There are some questions in this world that are just hard to answer, especially in 1200 words or less (as a general rule I try to keep my blogs under 1200 words).
(Also, as a general rule, I usually fail).
One of those questions is, “Why do you remain a Catholic?” Building off some responses to a recent Pew study that purports to demonstrate that Catholics are leaving the Church in droves, Elizabeth Scalia over at Patheos (aka, The Anchoress) has challenged Catholics on the Internet to answer that question in whatever form is available to them, whether a blog, a tweet, a facebook post, or what have you. I am not overly troubled by this study or that study. If I have learned one thing from studying statistics in college it is that when you reduce human realities to numbers, you no longer reflect the important parts of that reality. Also, I want to ask the writer of the article to define “droves.”
Also, it doesn’t really matter, in one sense, whether everyone else leaves the Church or not. Of course it matters very much to them and to their salvation, and since I am my brother’s keeper it matters very much to me. But it does not matter in the sense that it does not change my responsibility. I will still remain with the Church as long as God gives me the grace to do so. In the words of Joshua, “As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Screw what everybody else is doing. They will come round eventually.
Why? Why remain Catholic when everyone else is leaving or just going through the motions? (Not that everyone else is leaving or going through the motions, but hypothetically?) Because…
Everything! That’s like asking “Why do you love your wife?” It is unanswerable, both because there are (or ought to be) too many answers, and also because all of those answers remain somehow inadequate.
If someone can say, “I love her because of A, B, & C,” I would suspect that what they really love is not the woman, that human being, that indefinable and yet definite, that unutterably unique utterance of the Holy Trinity. What they really love is A, B, & C. “I love her because she cooks like Emeril, she has great conversational skills, and she likes playing tiddly-winks with me.” Yes, but what if gets cancer and she stops cooking, talking and tiddling? Will you still love her?”
The Church is not an institution, the Church is a person. The Church is the mystical body of Christ, and as such she must be loved as a person. That is, I do not love simply this or that thing about her, (although there are innumerable things that I love about the Church), but I love Her, insofar as it is given my poor powers to apprehend who she is.
If I had to distill all of that down to a single Image it would be this:
But again, this is not a picture of a “what” but a “Who.” When I kneel before the Blessed Sacrament I do so with the absolute conviction that that piece of white stuff that looks like bread is in Holy and Merciful Reality, Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, fully contained in Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. That is my conviction, and it is based not on my intellect, on my arguments, on my research or on my feelings or anything else. All of those things support that conviction, but they are not that conviction, because all those things are of me, and therefore changeable and fickle.
No, this conviction is the first example I have ever known in my life of Faith, the supernatural gift of knowledge of the truths of our Religion. The knowledge that the Host is God is given to me by God. I worship because I believe, but it is also true to say that I believe because I worshiped.
An agnostic I know once asked me if I heard God speaking to me when I prayed in front of the tabernacle. When he tried to pray (he was raised Catholic) he heard nothing, and he wanted to know what I heard. I had to tell him that I also hear nothing when I pray. I try to listen but silence is mostly what I hear. However, I trust that He is speaking, at a level too deep for my ears, and I find that after trying to listen for a very long time, years, decades even, I am changed. Something has happened in that time and I am different. The change looks a lot like what I would expect to see if I had heard, and so I keep listening.
Outside the Church there is no Eucharist. Therefore I shall not leave. End of story.