I remember a few years a number of books appeared with titles such as “Why I am still a Catholic …”. The sub-text of the title was that one has to be a little crazy to be a Catholic especially if one were educated (I was recently attacked in this way on Facebook by a friend). It is definitely not easy to be a Catholic in today’s western society and often we mumble something like: “I’m a Catholic … but…” and then go on to list all the things with which we disagree in the Church’s teaching, usually concerning sexual ethics.
It may be because I grew up as a Catholic in 1950s Belfast, but I like to say “I am a Catholic and proud of it”. This is because Catholicism, a living community of faith which sprung from the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, is for me the fullest expression of Christianity. In the almost two thousand years of its history, the Church has vastly enriched humanity in so many ways from the charitable actions of millions of its members to its contributions in art, music, literature, philosophy, architecture, the sciences and in almost every area of human existence. As Pope Paul VI put it: ” the Catholic Church is an expert in humanity” and represents, in the words of the French philosopher Jacques Maritain, a ‘true’ or ‘integral’ humanism. By human dignity we mean that we are made in the image and likeness of God and are destined to share eternity with Him. Our dignity does not depend on our ability to perform certain functions but is rooted in our human nature. Even our suffering can be transformed into a glorious future through the Resurrection. Lent is an opportunity for us to reflect on this Christian dignity.