WelCom April 2021
When I’m asked why I am a Catholic, the simplest answer is: ‘Because it works’.
Sometimes, that hasn’t been enough. People have wanted detail, a comprehensive answer to their ‘why?’
The explanation can be long and tedious. Do they want a personal journey?
Or something about Catholic teaching?
It is one thing to talk about structure and ethos, but almost impossible to describe the fullness of mystery in the Catholic Faith.
You have to be on the inside to experience that.
I have borrowed from the gospels. ‘Jesus spoke all things in parables’ and I’ve said, ‘If you compare the Catholic Church with a system of education, you will have a journey from kindergarten to PhD and beyond.
‘The eternal tutor is the Sacred Presence that is recognised by all religions.
‘In the Catholic Church, we describe it as the trinity of Father, Son and Hoy Spirit. These are not proper nouns as we usually understand names.
‘Rather, they are verbs and adjectives, indicators of the ways the Sacred Presence works with us.
‘The beyond mentioned in the education system is a place of spiritual fullness. It is a connection with the Sacred Presence that cannot be adequately described in words.
‘But it often feels like deep expansive love.’
So that’s it, an explanation I’ve used when someone without a religious background, has wanted to know why I became a Catholic.
But that kind of answer is limited.
A parable or metaphor is like a torchlight on a dark wall. It has a specific illustration.
Recently, after I had used the education image to describe spiritual growth, I reflected on the role of the priest.
I tried to imagine what it would be like to stand up in front of a hundred or more parishioners, ranging from primary school to university.
Each person has a unique life story, each one is God’s favourite, and each has the expectation of what she or he will receive from the priest’s homily.
The image was daunting.
How did it all come together?
I knew the answer as soon as I asked the question.
Eucharist, of course! That’s when it came together!
That’s when the doors of beyond open and everyone is in the same place.
There is no separation.
After Holy Communion, we file back to our seats. There is mystery on faces and a stillness that holds us together.
Have we been changed?
Or is this who we truly are?
We don’t know, and not knowing doesn’t matter.
The beyond is a place of ‘isness’.
It is a holy place, and we are in it.
In consuming, we have been consumed.
We come back to words with the farewell hymn, church notices, and then it’s a cup of tea and catch up.
We’ll be back next Sunday.
That’s the way it is.
So how should I answer the ‘why’ question?
I think I’ll let go of the education analogy.
I’ll stop trying to explain.
When someone asks me why I’m a Catholic, I’ll stay with the first response.
‘Because it works.’
Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.