Mr. Shaun McAfee, O.P. is the author of Reform Yourself! and other books, is the founder and editor of EpicPew.com, and contributes to many online Catholic resources. He holds a Masters in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. Shaun has made his temporary profession as a Lay Dominican and temporarily lives in Italy.
Are you a convert? Why did you join the Church?
Are you a “cradle catholic”? Why are you still with the Church?
It’s an important question we should all consider. Not only in order to be prepared for the inevitable question from friends, family and acquaintances, but also for some self-reflection. Chances are, the answer might have changed over time.
Sure, your initial reason for joining or making that life-long commitment to stay with the Church was on the basis of something divisible, something concrete. It might have been sparked by the reality of the Eucharist, or a love for the liturgy. But as time as gone on, and you’ve become more appreciative of your catholicity, you might dig even deeper. What about the Eucharist? What about the liturgy was it? The Eucharist, yes, is the “summit and source” of our faith, but even this reality derives from an even bigger reality: authority. Right? Without the authority of Christ, we wouldn’t have the Eucharist through the hands and words of priests. Even deeper, I think we can go. It can even be backed up to personhood. Christ’s authority is derived from who he is as a person: a person of the Holy Trinity.
So I think about these things from time to time, and I have, in the past few years. And since my appreciation of the reasons I joined the Church, an even further appreciation has formed in the area of obedience to the Church.
Perhaps I joined the Church with a different mentality than some. I was not merely amused by the traditions of the Catholic Church, its art, architecture and expressions of faith, nor its longstanding place in history. I did not join because I was purely pleased by the Church’s numbers and the continuity of teaching. And though I was undeniably rapt by the logical principles that were provided for such teachings as baptism, the Eucharist, the Communion of Saints, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, these were not the sole basis of my decision to join the Catholic Church.
All of these things were and continue to be exceedingly important to me, but the reason I joined the Catholic Church, above all, was because of what the catholic Church is. The catholic Church is not a group of common-minded people. The word “catholic” is not just the namesake of the earliest gathering of believers. This catholic Church is the Body of Christ, without metaphor. As the Body of Christ, the Church contains the authority to teach, the completeness of the Christian Faith, and the presence of a visible structure that communicates its teachings, and transmits the authority of Christ to the Apostles and to every age.
When I joined the Catholic Church, I joined with that discipline in mind. It required my obedience, even if I did not understand. It required my followership, even if I didn’t agree. It required my devotion, even if I didn’t want to.
In my conversion I became completely convinced that the Church, through Christ, was the only infallible communicator of moral and divine truths, and whatever she taught, I wanted to become a slave to.
I wonder if you, the reader, feel the same on the subject. If you think that your obedience to the Church begins with you, as if you’re the one agreeing with the Catholic Church, and therefore, will obey. Or is it not better to first know and trust what the Church is, Christ, and become obedient to that end?