By: Natalie J. Plumb
On June 3, Elizabeth Scalia, also known as @TheAnchoress, publically challenged anyone with a web presence to explain why they remain a Catholic in the face of daily pressures that intimidate those who practice.
The question “Why are you Catholic?” comes up all the time, sometimes indirectly. When friends don’t understand a moral principle and are curious, they ask me. When my extended family doesn’t quite agree with the Church’s tradition, they say something. When a stranger who sees my business card has a problem with the Church, he’ll ask me, “What must that be like?”
“Why am I Catholic?” is a question I must be prepared to answer. If I’m not, I’m not the witness Christ calls me to be. In order to call myself Christian, and Catholic, I must not just have faith, but offer the reason for my faith to those who ask. That’s an inseparable part of the call.
“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15).
There are a multitude of reasons I choose to be Catholic. I could talk about any one of them in detail. But none of them stick out to me quite like forgiveness.
My faith enables me to have the strength to forgive when I don’t have it.
Many times in my life I have truly felt that I couldn’t forgive someone. I’ve been taken advantage of, robbed at gunpoint, “unfriended” (not on Facebook), ignored after multiple dates…what have you. (Believe me; I know I’m not alone.) These trials really hurt at the time and in my heart I knew it was not (yet) within my capacity to forgive. After allowing myself to feel the pain fully and acknowledge it, I envisioned myself physically placing it in the hands of Christ, who did the rest: He gave me the strength to forgive. He lifted the weight from my shoulders, the anxiety from my heart, and I felt renewed. I feel renewed. I truly hold no qualms when thinking about any of those situations anymore. And that’s not my doing, it’s His.
Being Catholic enables me to see the big picture in the story of my suffering.
Tied into my first point is this “problem of pain,” to which Catholicism has an excellent answer. What’s so beautiful about being a woman of faith is that my story never ends with pain, revenge or tears. I can take the fullness of forgiveness that God empowers me to have, and move forward. My faith teaches me to take my painful experiences that have required forgiveness, and to help others afflicted with the same trials. I can offer up my pain for the greater good.
As Pope Saint John Paul II once said to women who have had an abortion, the story doesn’t end there:
“With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life” (Evangelium Vitae, 99).
Being Catholic enables me to see others as I see myself, embracing both strengths and weaknesses.
Last but not least, when I overcome my trials and find forgiveness, I can have equal joy in good circumstances for others as I have for myself – even for those who have hurt me. This is not by my own power, will or strength. It is the Holy Spirit working. It is only through Him that I find this ability, only through my faith.
I love how the demon, Screwtape, describes to his nephew the way in which God – in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters known as “the Enemy” – designed us to see our accomplishments:
“The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favor that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor’s talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things” (Ch. 14).
Why am I Catholic? To echo Lewis again, I believe not because I see that my faith is true, but because through my faith, I see everything else.
Do you want to take Elizabeth Scalia’s challenge? I encourage you to write about why you remain a Catholic and to tag her @TheAnchoress, and us @arlingtonchurch and @nataliejplumb!
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