Updated: Oct 6, 2021
Why are you Catholic? I get asked that question regularly. It usually comes with a look of confusion, often after a powerful, Christ-centered conversation. I think my Catholic identity is perplexing for some people because most people know me to be very serious about my faith… but Catholics have a reputation in some circles—and not a good one. So I usually just respond, “I’m Catholic because Jesus was Catholic.” Immediately, they tell me, “Jesus was a Jew.” That’s where I nod and explain that Jesus was BORN a Jew. But He died a Catholic, less than 24 hours after celebrating the first-ever Liturgy of the Eucharist and Catholic Mass (the Last Supper), where He commanded the first-ordained Catholic priests (the Apostles) to “Do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19) Sometimes people disagree. They don’t believe the Last Supper was a Liturgy of the Eucharist. So I just invite them to bring their Bible and come to a Mass with me sometime—to see if they spot any similarities. No one has accepted the invitation yet. Instead, most people move on to the next, most common question: “What about Mary?” I smile because I love talking about Mary. Before I can even answer, though, most people cut right to the chase and ask it more pointedly, “Why do Catholics worship Mary?” I always assure them that real Catholics do NOT worship Mary. We simply live the Gospel. In this case, John 2 and Luke 1. I tell them that Catholics approach Mary the same way the people at the Wedding at Cana approached Mary. (John 2) When they ran out of wine, they went to Mary, who in turn told Jesus about their problem. And it was Jesus who worked a miracle and changed water into wine. Then, I usually summarize John 2:4 for them. When Mary told Jesus about the shortage of wine, he said to her, “What does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” I remind them it wasn’t time for Jesus to work miracles yet, but at Mary’s request, Jesus actually changed his timetable for ministry. “This scripture shows that his momma has some clout,” I tell them. “So Catholics don’t worship Mary or pray to Mary. We go to Mary to ask her to pray for us.” That’s when people usually interject and say, “But what about the Hail Mary PRAYER?” Here, I remind them that the words of the Hail Mary “prayer” are actual, unabridged verses from scripture: “Hail, Mary, full of Grace. The Lord is with thee.” (Luke 1:28) “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” (Luke 1:42) I explain that, in the Hail Mary prayer, Catholics address Mary with the EXACT same words that Gabriel and Elizabeth used to address her in the Bible. But again, we address her like ones in need at the Wedding. Often, people will argue that there is more to the Hail Mary prayer than just those two lines. Of course, I give them credit where credit is due. It’s true. Those two lines are just the first half of the prayer. So, then I recite for them the second half of the prayer. I remind them the second half is merely a petition. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” They then say, “But wait. HOLY Mary??” And I say, “Yep. ‘Full of Grace’ (Luke 1:28) means holy.” Then they say, “But, Mother of God??” And I say, “Yep. Just like Elizabeth said, ‘the Mother of my Lord.’” (Luke1:43) I again remind them that the rest of the prayer (“Pray for us sinners…”) is simply living out the Wedding at Cana. Usually, at this point, they nod and say, “Yeah, but what about the Rosary?” I remind them, “The Rosary is just 50 Hail Mary’s recited while meditating on various parts of the Gospel. It’s incessant prayer—you know, kind of like when my kids go ‘Mom, mom, mom,’ all day.” Most people laugh at that because, well, everyone knows kids can be relentless. But then they keep asking questions. “Okay, but what about statues? Why do Catholics worship statues?” I always laugh at this one. I just can’t help myself. “Catholics do not worship statues,” I assure them. “Then why do they have them in church and pray by them?” they ask. I usually then reply with a question. “Why is the Lincoln Memorial in D.C.?” I ask. “And why do people consider it a place of respect and honor?” They’re usually quiet at this point, so I put it another way. “Why do people cherish photos of deceased relatives and hang them on the walls in their homes?” There’s usually a shrug and more silence. So I explain. “The Saints are our deceased brothers and sisters in Christ who have done much for our Church—just like Lincoln has done for our nation. Statues are just memorials and reminders.” For some reason, the topic of statues almost always leads back to the Eucharist. They ask, “Yeah, but you don’t REALLY believe Jesus is actually present in bread, do you?” Once again, I reply with a question. I ask them if they believe that Jesus is really God. Most of them say yes, so I remind them of John 4:24, which says, “God is spirit.” Then I ask them, “If it is believable that God, who is spirit, can come down and dwell in flesh, why is it hard to believe that he can come down and dwell in bread?” I remind them that, in both instances, the Creator enters creation. He entered flesh to be WITH us. He enters bread to be IN us. Then, I remind them that Jesus is clear in the Last Supper accounts found in Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, and Luke 22:19. He said, “This is my body.” I remind them that St. Paul also reiterated it in 1 Corinthians 11:24, in case there was any confusion. “This is my body.” Most people don’t want to continue talking about the Eucharist at this point. So they get to the heart of their real confusion. They finally pose the question that no one wants to ask, but everyone wants to know. “What about the scandals?” Here, I usually pause and sigh. This is the part of the conversation that hurts to talk about. So I tell them a parable. “There once was a woman who lived with her entire family (spouse, kids, parents, brothers, sisters, and cousins) in an old, beautiful house. The house had been in her family for years, passed down through many generations. “But then robbers came and broke into the house. There was a multitude of them. The robbers began abusing the family and destroying the house from within. Then they declared that THEY were the new owners of the house. Many of the woman’s family members left the house and ran for their lives. They found new homes in which to raise their families. And who could blame them. “But the woman stayed behind with a few brothers and sisters to fight the robbers and defend their home and the treasures within. They wouldn’t give up their home and vowed to endure all that was necessary in order to save their inheritance from a takeover.” Usually, people look at me with sadness as I tell that story. Then I beg them solemnly, “Please don’t confuse the robbers with the family.” Most everyone is respectful of that request and moves on to a different question. “So, then, do you think Catholicism is the only real form of Christianity?” “Of course not,” I tell them. “Of course not.” I explain that, to me, Christianity is like the military. There are many branches (denominations), but we are all fighting the same enemy and defending the same nation (Kingdom). “People might choose different churches,” I say. “But all true warriors will be victorious in the end.” That’s usually where I get the high-five and the “right on!” Then we circle back to the original Christ-centered conversation. And I love it. Because Catholicism gets a bad rap – a lot – but it almost ALWAYS stems from a misunderstanding. So I challenge my fellow Catholics (those who’ve stayed in the house) to really dig into 1 Peter 3:15. “Be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience...” I encourage you to “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15) But do not get defensive when you’re asked, “Why are you Catholic?” Instead, be excited, joyful, and enthusiastic about the opportunity to clear up any confusion—especially if it’s also an opportunity to connect with other Christ-centered warriors. Now more than ever, our Commander in Chief needs a united military. So be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3) “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body...” (1 Corinthians 12:13) Peace, friends.