'Why are you still Catholic?'
The week after Easter of this year, I made a trip to visit a friend and classmate from seminary. As we were driving to lunch after Mass one day, my friend put a question to me that took me by complete surprise. In a serious tone, he asked out of nowhere, “Kyle, why are you still Catholic?” Honestly, I didn’t know how to take his question, and I didn’t know how to respond – no one had ever asked me such a thing before, especially a brother priest. Why am I still Catholic? He might as well have asked me why I am still human. It is simply so much a part of who I am that I couldn’t imagine not being so.
A wave of discombobulated thoughts started to rush through my head as I tried to come up with a quick and profound answer for him but to no avail. Instead, I asked him what he was getting at. He said that a lot of the young people he works with – both teens and young adults – have been coming to him because their peers are asking them this question, and they’re really struggling with it. In a 21st century world where secularism reigns supreme, where moral standards change daily, where happiness can seemingly be bought or found quickly and cheaply, where religious leaders are caught in hypocrisy and implicated in acts of grave evil, religion can seem at best to be silly and unnecessary and at worst to be oppressive and dangerous. Our young Millennial and Generation Z Catholics are being brought to task and asked to account for why they remain people of faith. If I as a priest could stumble over this question while talking to another priest, what must a teenager or a college student be going through as their non-Catholic or non-religious friends ask them the same? My friend explained to me how he couldn’t honestly or authentically begin helping these young people work through this question without asking it of himself first, and he invited me to do the same.
I think my friend was right. If we’re going to engage the world as faithful Catholics, and if we’re going to help the next generation to do the same, we have to be comfortable asking this question of ourselves: why do we remain Catholic? In other words, knowing that there are reasons piling up around us for why we could leave the practice of our faith, do we have eyes to see and ears to hear the many reasons for why we stay: historical reasons, logical reasons, spiritual reasons, reasons that ultimately come from a life immersed in prayer, in study, and in service?
There are so many amazing reasons for us to be Catholic and to stay Catholic. And given the challenges that we are facing and will continue to face, it is clear that neither emotion nor simple inertia will be enough to keep us going. We have to become more convicted, more intentional, and more grounded as joyful and proud disciples of Jesus Christ.
In John 6, when the crowds began to abandon Jesus after his incredible teaching on the Eucharist, he turned to the Twelve and asked them if they had found reasons to leave also. Simon Peter, without denying his own struggles, said “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (v. 68.) May Peter’s answer, undergirded by a thousand good reasons for believing it, be ours as well.
Father Kyle Doustou, pastor of the Parish of the Resurrection of the Lord, Old Town