Wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church - St. Ignatius of Antioch Letter to the Smyrnaeans (107 A.D.)
While reading Why Be Catholic by Fr. Ken Geraci it has me reflecting on my own answer as to why I myself am Catholic. I have had many conversations with non-Catholic Christians spanning a whole array of subjects and fundamental teaching differences between Catholicism and Protestantism. Amongst all of those conversations since my conversion two years ago I have only been asked "Why are you Catholic" in a genuine way once.
My answer to this man who I was in a car with, a coworker at the time, went as such:
"Well, Scripture and the Church together is God relaying to us His love language. He is communicating how He wants to be worshipped and loved. He established a way by which we may come to Him and partake of Him. I came to believe and see that God's love language is communicated through the Catholic Faith, and seeing how I believe that this is God's communicated love language, and seeing how by my life I aspire to love God, I wish to speak His love language, and therefore I left Protestantism, even though it was uncomfortable, and became Catholic. It may not be my "natural inclination" of communicating love to God, but it is how God has communicated He wants to be loved. God is a personal Creator. One who wishes and wills for a personal relationship with us: His creation.
Many will say that you can just love God and come to Him and worship Him by any means that fits you, but we would never say that this would be appropriate or proper expressions of love within human relationships. Just because our love language may be, for example, words of affirmation, it may be the case that our spouse's language is quality time and gift giving. But if we refuse to ever be willing to cater to those love languages of our spouse and choose to only communicate love as we are comfortable and as we see fit then are we really loving our spouse? Or are we just serving our comfort and ourselves: loving as is convenient?
I am Catholic because I wish to give to God what is God's, and since I truly believe that Catholicism is the expression of God's love language, and I have many reasons to believe so, then as someone who wishes to know, serve, and love God, I am obligated to speak that language by my life."
My coworker didn't really respond and he left his questions for the day at that. He wasn't offended and didn't feel belittled (which is important for apologetics and evangelization) and it answered his question, praise God. I had never truly reflected on "Why am I Catholic" in such a way as that before. I knew that I believed that the Catholic faith was absolutely true, but the way I articulated it was new to me and wasn't a way that I had ever planned to explain it beforehand. But I felt that it articulated quite well the essence of why I came back to the Catholic Faith.
Reading Fr. Ken Geraci's book has solidified this take for me on why I am Catholic. His book is concise and to the point, and as a convert himself he lays out in clear yet intelligible fashion good reasons to believe that Catholicism is the way by which God wishes to be loved. As he reflects:
"If you find yourself walking up to heaven's gate singing, "I did it my way", you have a problem. We only get to heaven doing it God's way." Why Be Catholic (p. 30)
This was the primary concern of mine prior to my conversion (or reversion if you prefer that term): am I doing this Christian thing my way, or God's way? Why are there so many interpretations and ways of thinking and ways of living as a Christian? There can't be any way that Christ meant for all of them to be correct. So how do we know what is correct?
I remember desiring to have my son baptized after he was born, but I knew that wasn't a belief that was taught nor that would be supported by the Protestant churches that we attended. I felt I was wrestling with and struggling between 1 Peter 3:21 and those I learned from on Sundays when they would give their interpretations of Scripture. Peter seemed clear to me about the nature of baptism but those around me would lessen it to almost a completely unnecessary ordeal. (The Second Flood: An Argument for Necessity of Baptism)
I remember struggling in prayer feeling that I was distant from God due to my sins and I didn't know how to feel and be reconciled to Him. I would seek out pastors and sermons in a panicked fashion wondering how to know that I indeed had received God's forgiveness. I never received consistent answers, or consolable ones either. (To Forgive and Retain: A Defense for Confession)
No one could ever explain to me, in any of the churches we attended, why we even partook of communion if it is just bread and wine and merely a symbol. No one could explain John 6 in a consistent manner. If anything it would just get swept under the rug. They would end up saying "just eat the bread, look at the Cross, and just reflect on what He did for us". Yes, but what does mere bread have to do with any of that? (How the Symbolic View of the Eucharist Makes Christ's Sacrifice Incomplete)
Some taught faith alone, some taught faith and works, some taught in a Pelagian fashion as well, which in hindsight is a big surprise to find in Protestant churches. (Saved by Faith Alone? (w/ Blake Martin))
I couldn't find a consistent and grounded manner of interpretation and teaching. I was looking for that unity that Christ prayed for in John 17, and was looking for the unity that Paul preached for in 1 Corinthians 1:10. I felt alone and that it was all up to me, which only caused the viscous cycle of panic to continue and evolve.
Fr. Ken goes on to say:
"When you read the Old Testament, you find time and time again this concept of covenant reappearing. We hear the word covenant again in the New Testament when Jesus speaks at the Last Supper. [...] So covenant is a very important concept or theme to understand. [...] A covenant is an exchange of persons - where one gives themselves completely to another - that creates a total and lifelong family bond. [...] Each covenant had a unique and particular application of its instruction, law, and practices, each covenant shared a similar skeletal structure, so to speak. When looking at what all covenants had in common, there was a priesthood, liturgical days and acts, sacrifice, dietary regulations (eat this, do not eat that), and altar(s), to name a few. In each covenant there is also God's presence and a single representative He chose to communicate through (Noah, Moses, the prophets, etc.). So what God has done is to create a consistent pattern by which He chooses to work throughout the centuries. This is of the greatest importance, as when you look back through history, you see a pattern emerge [...] our God is a God of consistency [...] Jesus, however, establishes this new and universal covenant, available to all through His blood. The Greek word for universal is katholikos, meaning "catholic". See, when we say we're Catholic, we're not saying that we're one Christian denomination among many but rather that we are the chosen people of God, under covenant law, but now anybody of any race or tribe can join us [...] This is a key element of understanding our faith: that God establishes this universal covenant, manifested in the form of the Church. It is open to all, but not all will enter in" Why Be Catholic (p. 6-11)
This is one aspect of God's interaction with mankind which gives credence to Catholic claims in my heart. God is consistent, not necessarily in the exactness of promise to promise and covenant to covenant, but as Fr. Ken explains, consistent in a skeletal way. God is consistent within the nature and kind of His relationship building with mankind. He is indeed consistent and orderly.
St. Vincent de Lerins seconds this sentiment of Fr. Ken's about appealing to that which is consistent and persistent; Tradition:
I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or anyone else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church. But here someone perhaps will ask: “Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation?” For this reason—because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation. Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense “Catholic,” which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universality. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors. […] This condemnation, indeed, seems to have been providentially promulgated as though with a special view to the fraud of those who, contriving to dress up a heresy under a name other than its own, get hold often of the works of some ancient writer, not very clearly expressed, which, owing to the very obscurity of their own doctrine, have the appearance of agreeing with it, so that they get the credit of being neither the first nor the only persons who have held it. This wickedness of theirs, in my judgment, is doubly hateful: first, because they are not afraid to invite others to drink of the poison of heresy; and secondly, because with profane breath, as though fanning smouldering embers into flame, they blow upon the memory of each holy man – Commonitorium 2:4-6, 7:9 (A.D. 434)
This quite possibly is my absolute favorite quote from the Early Church. It encapsulates all that I was looking for in an answer to all of my questions while I was Protestant. And it furthers the notion that God and His Church are indeed consistent; and that He designed His Church to be Apostolic: the visible sign of this consistency. As we covered in The True Church is Apostolic:
"These are the established and Divinely designed standards set by God starting with Moses, carried on and adapted by the Apostles, kept by the Early Church, and remain persisting to present day by which the Faithful may use to determine where the authority on Faith and Morals can be found and where the Truth lies in factuality. It is truly visible and not hidden beneath a bush. The True Church is visibly Apostolic."
So, Why am I Catholic? I couldn't explain it better than the great St. Augustine himself:
"[T]here are many other things which most properly can keep me in [the Catholic Church's] bosom. The unanimity of peoples and nations keeps me here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15-17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here. And last, the very name Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called 'Catholic,' when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house" - Against the Letter of Mani Called 'The Foundation' 4:5 (A.D. 397)
From the ministry of the Apostles carrying on all the way up to present day, on all the fundamental teachings you can find that consistency within the Tradition of the Church. This consistency manifests in the apostolic nature of the Church. It is the embodiment of the promise made by Christ that the Holy Spirit would guide the Church into all Truth. And what a comforting promise it is indeed. And what a blessing it is to be within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.