To be a Christian is a difficult choice, and to be Catholic even more.
I was born in a catholic home, since I have memory, I have been visiting churches, attending to catholic funerals, visiting people with images and statues of the Virgin Mary in their homes, crucifixes and stamps of saints in a corner of each room. Grew up having an aunt who to call when I was in exam period so she would light a candle for my sake in benefit of my scores, people praying the Rosary, counting with a saint for diverse needs, so it was, perhaps, if you want, a cultural thing.
In that sentiment, the teachings of the christian life for me, and pretty much any other religion, were leaded by ideas like "be kind, don´t lie, don´t speak behind other´s back, respect the elderly, give to the needy and don´t sin", without much emphasis in the tone related to it. (I will go back to that last word later "sin").
That sounds actually pretty comfortable and civilized, very standard, and I was happy, I was living fine with myself and society, but then I grew up, and I ate the apple from the forbidden tree.
And I found myself at the foot of the cross. It is worth to mention that sometimes we are at the foot of the cross and not be able to look up to see the Christ hanging from it, dying for us, flowing His Mercy, eager for calming our thirst with the water of his pierced side and offering us salvation and protection with his most precious blood. But one day, by that same Mercy, we can be called to look up and everything will change for us.
Then I decided to be a Christian, a Catholic, not because my parents and the society I lived in thought me to, but because I had made a conscious choice. It was radical, no dilemma, I believe in God, Father Almighty, The Son and The Holy Spirit, I might get to know them later but today, I believe.
(In the images you can see two of my favorite art pieces "Eve after sin" and Fra Angelico "The Crucifix and S.Dominic kneeling).
So I decided to enter in the mystery of Christianity, and it was like when entering in a mega department store, (for using a very simple and vain image), I had everything possibly needed, so many items, groups, spiritual gurus, guides, books, the charisma, intellectuals, branches, spirituality, pros and counter parts and so much more, but, wanting to deepening in Catholicism was disturbing even, because there was then, as there is today, so much opposition from society, and to be clear even if the matrix of opinion is not gain for free, it has been earned, the biggest part of the rejection also comes from a veil of ignorance, that only can be set apart by will.
So this is the first pain to be a catholic nowadays, we live surrounded by Scandals!
I like to see the crimes of priests and bishops, like the oil leaks in the ocean. The ocean don´t stop to be a beautiful body of water above or under because of the leaks, because it is bigger than the stains, if you understand what I am trying to express. Or the creatures under don't stop been beautiful and colorful and confident in their creator even if there is a bunch of predators fisherman, they continue to exist and be beautiful...
Yes, the ones who didn't care of the pipes must find a solution at whatever cost to fix the atrocity over the sea and the affected, but it wont take away the work and years where there has been no leak. And not every pipe is leaking and not every dolphin is stained. On the contrary, many work together for cleaning and helping the damaged and with the damages. The civil volunteers, for example, are key.
A priest recently told me, "Yes, it is a scandal" and yet the scandal of love Jesus did for us will never be beaten, don´t forget that The Church is driven by The Spirit", me paraphrasing and I know then that if a scandal gets out its because The Spirit can´t in hold lies and corruption. It spits it out to make the deep transformations in us the children of God, the cells must be healthy.
But it took me time to understand because I was indeed, looking for the humanity of the church, of Catholicism, but again, there was me looking at the wood of the cross, is this cedar? Is this pine? cypress? But not the Christ in the cross. The same priest also told me "We are the vincent church in Christ who had risen from death in the Resurrection of Christ, but we come from the cross".
I was saying, the process was slow, like everything in His hands is never rushed. So the voice of Jesus Christ spoke stronger in the Gospel every Sunday. He was talking to me, not as part of the collective, the assembly, but to my person, calling me by my name. It was like I was a witness in the Baptism in the Jordan, when God said "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Mt. 3:17). And all the things that surrounded me where questioned and questioning me too, and at the same time many of those questionings were answered. Not in the form of a need or favors that were served, but of a relationship with Jesus.
But this doesn't really sound that difficult yet right? And here is when I am going back to the topic of sins.
The Catholic perspective of sin is perhaps very different from any other branch of Christianity and perhaps one of the most complexes, even more than other religions. It is very polemic too and it is resumed in this extract from St. John:
"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives" (1 John 1:8-10).
We believe in the reconciliation. We acknowledge ourselves as sinners, and we believe in the Mercy of God and in the redemption from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
And this is when the situation turn difficult because this is precisely one of the flag pole that pierce us more deeply: Sin and the sacrament of Reconciliation.
Among ourselves, Catholics, there are so many who says "I confess directly with God", "Why do I have to tell my things to a priest?" and the other denominations of Christians who shoot to the sacrament every time a priest commit a crime.
To speak the word SIN is like taboo among Christians of some other denominations and in the fear of scare away potential followers the word is sugar coated. In other congregations they seem to give more power to sin than to redemption, keeping people captive of fear, and they live in darkness. So we can´t agree even on that. But I am of the opinion that we have to talk about sin.
A child can be treated with sugar but a young adult and an adult must know what a sin is. Imagine your kind or yourself gets into a beach with many sharks in the waters and there is just a flag saying "be careful of some fishes, they could bite" A shark is a shark! A sin is a sin.
If we have to mild the nature of it, the truth is that, the softest it gets, the less awareness on how to take care of the soul will be. And we will be sent to sail away unprepared against the vanity of the world.
In another hand, the consciousness of our condition will male us see each other as equals, sinners. I am not better than you, because me too am a sinner. And I think, there would encourage even more people to live life in a positive and cheerful way with the eyes put in heaven, cause we all are called back to the final home.
And simply, we should be more bold to talk about sin because we have been re-conciliated with Our Father by the love of Christ and his freely accepted sacrifice for the redemption of? Precisely! OUR SINS. It is very clear.
The other difficult situations come when talking to other Christians about Virgin Mary mother of God and ours. How difficult and yet so easy could be to see why we venerate her. Some Christians say "you shouldn't venerate her because, according to them, she had more sons, others deny her virginity, and so many other insults that I don´t even want to repeat which by the way are very misogynous. Well she gave birth to Jesus and that should be enough. End of discussion? Pray for them so they can see. It is only that you don't see it, until you see it. While in this earth or after you will be tenderly embraced by her and then your soul will weep bitterly for not acknowledge her, but she will love you anyway and soothe your repented heart. But it hurts to love her and see your brothers reject her.
The other topics, The Holy Sacrament of Eucharist, our views on chastity, life and death, purgatory, sanctity, holiness, pictures of saints and devotions, the devil. The richness of the Catholic Church all over the planet, the poor and the rich. The mockery towards our practices, our priests and nuns, our members, of the people who pray the rosary.
Criticism of our holy places and sanctuaries. In television, in music, in movies. But in another hand, well, speak good or bad but let them speak. Well, I really find it challenging.
It hurts to hear "your priests are all hypocrites" knowing pastors who are pious and real followers of their call, amazing and loving missionaries. The Vatican is rotten, knowing it is not true, because The Vatican is a state city, but we all are the Roman Church, one body.
And when I think it is difficult to be a Catholic, there is when my faith burns and strengthen my hope in the last of Beatitudes. Or in St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:10 "That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong".
I think, If Peter denied Christ three times, Peter who lived with Him, and Judas sold Him what can we expect? But then, we must learn from the past, of course! Even from the past so far back and try to pursue the closer love, and not hide under the denials of Peter or the betrayals of Judas and the cowardly of Pilates. Those must be the flash light of the great no-no! Even if we know the Mercy overflows. We are urged to be brave and keep walking together.
In a world considered modern, which exigences are for "respect and equality" there are still martyrs because of Christ and there is where all the Christians must find union, must be united, must pursue union. And even there we have disagreements and quarrels.
I know that we Catholics can be arrogant and perhaps that is our biggest collective weakness, arrogance. How many times have I mocked the Pentecostal movement in my life? Really, even if I consider them weird, and they are the first attackers of the Catholicism, spreading fake stuff, I shouldn't mock them.
Another example "within my own kind", I am not charismatic at all! And feel a bit uncomfortable with all their singing and cheerful praises, while I know by heart they can be even more open to The Grace than myself, they are more open. I really find them so loving and joyful, I respect them, but in my heart I don´t understand their charisma, I do not hear His voice, I need silence.
I might be so dry for them! Who knows? or even they will just embrace me and try to "charismatize me" with sincere love and I will smile and give a hug or two but it is not my call. Just like music or art, expressions of the same notes or colors. God made us that way and He is never wrong. The point is, we are hard to open up. One thing I have learnt from so called atheists, is to be open to "come and see".
We shouldn't be afraid to meet Christ in others.The greatest challenges for us is to reach the unity in Christ. But He knew this too, that is why Paul could bring a message to the Corinthians, (again).
Maybe, it is time to mature. I might not see it happen while I live, but it will happen for sure, unity within Christianity even if it seems impossible. Christ has risen!
I can´t but bring up the 3: 12 of the first book of Corinthians to finish this post, which I invite you to meditate in hope:
" Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."