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To be human, be Catholic

December 21, AD 2011 9 Comments

I WANT TO BET YOU that if you took a really good, hard, honest, and inscrutable look at your own heart, you would come to the conclusion that you were made to be Catholic. I say this with certainty, because the truth of the matter is that you really were made to be Catholic. Now before you start getting all huffy and accusatory–something about me being “closed minded” or “un-ecumenical” or “triumphalistic”–let me assure you that I have none of these motivations in mind. Rather, my logic is quite simple, and if my premises are true, then my conclusion must necessarily follow.

My first premise is that you are human, created in the image and likeness of God, heir to an essentially and wonderfully good nature but somehow fallen, and whose greatest desire, either implicit or explicit, is to enjoy the eternal beatitude of God in Heaven with all of the [unfallen] angels and saints. No, I’m not saying that the desire proves the existence, nor that the desire alone is enough to attain it. I’m merely saying that you have the desire–the desire for absolute, perfect, and eternal happiness. And you do–it’s all in Aristotle, if you don’t believe me.

My second premise is that the Catholic faith most fully, most truly, and most consistently reveals what it means to be human. I don’t expect everybody to agree with this, but I do hope that everyone at least be open to it should this, after all, prove to be the case. I myself accept this premise, based on my own experience and based on reason (neither of which, I imagine, would be enough if taken merely on its own). Reason alone might not outright prove this premise true, but it certainly doesn’t disprove it. And should you ever come to hold this premise, then you will see how the conclusion necessarily follows.

My conclusion is that every human being was made to be one in heart, mind, and soul with the living communion subsisting within the Catholic Church. If you are human, then you must, by nature, be the most fully, most authentically, most perfectly human as you can possibly be. Anything else, and you fall short of your nature. Funny it is, how the human person is the only being in the universe capable of falling short of his own nature! But if he is–if you are–to be fulfilled in nature, then being Catholic is the only way to do so.

The problem with the way we think about our human nature and the Church’s teaching is that we somehow see the sacramental, dogmatic, and devotional life of the Church as being separate from the fulness of human reality. We think we can be sufficiently human without these things–in a secular world, independent of all the so-called “shackles” of Church dogma, “oppression,” “patriarchy,” and all the other bogey-man buzzwords that so get us moderns shaking in our boots. But the truth of the matter is that secular modern culture is a front-running candidate for the most inhuman of all structures, the most idiotically oppressive, patriarchal, and barbaric of all cultures to have ever existed! If cultures of the past forced man to think only about the hereafter and the things above, then our culture forces man to think only about the present and the things below. If ancient cultures robbed the masses of their livelihoods, then our present culture robs the masses of that one so-very-human quality we all seek: their very reason for living. Let us not compare, then, to see who has the heavier crime; let us instead see how to offer to man both his livelihood AND his reason for living.

Only in the light of the Church’s life–her teachings, her sacraments, her tradition, her prayer, and her morality, all things animated by the One Spirit that breathes life into her body–can a human being ever make sense of all of the things in our world and say, “Now it all makes sense! Now I see the purpose of it!” Only then can a person look at his job, his family, his fortunes and misfortunes, his desires, sufferings, failings, winnings, experiences, joys, sorrows, everything, and really be able to say, “This, after all, is what makes me human!” It’s not that the Church answers every question for you. It’s not that faith in Christ through the Church will suddenly make everything appear simple, to the point, easy, or even understandable. What it does do is that it gives you a ground for your identity, a place to say, “This is who I am, because this is where I stand.” Difficult as such a position may be, it is the only position that will stand firm through anything you could ever imagine in life. It also happens to be the only position that has the solidity of actually being true.

And, I offer, the converse is also true: that if you want to be truly Catholic, you must start by being truly human. If we could fulfill our human natures on our own, we would have no need of the Catholic faith, because it is the Catholic faith that teaches us how to walk, how to talk, how to think in the ways of Christ. She is a good mother who wants to see her children flourish, and if we pretend to be anything other than human, or if we start by denying our fundamental humanity, we will miss the point.

We need not look to any form of “humanism” that imagines the human person as being somehow separate from the eternal truths of the Catholic faith. Catholicism is the only true humanism there is, and because of human nature and its profound dependence on God, the only humanism truly possible. While you hunger, while you thirst, while you seek that which “you-know-not-what,” your desires alone will only lead you into frustrations and futility if you do not turn them over to He for whom you long.

You were made for the Church, and the Church was made for you.

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[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Nathan Kennedy is a 25-year old student living in Amarillo, Texas, who converted to the Catholic Church in 2008. He is currently involved in vocational discernment to the religious life, and his hobbies include music composition, reading science fiction, spending time outdoors, and learning biology. His website is Singing in the Shower.[/author_info] [/author]

Filed in: Columnists

About the Author:

Nathan Kennedy is a 25-year old student living in Amarillo, Texas, who converted to the Catholic Church in 2008. Call him a “Renaissance Man” or a “nerd,” it really doesn’t matter. He is currently involved in vocational discernment to the religious life, and his hobbies include music composition, reading science fiction, spending time outdoors, and learning biology.

  • This was brilliant and so true. These “rules” that “bind” us are actually the God-given nature that make us the humans we are–they set us free.

  • John

    One might contemplate one’s comments in light of the verse; “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” and the surrounding texts.

    I am finding many of the precepts presented by the Church in the rituals and literatures ‘outside’ her walls on my own path. I trust the Spirit will enlighten you likewise, especially during your discernment.

  • Mary

    Spot on Nathan!
    It is the Catholic youth that are the only ones who can stop the “shipwreck” of the west from sinking.
    I wish you all the best for your future calling.

  • Marie

    It makes me sad to hear our young women romanticize the veil, and that is what you are doing. Although the lace is beautiful, veiling represents submission to man and being humble because of Eve’s Adam had no part of it!
    When I was little, all girls and women had to cover their heads or they couldn’t enter the church. If you forgot your veil or hat, you pinned a piece of Kleenex on your head.
    When I see a woman veiled, I see a burka. I see a woman who doesn’t understand our history. I see a woman who doesn’t believe that God loves her the way she is. It makes me sad.

  • Mary

    Unless you are commenting about another post, there is nothing about wearing a veil in this post. So I am assuming that you have an issue with how Catholic doctrine affects women.
    Firstly with the veil, it is tradition and St Paul wrote about it in his letters. However, the Church changed Cannon Law in 1983 so women have an option to wear one or not. It is deemed cultural rather than a truth that cannot be changed, such as the doctrine forbidding the use of contraception.
    A close reflection on sources such as Bl. Pope John Paul II’s writings on The Theology of the Body, his encyclicals – Redemptoris Mater, Mulieris Dignitatem and Familiaris Consortio give a completely new and fascinating perspective on how amazing it is to be a women.
    May you find peace in your search for truth.

  • BHG

    I wear a veil because it is a way to set aside the time, and my dress, as special for God. I am saddened that there are so many “scarred” by their prior experiences, but really, isn’t it time to take a step back and get over the past?

  • Mary@42

    What a brilliant Article, Nathan. Truly, as Mary states, the Catholic youth are the bastions of our Church and will definitely turn the tide of the anti-God culture that has overrun the Western Nations.

  • Jim

    Marie : Veiling is just the opposite of your understanding it lifts women up not putting them down. Your thinking of the muslum faith and quite obviously confused. It is easy to see in our modern clture where this confusion stems from but it neither is or was in any way disrespectful to women if understood properly.
    I suggest you do some more research. Might I suggest listening to what Dr Scott Hahn has to say on this matter.
    God Bless

  • “Funny it is, how the human person is the Funny it is, how the human person is the only being in the universe capable of falling short of his own nature!!”

    Now there’s an interesting thought to ponder. The question which comes immediately to mind is, “what about fallen angels?” Though I suppose these have if anything fallen short (and thus are not necessarily in the act of falling short) of their natures.