Last month, the Pew Research Center released a study that concluded that a lot of people have left and are leaving the Catholic Church. (You can read the study here.)
Since then, Catholics around the blogosphere have been writing about why they are and plan to stay Catholic. Elizabeth Scalia has been keeping track on Twitter, and she posts an awesome list here, which I’ve replicated below, and which grows every day.
I’ve hesitated writing my own #WhyIStayCatholic story, partly because I am busy, but also because I feel I don’t have the words to communicate it, and because I think, everyone has already said what I would say anyway.
Then I visited St Louis this weekend to hang out with my dear friend, Denise Bossert (you can read her #WhyIStayCatholic story here) and to scout out the Rome of the West for a possible The Faithful Traveler series. One thing I love about Denise, who–through the grace of God–has been in the Holy Land with me twice, is that we can experience the exact same thing and get two very different takeaways from it. I love how God makes us the same and yet different.
As I toured the amazing churches of the Archdiocese of St Louis and saw many amazing things, the answer slowly came to me. So, I present to you, my #WhyIStayCatholic story, in pictures.
What can I say about this man? He loves me more than I love myself. He loves ALL of us that way, even though none of us deserves it, we’re such children in our sinfulness. He suffered for me. He died for me. He is always waiting for me, to listen in this world of selfish people who just like to hear themselves speak. He’s always there, no matter what I do or how annoying I am, day after day after day, in this world in which everyone is annoyed at everything. He is my Lord and Savior, my best friend and my love. His love challenges me to be a better person, and without it, I know I would be dead. Literally.
A loving mother, an amazing example of womanhood and forgiveness, the Blessed Mother is my bosom friend and my Heavenly Mother all in one. I cry when I think about how much I love her, and my heart leaps at the hope that some day I might get to meet her. As The Faithful Traveler, I am also overjoyed to visit shrines dedicated to her or some of her many apparitions. She is always interceding for us, and those grateful for her intercession have created some awesome things in thanksgiving.
3. The Saints
The saints are my heroes–my inspirations in the drudgery of life. Their lives provide me with countless examples that YES I CAN get over this little annoyance or that big hurdle, because it’s been done before! Then there are those who have overcome so many obstacles I could never even imagine enduring, it is proof positive for me that nothing is impossible for God. To St Anthony, who always helps me find things. To St Rita, who reminds me to forgive. To St Faustina, who reminds me to trust. To Pope St John Paul II, who reminds me to not be afraid and who inspires me to continue working hard on The Faithful Traveler. To St Josemaria Escriva, who reminds me to work hard at everything I do, no matter how boring it is. To St Teresa of Avila, whose passion inspires me to struggle. I could go on and on and on… All you holy men and women, pray for us.
4. The Beauty
People so often complain about the horrible things that religion inspires.
WHAT ABOUT THE AMAZING THINGS THAT RELIGION INSPIRES?!
God inspires beauty in art in ways that nothing else has! Oh, and by the way, God made all those things you paint and draw, so, yeah… there’s that.
As I visited St Louis’ amazing Cathedral Basilica, which has the most mosaics in the world, I thought… “Dang! Someone sat there and cut every single one of those little pieces of stone, and then sorted them, and then someone else put them in their places, one by one by one…”
THAT IS LOVE. God inspired that.
Then later, as I toured the St Francis de Sales Oratory, with some of the most amazing stained glass windows I’ve seen and an altar that is so intricate, and carved from wood, it made me cry, I thought the same thing: God inspired this.
God is beauty, and he created it all around us, and He inspires us to create more. I just love that.
5. The Truth
With The Faithful Traveler, my mission is to encourage people to visit beautiful Catholic shrines and places of pilgrimage around the world. I believe that the history of the saints behind them and the art and architecture all raises our hearts and minds to heaven and makes us more open to hearing God’s voice. I hope–and I trust–that if I can just people to go to these places, God will touch their hearts in ways only He knows they need.
The awesome thing about the Catholic faith is that while some of us are blessed to visit the sacred sites in the Holy Land–where Jesus was born, where he lived, and where he was crucified, died, and raised from the dead–we don’t HAVE to go there to go to the holiest place on earth.
Step into any church where the Blessed Sacrament is housed, and Jesus is there, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. This weekend’s feast of Corpus Christi reminds us of that.
Ever wish you could just sit and talk to Jesus, person to person? You can. Go to an Adoration Chapel or just to a church. He’s there, in the monstrance or in the tabernacle.
Don’t believe it? Pray for faith. He will give it to you.
There are countless Eucharistic Miracles around the world–miracles that involved pieces of blessed bread–the Eucharist–miraculously transformed into human flesh and blood. Here’s one from my trip to Portugal last year, in the village of Santarrem.
6. The People
My faith is not built on the people of the Church, nor is it damaged by them. We are all of us sinners, so it would be foolish of me to expect perfection out of any human being–be they Catholic or not. Heck, I am far from perfect, so how could I expect more from anyone else?
I have met many Catholics who cause me to ask out loud: “WHY do you love this person, God?!” People like that make me angry and sad, because their hypocrisy gives Catholics a bad name and calls into question the credibility and truth of our faith.
Every now and then, I am blessed to meet people in whom I can see the face of Christ, and it is these people who cause me to thank God out loud for them, and who motivate me to keep trying to live my faith with hope and charity. The lady above is one of them.
Denise Bossert, a convert to the Catholic Church, is an answer to many years of prayer. She is someone with whom I can talk about God and talk about weight loss. We can talk about travel and eating, TV and movies, dogs and exercise. Clothes and hair. We pray together, laugh together, and experience new and fun things together. She is an amazing girlfriend and an awesome sister in Christ, and I feel so blessed–and completely unworthy–to be her friend. I’m waiting for her to realize how horrible I am any day now. Until then, I am grateful for her friendship and her prayers.
This weekend, I met many people like that, and I don’t know if it’s because people in St Louis ROCK, or because God was throwing me a bone after some difficult experiences with some not-so-Christ-like Catholics.
I met the remarkably hilarious and gorgeous Elizabeth Westhoff, who has now provided me with an answer to the lifelong question: if I ever met someone exactly like me, would I like her? The answer is: YOU LOVE HER!! Are you kidding?!
I met the super talented, humble, and equally hilarious Lisa Johnston, who I love and want to suck all the knowledge and artistic ability out of her head and put it into mine. (heh heh. If only it were possible!)
I met a ginormous house full of faithful Catholics in love with their faith at Gosserfest–a party with lots o’ beer and ice cream and pregnant ladies. (long story)
I met Danny, a parking lot attendant who was super nice and who was so proud of his church (the Old Cathedral), he let us park in a lot I wasn’t supposed to park in.
I met Chris, an ex-police office turned handyman, who knows so much about the St Francis de Sales Oratory, Denise and I thought he might have been an angel tour guide sent from God.
I met MaryAnn at the Shrine of St Joseph, who gave me a special tour in between weddings that included the room where a priest’s murder motivated the community to save the shrine.
Last but certainly not least, I met Father Anthony Ochoa at St Cecilia’s, the charismatic and faithful priest who celebrated Mass in Spanish for us, and who gave me the best travelers blessing I’ve ever received in my life (sorry, Deacon Greg! It was in Latin AND included holy water!). This fellow native San Diegan leads a church that has four Masses in Spanish and one in English and his parish loves him! I think it’s because he’s an awesome priest who loves Our Lord and it shows.
I forgot to add the amazingly awesome dinner I was blessed to attend with the Sisters of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Sister Adriane, Sister Guadalupe, Sister Teresa, and Sister Laura. This was a dinner of wonderful women, all of whom wanted to share their stories AND listen to the stories being shared. There was no pride or guile here! It was all love, and I was blessed to be a part of it.
Here’s a photo that Elizabeth took of the evening. Click on it for the best part. (I told you we are sistahs from anotha’ motha!)
I said I could go on and on…
I know that if I hadn’t been baptized as an infant, I am so headstrong and stupid, I would never have come to the Church on my own…
Well, I guess nothing is impossible with God.
Suffice it to say that I love my Church and I love my faith, and while I will never say that I will never leave the Church because I am stupid and sinful, and I know that I can make bad decisions every minute of my life, I can say this:
I hope to never leave the Catholic Church.
It is my home. It is the fullness of truth. It is the home of love.
I am sad for those who have left and will pray that they find their way back. But as for me, I ain’t goin’ nowhere.
The list (courtesy of Elizabeth Scalia)
WHO IS CHIMING IN?
Elizabeth Scalia: Why I Remain a Catholic, Pew Studies Be Damned!
Tod Worner: Why I Am NOT Leaving the Catholic Church
Denise Bossert: Why the foreigner remains Catholic … when she could have become almost anything else
Marge Fenelon: “Jesus doesn’t lie…”
Tom Zampino: Pews filled with the fallen, like me
Kate O’Hare: When you find the truth, you stop looking…
Swimming the Depths Keeping it short and sweet
Julie Davis: Boy, this is Easy!
Tom McDonald 14 Reasons!
John Stegeman at Catholic Telegraph: 4 Reasons…
Sarah Reinhard “I am healed…”
Leroy Huizenga : Hey, I just GOT here!
Notre Dame’s Tim O’Malley: “…this body of wounded lovers.”
Rick Rice at Brutally Honest: I am never, ever, ever leaving again…
Sherry Antonnetti: 50 Ways She Stays
Leticia Adams Jesus is Good to me…every day
Gregory Hillis: An Abiding Vision
Mudblood Catholic: Consoling or not? Yes.
DaTechGuy: Why on earth would I leave?
Katrina Fernandez: Will remain Catholic for beer
Maria Morera Johnson “Because I didn’t…”
Deidre Mundy: It is a church of both faith and reason
Erin Martin: The Ordinary Means of Salvation
Nick Senz: Don’t want Jesus to ask, “will you leave, too?”
Catholic Drinkie: The Holy Spirit nabbed me at 15
Michelle Arnold: God Only Knows…
Diane Korzeniewski: I need the sacraments!
Caitlin Marchand: I can trace every good thing in my life…
Sister Theresa: The Eucharist saved my life…
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry: The thing I know for sure…
Rebecca Hamilton: Christ hasn’t told me to leave…
Erin McCole Cupp: “Make me anything but Catholic!
With Open Hands: It’s the steadiness, the timelessness, the fearlessness
Matt Nelson: For Answers and the Eucharist, the ultimate answer
Patti Maguire Armstrong This one reason…
Kerry Weber: I’m sticking with a loving, global, imperfect church.”
Terry at Abbey-Roads The Holy Spirit grasped me…
Cay Gibson: A A Self-offering of Faith
Stefoodie: It’s because I am selfish
Catholic Science Geek: Miracles, Consistency…
Michael Boyle: “it’s the visceral catholicity, stupid!”
Brenda Becker: Why do I stay in my body?
Sister Eileen Connelly: a sense of connection that went beyond language and nationality.
Shelly Kelly: Family, Comfort, Discipleship, and…
Scott Eric Alt: Since becoming Catholic my life has been terrible, and I’m never leaving
Franciscan Mom It’s in my DNA
John F. Sullivan: the most consistent and coherent set of propositions I’ve encountered…
Cynthia Trainque: The Personal Connection with Jesus
Bill Burns I piddled around with a Unitarian Universalist congregation for a while, but…
Sarah Damm: One box opened another box, and then another
Kamilla Ludwig: An exhalation of burden
Kate Garbino: Three Popes in my lifetime, have taught me…
Monique Ocampo: Why This Cradle Catholic Is Choosing to Stay
Lisa Mladinich: Why Do I Stay in the Catholic Church?