I love the abundant fullness of Catholicism. Nothing is missing. Christ supplies every need through His Church. There are no false dichotomies. There is no need to make choices between things that were never opposed to each other to begin with. For example:
There’s no need to make a choice between “religion” and “relationship.” All relationships have certain qualities that make them unique. A marriage relationship is different from a sibling relationship or a parent/child relationship. Each relationship has certain “ground rules” and characteristics that identify it. Christ gave us His Church so we could know how He wants us to uniquely relate to Him and vice versa. Being authentically Catholic is the same as having a personal relationship with Jesus. In fact, one can’t be any more personal than that. It’s both religion and relationship. Seems silly to try and separate the two. Properly lived, the religion is the relationship.
There’s no reason to choose whether to follow the Church or to follow the Bible. Catholics follow both, just like Christ intended. The Church and Her leaders came first. Then, members of that Church wrote some things down. Then, around the year 400, the Church leaders decided which of those writings were inspired and belonged in the Bible and which ones did not. The Catholic Church leaders and the Bible were never designed to be separated from each other as competing authorities. The two do not contradict each other, they complement each other. One without the other does not make sense. The Church and the Bible are both the same authority, Jesus Christ. Jesus does not restrict Himself to text on a page.
We don’t have to choose between “works” salvation and “faith” salvation. Salvation requires both faith and works. There is only one place in scripture where being saved “by faith alone” is mentioned, and those words are preceded by the words “not by” (James 2:24). “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Catholics are saved by grace. We do not earn salvation. It is a free gift of God. By cooperating with God’s grace we can have a living, working faith, not a dead one, if we so choose.
We have no need to decide whether or not the Lord’s Supper is merely a symbolic memorial, or if it is actually the body and blood of Jesus. It is both. The Holy Eucharist is a memorial to help us recall the sacrifice of Jesus. It is also the actual body and blood of Jesus present in the form of bread and wine. Catholics take Jesus at His word when He says we must eat His flesh and drink His blood, and again when He says of the bread and wine, “This is my body,” and “This is my blood.” He is our personal Lord and Savior. Why wouldn’t we believe He meant what He said?
Catholics don’t have to choose between confessing “straight to God” and confessing to a priest. When we confess our sins to a priest, we are confessing them to God as well. All of Catholicism goes “straight to God.” There is no “either/or” or detours. God is right there the whole time. The great part is that we get to hear God speak the words of absolution through the priest. It’s wonderful to ask God for forgiveness. It’s even better to hear God say through His priest, “You are forgiven.” And why wouldn’t a loving Father want His children to actually hear those words?
As a Catholic, I never need to choose between “going straight to God” and “praying to Mary or any saint.” It’s not as though I can hide my mouth behind my hand and whisper in a saint’s ear so that God can’t hear me. God knows I’m not worshipping that saint instead of Him or trying to go behind His back. I’m simply asking that saint, a person close to God, alive in Christ, and a member of the Church, the family of God to pray for me. How can the saints hear me? God works it out. No worries. He’s powerful, you know.
There is no need for the Catholic to choose between the symbolic nature of baptism and the saving power of baptism. It is both an outward sign of the new life in Christ and the actual process by which that grace is transmitted. That’s the beauty of all the sacraments. They show us outwardly what is taking place inwardly. Again, it’s all part of that personal relationship with Christ we Catholics have. Christ actually touches us through His Church, and we get to touch Him.
Catholicism is all so beautiful, powerful and personal. I have discovered that so many “either/or” choices I once debated within myself are resolved by the great “both/and” peacefulness of the Catholic Faith. This is why it is the “fullness of the Faith.” It contains the abundance of life Christ wants us to have. There’s no other relationship quite like it.
Beautiful post! You’re so right — “they were never opposed to begin with.” What is it about us that we always seem to seek some kind of drama or opposition to keep things spicy?
Thank you. Maybe it’s that pesky sin nature in us. 🙂
Fantastic! AS it also goes, “Do Catholics believe in the Bible?” “Yes, the entire Bible.” — not excerpts pulled out of context or one with seven books arbitrarily removed. — Tony
Oops, “as” is accidentally emphasized.
I love reading your blog Thomas! I hope to see more posts soon! 🙂 ~Christy
Thank you, Christy. My writing has tapered off of late, but I may be inspired to do more in the near future. Peace. 🙂
Question??? Do you think “Catholic” is a “religion” as we see “religion” in this day and age? For some reason I have never really thought of the Catholic Church as being my “religion.” I do not know why, it just has never entered into my life as such.
Since converting to the Church, from the moment I first stepped into it, the Catholic Church has always been the “Beauty of God” to me. I never saw His beauty until I became Catholic. To me, everything about God is in this one Church.
When I was a Protestant, no matter the Church, I could find “this” about God, or “that” about God, but never could I find His “completeness.” I mean people would often say to me, “Did you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit?” “God was surely there in the service this morning?” So on and so forth. I always thought, “Am I the “only one” not seeing or feeling this?”
When I stepped into the Catholic Church, I “saw” it all, and it was not a “feeling” I had. How do I incorporate this into a “religion?” Or do I need to. Is the “Beauty of God” in this Church, the “religion” in and of itself? Thanks for time to answer. God Bless, SR
I think people use the word “religion” in different ways. Some use “religion” to mean “earning one’s salvation through works.” Consequently, they use the word “religion” as a dirty word and set it in opposition to the word “relationship.” They will tell you, “You don’t need religion, you need relationship.” This is the false dichotomy I addressed in my post.
Jesus was a religious man. So were his parents. They followed the Jewish religion. In other words, their religious actions (works) were not geared towards earning salvation by following a certain formula. They followed their religion because they loved God, and they knew it was how God desired them to connect with Him.
I think it’s certainly possible to have religion without Christ. Such religion is an attempt to reach Heaven by our own means (like the tower of Babel). This is what people usually mean when they use “religion” as a dirty word.
But I don’t think we can have Christ without His religion. By “His religion” I mean all the ways He desires for us to connect with Him. We find all those things in the Catholic Church.
So, yes, I think you are on track by saying that all the beauty in the Catholic Church is the religion in and of itself. It is how Jesus desires us to intimately connect with Him. We didn’t climb up to Him. He reached down to us and gave us His Church so that we could be in a relationship with Him. To really know His Church is to really know Jesus.
We can’t separate authentic, Catholic religion from a relationship with Jesus. That’s like telling my spouse that I want the most intimate, personal relationship with her, but I don’t want the marriage to her. Properly understood, they are really the same thing.
Thank you so much for answering this, and also clearing it up for me. Somehow when you said it, it made “sense” to me. “It is how Jesus desires us to intimately connect with Him.” That put it all into place for me. Thanks so much, again! God Bless, SR