Why I Am A Catholic, Part I
As there is such a discussion around, I have decided to inflict my own take on you.
I am a Catholic by God's Grace. A good Lord disposed that I be born in a still seriously – at least at the cultural level – Catholic country. I lapsed, like countless others, out of my own fault, and out of despise for a clergy unable or unwilling – as I see very clearly now, most likely unwilling – to teach the faith, and chiefly worried of showing you that they were your “friends” instead of old, stuffy people resembling your grandma. They were pathetic, cowardly, mostly unmanly figures unable to attract the respect of ordinary people, much less of young boys looking for manly guidance.
I lapsed. No, it wasn't a grace. It was a big disgrace. It was wrong, sinful, and stupid. There can be mitigating circumstances for lapsing, and I was certainly unaware of the significance of the decision, nor was I helped by my environment. But a sin it still remains.
I went back to the fold – meaning, to the Sacramental life; I never ceased to consider myself a Catholic, as millions of other non-practising Italians – after moving to the UK and finding a Country in which Christianity was merely an option, and rather an embarrassment. As so often, when something you always took for granted – a Christian Weltanschauung – is not there, you start to become more curious, because you now more or less unconsciously start to appreciate it more, and feel its absence. It was easy, and mainstream, in Italy you tell yourself a Catholic without practicing. Not only millions did, but no priest hammered into you the difference. Everyone was so modern, you see; but still, all shared an awful lot of values, and there was a strong basis of shared values among Italians.
I started to put my nose into the matter. Slowly but surely, a new awareness began to grow. The Internet, and the London Oratorians, made the rest. “Seek and you shall find”. The Internet opened to me a world so different from the Italian bookstores of old! Instead of the cheap V II, populist, kindergarten, diabetes-inducing rubbish – easily recognisable as fake even when you do not really know what is authentic – I found an endless well of old-fashioned Catholic wisdom. This wisdom was not only so beautiful, but so inexorably logical, coherent, complete, universal and still absolutely monolithic, that it immediately fascinated a man acquainted with philosophy, and (in his own stupid way) in love with Christianity. It was a block of granite, smashing the stale, sugary molasses of Vatican II into non-existence.
Reality itself was staring at me, because Catholicism is the only way to understand reality, and until you manage to grasp Catholicism life itself will remain outside of your grasp. My (always strong) thirst for knowledge of Truth and for God – a thirst that I could never quench with the babbling idiots of my youth – was now satisfied. I could drink at a well so clear, so fresh, so true, that it was a world of wonder. The Truth I always sought was just there, in the very fabric of the society in which I was born, in the very religion that still shaped so much of it. It was in the robust wisdom our grandmothers had often imperfectly, but always faithfully formulated. It was, in the end, all there. But because of my fault, and arrogance, I wasn't able to look below the thick layer of V II mud and recover the old religion of exactly those grandmothers; a religion which, if I had been determined to rediscover it, would have disclosed itself to me, in time, by God's grace, without decades of lapsed Catholicism; because God can never, ever want that you stop living the sacramental life, much less send this to you as a grace.
By my most grievous fault I decided, certainly before I was 14, perhaps before I was 13, that the Church wasn't worth my attendance; and ended up two decades later spending hours on my collections of several Bibles – I had no less than seven different texts – and comparing bible passages, for hours, like a thirsty madman, or reading around in a confused way; always thirsting, always toiling, never satisfied, never knowing whom to turn to, the German priests of my adulthood even worse than the Italian ones of my youth.
When I discovered Catholic wisdom, I felt elated and very stupid at the same time. It was all there, all the time. The most wonderful gourmet meal, already prepared for me by countless saints as God's exquisite chefs. All there for the asking, and reading, and praying. All there, most importantly of all, for my own salvation, if God's grace assist me and I cooperate with it.
The Catholic Church was right. Is right. Always was, always will. The Catholic Church has all the Truth, and she is the only Truth. The Catholic Church is right even when your priest is an idiot. The Catholic Church is right especially when your priest is an idiot, because then Her immutable Truth shines the more in contrast with the sugary blabbering of her unworthy minister. And then, you love Her more. And when an Evil Clown is Pope, you love Her most.
Scratch away the layer of mud, my friend. What you will find below is better than the purest gold.