To properly and fully explain my reasoning for being Catholic, I would need to write a biography of my life, specifically my interior life. This article isn’t that, but is instead an overview of a few reasons as to why someone like myself would willingly choose to be Catholic.
As this is my first article to be shared with Serviam, it would be prudent for me to explain a little bit about who I am, in order to give some context. My name is Kennedy Hall, I have 3 children, under the age of two and a half. I have a beautiful wife, and I am a teacher. I love to play and coach rugby, and I am obsessed with religiously charged philosophy, literature, and politics. But, most importantly for the sake of this article, it is important to note that I am a Prodigal Son. My list of sins is long, and I can say that there was a time in my life when I was dead, and now I have new life. I did not grow up in a churched family, we are nominal Italian Catholics, and I made many choices to reject the Church at times in favour of my own passions and relative morality. Through a series of divinely ordained events, a few years ago the Lord welcomed me home as I limped near His property line, after having squandered my inheritance.
First, it may be helpful to lay out a few things that I do not believe, or believe in. Sometimes I find it helpful to rule out a few ideas when trying to find the underlying cause of something.
The idea of a “worldview”.
Of course, I understand that there are worldviews, specifically in ways of lifestyle choices or political philosophy. I agree that some of these philosophies can be strong and encompass much of the important things in life. For example, I am definitely conservative in my political views, I would say in a classically conservative fashion, like that of Edmund Burke. I would also say that much of Classic British Liberalism is quite appealing and reasonable to me as well. Moreover, although I do find conservatism in its most reasonable form to be generally comprehensive for viewing the world, it is of course limited. It is limited by culture, specifically the ethics of a culture. There isn’t much about our current culture that I would like to “conserve”… I am not speaking about mythological patriarchies or gender fluidity, but more about the acceptance of immorality and depravity that is lauded by many in the popular culture. My conservatism is a “worldview”, but because of this, it is relegated to the world, and is not universal. My conservatism doesn’t inform my ethics, but it instead gives me a political language with which to converse in a public discourse. When someone says to me something like ‘Catholicism is a worldview”, I of course understand where they are coming from, but I strongly disagree. Worldviews are fluid, as they change with the world that is viewed, but Christianity is, at least in principle, solid and concrete. My worldview is akin to what I see from my vantage point. If I see things from above, it is because I am standing on the mountain that God has made. Catholicism is the mountain on which I stand, and from there I can view the world from where the Church has planted her flag.
I also do not believe in religious indifferentism.
This means I do not believe that all religions are the “same”. This sounds anathema to some, but I think it is actually a thoughtful approach. As a religious person who believes what I believe with every ounce of my being, I understand how religious people work. I would not expect a person of another faith to believe the same way I do. I would not expect someone that goes to a temple to have in the back of his mind “I mean I could just as easily go to a Church, because what is the difference anyway?” That would be very disrespectful for me to put that on someone of a different faith, so I expect the same in return. In fact, it is the people who view religion as a “different spoke on the same wheel”, or a “different path up the same mountain,” who are the most ill-informed about religion and the most insensitive to the convictions of religious people. As an example, Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindu’s all have views on Jesus Christ. And, all the views are different. To suggest that they all “mean the same thing” is absurd. If they all meant the same thing, they would say the same thing.
Furthermore, I do not believe in the philosophical view of “relativism” or “subjectivism”.
Many understand these terms, but as a brief explanation, essentially it is the idea that truth is relative to the subject. Your truth is your truth, and my truth is my truth. Of course, this precludes the idea of an Absolute Truth, which would itself have to be an Absolute Truth, which is self-defeating. I ask my students whether they believe or at least sympathize with this way of thinking and they usually, out of a quest to avoid confrontation I think, say yes. I then say to them “Okay, my truth is that all of your truths are wrong and don’t exist.” Of course, to deny that statement is to say that my “truth” is not true, which again illustrates a self-defeating philosophy. In any case, there are many subjective truths, most of which have to do with our taste or preferences. We can have disagreements about which hockey team we believe is the best, but if someone suggests that, their belief is that hockey players do not wear skates, then they are simply wrong. It is not true for them; it is not true for anyone. Perhaps the silliest extent of relativism, aside from moral relativism, is the idea of “multiple universes”. That there is essentially an infinite number of universes is not only bad philosophy, but also bad English. Universe means, “All created existence.” There cannot be multiple entireties of everything, it is illogical. Furthermore, with infinite universes, there could in theory be a universe in which there were no multi-verse, which again, demonstrates a self-defeating idea.
Okay, so there are many other things that I do not believe in, but I picked those three, because I think they are most pertinent in explaining my reasons for being Catholic. I believe in truth, not just truth, but Truth, with a capital T. I always have, I did not always know that about myself, but when I look back, I see that I did. I was raised nominally Catholic, with very little church, no prayer at home, but I went to Catholic school. I did have a couple experiences that I was able to pull from at times for comfort in God, but as I grew older, I looked at those as simply emotional moments. I know now that they were not, but in a psychologized culture such as ours, we view things as feelings, and of course, feelings are not facts, therefore those experiences made no sense to me as I began to question my faith. It is worth noting that I did pray as a teenager, I did attend Mass on occasion by myself, and I did maintain a semblance of Christian belief throughout the first couple years of university. However, after a few years of poor ethical decisions, little to no prayer, and a gamut of atheistic French literature Profs (is there any other kind), my faith was gone. I could not say that I was ever an atheist; I tried to say a couple times “I am an atheist,” but in reality, I would say things like “I think I am an atheist.” Internally I knew that to say I was an atheist would be to make a definite statement, for which there cannot be fulfilling proof, as you cannot disprove something you do not believe to be provable. However, I also could not stomach the idea of agnosticism, which to me is more like spiritual and philosophical laziness. Agnosticism is a fancy word to suggest that you do not have the gall to make a decision and fly your flag. I have always said that I think there will be more honest atheists in heaven than dishonest Catholics (this is not a statement of theology, but instead a personal musing). At least the honest atheist is actually thirsting for truth, so when they encounter the Truth Himself, they will be pleasantly surprised. Dishonest Catholics will probably complain about the Church “having too many rules” or that their pro-life position isn’t “realistic”, rather than just submit to Truth. But, I digress…
After a couple years of internal torment, I knew I had to make a decision. I knew at this point that I was either going to be a Christian, a Jew or an atheist. I knew I was not going to be a Buddhist or a Hindu, because, although these traditions offer great meaning and a set of spiritual practices, I cannot reconcile a pantheistic idea like in Hinduism. In addition, I cannot really see Buddhism even as a religion, as it is curiously silent on the existence of God. I am sure it is a powerful psychological practice, but there is a reason why there are “Atheist Buddhists”. Finally, it was clear to me that Islam is an offshoot from Christianity. It comes 500+ years after Christ, and makes claims about things already stated but in a different manner in the Bible, which is the original and most reliable source pertaining to the events contested between the faiths.
A watershed moment came for me when I was applying to Teachers College. I wanted to be a teacher due to the amazing teachers and coaches I had growing up. The problem was that they were all Catholics, many of them visibly devout. I also loved my Nonno as much as anyone on earth, and he was a devout Catholic as well. These teachers and my Nonno were the most wise and honourable men and women I have known, therefore, I knew I owed it to them to at least consider their faith. So, I applied to the Catholic stream at Teachers College. Now, I decided to pursue Catholicism, although I was open to Christianity as a whole. I figured, if Catholicism was true, then so was the Old Testament, which would vindicate my curiosity about Judaism, and if Catholicism was partly true, but contained some “extras” that were unnecessary, then my curiosity about Protestantism was also be vindicated. There is a reason why no one can be neutral about Catholicism. There is a reason why left-wing activists and Hollywood hate the Catholic Church more than the Anglicans or the Reformed Jews. Catholicism makes the audacious claim that she is the Church of God, instituted by Him, with the authority to speak in His place. This claim is either the truest or the most false claim ever to come from the mind of men. If Catholicism is objectively true, then her teachings are not just recommended, they are in fact, binding. If the Church really is the Church, then worship is not a matter of preference, but of duty. Sin is not a convention but a condition. Obedience is not merely a matter of opinion, but an obligation.
Before I continue, I would like to clarify that I am not Catholic for a legalistic set of reasons. The Laws of the Church and the fullness of her teachings are paramount, but there is also a myriad of reasons that speak to my heart, perhaps reserved for another piece of writing.
As I said before, I had decided to pursue the truth about the Truth. C.S. Lewis said at one time in so many words, that the moment you decide to open your heart to Christianity, is the moment you begin to become a Christian. The Truth of Christ is like a flowing river, if you open but a crack of the dam you have created to block the flow, it is a matter of time before you are drowning in an Ocean of Grace. Some of us have very strong will power and are stubborn, and therefore can resist for a little longer, but you cannot open yourself to just a “little bit” of God, He is too big.
I mentioned earlier that as a youth I had some experiences that were very emotional and powerful. I had closed myself off to these things when I decided to live in a certain way. But, I found very quickly that God is the Father from the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I remember a time at a mid-day mass at St Peter’s in London; I decided to attend Church while doing some Christmas shopping during the holiday break. By this point, I had allowed myself to intellectually assent high enough to the truths of the Church to at least allow myself to give God a try. What followed as Mass progressed wasn’t quite a moment where I found myself weeping and kneeling, but it was close.
You see, I understood that if Christianity were true, the only way to understand it would be to actually try. So often people will neglect the act of believing as a legitimate barometer of truth and understanding. It is one thing to read the Bible or to seek answers about the faith, but it is quite another to actually try and believe. Imagine you were to ask someone whether they understood what music is. Imagine they were to respond with an answer like the following; “Of course, I study musical theory, I can read music on paper, I have researched the way that instruments are made and have read books on how to play them. I can even break down visual representations of sound waves using the latest music software.” Now imagine you asked this person if they had ever actually listened to a song sung by a choir, had been to a concert, or sang around a campfire, and they said “No”. We intrinsically understand that music is not the same thing as its parts, but is in fact something unique and new when all the moving pieces come together. Understanding Catholicism is very similar. And, like music, once you start to listen, you are taken to another place, even if just for a moment. As I began to attend Mass and to pray, I began to see the music, I began to hear the Truth, I began to breathe new breath.
There are a million and one technical points as to why I am Catholic, but those are for another day. But, the most important thing to take from this piece is that I am Catholic because my soul requires it to be so. I have tried to fight it, God knows I have tried. Nevertheless, the more I looked into the Church, the more I fell in love with the music, and now I cannot keep myself from singing.
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