In difficult times, it can be, well, difficult to find the reasons to hold onto the Catholic Faith. Or, sometimes it’s hard to convince others that we have good reasons to be Catholic! Or . . . maybe you’ve been searching for a long time and just need a few more good reasons to be Catholic to put you over the edge and take that plunge into the Tiber. Well, you’re in luck.
In his book Forty Reasons I Am a Catholic, Dr. Peter Kreeft has succinctly and efficiently lays out forty reasons he is Catholic (although, he notes, that he probably has closer to ten to the 82nd power reasons). Each reason is treated with care and delicacy, making sure they are reasonable and well-explained. They are also convincing. Maybe you’ll find one of your reasons for being, staying, or becoming Catholic through one of his. Here are sixteen of his most compelling reasons to be Catholic.
1. It’s the best of five choices
Kreeft took five steps in his reasoning: religion vs no religion, God vs many gods, God of the Bible vs god of pantheism, Jesus is divine vs Jesus the liar lunatic, and the Catholic Church as the one Christ founded vs it’s not. He breaks these choices down further to religion, not atheism; monotheism, not polytheism; theism, not pantheism; Christianity (Trinitarianism), not Unitarianism; and Catholicism, not Protestantism.
“The three most important links in this chain are the last ones: that the material universe is God’s creation, Christ is God’s incarnation, and the Church is Christ’s body. All that is not yet quite a proof but is the map of a journey, which can also be the map of a proof, i.e., a justification of the journey, an obeying of the first pope’s command to ‘be prepared to make a defense [of] the hope that is in you’ (1 Peter 3:15),” Kreeft writes.
2. Jesus is actually and fully present in every consecrated Host in the world
Once a host is consecrated by the priest, it is transubstantiated into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. How cool is that! But even cooler is that Jesus is actually and fully present in each consecrated Host ever. So when you’re in the communion line and you receive the Host, it’s not like you’re getting a piece of Jesus’s left toe and Joe Schmoe behind you is getting a piece of His liver, and Karen two pews ahead of you got a piece of Jesus’s right elbow. Each person receives the entirety of Jesus in each Host. Mind. Blown.
3. To have our sins forgiven
“When I go into the confessional, I become a fundamentalist, or at least an archconservative: I need to be absolutely certain that the priest’s words of forgiveness, which he repeats not in his own name but in the name of Jesus Christ, are literally true and divinely guaranteed,” Kreeft says.
Only Catholic priests, who have succeeded since Peter and the apostles, have been given the authority to forgive sins. We need forgiveness because we mess up, plain and simple. Not only do we hurt ourselves when we sin, but we hurt the Body of Christ, that is, the Church, and we need to reconcile with God and with the Church. Forgiveness is also receiving Christ’s healing, so it’s only partial if we just say we’re sorry and get the words of forgiveness. We need the full mercy of healing from the damage of our sins, and that is what is offered to us in the Catholic Church.
Cathedrals are beautiful, impressive works of architecture, but one of the criticisms of the Catholic Church is in regard to them: why build such big and expensive structures when the money could be used to help the poor (or whatever other cause needs funding)?
“Now when Jesus was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, woman came up to him with an alabaster jar of costly perfumed oil, and poured it on his head while he was reclining at table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant and said, ‘Why this waste? It could have been sold for much, and the money given to the poor.’ Since Jesus knew this, he said to them, ‘Why do you make trouble for the woman? She has done a good thing for me'” (Matthew 26:6-10).
Kreeft reflects this Scripture in his own observations: “Cathedrals are technological miracles, centuries ahead of their time. With their flying buttresses, they look like rocket ships. They make your spirit fly. The miracle is that they do not fly off the ground themselves…They exist for one reason only: to be houses not for man but for God, for Jesus Christ, God incarnate, who is really present there in the Eucharist.”
5. The Catholic Church isn’t an organization but His body
“I am a Catholic because the Church Christ founded and gavels is our literal, historical, temporal connector to Him. Without the connector, the write that plugs into the infinite divine electricity, our souls die. We receive His life, His literal blood, through the umbilical cord of the Church’s Eucharist. It literally incorporates us into His corpus, His body. We also receive His mind through the Church’s teachings,” Kreeft writes.
There’s nothing really to add to that, Kreeft says it all. Boom.
Gonna insert myself for just a second here but as a writer, I love words. Words are my clay and a blank page is my canvas. I love watching how they build and shape and take form and grow. For this reason, Kreeft’s reason for being Catholic touches me hardcore: we have amazing words in our Catholic teaching, tradition, and vocabulary.
“It’s easy to offer verbs and adjective and participles. But to offer nouns is to offer elephants. Look at the size and weight of those nouns in the Catholic Church’s theology: Father, Son, Spirit, God, Man, Eternity, Time, Good, Evil, King, Kingdom, Power, Glory, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Body, Blood, Soul, Immortality, Angel, Devil, Faith, Hope, Charity, Salvation, Sin, Life, Death, Saint, Savior, Lord. Who dares to offer such nouns?” Kreeft, again, just pierces the heart of the matter in the best way.
7. We’re all gonna die
Momento mori, dudes. It’s inevitable. We will each die someday. It is a universal truth that you don’t need faith or belief to know is coming with absolute certainty. There is no way around it, no way to “cheat death”. It is and it is coming and it doesn’t discriminate. The wonderful thing about the Catholic Church is that she teaches us how to die.
“Only if I meet Him as part of His own body am I secure. I cannot fall through His fingers if I am one of His fingers. (That Catholic image is from the Dutch Protestant Corrie ten Boom.) I therefore choose to accept the incredible gift of being incorporated into His corpus, His body, which is visible as well as mystical, sacramental as well as spiritual, by the mean He made for us, which are also material and not just spiritual: Baptism, Confirmation, Confession, Eucharist, Viaticum. I believe that this belief is not sheer belief, sheer faith, but is eminently reasonable. It is neither faith alone nor reason alone, but faith and reason married. Faith and reason are allies, not enemies,” Kreeft writes.
8. Gratitude is a precondition of all religions
Kreeft begins this reason by recalling a story of a philosophy professor of his at Fordham, Fr. Norris Clarke, S.J., who once visited Tibet and some Buddhist monks there, just to converse with them. Turns out, they all agreed that gratitude for everything, every tiny thing, was the basis for any religion. The only difference was that the monks didn’t know who they were thanking, while Fr. Clarke did.
Every moment of this existence is gift, in the joys and in the hardships. We are given each moment to do with as we wish and to, hopefully, live good, fruitful lives, whatever that may look like. To not be grateful for each moment, each instance, each circumstance is arrogance. I do not give myself these moments, but they are given to me. Just as we thank someone who gives us a gift, so too should we thank God Who gives us all gifts.
When I was a teenager, newly minted as a driver, I drove some friends to a restaurant to hang out for the evening. The last turn was an extremely sharp right turn, so sharp that it was impossible to make the turn without veering into the oncoming lane of traffic. So I waited and waited and waited until the traffic had stopped enough for me to make the turn safely. For whatever reason, in the middle of making the turn, my car stalled. By this time, more traffic had started coming towards us and I was in their lane. The car wouldn’t go. I couldn’t move it forward nor backward and the oncoming car was not slowing down. My friends and I screamed as the oncoming vehicle sped past us, expecting to be sent careening any moment. But we were stationary. The vehicle had missed us by no more than an inch. Suddenly, my car started again and we safely made it the rest of the distance to the restaurant.
That was the first time I truly felt the presence of my guardian angel and the might of that angel. Had my car not stalled, I would’ve been too far in the opposing lane for the oncoming vehicle to miss me. We were literally saved by the grace of God, His angel, and an inch of space. So when Kreeft offers this description of angels, I know from experience that he is right: “Catholic angels are formidable. They are as far from Hallmark greeting-card angels as Catholic saints are from Ned Flanders on The Simpsons. They are not fluffy! They are not fantasies of human imagination but terrible and wonderful and forever unable to be adequately expressed in human art.”
Kreeft says this really well: “Saints are books, to be read. What do you read in them? The same thing you read in the Bible: Jesus. Saints are little Christs. And what does Christ reveal? He alone reveals to us completely and perfectly the two things we make need to know: the nature of God and the nature of man…You understand Jesus a little better every time you meet a saint.”
11. Walker Percy
Um, Walker Percy?? This reason Kreeft gives is so sincere but it made me laugh, so I had to tell you about it.
“When Walker Percy gave ‘What else is there?’ as his reason for being Catholic, his interlocutor continued with something like this: ‘What do you mean, “What else is there?” There are plenty of alternatives: fundamentalism, Modernism, left-wing liberalism, right-wing conservatism, materialism, spiritualism, pragmatism, idealism, classicism, romanticism, epicureanism, stoicism, utilitarianism, individualism, collectivism, relativism, male chauvinism, female chauvinism, unisexism, transgenderism, transhumanism, pantheism, polytheism, Islamic terrorism, the Age of Aquarius, the New Age Movement, crystals, Wicca, communism, neo-Nazism, anarchism, secular humanism (fanatically secular humanism!), narcissism, drugs, gangs, and the NFL.’ Percy replied something like: ‘I rest my case.'”
Sometimes it really do be that simple.
Kreeft makes the point that he is a Catholic because Catholics still do metaphysics, which is often misunderstood. “It is not that division of philosophy that deals with the nonphysical. or the supernatural; it is that division of philosophy that deals with being–– all being, being as such. A popular name for it is worldview. It means simply thinking about what is, and the real, essential nature of what is,” Kreeft writes.
Plato did metaphysics. All the great ancient and medieval philosophers did metaphysics. Every single one! But do you know who does metaphysics now? Not Kant. Not Luther. Not most modern philosophers because they are too skeptical and not contemplative enough. But do you know who has always done metaphysics and continues to? Catholics. Kreeft concludes, “The fundamental claims of Catholicism are all metaphysical.” This means that Catholicism isn’t just telling what is, but telling why it is and how it is. How freaking cool is that?
13. Dogmatic certainty about God, Christ, and salvation
“No Protestant denomination claims dogmatic certainty for itself. But we need it. We need not just probabilities or good opinion or good intentions on the road to Heaven, because our everything depends on this journey. A mistake on other road maps may not be disastrous, but on this one it may, because death is final and there is no going back, no second chance,” Kreeft writes.
This is where the Magisterium of the Catholic Church comes in. In her teaching authority, which can be Biblically shown and also shown through Tradition, the Church can give with certainty dogmas on the nature of God and other tenants of Faith. “Every heretic in history believed in and appealed to the Bible,” Kreeft goes on. “History has proven that the Bible alone is not enough.”
This reason is so short and succinct that I’m just going to quote it in its entirety: “Hollywood knows that the alternative to secularism and materialism and skepticism and atheism and nihilism is Catholicism. Whenever they make a serious movie and religion is in it, it’s always a Catholic Church and a Catholic priest that they use.”
Every serious look the secular world takes at religion and the questions of the universe includes Catholicism.
15. Everyone needs joy!
Here Kreeft quotes the great St. Thomas Aquinas who says that no man can live without joy and goes on to say, “That is why those who are deprived of true joy go over to carnal pleasures.” Joy comes from God, not just happiness but true joy. And joy is never boring; though pleasure and happiness become old and rusty, joy is ever-fresh, ever-new, ever-shiny. Kreeft writes so simply that it brings immense joy, “Jesus is the only Person in history who never bored anybody.” So joy must come from God! And we receive it from Him through His body, the Church.
16. Because the Church defends nature and grace
“The Church defends nature as well as grace, because she believes that grace perfects and redeems and loves and validates nature instead of dispensing with it, minimizing it, bypassing it, or rejecting it…Even the dispute between the Protestant either-or and the Catholic both-and is a both-and rather than an either-or for the Catholic, for the Catholic spirit makes room for the Protestant either-or (e.g., Heaven or Hell, good or evil, faith or sin, yes or no to God)…” Kreeft writes.
This both-and can be seen in dozens and dozens of Catholic principles and teachings. It’s woven completely into the fabric of the Catholic faith. For example (though he provides many), Kreeft points out that the Church defends matter and spirit because God created both.
For all the rest of Dr. Peter Kreeft’s reasons he’s Catholic and even better and fuller explanations of his reasonings, pick up a copy of his book Forty Reasons I Am a Catholic.