Following the happenings in the Catholic Church can be a heady endeavour. At times you want to pull your hair out and scream “enough!” It begins to weigh you down, and sucks all the energy from you. The rants no longer bring relief. The right-left bashing and incivility on the discussion boards seem meaningless and petty. People, get a life! And then that ever-present question starts to wind its way from deep within…so, why am I still a Catholic?
Last week, in the midst of my funk, I read a review on a book called Why Stay Catholic?Unexpected Answers to a Life-Changing Question by Michael Leach. (March 15, 2011). Thanks to the glories of my new iPad, I down-loaded the book in seconds and dug in. It’s format is very readable. This isn’t a heavy, theological tome trying to convince you with apologetics and dogmas. The chapters are short reflections, full of quotations from spiritual masters and ordinary folk. It’s an unabashedly optimistic and hopeful look at the good that is present in Catholicism, despite the sinfulness.
Here’s an example. The chapter is called “The Bethlehem Principle (There is Room in the Church for Everyone or There is Room for No One).”
There is room in the church for every pope and for everyone he corrects and for everyone who corrects him; for members of Call to Action and followers of Opus Dei; for those who receive communion on the pillow of their tongue and for those who prefer the cup of their palm; for those who save their money for a pilgrimage to Medjugorje and for those who blow it at Vegas; for sinners, saints, and fools…If there is not room for everyone, the church is not a home but a country club.
It was James Joyce who said “Catholicism means here comes everybody!” I need to be reminded of this when I feel weighed down with doctrinal walls and those who spend their energies building and fortifying them. I need to be reminded of this when small-minded pastors and bishops draw lines in the sand like bullies, daring anyone to step across. I need to be reminded of this when I get irritated with those who espouse ideologies and theologies that differ from mine. The Church is greater than our pettiness. And, we do a grave disservice to the Church when we try to judge who is in and who is out.
I love the serendipitous aspect of books – when the right book falls into your lap at the right time. Why Stay Catholic? is one of those books. Here’s to hope and optimism!