The Catholic Church is all a-buzz about the rise of the "nones" or the "unaffiliated" in today's world. These are people who, when asked what their religious affiliation is, say "none". These include people who never had a religion, but they also consist of many ex-Catholics. Perhaps you yourself are one of these people and you may ask yourself, "why would I ever be (or go back to being) Catholic? What is the point? What can the church offer me that the world cannot?".
And these are actually great questions - ones that gave me pause. As a "cradle Catholic" (someone who grew up in the faith), I often take my membership for granted. After spending some time in thought, I wrote down many times when I am particularly grateful to be Catholic, but here are my top 5:
In times of heartache. Most people have a moment in their lifetime when they sink to the floor and bawl their eyes out (or they at least want to). This is a moment when you have no idea what to do next and you tell yourself no one on this Earth cares and or understands. These experiences make me so glad I have God. Because I know without a shadow of doubt that He cares. That He sees my tears, He knows my pain. I know that at that moment, I can put it all in God's hands because it's too much for me to handle. And I know that I never have to go it alone.
In times of regret. We all have times when we realize we really messed up and maybe hurt someone we love. And it hurts us too. We carry it around and we try to erase it from our memory, but it nags at us. In these moments I am grateful for the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation and forgiveness. I take the heavy burden of my failures and put them at the feet of Christ. I tell him how badly I messed up and how I want to be better and to be able to love myself again. And he reminds me how lovable I am...that he loves me to death (literally, on the cross). Through the priest, he tells me, "God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." And I walk out with a clean slate, feeling free at last.
In times of division. When we watch the news or scroll through social media, we see so much hate. We constantly hear about conflict between political parties, races, and nations and it's enough to make you sick. In these times I rejoice in the Catholic (meaning "Universal") Church which unifies people from every race, culture, language, and country. When I attend church on Sunday, it is the same sacrament that is taking place in every part of the world, in every language. We are united in our belief and have a common mission to love God and our fellow humans. That means helping the poor and the marginalized, and it also means taking care of our friends, and members of our families and faith communities who are hurting. And our relationship with God gives us the strength to be selfless. It is a school of love that aims to bring God's peace into the world.
In times of mundanity. Some periods in life are not bad, but they aren't great either. They just...are. And you want something more, you want to be moved! In these times I am grateful that I can see the awesomeness of God all around me. He is reflected in the complexity of space and living organisms, and shines through the work of a talented artist or an engineer. He is also in the richness of our church teaching and history and the genius of its logic. God's plan for humanity is an intricate web, that was woven at the dawn of creation and it provides an endless opportunity for discovery. There is inspiration all around me, and I soak it in with excitement and thanksgiving, and bubble over with eagerness to share with others.
In times of bliss. There are moments in our lives where we are on top of the world. We are on a complete high and we don't want it to end. In the back of our minds we start thinking about how we can make this last forever. In these times I am grateful for the chance I have to live in eternal happiness after this life. The highs of this world are fleeting, but we don't have to live for and chase this feeling. I see these highs as mere shadows of Heaven. For it is said, "eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9). The best is yet to come.
The truth is, whether I find myself happy or sad, bored or ashamed, I am grateful to be a Catholic. In all circumstances, God expresses His reckless love for me and I have come to see that most clearly through His holy Church. The introduction to and development in the Catholic faith has been my life's greatest blessing and I can't help but share this (perhaps new) perspective with you!