“The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.” – G.K. Chesterton
Many of you know that I am a convert to the Catholic church. Why, you may wonder, would anyone, especially in the 21st century, join such an archaic institution? And why on earth would you stay when there are so many other options?
While my own conversion story is too large a thing to share, I will offer 10 real reasons to become Catholic.
1. The Faith is True
The Catholic faith represents the most complex, consistent, and complete system of ideas among all the competing philosophies of humanity. It is a veritable cathedral of human thought. In a real way, the Church has thought of everything, and that is because she relies not just on human ingenuity but divine inspiration. Every other merely human system of thought is completely erroneous, wildly contradictory, impossible to live by, or all of the above. The Catholic faith alone can provide the practical wisdom, common sense, consistent theology, and thorough philosophy that leads to full human happiness and flourishing.
But it is important to emphasize that for all her beautiful theology and philosophy, the Catholic faith is not just a system of ideas. All of the ideas she has generated are merely doorways to a transcendent realm of spirit, and ultimately, to Christ himself. If we miss this, we miss everything. No philosophy, no matter how glorious, is sufficient as an end in itself. It either leads us to Christ, who is truth itself, or it is a waste of time.
And so the real proof of the truth and reality of the Catholic faith is not her universities or scholastic philosophers, but the lives of the saints. They bear witness to a higher law, a higher order, and ultimately to the living person of Christ. The burned with an almost insane love for Christ, a love that inspired them to things that seem to the world plain crazy. They were consumed by a vision of the eternal that transcends, but does not contradict, all human reason and rationality. Their transformation, their lives, their works, the witness of their love—these are the real proofs that the Catholic faith is absolutely true.
2. The Faith is Beautiful
The Catholic faith has brought more beauty into the world than can be calculated. Jaw-dropping Gothic cathedrals, glorious paintings, magnificent sculptures, otherworldly music and chant, some of the greatest literature the world has ever known—the Church has nurtured, preserved, and promoted all of these things.
The order, harmony, structure, and transcendence of these works lifts our hearts and minds to God. In a world that idolizes the ugly and cheap, these great works speak of a transcendent order and even of God’s eternal harmony and beauty. In them, we see a glimpse of eternity. My own conversion happened in large part due to an encounter with this beauty, and perhaps I will share more about this another time.
3. The Faith is Good
Anyone who has spent anytime around devout Catholics comes away with the impression that Catholics are different. It’s hard to pin down this difference, but it’s also inescapable. A Catholic living their faith fully is filled with life and light and joy. A devout Catholic family will probably have a beautiful altar at the center of their home. They are no doubt deeply and passionately pro-life. They will pray together regularly and have pictures of Jesus and Mary and the saints covering their walls. The parents will read their children stories of good triumphing over evil, the lives of the saints, and they will teach them virtue and the value of sacrifice. Their home will be filled with life, the warmth of love, the beauty of faith.
In short, a devout Catholic home will have an atmosphere, a culture, of goodness that just you won’t find elsewhere. And anyone who has met a holy nun or monk or priest can attest that they too radiate a joy and and goodness and holiness that is completely contagious.
4. A Cloud of Witnesses
One of the things I always believed as a protestant was the saints competed with God for glory. That is, that honoring a saint would always and everywhere detract from God’s glory. Since becoming Catholic, however, I have realized the wonderful truth that the saints do not detract from God’s glory or compete with him for honor, but rather they magnify his grace and increase his glory.
The saints are stars in the canopy of heaven—the great cloud of witnesses scripture speaks of—guiding us by their example and helping us powerfully by their prayers. All the honor given to the saints is ultimately a reflection of God’s ability to transform poor sinners into the most shining examples of holiness. Our Lord delights in using creaturely agents to accomplish his will. Simply read scripture and you cannot but realize the fact that God has always has used frail creatures to do great things, and he always will.
Christianity is not just about “me and Jesus.” No one is saved alone. Heaven is a family, and the saints are our elder brothers and sisters. As Catholics, we can call on these heavenly friends and ask for their prayers, just as we ask for the prayers of friends and family on earth, and they will powerfully intercede for us. By becoming Catholic, we place ourselves in a great stream of the redeemed going back to the beginning of the Church. I can attest to the joy of joining in this great throng of men and women offering prayers and praises before the throne of the Lamb. We don’t just remember the saints and martyrs as abstract historical facts, but as living realities that we can encounter.
5. The Sacraments
Nearly every other kind of Christian thinks of the tales and truths of scripture as historical realities but not living realities. For example, the descent of the Holy Spirit at pentecost was something that happened to the apostles nearly 2,000 years ago, but the fire of the Holy Spirit has long since passed from the earth. We remember this occurrence in an abstract way, but it applied only to the apostles and has very little to do with us today.
The Catholic sees things differently. Pentecost is not merely a historical event—it is an eternal reality, and we can experience its fire and grace today in just as real a way as the apostles did. The Last Supper was not a historical event alone. It is a living reality, even an eternal reality, that we participate in today through the grace of the Holy Spirit. When we attend Mass and receive the body and blood of Christ in communion, it is not “resacrificing” Christ, but it is making present his eternal, once-for-all sacrifice on Calvary for us now.
In fact, all of the sacraments are the eternal works of God, which we see related in scripture, continuing today through his body, the Church. The sacraments are eternity invading time, the intersection of heaven and earth, the presence of the spiritual in the temporal. The sacraments are the most precious gifts imaginable, and they are available freely to every Catholic.
6. It’s filled with sinners…
So you will fit right in! If you’re looking for a perfect, pure, sin-free church, the Catholic church isn’t for you. The Church is a hospital for sinners; a place where human brokenness can encounter the healing grace of Jesus Christ. There have always been great sinners in the Church, but far from detracting from the truth of the faith, it rather proves that the Church offers a powerful remedy to the disorders of our human nature. In his earthly ministry, Jesus too was surrounded by sinners, and the Pharisees hated this fact.
I love how Oscar Wilde, a notorious sinner himself and deathbed convert to Catholicism, described the Catholic Church: “The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners alone – for respectable people, the Anglican Church will do.”
7. A faith for everyone
The Catholic faith isn’t simply for the elite or a select few. From time immemorial, it has been the home of coal-miners, farmers, soldiers, iron-workers, policemen—working men of all kinds. It has been the home of the simple, the ignorant, and the ordinary people of the world.
But just as truly it has also been the home of some of the greatest minds the world has ever known. In the Church, great scholars, artists, poets, novelists, scientists, and philosophers have found a faith that nourishes their minds as well as their hearts.
Mystics, servants of the poor, zealous missionaries, contemplatives, and many more have too found a place in the Catholic-faith. In short, the Catholic Church is a home for anyoneand everyone. It is the truest home for humanity.
8. The Catholic Faith is a Fighting Faith
The greatest obstacle to the advance of evil in the world is the Catholic Church. Through her rituals, her sacraments, and her saints, the Church is the most potent channel of grace in existence. Despite her flaws, she radiates more light and goodness into the world than any other single institution. While other groups and institutions may play their role in fighting evil, they are mere candles while the Church is a blazing bonfire driving back the darkness.
The world knows this and that’s why it hates the Church. Agents within and without the Church have sought to destroy it for centuries because of this fact. But the Church cannot be destroyed. The Church fights evil and will never cease to do so. It will stand until the end of time as the great sign of salvation for all humanity, continuing the work of redemption and the defeat of darkness.
9. The Catholic Church is Truly Universal
The human mind is prone to separate and categorize things into dualities: East and West, European or Asian, Mystical or Rational, Contemplation or Action, Predestination or Freewill, Simple or Complex, Science or Faith, Faith or Works, and on and on. And it’s true–many different sects, denominations, and movements represent shards or fragments of the truth, representing one or the other of these dichotomies. But only one institution on earth is large enough and universal enough to embody all of these dichotomies and hold them in perfect tension: the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church has within her 20 some rites both Eastern liturgies and Western liturgies. Among Catholic religious orders, many are active, serving and working, while just as many are contemplative, praying and interceding for the world. The Catholic Church has among her children Africans, and Asians, and Europeans, and Americans, and Hispanics, and every ethnicity under the sun. She teaches the necessity of faith, but also human effort. She teaches the goodness of science but also the necessity of faith.
The Catholic Church is universal in every way. She represents the perfect balance of diversity in unity, and within her are contained all the colors and shades of human expression and thought and mysticism held in perfect balance.
10. The Church is Ancient
Among modern individuals, there is a disillusionment with the cheap and the ephemeral. Our world is driven by marketing and advertising which preys on our desires by offering us cheap stimulants in the form of mass produced junk. Deep down, people are sick of it and are searching for something of substance, something with deep roots.
The Catholic faith offers just such deep roots. Flourishing for twenty centuries, the Catholic faith represents a faith that is both ancient and ever new. It is a living stream of tradition that connects us to the faith of our forefathers in an unbroken continuity. The faith of the martyrs of the ancient Church is my faith. The Christians of the catacombs, the fathers of the desert, the peasants of ancient Europe, the monastics who built ancient abbeys–they would all profess the same creed as I do. And this is a glorious thing.
There are countless other reasons for becoming Catholic, but they all amount to one reason: That Catholicism is true.
I want to hear from you. Share your reasons for being Catholic in the comments below.
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Archbishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix celebrated Mass with members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Region XIII who gathered at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on Feb. 12, 2020, during their ad Limina Apostolorum visit. (photo: Daniel Ibanez / CNA/EWTN)