I just want to be Catholic. So what does that mean? Of course, these days, that has to be defined. It is difficult to imagine that what one means by the term “Catholic” has to be defined in this age. Yet, it does because so many claim the mantle and then deny much of what the Church teaches and practices, many being part of religious orders, priests, bishops and cardinals. Am I a “traditionalist”, a “progressive”, a “devout”, or a “catholyc”? It is apparent that we are placed into categories to divide us, rather than being united in one body, the Body of Christ, one Catholic Church. So, a Catholic is one who holds everything the Church proposes for our belief in matter of Faith and Morals, one who holds to traditions and Tradition, one who is devout in practice, one who is progressive only in aiding in building the Kingdom, who is obedient to the magisterial authority of his or her bishop and the pope. A “catholyc” is one who is not all of these, who is really in truth a protestant who is not honest enough to admit it to himself or herself, and which I am not.
I fit into no box as I am a member of the Body of Christ. I believe everything that the Church proposes for my belief in matters of Faith and Morals. I do not reject any dogma of the Faith as a matter of my own warped “conscience”, making myself my own god. My interpretation of Scripture depends on what the Church informs me the correct interpretation is, even if I fancy in my mind an interpretation could be something else. I know Jesus is present in the Eucharist. I know Jesus is in the confessional. I know that I have a reason to hope that when I die I might be able to spend eternity before the face of God in Heaven and I know that I might end up in hell, and that Heaven and hell are real. I take the words of Jesus as they are, even if He makes me squirm.
I know that being a Christian is not easy, that the bar is set high, and that I must strive to achieve that standard, not have it lowered and not costing me anything. I don’t want a trophy for just showing up, saying I believe in Jesus and thereby have my salvation “assured” and told no one really goes to hell. I am trying “to work out my salvation in fear and trembling,” trusting in the mercy of God and knowing that justice requires of me penance for the sins I have committed and will likely commit.
I just want to be Catholic. I want the fullness of the Truth, not have the Truth obscured, watered down, hidden and even denied to me, because it may hurt my feelings somehow. I can handle it. The Truth may hurt, but only if I resist. In accepting the Truth, I am set free to soar or to flounder on the wave-battered shoals. But being denied the full Truth, by having it hidden from me, others could take my freedom away and dash me on those shoals and deny me the opportunity to fly, my wings clipped, in “mercifully” not hurting my feelings. I want my feelings hurt, because that means that I know and understand that I have sinned and need to repent and pay for my sins. I don’t want to run from the Truth, I want to run to the Truth. I don’t want to change the Faith, I want it to change me.
I expect also that priests will celebrate the Mass, whether the Mass is the Tridentine Rite or the Ordinary Form, with reverence, with strict adherence to every detail the rubrics require, with all the respect the highest form of worship and praise we give to God demands and requires, and I do not want to be entertained. The sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross and offering Himself to the Father for the forgiveness of our sins, opening up Heaven for us, giving us the real hope of salvation, is not entertainment, and for all Catholics, this is the Mass. As a Catholic, I do not go to Mass to feel good, although that may be the result afterward by the grace I may receive as a gift.
I expect that those ordained to teach and defend the Truth will do just that, no more and no less. I expect even more that they do not hide the Faith or apologize for it, or deny any part of it. When they do fail to teach or defend the full Faith, when they hide or obscure the fullness of the Faith, apologize for it, or deny any aspect of the Faith, I expect myself to set them straight, not as I want the Faith to be but as it is. I expect the same from other lay Catholics, and I expect that those who don’t hold the full Faith publicly, who deny any dogma of the Faith publicly whether in speaking or writing to leave the Church. They can expect the derision and withering correction they will get. As a Catholic, I will defend the Church and the Faith.
I have heard directly and implicitly that I am not to confront any contradiction of the Faith, any denial of the Truth, any derogation of the liturgy or insults to the practice of the Faith, if it comes from a priest, a bishop, a cardinal or the pope, because it’s disrespectful and could cause a schism. To the contrary, sharing in the priesthood as we are taught, I have an obligation as well to them, and those in these positions of authority ought to know better and ought to know that they can expect what is to come. I, and those like me who are Catholics who actually care, deserve absolutely orthodox and zealous prelates and have a right to so expect and demand. I am a Catholic and if I wanted something else, the world offers me all kinds of half-truths, banalities, stupidities, and evil religions to choose from. I have a right to demand that those in the Church who have chosen those paths leave the Church, not twist it into what She is not from within. I am not going, and I am not going to be quiet about those who use their positions in the Church to cloth, feed and shelter themselves while working to undermine, diminish or destroy the Church or the Faith. It is not I who needs to be silenced and show respect. Respect is earned, as is scorn.
Am I too zealous? Mindful of what Jesus says that I cannot be lukewarm, knowing I cannot be cold, I have no other choice, and I want to be counted among the sheep when he separates the sheep from the goats.
I just want to be Catholic, and fully so.