“The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.” —G.K. Chesterton
So many of us in our analytical and methodological contemporary mindsets enter a new year by attempting to consider new ways of thinking about life and the various approaches we may wish to live it. “New Year thinking” seems invariably to lead us to “New Year doing.” It is an odd type of psychological and philosophical deliberation that usually lasts for a month or so and ends in a general state of thinking that nothing really new is going to come about.
Resolutions, when genuinely considered and thoughtfully—and yes, even spiritually—pursued, can indeed help one arrive at some basic challenges that may offer authentic matter for change. Such is the case when one starts to consider old or new life choices.
In reviewing various possibilities at the beginning of the new year, many times spiritual matters become uppermost in our thoughts. It seems to strike me, however, while we spend so much time trying to work through “eternal verities,” we have come to positions in our lives that we really do not know what the “truth” really is. I find that men and women have come to a point where the mysterious truths concerning the realities of life have become so personal and relative that we do not consider objective truth to have meaning and value in our thinking and our abilities to make real choices. Chesterton’s quote, listed above, holds little water when we have no reference to the basic question of Pontius Pilate: “What is truth?”
Catholicism for so many people is a matter of personal preference—from decoration of a church, to the reality of truth spoken in a homily, the promotion of the institutional Church and its hierarchy, the reality of dogma and doctrine as taught from sacred Scripture, the rigors of sacramental life and personal grace and holiness as part of the holiness that surrounds the Church in the world of today and on and on until Christ comes again in His Glory at the end of time. This is the truth that Chesterton and all the other teachers and Christian apologists have taught since the beginning of Christian history. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches the very basic foundations and realities of the Church for our clear understanding of how Jesus established the Church as a people gathered in the Father’s presence. (CCC #769)
The beauty and mystery of the Church is precisely that it is organic—it is ever old and ever new. It is this very sense of her being that allows us to live the truth of the Faith in every age. The Church speaks the truth in a universal way as She draws all people to the sacraments, most notably to the sacrament of the Eucharist—the sacrament of unity.
In our time, for instance, we are aware of people who somehow make a choice to step out of the Church. Nevertheless, many, if not most, find their way back home to the Mother Church—many times because simply, as Chesterton points out, “Catholicism is true.”
The Catechism teaches about the organic mystery of the Church:
The Church is in history, but at the same time, She transcends it. It is only with “the eyes of faith,” that one can see Her in Her visible reality and, at the same time, in Her spiritual reality as bearer of Divine Life.
The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth, His holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as a visible organization through which He communicates truth and peace to all men.” (CCC #770, 771)
“The Church will receive Her perfection only in the glory of heaven” at the time of Christ’s glorious return. Until that day, “the Church progresses on Her pilgrimage amidst this world’s persecutions and God’s consolations.” (St. Augustine: The City of God: 18ff; Lumen Gentium 8). Here below, She knows that She is in exile far from the Lord, and longs for the full coming of the Kingdom, when She will “be united in glory with her King.” The Church and, through her, the world, will not be perfected in glory without great trials. Only then will “all the just from the time of Adam, ‘from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,’ will be gathered together in the universal Church in the Father’s presence.” (CCC #769, LG #2)
We wait for Christ to come again and with faith. And we wait in joyful hope until Christ comes again—but the Church is gathered in love. We do not lose sight of the vision of glory, nor are we abandoned in the dark. We walk by faith with the light of Christ shining through His truth, guided by His Church. By the light and guidance of the Church, we will be led to the kingdom of our Father’s pure love.
Until Christ comes again in glory, I’ll see you at Sunday Mass.
MOST REVEREND WILLIAM PATRICK CALLAHAN
Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of La Crosse
Published in the March/April 2023 issue of Catholic Life Magazine