Why I Remain Catholic

Can I tell you something private?

Living in an unequally yoked marriage is hard, y’all. Really, really hard. When you don’t agree with your spouse about what’s most important in life? Yeah. Hard.

There have been many times in the bleak loneliness in which I’ve thought that it would be easier to throw off my Catholicism and resume living secular life. I wasn’t raised Catholic; I spent years of my life espousing Wiccan, Pagan and Deist ideas. My parents aren’t religious. My spouse isn’t religious. You wanna know what keeps me Catholic?

I believe that the claims of the Catholic Church are true.

And my troubles? They’re nothing in comparison to the gift of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

towhomsmall

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Grounded in the Eucharist

Linking up today with Blessed Is She!

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My eyes bore into the wood grain on the table while my fingers trace the edges of the stray bottlecap from my open Fat Tire brew.

My father-in-law had gone into his familiar speech about why nearly every Christian in the world had misinterpreted Scripture because of a pesky little mistranslation of the word, “aionios”. If only people could understand their mistake then Christianity would become a very different thing. A correctly translated “aionios” read with simple reliance on the Holy Spirit free from denominational lenses would lead people to clearly see that there is no eternal Hell and no eternal Heaven, but only states of being that are endured for a time before giving way to other, non-defined states of being.

My father-in-law sounds very authoritative when he gives this speech. We listen dutifully. Oliver, the agnostic, has taken up care of the dishes and I have taken up the task of boring holes in the table with my eyes. I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable. Always an avoider of conflict, I am usually quick to agree with someone as soon as I possibly can. The eternity of Hell? Yeah, maybe I could waver on that.

An icy realization hits me. What if the Church is wrong, and our entire dogma is based on a series of biased mistranslations? What if everything I believe is off-kilter and I’ve just been a damn fool? I imagine my life turned upside down as I shed my denominational loyalty as a snake sheds its skin. Perhaps it should be just me n’ Jesus, as the Protestants say it should be.

I run through a mental checklist of everything that’s important to me and stop short as this Scripture emerges and trumps everything else:

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. John 6:53

The Eucharist.

As Catholics we believe that when we take the consecrated host into our bodies at Mass, we literally ingest the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. The Lord of Heaven and Earth, always meek and humble of heart, gives us the gift of not only forgiveness of sins and adoption as children of God, but his actual flesh and blood to eat as we are united in his one body through the bread of life.

In comparison to the issue of the reality of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, every other issue falls by the wayside. What use is conjecturing about the end times or the nature of the afterlife when there are more pressing issues at stake? When I encounter doubt, my love and belief in the Eucharist keeps me grounded and faithful to the teachings of the (nearly) only church which offers it.

We also have really cool Marian Apparitions, but that’s an issue for another time!

towhomsmall

On the Absence of Dad

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Happy Easter! With eyes that say, “hurry up and take the damn picture so I can let go of this kid’s arm!”

I was nervous about going to Mass this Easter with my littles in tow.

I usually go to a specific Mass, sit in my designated spot right next to a pillar (otherwise known as a toddler blockade). I go to this particular Mass because it’s typically not crowded and I sit behind a kind family always willing to grab my rambunctious toddler and hold on to her while I wrestle with the baby. I go to Mass alone, yes, but not always without help.

This Easter I had to attend Mass alone and with no helpers. I recall one moment in which Baby Cara was strapped to my chest and Lillian bumped her head on the pew as a result of a certain level of mischievousness and started screaming, suddenly in dire need of being picked up and comforted. I had a baby on my chest, a toddler on my hip and sweat on my brow. Other parishioners couldn’t help but observing, “you have your hands full, don’t you?” My reply, “Yeah, it would be a great time for my husband to convert!”

There are occasions at Mass when I see families attending together and my heart aches. At moments like that it’s helpful to remember how lucky I am to be at Mass a baptized Catholic.

God spent years tending to little seeds planted in my bitter heart to bring me to this place. The fact that kneel before the blessed Sacrament and sing Alleluia every week without a hint of cynicism or irony while earnestly trying to quiet babies and occasionally hissing at a toddler through clenched teeth is a blessed miracle!

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Rebekah’s First (illicit) Communion

olgI returned to my pew after receiving the body of Christ in communion and glanced sideways at my 10 year old, non-Catholic niece. She was holding the host in her hand as she whispered to me, “what do I do with this?” After dragging my jaw up off the floor I said, simply, “eat it.” She put the edge of the host in her mouth and broke a piece off. “Eat it!” I said, “It’s Jesus! Put the whole thing in your mouth and chew it and swallow it quick!” Before communion I had told her, “cross your arms over your chest so you can receive a blessing. Only Catholics can take the bread, but you can receive the blessing.” She got flustered when she made it in front of Father Paul and forgot what to do, and he put the host in her hand. So goes Rebekah’s first communion.

I had my first communion the same way and at the same age, but less innocently. I’d lived my life on the periphery of my family’s Catholic culture, one of those unbaptized babies whose parents say, “when you grow up you can decide.” To me it felt less like choice and more like being left out. Communion was this exotic thing that all my cousins got to do while my brothers and I kept our aching knees on the kneeler. My chance came while attending my aunt’s wedding. My slightly devious cousin whispered to me as people started forming a line, “come with me.” I agreed. Emily has always been the daring leader of our little posse while I have been the creative director. I wasn’t about to question her authority when the request echoed my own desires. I got in line behind Emily and she told me what to do.

I piled one hand on top of the other, slightly cupped. When the priest said, “Body of Christ,” I spat out an Amen and shoved that wafer right in my mouth, imbibing the God I’d always been denied.

The moment of my first, clandestine communion was one of those moments which seemed to come by chance or by force. In hindsight I see the moment dripping in the grace of God who tells the little children, “come.” I hope it can be the same way for my niece, whether she ever knows it or not.

Yet just as from the heavens

the rain and snow come down

And do not return there

till they have watered the earth,

making it fertile and fruitful,

Giving seed to the one who sows

and bread to the one who eats,

So shall my word be

that goes forth from my mouth;

It shall not return to me empty,

but shall do what pleases me,

achieving the end for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11-12

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Rebekah: “Is he the patron saint of squirrels?”