I was baptized as an infant into the Catholic Church, and valued my faith as a child and teenager. It was familiar, seemed to have a good message, offered purpose for this life, and hope for the life to come. I had no issue with Catholicism during my early years as a “cradle Catholic”. Then I went to college.
In college I began to question the big claims of Catholicism: God, objective morality and religious doctrine; and I became skeptical.
It’s not that I had thought hard about Catholicism’s claims and concluded there was no evidential basis for them; I just considered whether or not I could “get by” without them—without an authority outside myself—and I concluded I could. So I tried.
Choking out my religious inclinations with indifference and distractions as a young adult, however, ultimately lead to two things: despair and dissatisfaction.
Then I made a desperate move: I returned to the confessional.
I experienced a deep conversion of the heart that evening in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and I was re-possessed by a genuine sense of joy and innocence that I hadn’t known since childhood. I was immediately changed, inside and out (as my family who experienced my “before and after” firsthand will also attest). Leaving confession that night, I had no doubt that I had just encountered Christ in that priest.
I still, however, had questions.
My head’s conversion was not instantaneous like that of my heart; I underwent a long process of questioning, thinking and praying; and consequently my intellect seemed to come alive as I began to uncover the previously untapped genius of Catholicism.
I am now convinced that I can be nothing but Catholic if I wish to live a life of sanity (I am not implying that non-Catholics are insane, but only that a life contrary to what I know is true would not be a life of sanity). I am only interested in what is true and good; in fact, we all are—which is why no one likes to be the victim of a lie.
Deliberate indifference about Christianity, it seems to me, is just foolish. Its claims are too great and its historically-verified “power to convince” too strong. It must be considered—and seriously. As C.S. Lewis noted: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
Fantastic claims, however, do not make something true. The real question is: can these fantastic claims be backed by convincing evidence? And I think they can (which is why I remain Catholic). I believe the Catholic Church presents an explanation of the totality of reality more comprehensively and conclusively than any other. Yes, it seems the explanatory scope and power of Catholicism is unmatched by all other religions or worldviews:
Catholicism (and by “Catholicism” I mean the Church and her teachings) explains why there is something instead of nothing, and how that “something”—the universe—came into being from nothing.
It explains the evolution of the natural world by providing a transcendent, omnipotent First Cause without which all natural processes would be impossible. It explains the fine-tuning of the universe, and the ordered physical processes within it. It explains why humans exist and why humans are vastly unique from every other creature.
Catholicism also explains the order and beauty that surrounds us, our minds and our hearts that move us, and the human condition. It explains what a person is, and what a person is worth. It explains our inner sense of duty to do what is good—and also why we often don’t do what we ought. It explains the existence of objective right or wrong, and why all humans desire perfect happiness yet never find it in this life. It explains what marriage is and what it points towards. It explains why the happiest people in history were (and still are) Catholic saints.
Catholicism explains why Christian, Jewish and secular writers of antiquity thought it was important to write about a poor man from Nazareth named Jesus. It explains why innumerable biographies of this Jewish man—called “Gospels”—were copied furiously by scribes in the early ages, and why the monks frantically fought to preserve these copies when the threat of persecution arose. It explains why vicious persecutors of Christianity became martyrs for Christ, and why skeptics like James became leaders in the Church; and why hundreds of independent eyewitnesses claimed to see Jesus, alive and resurrected in glory, and why many were willing to die in their efforts to tell the world what they had witnessed. It explains the empty tomb.
Catholicism explains why early Christian writers unanimously wrote about a God who takes the form of bread, that He might mysteriously commune with His people; and why millions of sensible people today continue to uphold this radical Eucharistic claim. It explains why the New Testament is concealed in the Old, and the Old Testament is revealed in the New, and why the New Testament is the New Testament and should be accepted as such. It explains why exorcists believe in demons and demand with great seriousness that we do too.
Finally, Catholicism explains miracles: why the sun danced in Portugal, and why Lourdes has sent many of the sick home cured. It explains incorruptible bodies of saints—and it explains saints in general. It explains why the Catholic Church still stands strong after two thousand years of persecution, ridicule, corruption, heresy and doubt.
Indeed, by way of Catholicism, “that which I knew not what” has become Him Whom I Know.
Thus, I am convinced—inside and out—that the God of Christianity is real, along with His promises, and that only in Him will I find the fulfillment of all my desires.
I am also convinced that He has specifically and intentionally chosen to come to the men and women of this world in one profoundly mysterious place—the Catholic altar. This is, above all, why I remain Catholic.
Elizabeth Scalia from Patheos recently called all Catholic writers to post on “Why I Remain Catholic”, and to share these posts on social media and the rest of the net. This post is my contribution (and one of many!).