Being Catholic ain’t complicated

There’s a myth out there that Catholicism is complicated. Being Catholic is simple; we love and we pray. The rest is details.

I can hear the, “but, but, but’s” already. First, the non-Catholics will point to the Vatican, the Mass, Canon Law, Holy Days, Saints, Sacraments, Rosaries, yabadah, yabadah, yabadah. One of the biggest complaints from our separated Christian brethren is the complexity of the religion. The One true faith has been likened to a ship, once pristine and gliding swiftly over the oceans, but now so encrusted with the barnacles of complexity that it’s on the verge of sinking. (Our separated brethren may want to consider simplifying their metaphors.)

We aren’t much better. We seem to revel in the rules, dogmas, doctrines and doxologies. We take pride in knowing the difference between a holy day of obligation and a holy day of opportunity. Sometimes it seems that we just can’t get enough detail in our spiritual lives.

It doesn’t have to be that complicated. Jesus boiled it all down to two very simple, and yet tremendously profound concepts. First, love God with all your heart and all your mind, and all your soul. Next, love your neighbor as yourself. That’s it; we can name that tune in two notes.

We love God by prayer. Our prayers can be very simple, not even expressed in words, or they can be very complicated. Not surprisingly, the Catholic church has evolved tens of thousands of ways to pray. What would you expect from a religion that includes over one billion people in countries around the world? A “one prayer fits all,” religion simply would not work for human beings. The basic rules, including the seven blessed sacraments of baptism, eucharist, reconciliation, confirmation, matrimony, holy orders and anointing of the sick are the same wherever you go.

But don’t lose sight of the basic and fundamental message: Love. Pray. Focus on loving God. If you do, you can’t help but find yourself also focusing on loving people. From there you will develop a desire to know God better. That will draw you, gradually, but irresistibly, back into the fullness of the church.

The sacraments of the church will make perfect sense to you when you start to realize they are pathways that lead to the greatest love of your life, Jesus. A daily rosary will feel like a refreshing conversation with the greatest friend you ever had, your mom. Confession is your Get out of Jail Free card, combined with a spiritual hot bath.

This blog will be (with any luck at all) a collection of short, simple reflections on what it means to be Catholic. Don’t look for profound statements of dogma, with frequent citations to Latin and Greek translations. Those sorts of things are important, but frankly, there are a lot smarter people than me out there who can do a much better job with them. I’m more of a fan of St. Therese of Lisieux, who in her biography said, basically, theology gives me a headache; I just want to love Jesus.

More later.


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