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14 Reasons I Returned to the Church

Durer’s “Adoration of the Trinity” captures some of the grandeur of Catholic faith
What keeps us in this fractious, frustrating, glorious, impossible Church?

1. Jesus is Lord

The incarnation is the pivot point of history. God became man so that man could become God. Once you understand and accept this it’s like a thunderclap.

I spent a long time not believing it. When I found myself no longer able to deny it, it was like door being opened to a new understanding of reality. I now had to measure everything in my life and my mind and my world against the certainty that the immaterial and transcendent Origin of all that is had chosen to bridge the gap between Himself and His creation in order to heal the broken bond with man and give us a very simple message: Love one another as I have loved you. God showed us his face.

And then he left us a Church, and Himself in the Eucharist.

2. Catholicism is true

It’s that simple. It’s not a matter of “belief.” Belief presumes that reality is optional and truth is a choice.

No such choice exists. (I would have chosen … something else.) As I tell my students: this is Truth. You either accept Truth, or you reject Truth. What you want to “believe” is wholly beside the point.

My whole life I looked for truth. I shed this faith as soon as I was able, along with what I saw to be its silliness, emptiness, and illogic. I thought I found a better model for reality in the god of the philosophers, but it did not suffice. Fifteen years after I lapsed, I was given a profound experience of the living God.

I doubted it. I resisted it. I applied reason and logic to understanding it, and reason and logic are what allowed me to come back. I was given the gift of a conversion experience through Christ, and the church gave me the tools to test it. And in testing it, I found my way home again.

The absolute last thing I wanted was to return to the Church of my childhood. I was out! I was free! I had no nostalgia for the church of my youth. The 1970s Church is utterly nostalgia proof, and if you encounter people pining wistfully for the good ole days of felt and guitars, give them a kick for me.

I didn’t want to go back. I had to go back. Other belief systems I’d studied had offered pieces of the truth, and I am wiser for having encountered them. Only one offers the fullness of the Truth.

3. It’s hard

The dumbest thing anti-religious people say is that religion is a crutch for the weak and feeble-minded. If I had to create a system of belief, this wouldn’t be it. I’d find something where I could sleep in on Sundays, ignore the needs of others, stick my genitals where-ever I want, lie a whole lot, treat my enemies without mercy, avoid contact with a lot of strangers I don’t like, and ignore this silly relationship with God thing.

Religion is hard.

Anything worth doing is hard.

The idea that, in the short span of a human life, you can invent yourself and your entire model of the universe is not merely hubris or vanity: it’s flat-out impossible. Even the most militant materialist borrows his system of belief from another, often buffet-style, taking those things that flatter his ego and speak to his desires. It’s certainly what I did.

We don’t invent knowledge. We find it and test it.

I did not create a belief system: I discovered it. It’s a system that allows me to see the world as it is, not as I wish it was.

5. Mystery is at the heart of human experience

Man is born to love the mysterious: the unanswered question, the unexplored frontier, the unknown. Modern man, however, is conditioned to hate the unknown. All questions, he is told, can be answered: indeed, they must be answered. Catholicism is a system that raises as many questions as it answers, and this keeps me on my toes. It embraces the mystery of life with a passion.

The priest holds aloft the thin wafer and says “This is my body.”

The skeptic says, “How? Why? No.”

I say, “God would not come to us in material form only to leave us hungry for His presence. ‘How’ does not matter. Yes.”


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