Updated: Sep 30, 2020
See that photo? That's you! Okay, maybe not actually you. But someone exactly like you! If you're Catholic (which I presume many of you reading this are), you have all experienced what that little baby is experiencing: Baptism. You may not remember it (I sure don't), but it was possibly the most important moment of your life.
When you think of the best and most important days of your life, what do you think of? Maybe your wedding day, the birth of your first child, the day you won the state tournament, or a graduation. Who knows? No matter what you think of, your Baptism should be right up there, because your Baptism was the day you became a Catholic.
This is something that I often take for granted. Catholicism has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I think I had about one month on earth before I was baptized, so I don't have any experience to compare it to. But the fact that all I've ever known is this "spiritual privilege" doesn't make it any less special! And make no mistake - being Catholic is a privilege.
Why? Easy. Our faith can be traced back to Jesus Christ. No fallen man established our Church; God Himself set us on our path. Because of that, we have over 2,000 years of rich history and Tradition.
Not all of that history has been good, but that just means we still have work to do! Just like we should never be satisfied with our own holiness, so too should we constantly strive to better the Church.
Hopefully, we've established why being Catholic is a good thing. Seems pretty obvious, so why am I highlighting this now? I touch on this because with a presidential election looming large, Catholicism is in the news for a few different reasons (not all of them good). This is not a political blog, and this is not a politically affiliated post. But we need to be willing to discuss and defend our faith when it comes under attack.
There are a number of Catholic teachings that are viewed unfavorably by popular opinion. Some of these have become hot-button political issues as well. There are so many misconceptions out there regarding what the Church actually teaches, and there has been a groundswell of anti-Catholic sentiment in recent months and years.
The Church's positions on abortion, homosexuality, immigration, care for creation, euthanasia, the sanctity of marriage, and numerous other issues are often unpopular with BOTH major American political parties. There is not a "Catholic party." No party fully represents the values of Catholicism, and that's the hard truth.
This anti-Catholic sentiment has seemed to become even more prevalent since the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. No matter where you stand in the political debate surrounding her nomination (and oh boy, is there ever a debate), Catholics should be concerned about some of the rhetoric used to describe her.
During a prior confirmation hearing, a US Senator told Judge Barrett that "dogma lives loudly within you," a comment that seemed to be an attack on her Catholic faith. In reality, that's not far from a complement to a practicing Catholic! Perhaps dogma isn't the best word, but we are called to let faith permeate every aspect of our lives.
Much has also been made of a tithing covenant Judge Barrett entered into. For those unfamiliar with tithing, it is the intentional practice of giving one's time, talent, and treasure back to the Church. A common form of this practice is the donation of the first 5 or 10% of one's monthly income to the Church: a perfectly normal, valid, and admirable form of charity.
Judge Barrett is just one example of this. We've seen numerous Catholic figures and politicians come under attack for their faith throughout American history. As far back as Al Smith (the Democratic nominee who lost to Herbert Hoover in 1928), there were jabs thrown at American Catholicism. It was alleged that Smith would answer to the pope rather than the Constitution, an accusation that was one of the major factors in his loss.
But how does this matter to you and me? It matters because we have been baptized. It matters because we, too, are Catholic. It matters because we should be proud to be Catholic. We are blessed to have the faith that we do, and we should be willing and able to defend the Church when it is attacked, verbally or otherwise.
If we profess to be Catholic (as we do at Sunday mass when we say the Nicene Creed), we should mean it. Our faith is not à la carte, where we can pick and choose the teachings we like and leave the rest by the wayside. We are called to defend them all! We should not be afraid to profess our faith publicly and boldly, because what we believe is worthy of being shared.
Don't be ashamed of your Catholic faith. Celebrate it, be proud of it, and be willing to share it! I've had some incredibly fruitful conversations with friends who had questions about my faith, and I wouldn't have had them if I wasn't willing to speak up.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6
May God bless you with courage, fortitude, and healthy pride. I hope to see you soon!