Fr. Michael Prieur shares some smiles with a family. Photo courtesy of St. Joseph’s Health Care London Foundation

Why I love being a Catholic

By  Fr. Michael Prieur, Catholic Register Special
  • March 18, 2020

I love being a Catholic. I am a “cradle Catholic” from Essex County, Ont. I have been a Catholic priest for 54 years. Every day, I discover fresh insights into the richness of our faith. My reasons are personal to me, but probably shared by many others as well. I want to cite them here so that others may be inspired to draw up their own list. It is a grace-filled exercise.

My list is not exhaustive. “Catholic” is a very big word. And our God is a very big God who is still amazingly interested in me, this tiny mite on tiny planet Earth.

Our Catholic faith is suffering intensely from seemingly irreparable scandals, deep moral wounds, human displacements and self-centred people. My hope as a priest comes from a good friend of mine, who said at one of our support group meetings, “All I know is that I have to be the best damned good priest that I can be!”

Good Catholics and good priests do abound. They inspire me every day.

So here is my list of 10 reasons why I love being a Catholic — not in particular order, but as they came to me in prayer.

1. I love our saints.

I had wonderful parents and a grandmother whom everyone called a “saint.” I love our traditional saints and all the new ones as well. I rejoice that we have lots of modern saints whom we can all relate to, even personally. When we sing the Litany of the Saints, I love it when I hear these new names in it. I love praying my rosary in my car. Our Blessed Mother speaks to me of humble, silent, obedient witnessing to Jesus, her Son. I think our saints do an “end-run” on our culture. Our secularistic world cannot ignore them. Praise God for all of our saints! 

2. I love and need our sacraments.

I especially love the Sacrament of Reconciliation. An Irish proverb says, “Heaven is full of people who have started over again often.” Baptism is rich in me, especially in resisting the powers of evil today. Confirmation grows daily in my confronting our secular culture. The Sacrament of the Sick actually does heal people, and always gives them peace of heart. Marriage and Orders speak to me of fidelity and involvement in the lives of others. And supremely, a “Eucharistic Vision” makes real the whole Paschal Mystery daily in my life, and is the deepest and most unique reason underlying Catholic health care, which has been a constant pastoral concern throughout my life.

3. I love the Holy Father and the teaching office of the Church.

Pope Francis embodies so many of Jesus’ teachings for me. His wonderful love of the poor and the marginalized is exactly the message we need to inspire us. He loves forcing us to look at all of the “elephants” in our Church rooms and not to hide them. His deep respect for dialogue, discernment and a respect for following a truly informed conscience is exactly what St. John Henry Cardinal Newman espoused. He incarnates an image of our magisterium, the teaching office of the Church, as one of service, not some kind of lock-step, rigid authoritarianism and paternalism. Ad multos annos!

4. I love reading sacred Scripture.

I once asked my mother why we Catholics did not read the Bible. She replied, “The Protestants read the Bible; we Catholics go to church on Sundays!” Thanks to Vatican II, the first part of this answer has changed, while the second part may be on life supports in many places. I owe my love of Scripture to our teacher in the seminary, (then) Fr. Marcel Gervais. He made our hearts burn in us as we discovered the depths of the Word of God. Bring on more Scripture for us Catholics!

5. I love the inclusivity of our faith.

My old scoutmaster always marvelled at how everyone was welcomed at church, no matter how rich or poor, young or old, holy or sinful they were. I love the attitude of Jesus who told us not to judge the motives of the heart. Only God knows that. I love the freshness of our new Canadians in our parishes. They are all children of God. How big God is!

6. I love how we are encouraged to teach our faith and morals.

A truly Catholic position emphasizes a “both/and” approach, rather than an “either/or” one. Our Catholic teachings are both conservative and liberal, both Western and Eastern, both dogmatic and pastoral. Our Catholic tradition is so rich and we keep uncovering fresh approaches which have been present for centuries just waiting to be discovered. I love how our Catholic faith is so well versed in the four ancient Greek “transcendentals,” namely the one, truth, goodness and beauty. There are true absolutes that transcend every culture and inspire us all. 

7. I love our sacramentals, our tangible reminders of our faith.

Our Catholic faith is so incarnational, so “touchy-feely.” When St. Joseph’s Health Care in London, Ont., was discussing the value of having crucifixes visible everywhere, one Hindu vice-president declared to us all, “If you would take down that crucifix because of me, it can’t mean much to you.” I need visible reminders of my Catholic faith. I need to see sacred statues, icons, paintings, stained glass windows, sacred music, sculptures, rosaries, medals, holy water and prayer books. They are all legitimate conduits of God’s grace in our lives. And they are all so encultured. God is so international.

8. I love our Catholic rediscovery of God’s revelation through creation.

This is not new. St. Francis of Assisi has already trumpeted his love for creation and how it spoke of God to him. Long overdue, Pope Francis has directly enshrined protecting our environment in the principles of social justice. Our whole planet — and all that is in it — is truly sacred. We human beings are part of God’s creation. Protection of life from conception to natural death is an “environmental” issue. Also, our Catholic ethics in  dealing with dying is so utterly humane, without taking over God’s role in it. And finally, the deep meaning of the Sabbath can save our frenetic, sleep-deprived, work-24/7 world from imploding with its own impossible demands on our human senses. This Sabbatical  “command” is so utterly Catholic, not to mention Hebraic. It is a much needed cultural life-support for right now.

9. I love how our faith gives us a reason to hope.

Suffering is always hard to understand. And death can daunt us all. I find great consolation in believing that nothing is ever wasted in God’s eyes. All suffering can be a grace for us, no matter what it is. Our Catholic faith has a profound repertoire of sources to help us with our suffering. Our faith assures us that death is only a door through which we go to be with God and all His saints (including the uncanonized ones like my grandmother). “Life is changed, not ended,” the funeral liturgy proclaims. I have the normal fear of dying like anyone else, but my hope is in the resurrection of Jesus Himself, and His promise that my body as well will be resurrected and glorified like His. And I strongly believe that mercy is the most outstanding quality of God’s love, readily available to everyone. This gives me hope.

10. I love our newly-discovered value of a personal relationship with Jesus.

When I was growing up, declaring a “personal relationship with Jesus” was considered “Pentecostal.” Alas, we need this kind of relationship. This fresh awareness of Jesus in a personal way leads me to relate to Him specifically, often and with deep felt “heart.” It has also opened me up to relating personally to God the Father, “Papa chéri,” and to the Holy Spirit directly. A Christian and a Catholic is not simply monotheistic but Trinitarian. I am so happy that we Catholics are discovering the power of consciously knowing our Lord, our Brother, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

I strongly urge you to take a Sabbath day and to sit down quietly in prayer and draw up your own 10 reasons why you love being a Catholic. Come, Holy Spirit, come!

(This article was published originally in Missio, newspaper of the Diocese of London, and is reprinted here by permission of the author.)

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