Church believed in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. 

Eucharistic Miracles

Summary: Sometimes, miraculously, the Eucharist visually turns into flesh and blood.

Anyway, it’s my hope that this post has sparked your interest in Catholicism. Catholicism has made such a massive difference in my life for the better; let it transform your life too.

Yours Truly,

A Young-Adult Catholic

Advertisements

Eucharistic Adoration and Reverence

All right guys. I really need to rant about something.

So, I walked into Adoration today at my parish, and the elderly folks were essentially having social hour. Basically, there was an older gentleman talking (using an outdoor voice) to another older gentleman across the church. My first thought was, the priest must not have put the Eucharist in the monstrance yet. So I looked at the altar and was shocked that the Eucharist was already exposed.

C’mon now! The Maker of Heaven and Earth, who died for our sins, is on the altar, and your back is to Him and you’re talking loudly?????? I was appallllllllled by this. There were some other people in the church too, and all but a few seemed to be part of this conversation.

So I kneeled down to pray and assumed things would quiet down. But they didn’t. I mean, after about 5 minutes they did, but in what context is it acceptable to have a loud, non-Jesus-oriented conversation at Adoration while others are trying to pray? If you really want to talk, fine, but go in the vestibule (i.e., lobby type area), or even better, outside.

Okay, so let me try to give them the benefit of the doubt. First thought: maybe they can’t hear well. I would have had more sympathy for them if they were standing right next to each other speaking loudly. But no, they were across the church (approximately 4 yards apart, I’d say). Second thought: maybe they’re talking about serious Jesus-related stuff. Unlikely, based on how unsolemn they were acting and how unhushed their voices were. Third thought: maybe one of them is the one doing all the talking and the rest are just kind of politely listening and wishing he’d stop. But based on how barely anyone else was making an attempt at prayer (ie, they were looking at the guy talking), I think not.

What bugged me most about this situation was that Jesus was not being paid proper reverence.

I have several other secondary concerns with regard to this situation:

First, why does my generation get the bad wrap? My generation is the one branded as irreverent. If a teenager had done what they did, everyone would have been giving them dirty looks and basically would have shunned them out of the Catholic Church. Why is it okay when an older person does it?

Second, sometimes I get the sense that some (though certainly not all) older Catholics think I don’t really belong in their Catholic club. When I walked into Adoration, the group looked at me and then looked away without smiling or anything. (Much later, and older woman came in and gave me a big smile, which I reciprocated – she made me feel like I belonged.) It seems to me that a lot of old Catholics complain about the fact that few young people are involved in the Church…but I don’t feel like we’re wanted by them anyway.

Third, what if someone new to Adoration had walked in when I did? What sort of impression would they have of the Eucharist? Based on the perceived lack of reverence in that church, you would never know that Jesus was up on that altar, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

But onto that subject again: the fact that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist — I would expect the Adoration crowd to know that doctrine. Why the irreverence? If Jesus walked into the church, I would really, really hope that you would stop having a social hour and start having a Holy Hour. Well, guess what? Jesus is really, truly present in the Eucharist; for all intents and purposes, Jesus has walked in.

My best guess is that these people have temporarily forgotten the significance of the Eucharist. We must never, never, never forget that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

How to Wow a Catholic Girl

Hey guys! It’s your lucky day! As a Catholic female, I’m going to tell you what we like. Of course, I can’t possibly represent the entire Catholic female population, so consider that a disclaimer. This is a reflection of my and my friends’ opinions. 

What Women Want 

  • Someone who listens to them (and genuinely cares) 
  • Someone who makes them laugh
  • Someone who doesn’t put them down
  • Someone who gives them personal space (literally and figuratively)
  • Someone who supports them

What Catholic Women Want

  • Someone who lives his Catholic faith (This might just be me, but I notice little things too, like when a guy says “Shoot!” instead of a certain swear. I also notice when a guy says, “Oh my gosh!” instead of using the Lord’s name in vain. *swoon*)
  • Someone who is a “traditional gentleman.” Holding doors open, stuff like that. But not because you think the girl is too weak to do it herself–because that simply wouldn’t be true.
  • Someone interested in chastity. No hooking up, and nothing even remotely close to that. 
  • Someone who likes “good clean fun.” Board games, outdoor games, swing dancing (a Christian classic, lol)…
  • Someone who can admit they need Christ. I think men are sometimes pressured to act all tough and stuff, but it’s really more attractive for a man to depend on God. 

So, Catholic women, anything to add? Comment below!

“Catholic” Means “Universal” … even at a secular college!

Without disclosing where I go to college, let’s just say it’s highly secular…  

…which is why I was a little worried in the months leading to my college debut. 

Were my beliefs going to be questioned the minute I moved in? Were professors going to subtly bash religion? Would I be surrounded by ardent atheists? Would I be able to stand up to all of this?

All that worry for nothing! I’ve found my faith life mixing with my academic life and social life more than ever before at the wonderful secular college I now call home!

  1. People, especially agnostics, like to talk about religion. College (at least my college) isn’t like the regular world where people gasp when you mention the word “God” among them. People have a genuine intellectual curiosity, and they want to know the truth about the world. Talk about evangelization opportunities! 😀 So I go to Mass on Sundays with all my agnostic and almost-leaving-the-Church Catholic friends. 😀
  2. I do most of my studying at the Catholic Center. A lot of other people do too. So I’ve made a lot of good friends of all class years that way. Studying at the Catholic Center also puts me in the right place to go to activities at the Catholic Center that day, like Bible studies and discussion groups and daily Mass and guest speaker presentations. So my academic life is interspersed with study breaks that are spiritually fulfilling and often quite intellectual. 😀
  3. The Catholic Center also has a lot of social events. So while my peers are getting blacked-out-drunk on Friday and Saturday, I’m happily and soberly playing games, watching movies, and baking cookies at the Catholic Center. 😀

Now I know why “catholic” means “universal”! Catholicism works everywhere!   

Real Presence? Real Deal!

As Catholics, we sometimes take the Eucharist for granted. We take part in this incredible sacrament at least once a week, which sometimes makes us forget how special it is.

Many of our Protestant sisters and brothers don’t believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. They believe that Jesus gives us bread and wine to symbolically show his Sacrifice. But we Catholics believe that the Eucharist is literally, I repeat LITERALLY, the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I don’t really want to get into apologetics in this post, but if you want proof, check out John 6, the writings of the early church fathers and saints, metaphysics (explains how something can look like one thing but be another), and Eucharistic miracles.

Somehow, after all those years of religious ed, I never learned about the Real Presence. And I was paying attention in class too! So either A) I missed class on ALL the days they talked about it (unlikely), B) The teacher quickly mentioned it but didn’t make to big of a deal about it (possible), or C) the teacher didn’t mention it at all (also possible).

So then I have my Confirmation, God changes something in me, and all of the sudden I’m all Catholic and stuff. (I wasn’t really too Catholic before that–see my conversion story for more details. You kind find it on the menu on the left.) At that point I started researching Catholicism…and there was the Real Presence staring me in the face. And I had trouble accepting it for a while. After all, it IS pretty mind-boggling. After a lot of research, I started to accept it more. Then learning about Eucharistic miracles helped me. Prayer also helped. The biggest cause for my belief in the Real Presence was undoubtedly the faith in the Church I was granted during my Confirmation. I had my conversion experience in the Catholic Church. My life changed for the better because of a Catholic Sacrament. The Catholic Church teaches Truth, Real Presence included.

Then I started noticing life experiences that have lead me to believe further.

For example, why does if feel so special when you walk into a Catholic church, even when no one is sitting in the pews? Even when it’s dark in there? Shouldn’t it just be an empty room that elicits no feeling? No! Because Jesus is there in the tabernacle!

Why do I think to myself come Thursday or Friday, “Boy, I could really go for Mass about now!”

Why do I feel “off” if I go to Sunday Mass instead of my usual Saturday vigil? Why does seven days with out the Eucharist seem so much longer than six?

Why is sitting in Adoration for two hours not boring? Why is it so incredibly peaceful? Plain-old bread can’t do that.

Next time the Eucharistic minister or priest or deacon says, “The Body of Christ,” remember what you are consuming.

But don’t forget to say “Amen.” 🙂

Abortion (Cue Beethoven’s 5th)

Now that the appropriate mood is set….

I used to be pro-choice. (GASP!) As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t come from a highly-Catholic family, so my parents are kind of liberal. And so I was liberal for a long time.

But, as I explored the Catholic Church’s teachings and read up on abortion, I saw the light.

I believe there are two primary disconnects that cause such an acceptance of abortion.

1) It’s seen as human progress. You know, freeing the slaves, civil rights movement, abortion. SAY WHAT? Well, that’s how it’s taught in AP Gov. Those things are all taught as a part of civil rights and liberties. Doesn’t really sound like civil rights for the babies involved. 

2) People don’t actually know what happens in an abortion. When I read about it, I actually cried. It’s infuriating. In one method, the baby is killed by an injection of saline that burns him/her. In another method, the child is pretty much dismembered and taken out piece by piece. Gruesomely, his/her brains are literally sucked out of the head. For more on the procedures, see here. Even worse, it is likely that the baby can feel the pain. No one knows exactly how early on the baby can feel the pain, but apparently there have been studies that show the baby wriggling away from instruments. 

Why is Abortion Wrong?

I don’t care if you’re a Catholic, atheist, or anything in between. Your human reason and religious beliefs (if applicable) shouldn’t make this too hard to figure out. 

From a purely philosophical standpoint:

You are a functioning human being reading this blog post right now. Before that, you were a kid, before that you were a baby, before that you were in your mother’s womb, before that you were conceived. Based on the example of YOU, embryos are people. Destroying you as an embryo would have destroyed you as you know yourself today, a conventional human being. Killing an embryo kills a person. 

From a religious standpoint:

“Thou shalt not kill.” ‘Nuff said.

Also, as Catholics we believe that God has a plan for every person. These plans intertwine with the plans for others to form our beautiful lives. So, we’re at liberty to just remove a piece of the puzzle of humanity? (Clearly, God can adjust because He’s GOD, but seriously, who do we think we are?)

5 Things You Perhaps Had Never Considered Regarding Abortion

  1. Mary didn’t ask for an abortion. And Jesus was pretty much an unplanned pregnancy. Mary recognized that God’s will had to be done. After the angel Gabriel told her about her imminent pregnancy, she replied, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
  2. Planned Parenthood, which commits most abortion-murders, is in it to make money. Of course they’re going to encourage abortion and act like it’s normal. They’re going to claim they are trying to HELP women (even though they hurt baby women). Cha-ching. Don’t fall for that.
  3. The early Church fathers condemned abortion. The “Didache,” aka “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” dates back to the late first or early second century. This work was pretty much a catechism, which you can read in its entirety here. In chapter 2, it reads: “You shall not murder a child by an abortion nor kill that which is begotten.”
  4. The pro-life world is bigger than the news makes it out to be. Remember, most new sources are liberal. There is an annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.,where pro-lifers from around the country gather in a rally against abortion. 650,000 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_for_Life_(Washington,_D.C.) people attended this year. How does that not make the news!!!???
  5. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, was into eugenics. Eugenics is basically what Hitler was all about— the idea that certain groups of people, based on their physical features, are inferior to others. She was racist too, believing that those with light skin were superior to those with dark skin. She even spoke at Ku Klux Klan rallies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Sanger). And her organization sure has done a good job of killing black babies– it’s terrible. According to http://www.blackgenocide.org/black.html, black women are 5 times more likely to get an abortion than white women are. 

Bottom line: Abortion = bad

Loving God means loving what He creates.