I am a practicing Roman Catholic. This is the religion that I knew growing up, the religion my family belonged to, and the religion I was baptized into as an infant. As a child, Mass truly bored me. I honestly couldn’t think of a more perfect way to waste an hour. Even though I didn’t get much out of the weekly Mass on Sunday mornings, I was always deeply intrigued with the sacraments, especially with regards to the Eucharist and the physical communion with the Body and Blood of Christ.
As I grew, I did begin to appreciate what the Mass had to offer as a whole. When my parents stopped attending Mass on a weekly basis, I would drive down to join Mass with my grandparents and my aunt Mary. At the age of sixteen, I considered a calling to become a priest. My parents were not pleased in the slightest about this possibility. Only my grandmother was supportive of this idea at the time. When push came to shove though, I ultimately decided against it at the time, primarily due to fear. I honestly didn’t know if I could give my life completely to God as the way that a priest must… a life of poverty, celibacy, and charity.
Many of my friends find my faith to be most intriguing, as I am a Roman Catholic and I am also gay. Many just don’t understand how that works. I don’t blame them. Too often, primarily in southern America, numerous Christian groups (i.e. Fundamentalists) in general give a misleading and terrible name to Christianity. These people will claim to be devout in their Christian beliefs, yet act completely un-Christ-like. Don’t get me wrong… I don’t think these people are evil. I just think they do what they feel is best; I just don’t agree with it.
The major flaw I see in Fundamentalism is the fact that there is no room in that way of thinking for logic or reason. All too often these people rely solely on the Bible for everything. They love to quote Bible verses, typically only Old Testament verses at that, and condemn people to hell. As much emphasis as Fundamentalists place on the Bible, I’m sure that in time these people will discover the New Testament, the one about Christ and His teachings… and then possibly lead a life of loving their neighbors, accepting people for the way God created them (in His own image), forgiving those who have trespassed against them… you know… the things that Christ taught.
While Fundamentalism may have tarnished many people’s opinions about Christianity and what it is about, most Christians are not like that. Catholicism is no different. Yes, there are plenty of people who do give a bad name to Catholicism, but most Catholics are not like that. Most Catholics are truly very loving, accepting, and forgiving (just as most Christians.)
At one point in my life for several years, I too mistakenly believed that the religion that I had grown-up with (Roman Catholicism) was close-minded and judgmental. Not only had I stopped practicing Catholicism, I had turned my back completely from God. In retrospect, those were truly the most miserable years of my life. I couldn’t stand dealing with all the crap life continuously dished out. I wanted out; I yearned for death. I just couldn’t reconcile my misconceptions with the Church and homosexuality.
I eventually met the love of my life, Jimmy, who also happened to be a gay Roman Catholic… the only difference between us was he hadn’t turned his back on God, I did. I then made a commitment to myself to never turn my back to God again and return to the Catholic Church. I went to confession (the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation) for the first time in several years in June of 2006. I repented all my sins, of which there seemed to be countless number of, and then something amazing happened. What I experienced at that confession was nearly as powerful as St. Paul’s conversion on his road to Damascus. I was enlightened into a new state of mind by what I believe to be the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now that I’m back to being a practicing Catholic, I honestly have never been happier. I try to live the life that Christ taught, and I stumble with it on a daily basis. I often sin against others and God, but I’m recognizing my faults quicker and trying to overcome them. I hope that one day I can truly be the good person my grandmother always thought I was.
Often, I’m asked questions dealing with Catholicism and what it’s about. Allow me to address just a few of the most common ones now.
|Question:||Are Catholic beliefs found in the Bible?|
|Answer:||I always get a kick out of this one. All Catholic beliefs can be found in the Bible in some form, whether plainly or by an indirect indication. It’s not necessary for everything to be completely clear in Scripture alone, because that is not a teaching of Scripture itself. When the first Christians had a disagreement, they didn’t whip out their Bibles to decide what was right… Bibles didn’t even exist at that point. The very books of the Bible had yet to be determined by the Catholic Church, which didn’t even happen until the fourth century. The early Christians would settle disagreements and decide what was right by holding councils; not by relying on Scripture alone.|
|Question:||Why do you obey the Pope?|
|Answer:||Catholics believe that Christ commissioned St. Peter as the first leader of His Church as found in the Gospel of Matthew: “And I tell you, you are Peter [literally meaning “rock”], and on this rock I will build my church… I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. A pope can make infallible, binding decisions under very strict and certain circumstances, but that in no way means that pope is free of error or sin. Think about it… Christians in general believe that God protected Holy Scripture from error by means of inspiration, even though sinful, fallible men wrote it. We Catholics also believe that God protects the head of His Church from error in these very strict and certain circumstances, even though a pope is but a man, sinful and imperfect.|
|Question:||Why do you confess your sins to a priest?|
|Answer:||According to the Gospel of Matthew again, Christ gave His disciples the power not only to “loose” sins (forgive in God’s name), but also to “bind” (impose penances): “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Also in the Gospel of John: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Priests have had this privilege passed by the power of the Holy Spirit (from Pentecost – the descent of the Holy Spirit after Christ ascended into heaven) on to them from generation to generation, all beginning with the apostles.|
|Question:||Why do you worship Mary?|
|Answer:||Catholics do not worship Mary. We venerate her because she is the mother of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. Veneration and adoration of God are two completely separate things. Venerating Mary or even a saint for that matter is simply honoring that person. It is not the same as worshiping God. The very fact that God took on human flesh and became man indicates that He wished to involve human beings in His plan of salvation for mankind. Mary was a key person for this purpose, so this is why Catholics honor her so highly.|