What is “The Catholic Experience” one may ask? Many have a false understanding due to a 3rd party resource of information (gossip). It’s like they read the daily tabloids for who She is (the Catholic Church), or even better they reinterpret/redefine history to explain who she is.
Let’s begin with the basics, She is the bride of Jesus Christ, she is the only Church which he established during his time here on earth with us, She is the wisdom and authority who upholds all of Christ’s Traditions and Teachings, as originally established in Genesis by God the Father, and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
She is who Ignatius of Antioch spoke of on his way to martyrdom (He was a disciple of John the Apostle, 3rd bishop of Antioch and among the ranks of the “Church Fathers”, martyred in 109 A.D. )
“You must all follow the lead of the bishop, as Jesus Christ followed that of the Father; follow the presbytery (priest) as you would the Apostles; reverence the deacons as you would God’s commandment.”
“Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be, even as wheresoever Christ Jesus is, there is the catholic church.”
(Bishop Peter Jugis of the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C.)
She is the only Church that existed for the first 1000 years of the Christian existence. She shared the same Apostolic teaching as the Orthodox did for the first 1500 years of the Church despite the schism and continues to share the emphasis on the Eucharist (the new manna, bread from heaven) until this very day. She is the Church who gave us clarity under the Holy Spirit of what books were to be canonized in the bible during the councils of Carthage and Hippo in the years 393, 397 and 410 (73 books). She is the fulfillment of Isiah 22:22, Matthew 16:18 and Rev 5:10 as well as a countless many of prophesies fulfilled from both the Old and New Testament. When one steps foot in a Catholic Church and learns first hand who she is, they quickly discover this is the only Divine institution on the face of this earth, built by God himself (through His Holy Spirit) as well as the fullness of Jesus’ teachings (The Church is not a denomination, it never broke away from Jesus or His teachings despite man’s flaws and attempts. It is not a fraction, but is the whole/universal reflection of the Word made flesh). Many enter with their skepticism’s few leave unchanged and converted (visit RCIA which begins in September to learn more). The most hateful in history like Saul himself challenge Her divinity and authority and in God’s time encountered the radical conversion they thought was never possible. Just as Saul turned to Paul, I too share this similar epiphany, to the beauty which is heaven on earth. I too like Saul and countless others did not want to be Christian nor Catholic, but when one truly seeks, they find, when they truly ask they receive and if they truly knock and want to be heard, they are, and the door is opened.
(Latin Mass at St. Anne’s in Charlotte, N.C.)
So what does “The Catholic Experience” entail? It begins with the mass (liturgy). In this central point of the faith we gather in prayer together in which we all unify our hearts and minds to the Body of Christ. The pinnacle of this gathering is when we consume our Lord who is truly present in the bread and wine. This is the most intimate and personal encounter one can have with Jesus Christ. Jesus clearly teaches and shares this strange teaching with us in John 6. In the mass we join with all those in heaven as well which is described throughout Revelations, we pray in communion with the Kingdom of God and all His Saints and Angels. In this Church of all nations we share in the sacred language of Latin just as the Jews previously had Hebrew as their sacred language of the temple. Latin was the universal language of the early times, just as English is universal today. The Church preserves that language since it is her roots, but opens the door to other liturgies, traditions and languages through the council of Vatican II. While the way the Church teaches and evangelizes may change at times, her Teachings and Traditions remain consistent and the same since the beginning.
(Ukrainian Greek Eastern Catholic Liturgy)
The Sacraments are a beautiful example of these Teachings and Traditions (capitalized since these are from Jesus himself). These outward signs as described in depth through John’s gospel show us God’s love, mercy and hope of full communion with us, His creation. The Sacraments are in place to draw us into a closer and more intimate relationship with our Lord, just as the Jewish law and feasts in Exodus were previously honored. Sadly in the last 500 years many have watered down these teachings and just like any other attack on the Church, the hope is to dissolve the truth of God’s providence in these matters, for example marriage/matrimony. This Sacrament is one of the greatest gifts of God which lead to a strong bond and union with God to create and build a family on His foundation, divorce and other forms of manipulation to this Sacrament has led many to see it as a mere government legality. The same goes for baptism which is to cleanse us of our sins and confession which frees and and continues to cleanse us of our sins. The Eucharist sustains us, gives us life and is more than just bread and wine as Jesus says, “This IS my body.” All this is a simple explanation of the graces God gives us in His Church.
(The Maronite Lebanese Liturgy includes Aramaic, the language of our Lord Jesus)
I invite you to get out there and enjoy “The Catholic Experience”. If your faith is dull like mine was, it’s because you are dull, as I was chasing the passions of the world instead of the Passion of our Lord. The Crucifix is a reminder of this ugliness…..just as Moses puts the snake on the staff to remind the Jews of their ugliness and sinful forgetfulness of the Father’s goodness, so too does the Crucifix of our Lord hung on cross for our sins remind us to never forget His sacrifice for us and our wrong ways.
(The Syro-Malabar Liturgy is said for the Eastern Catholics of India)
Visit other parishes in your diocese, find someone that inspires you within the Church to help develop your faith, if they are not quick to answer patiently wait as most of the biblical people and Saints have to do. Enjoy the diversity and depth of the Church. I, myself was guilty of getting stuck in a one dimensional mentality. Coming from New York City I thought there was only one form of the faith, and when I moved to Charlotte, N.C. I discovered a primitive form of the faith, which is common in the south and other countries. It led to my ignorance and misunderstandings, eventually leading me to fall away for 15 years, along with many of life’s other reasons.
(Adoration of our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament)
Today, thanks be to God and my seeking I have been back since October of 2010 and enjoy the life as a Catholic missionary sharing “The Catholic Experience” with many, from Eastern liturgies, to retreats and pilgrimages, to daily mass, to whatever other adventures God says “leave your nets and follow me” I always seek to do His will and share it with others. Let’s get uncomfortable together and see what our Lord has in plan for you and I. Come home, it’ll be the greatest choice of your life, and if you are already home, get involved and grow more we have a long pilgrimage ahead to perfection in heaven, let’s not waste anymore time. God Bless You and I pray with all our Angels and Saints you may encounter our Lord’s divine providence so that you too may share it with those around you. Look busy, Jesus is coming…………
(Standard Mass at St. Helen’s in Spencer Mountain, N.C.)