I’ve been wondering if I should go ahead and write this post. I think there is a very serious problem among Catholics.
Let me tell you a small personal story. For years my spiritual father was trying to make me understand that I had doubt in my heart, that I had fear and wasn’t showing real faith in God. Of course, being spiritually blind as a mole, I could not understand what he was saying. I mean, I was a Catholic! I went to Liturgy, prayed, went to Confession, occasionally gave a few dollars to homeless people, and got outraged about all the right things to be outraged about on social media. WHAT is my spiritual father talking about?!
And then it happened. Crisis of faith. The biggest one I’ve had in years, probably actually the biggest I EVER had. However, even there God was waiting to open my eyes. In doubting His existence so painfully and strongly, I finally started to understand what real faith should look like… and that for years I have had almost none!
That crisis is gone now. There are too many proofs for Catholicism, including the complete beauty of Christ, History, the willingness of the Apostles to die for their claims of the Resurrection, miracles tested to the extremes of science, apparitions like Fatima where the seers dedicate their lives to a religious order having believed so much in what they saw along with the thousands of other witnesses present, etc… I am still a (mediocre, sinful and struggling) Catholic and happy to be in the Church. However, here is what I realized: if I were to wake up one day as a full fledged Atheist, I would change NOTHING in my life. This shows me two things:
1-I believe in everything the Catholic Church teaches, not because it makes no sense and I’m obliged to follow blindly, but because even in a world without God, Catholic Teachings, Writings, and Saints will remain the most beautiful experience the human in all his/her being can have. If I were to become Atheist, I know I will be heartbroken. Having known the beauty that is Christ, realizing that the world does not actually have such beauty will break my heart in two and leave it thirsting after something remotely close to the joy and peace that is the Christian life. Here is an example: people keep saying that Catholic chastity standards are tough and unrealistic. It is often the first argument, interestingly, that people raise against the Church in our discussions. Having learned through the Church that true love is to give one’s life for another, would I as an Atheist be able to lie to myself that love is just finding a temporary companion not to feel lonely? Can someone who has learned the theology behind the Eucharistic Love, turn around and find joy in one-night stands, open relationships, and bar hookups? Can someone who has read the theological genius that is the Song of Songs turn around and be happy singing Beyoncé songs and believing she is actually a good role model?
2-The fact that nothing would change between an Atheist me and a Catholic me says the following: I have not been Catholic. Sure, I attended Liturgies and recognized the authority of the Pope and Bishops. But where was the faith that moves mountains? Even as an Atheist, I would still think Jesus is a nice man, the best there ever was. I probably would still take my children to Melkite Liturgies because they’re dignifying! Recently, even Richard Dawkins tweeted about how beautiful the Latin Christmas chants were! Yes, THAT Richard Dawkins who thinks God is a delusion. But where is the faith that screams with all its strength with the blind man: “Son of David, have mercy on me!”??
Where is the faith that feeds the poor before accepting to eat? Instead, we’re arguing if vegan-cheese is ok?
Where is the faith that trusts that Christ can heal ALL leprosy in us? Instead we’re wondering if Game of Thrones’ perversion is fine to watch?
Where is the faith that runs towards the Cross, looking for ways to be purified and to pray for sinners? Instead, we say that a God who allows us to slip on ice in winter is not a benevolent deity? (The saints begged for sufferings, and we think cancer means there is no God?)
Where is the faith that runs to prison, refusing to be free under laws that murder babies in the womb and legalize perversions? Instead, we are actually begging Catholics for a $2 monthly donation for pro-life organizations? (I work in one, so I know what I’m talking about here)
Where is the faith that looks for misery around us to embrace these friends in a way that shows we see the face of Christ in them? Instead, we’re annoyed by that parishioner who is a bit weird and we take every chance to roll our eyes and laugh?
No, we are not Catholics. We are Atheists, the coldest and most hypocritical Atheists… with a partially Catholic culture.
We are Catholic when we go to Confession asking for mercy, but we are Atheists when we ask for vengeance and express disgust and turn away in horror at the brokenness of the other, as if Christ died only for the level of our brokenness, and anything beyond that should just go to Hell.
We are Catholic when we fast from meat and dairy and make jokes about how difficult the Great Fast is, but we are Atheist when a thousand souls are going hungry in our city and we’re busy wondering if vegan mayonnaise is ok.
We are Catholic when we measure the length of our skirts and wear a tie to show respect for Liturgy, but we are Atheist when we have 13 sweaters that we don’t even like or wear and another homeless man/woman froze to death last night.
We are Catholic when we sit alone in Church for hours praying, but we are Atheist when we turn our face away from a lonely friend begging for love.
I have seen kindness, selflessness, patience and love in Atheists that has made me cry in shame at my own unworthiness. This is not a mockery of anyone or a shaming or even a condemnation of specific situations and conditions. You determine how to fast and dress and walk and talk with your spiritual father/mother, not with a blog post. However, as we go forward in our fast, let us truly look at ourselves. Do we see a moderately-nice Atheist who likes Byzantine Chant and the idea of a nice man named Jesus…
or do we see a soul that has encountered, touched and become united to the Divine Flame, the fire that burns all brokenness, the God called “Lover of Mankind”, the God who SO thirsted to pour Himself out in love that He subjected Himself to the deepest depth of human rage and brokenness?
We are like an unconverted Peter, exclaiming and in his illusion thinking he will follow Christ even unto death, and instead deny Him not once, or twice, but three times.
Let us not be Atheists in our lives. We should not agree to be mediocre and slothful Catholics. Let us show such faith, shouting with the blind man against all opposition:
“Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
And let us proclaim it persistently till Christ replies: “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” (Luke 18:42).