When I decided to become Catholic back in 1992, I did so primarily because I realized that the Church’s claims were true and I recognized that Jesus Christ wanted his followers to be united in the Catholic Church. However, I knew very little then what it meant to live as a Catholic. In the almost 18 years since I made that decision, I have come to realize that there are many, many great reasons to love living as a Catholic – reasons that I didn’t have a clue about when I first converted. These are not reasons why I became Catholic, but why I love being Catholic. Here are a few, in no particular order:
I accepted the truth of the claim that Jesus gave his apostles the power to forgive sins when I converted. However, I had no idea of the radical difference regular confession makes in one’s life. Even if I were to leave the Church (God forbid), I would still want to go to Confession just for the psychological benefits.
2) Daily Mass
The fact that Mass is celebrated every single day is an incredible blessing to the Church. Not only does it give us the opportunity to receive the Lord in the Eucharist each and every day, but we can know that thousands of Masses are being offered throughout the world all day, every day. Quite a comforting thought.
In the Methodist church where I grew up, we had one picture of Jesus tucked away in a downstairs hallway. Other than that, all our walls were bare and bland. Now, as a Catholic I can regularly experience artwork like this and allow it to bring me closer to our Lord in ways I would have never imagined before becoming Catholic.
Modern Americans are very materialistic. I am not talking about the sin of greed (although we do love that sin as well), I am talking about the fact that we only accept things we can touch and see. Catholicism, however, has a deep vein of mysticism which counters that tendency. The depths in which some saints have plumbed the divine life is incredible, and it does much to remind me that what I can see is only a small portion of reality.
I had no idea of the diversity of saints when I first became Catholic. After 20 centuries, we have had martyr saints, child saints, monk saints, married saints, priest saints, intellectual saints and every other type of saint that can be imagined. I have come to love reading the lives of the saints and find that each life I read helps me in some way to better understand how to follow our Lord.
6) The Church is not American
Of course I understood before I converted that the Church was “Catholic” and therefore spanned the globe. What I did not realize was the practical benefits of that reality. When I was Protestant, most of the spiritual books I read were by 20th century Americans. Now I read spiritual books by 16th century Spaniards, 4th century Egyptians, 19th century Italians and 20th century Frenchmen. This wide variety of sources opens my eyes to different aspects of God’s Love that I could never get from just modern American writers.
7) The ubiquity
Whenever we went on vacation growing up, we usually didn’t go to church on Sundays, because it was difficult to know which Methodist church in the area was similar enough to ours to be acceptable to us. It got even worse when I joined a non-denominational church in college. Now as a Catholic I can travel anywhere in this country and there is a Catholic church nearby I can attend without fear. Yes, it might be a bit “loopy”, but it still has the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our spiritual lives.
When I first started investigating Catholicism I remember reading a question and answer section in This Rock magazine. A non-Catholic saw people kneel before the Eucharist and asked: wasn’t that idolatry? I assumed the answer would explain that Catholics are not really worshiping the host and they could explain the kneeling in some other way (at this point I was sympathetic to Catholicism but didn’t know much about it). I was floored when the answer stated that Catholics do indeed worship the host – and that this was appropriate because the host was actually Jesus Christ. But even this knowledge didn’t prepare me for adoration; six months after I converted I attended adoration during a retreat and it was a life-changing experience. Now I can’t imagine living without the opportunity to adore our Lord in the Eucharist on a regular basis.
I’ll be honest: before I became Catholic I thought it was weird that Catholic priests could not be married. I had no conception of the value of celibacy or the witness it gave to the world. Over the years, however, I have come to see the great value of the witness of celibacy for everyone – celibates and non-celibates alike. Celibacy reminds us of heavenly realities (where we will be neither married nor given in marriage) as well as points us to the great beauty of chaste love, something sorely needed today.
When I went to funerals as a Protestant, I remember being frustrated that I could not pray for the dead person. It felt odd to be at a funeral and pray for the family, friends, and even co-workers, but not be able to pray for the person we were there for! But my theology didn’t allow it. Now that I am Catholic, I find great comfort in being able to pray for souls who have died, especially those who did not appear to live Catholic lives. Purgatory gives me great hope and tells me much about God’s mercy.
There are many other reasons I love being Catholic, but I’ll leave it to these ten for now. Feel free to add your own in the comments.