For the last five years, I have read everything Catholic that I can. Mostly I read the Catechism and Papal Documents. Thanks to the Interwebs it is pretty easy to read any number of things written or said by any given Pope at any given time in History. I don’t really know how far back the Vatican website goes, but I have made it through a good chunk of Benedict but St. JP 2 has so much stuff that it’s gonna take longer than 5 years to even put a dent in his collection of writings. I have never finished reading anything by a Pope without walking away with some serious lessons. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is also online for free to be read and that right there was really what had me falling head over heels in love with this Church. It didn’t always feel good to read but I knew in the depth of my soul that everything written in there was true. Truth matters to me more than anything. Up until the day that I cracked open the Catechism I had yet to find anything that resembled objective truth. Not in preaching or in living.
Truth and facts matter to me. I have been lied to so many times in my life and I know that most things in this world are 98% bullshit. Everything involved politics and PR. In most things in life there is what is really happening and then the front built for everyone to see that represents what people should think is happening. From the time that I was little and everyone thought that the man raping and molesting me was a hero for being there for me and my mom to the Catholics in my family who lived one way while kneeling and bowing in Mass when needed.
Living a Catholic life is not for pansies. It is constant examining of your own actions, motives and conscience. There is no other way to live out the Catholic faith honestly. I find that doing that means that I have to go back and apologize a lot, eat crow a lot and look back at things that I thought were right on, only to realize that I was wrong as hell. It is constant conversion. Just when I think that I have it all down something just knocks me off my feet and I’m right back in the confession line to get back on the horse for the 15th millionth time.
Pope Benedict taught me the faith. He is an excellent teacher. He taught me that there is right and wrong, that the Church has the answers to every question I can come up with (if you ask Fr. J, he will be sure to tell you that I can come up with plenty of questions.) and that the Truth isn’t scared of questions, because He can handle them. The Truth does not waver because someone asks hard questions. And there is no question asked in 2014 that hasn’t been asked in the last 2,000. Well, I guess maybe “How do we welcome gays?” may be new, but the Church still is capable of handling it and answering it. I love Pope Benedict. I love St. John Paul II too, but in his own way. Pope Benedict has been my teacher since I started really trying to learn the Truth of what the Catholic Faith teaches. I do not like hearing that any of these three Popes, Benedict, Francis and JP2 somehow are against each other. That is simply not true and as someone who has read them all and has no need for one of them to be the better Pope, I can say that they would probably not be happy to think of anyone trying to use one against the other. And Catholics shouldn’t do that anyway, it’s very utilitarian and all three of these Popes dislike utilitarianism with a passion. To not know that is to not know them at all.
Pope Francis is teaching me how to live the faith that I learned from Pope Benedict in practical ways. I say practical but really, it’s not practical. Practical for me would be to be able to tell everyone I know about the dirty laundry of people who like to hate on me. But I don’t do it for any reason other than Pope Francis is pretty clear on gossip being from the devil himself. Rude. The reason that it is so important to know the Faith is to live it out and to take it to the ends of the Earth. It is what we are all called to do as followers of Christ. Each of us has gifts that God has given us to do that. Each of us also has a different mission that comes with its own way of reaching those God has called us to witness to.
The world has a hunger that only God can satisfy. I know this hunger, it is what led me to the Catholic Church. This is the only place that I found Him. Truly found Him. This is where I was able to ask questions and get answers, sometimes not the answers that I wanted, but answers that changed me. I do believe that I am a better person than I was 5 years ago. I know that I am closer to God, even if I do not always feel like I am.
He has called me to go out and be among the lost. To tell them the great things that He has done for me, meet them where they are and tell them that He loves them more than they think He does. It is my mission. To do that means that I have to know their language. Which is why when I hear a secular song and I think of how it applies to the love of God or to the suffering that goes with not being loved or knowing how to love, I take that and run with it. Do I listen to every song Lil Wayne puts out? No. I know which ones have no value in my mission and which ones do. But to meet people where they are isn’t new. It is radical but even God did it. God Himself came down from Heaven and became man, born of the virgin Mary and dwelt among us. It isn’t just some story, it really happened. It is one of the biggest points of our faith. That the Living God doesn’t wait for us to reach Him, but He comes down to reach us. I know this first hand because not only did Jesus become man, but He came into my life and reached me and drug me out of the life I was living. If He who is God can come into a swingers club and break through to my hard heart, then I can take that and run with it and go where others are not able to go to reach more hardened hearts by telling them that Jesus is alive. And I can use whatever I have to to do that, not because I think so, but because that is what the Church teaches. Not to reinvent the Gospel, but to share it in a way that is new and people can relate to it. That is Church teaching. That is what I am called to do by God. Will I make mistakes? Yes. I make them daily, sometimes hourly, but that is the beauty of it all, none of it depends on me, it all depends on God. I can only hand Him a few loaves and fish to bless them and feed the multitude.
“The Church is an immense force for renewal in the world. This is not, of course, because of her own strength but because of the power of the Gospel in which the Holy Spirit of God breathes, God Creator and Redeemer of the world. The challenges of the present time, the historical and social and, especially, the spiritual challenges, are certainly beyond the human capacity. It sometimes seems to us Pastors of the Church that we are reliving the experience of the Apostles when thousands of needy people followed Jesus and he asked them: what can we do for all these people? They were then aware of their powerlessness. Yet Jesus himself had shown them that with faith in God nothing is impossible and that a few loaves and fish, blessed and shared, could satisfy the hunger of all. However, there was not and there is not hunger solely for material food: there is a deeper hunger that only God can satisfy. Human beings of the third millennium want an authentic, full life; they need truth, profound freedom, love freely given. Even in the deserts of the secularized world, man’s soul thirsts for God, for the living God. It was for this reason that John Paul II wrote: “The mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion”, and he added: “an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning and that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service” (Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, n. 1). There are regions of the world that are still awaiting a first evangelization; others that have received it, but need a deeper intervention; yet others in which the Gospel put down roots a long time ago, giving rise to a true Christian tradition but in which, in recent centuries with complex dynamics the secularization process has produced a serious crisis of the meaning of the Christian faith and of belonging to the Church.” ~ Pope Emeritus Benedict (Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. Sunday, 28 June 2010)