Transforming the common image of Catholicism


I have this novel that I’ve been working on since I was 13 and I’m trying to publish it. Without devoting an entire blog post about my story, it is about a group of Catholics from very different walks of life navigating the complicated world of modern faith. It focuses primarily on a divorced father of a disabled teenager and the themes are the life issues like abortion and suicide.

I never intended for it to be about Catholicism. That was a recent development, but since I have made that change, the story fell into place better than I could have ever imagined. Being a theist, I have often wondered if there was a purpose behind my choice to write a Catholic novel.

Some of the reasons I came up with include:

My faith matters to me and I want to share it.

I want to write about my thoughts and things that have happened to me as a form of therapy.

I want to entertain people and get them to think.

Basically, I write for the same reasons everyone else writes, but there was something more to it.

I had been sharing my story with a close friend of mine for some time, and she’s a non-Christian. She really liked it, but she said something one day that really made me think. THIS was that other reason I had been looking for to write this.

To correct misconceptions about Catholicism.

She said my story was interesting, well-written, and entertaining. She thought differently because of it. She learned a lot about Catholicism without feeling like she was being beaten into a coma with a Bible.

Hear that?

She learned a lot about Catholicism without feeling like she was being beaten into a coma with a Bible.

She said she used to really misunderstand and dislike the Catholic faith.

At this point in the conversation, she lowered her voice and spoke in a really bashful tone of voice.

She said she didn’t mean to offend me, but that she had always seen the Catholic faith as hypocritical. She heard that whenever you did anything wrong, all you had to do was go to a priest, say some words, be forgiven, and you can do the same stuff all over again. In reality, it’s a lot more complicated than that.

Few people, even Catholics, know what Original Sin is. Generally, people think that the doctrine teaches that humans are inherently evil and they ask what babies could have possibly done for them to be born into sin. In reality, it teaches just the opposite.

There are two categories of sin: the type that you commit and the type that you are just born into. The first type is the one that people are most familiar with, the bad things you do, like break a Commandment. The second type of sin, or Original Sin, doesn’t refer to the presence of bad thoughts or actions, but to the absence of God’s grace. We are born outside of God’s grace because of the Fall, but we can receive it again through baptism.

In other words, humans were designed to hold God’s grace the way a chalice is designed to hold liquid. Humans are inherently good according to Catholic theology. We just need a little assistance.

I know. The Catholic Church doesn’t often present itself as an insistution that believes in the inherent goodness of people, but that’s the truth.

My friend didn’t know any of this.

She asked me about the Christian belief that Christ is required for salvation. Why do we have to believe in certain ideas to be saved. Can’t you just be a good person? Does that mean nothing? If you are saved, does that mean you can do whatever you want and still be rewarded?

According to Catholic theology, no.

The Catholic Church is very explicit on this matter, actually. Catholics believe that certain beliefs and practices increase your chances of getting into Heaven, but there is no guarantee. You can follow every Church teaching to the letter and really believe in them and still go to Hell. Likewise, people can get into Heaven that we would never expect. It is because we don’t know “who will be taken and who will be left” that Catholics are so adament about keeping themselves in check.

Such a mentality can be taken overboard, of course, but it certainly doesn’t prove the case that Catholics can do whatever they want and still go to Heaven. Nor does it necessarily mean that non-Catholics, less strict Catholics, or people who didn’t have the chance to be Catholic are going to Hell.

We call this the Obedience of Faith.

She didn’t know this. She didn’t know about the RCC’s strong mystic tradition, about strong women in the Church, some of whom are now considered saints, and much more.

There are so many things that I hear all the time and that I’m sick of hearing, but I NEVER get tired of hearing that people are less hostile towards the Catholic faith and the people that practice it because of me.

They aren’t running to their local parish to attend RCIA sessions. They don’t agree with everything the Church teaches. They still think a lot of Catholics, especially those in leadership positions, have got it all wrong.

But because of me, they see good in the Catholic faith.

That’s my job.

Part of my calling as a Catholic is to open hearts and minds to the message of God and His Son.

I don’t want to convert you. Conversion is something that the Holy Spirit has to inspire you to do.

Thankfully, you don’t NEED to convert to benefit from the message.

I think that’s what I really want. I want to show what the Catholic faith is supposed to be and what the Church could be. I want to help explain what sustains people through a difficult faith journey that is overseen by people who are often not worthy of the job.

I want people to be comforted.

Jesus shared His message with the people using parables. Why shouldn’t I?

Now I have a question for you all: have I had a similar effect on you?

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