What keeps you Catholic?
A Reflection for Monday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Find today’s readings here.
Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face. (Ps 24:6)
“What keeps you Catholic?”
I’ve been asked this question many times, and I think most other 21st-century Catholics have been in the same boat. After several decades of devastating church scandals, many of our non-Catholic friends are (understandably) confused about why we continue to stay.
This question makes my skin crawl, and not because I fault anyone who asks it for being dumbfounded. It’s because I almost never have an answer that feels satisfying, for me or for the asker. It feels like there’s nothing I can say that can possibly reconcile sex abuse scandals, political polarization and the exclusion of so many marginalized groups.
Today’s psalm, though, puts words to why I stay in the Catholic Church better than I ever have. It doesn’t excuse or explain away the hurt. It doesn’t concern itself with earthly power structures. It’s just about a people’s relationship with God—or, even more simply, the hope of one.
Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
Recognizing God, and letting God recognize you, is a lifelong and non-linear process.
The psalmist was likely writing with his own contemporaries in mind, but I know these people too. They are my family members, my friends, my teachers, my colleagues, the readers of America. They are the clear-eyed, devoted Catholics who want to know God. It’s no easy task. Recognizing God, and letting God recognize you, is a lifelong and non-linear process. You catch a glimpse, and then you lose sight of it. You try again (and again and again).
I won’t deny that I’ve been tempted to turn my back on the church. I suspect I’ll feel that pull away again in the future. But part of the reason I’m still here is because of the people I know and admire who keep their faces up, looking for the face of God. It’s because I want to be more like them. I’ve watched them not only trying to find something to believe in, but also taking matters into their own hands to make God’s promise of justice real in their families and communities.
I don’t stay Catholic because it’s easy for me. I don’t stay Catholic because prayer always comes naturally to me. I don’t stay Catholic because I think the institution is perfect. (We all know that’s not true.)
I stay Catholic because people I know and love are showing me the way. I stay Catholic because I want to get a glimpse of God’s work in my own life. I stay Catholic because I believe there’s something worth hoping for.
Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face. Here we are.