One of my readers asked a question about the Catholic faith. It is my intent to briefly answer this question in layman's terms. While I have been learning with and teaching my children for the past 5-6 years, I do not pretend to be a scholar who is the authority. The more I learn, the more I am humbled and see the need to study. This isn't just MY Catholic faith. The Catholic Church was set up by Christ himself to be universal. For everyone to worship and live together.
So in the spirit of Ask Sister Mary Martha, here we go.
Tessa commented: Catholicism as... they love Mary more then they ever pay attention to Christ and then work their heaven w/ good deeds. I would love to know more about YOUR Catholic faith!!! Because, like I said, I am always very confused about that religion.
I think the key word here is confusion. Many people see a snippet of the Catholic faith, do not understand it, or study to find the truth, and are left with misconceptions. Here is my poor attempt at clearing that up. We'll start with Mary and the saints.
We Catholics do not worship Mary, but we do place her in high esteem. For she is the mother of our Lord. When we pray to the saints and Mary it isn't that we think they are equal to God. Rather, it is a lot like calling up your mom and saying, "I'm having a hard time, could you pray for me?" We do this because we believe we are in communion with the saints, and they can hear our prayers. (Basically just because they are dead doesn't mean they can't hear us.) Being they were very godly people, they will pray for us. Very much like your most trusted Christian friend. You know, the one who just lights up the room with their spirit. Mary and the saints are always pointing us in the direction of Jesus. It is our hope as Catholics that we would follow the example of the wonderful lives they lived for Christ.
As for the good deeds, we Catholics, like most Christians, are very aware there is NOTHING we could ever do that would be good enough to get us into heaven. Jesus died on the cross, and without that gift we would all be in some serious trouble. Through Baptism we are covered by that grace.
However, as a follower of Christ we are called to action. Jesus didn't say, "just believe in me and you are good to go." He calls us to "love thy neighbor as thyself." Which is where the good deeds come in. Catholics believe we are to practice the seven corporal works of mercy.
1. Feed the hungry
2. Give drink to the thirsty
3. Clothe the naked
4. Shelter the homeless
5. Visit the sick
6. Visit those in prison
7. Bury the dead
This tradition is based on Mt 25:34 “Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ’Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ’Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?’ And the king will answer them, ’Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me.’”
Tessa, thanks so much for asking these questions. Like you pointed out, just because someone says they are Catholic or Christian or whatever the label, doesn't necessarily mean they are practicing in the true spirit of their church. What I have found over the years is many Catholics have a poor understanding of church doctrine. They know what they are supposed to do, but don't really know the history or reasoning behind the ritual or belief. Let's cut them a little slack though. Seriously, there is over 2,000 years of history and tradition to cover.
Hey, let's be honest here. When you are talking the mysteries of Christ, well it gets heady. Which is why I love the Catholic Church. There are all of these REALLY smart people who help me to sort through it all, and figure it out. Sure it is messy. We, like every other faith out there, have some serious sinners in our midst (me being one of them). But when you get rid of the mess and sin, and study to find the true teachings of the church, you just can't go wrong. I don't have enough space on this blog to express my love of the rituals and sacraments of the church.
I think so many times we are always looking at differences instead of common ground. I often wonder what God thinks when He looks down and sees His children divided. My hope is that as Christians we can come to know the truth of Christ and one day be united. Then we would have a bit more of heaven here on earth.