There seems to be a lot of reasons to not be Catholic in our day: there’s the risk of being marginalized by the secular society, ostracized through peer pressure and even made to feel bad about it indirectly through mainstream media. However, there are many ways that being Catholic makes a significant difference in our lives and below are just a few:
Faith: Accepting there’s more than meets the eye
Faith is such a basic and fundamental aspect of what makes Catholics (and many other believers) different so let’s just start here. Faith, in a nutshell, is about accepting something as true even though it can’t be seen or completely verified but not in a naïve way. In an age when we’re conscious of UV rays and make use of microwaves, radio waves and WIFI, it’s easier to be able to comprehend how things can be very real even though we can’t see or even understand much about them. It’s not the same as unicorns, dragons and flying spaghetti monsters.
Faith, in a nutshell, is about accepting something as true even though it can’t be seen or completely verified but not in a naïve way.
Faith opens up the possibility believing in those things that are not always very evident like good overcoming evil or believing in ourselves and, ultimately, God. Even when we and others stop believing in ourselves, there’s always Someone who still believes in us: God. And God is always looking out for our genuine best interests, no matter what.
Created for a Purpose: Meaning, Dignity, Direction
Belief in a Creator means that we are not just random accidents of nature but created with a purpose. It gives us a substantial foundation on which we can build the concept of human dignity and from which we can infer a concept of equality and human rights. It also means that life is not just a meaningless exercise but that all of life (including suffering) has meaning even though it’s not always obvious to us. Belief that we’re all heading somewhere beyond this life means that we’re not just wandering around aimlessly in life but that we have an ultimate goal to which we can direct all our efforts towards and which can help guide the decisions we make in life in light of it. In being created, we have also been chosen for a mission unique to each one of us and which God never stops calling us to.
Jesus: God in the flesh
For Catholics and many Christians, Jesus wasn’t just a good person or teacher or example; there’s much more to Jesus: God in human flesh walking, talking and mixing with the human race at a certain time and place (Israel, two thousand years ago) and not in an imaginary time or place. In Jesus, we see that God is not just a way to explain how the universe came to be nor does God just sit on a cloud uninterested about all that’s going on in our lives (the good and the bad) but that God is genuinely concerned with all that we’re going through. Each of us is individually that important to God.
Each of us is individually that important to God.
Moreover, in Jesus, God entered into even the messiest and most unpleasant aspects of human existence (even death) and overcame them giving us a real hope that, in Jesus, we can rise above anything that is thrown at us in life and come out stronger through it.
Sacraments: The Spiritual made Tangible
Spiritual experiences are, strictly speaking, non-physical because they touch that part of us that is beyond the physical dimension of our bodies and even beyond the mental and emotional too. At the same time, as Catholics, we have very many ways that we can experience God’s presence, love and action not just in abstract, intellectual or emotional ways but through physical means as well. The most important examples are the Sacraments and, in particular, the Eucharist. Other ways are through things such as Holy Water, statues, images and gestures such as the Sign of the Cross. There’s a great beauty that God can powerfully touch our minds, our hearts and our souls through things that appear so ordinary and that we, in our turn, can reach out for the invisible God in not just abstract but concrete ways too.
The Sacraments have been passed down from Jesus Christ Himself to the Apostles and then down two thousand years right to our day.
Moreover, the Sacraments have been passed down from Jesus Christ Himself to the Apostles and then down two thousand years right to our day. Even through turmoil, persecutions and trials, there’s been an unbroken link from Jesus through to the Apostles and down the ages to us. Jesus gave the sacraments to us so that we, with God’s help, can continue His saving work in making this world a truly better place.
There’s plenty more that could be discussed but these are just a few basic and broad ways that being Catholic makes a real difference in our lives. Maybe there could be a Part Two of this article or, even better, maybe you yourself can think of how being Catholic makes a personal difference for you in your own life.