Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"The Father Factor" of Catholicism

One of the aspects of Catholicism that I had forgotten about is what I call "The Father Factor."

Catholicism isn't for wimps. Don't expect to be a whiner and get away with it for long, especially if you're around a Mother Angelica type. I was raised by a bunch of those types. I remember a nun watching impassively as a fellow student slammed me in the face with her notebook. It was as though she was saying, Look, kid. It doesn't get any easier in the real world. In fact, this is your real world. You have a choice but I'm not gonna be the one to save your sorry little butt...

I learned self-sufficiency from that nun and many others. Yes, we are to entreat the throne, yada, yada - but we also were taught that we were accountable and responsible for our choices in life. God forgives but God also requires penance. And somehow, we instinctively know this is just and right.

I've been softened from the years I was involved in non-Catholic churches. Many of those churches have very low standards regarding the Christian life. "Feeling led by the Spirit" to do certain things often were thinly veiled attempts to justify fleshly desires. Complaining about suffering was often rationalized as "the devil's" attempts to steal our joy. And what of Christ, who suffered and rose again? That suffering wasn't a main topic - not amid all the cultural flotsam and jetsam floating against my mind during many a Sunday sermon.

Catholicism makes you work for it. It makes you work for your growth, your depth, and the salvation of your soul. It isn't easy but as our wise Sisters and Brothers have told us, neither was it easy lugging a cross on your back. Catholicism does this because it ultimately knows that the deeper you die to your own will, the more deeply you will share in the joy of Christ. There is a purification process and Catholicism is the only religion I know of that not only submits to it, but eagerly embraces it. That's saying something, especially in the midst of a self-serving attitude that has slipped into many, many churches.

If you're Catholic and have been faithful since you've been a child, you are more blessed than you can possibly realize. You've been Fathered. And for those who kick against the goads of that fathering, may you be led into an understanding that it's all for our good. Because our Heavenly Father loves us more than we will ever be able to comprehend.

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