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“Ask a Priest: A Soft Spot for Catholicism … But Where Do I Go From Here?”
Q: I feel like a man who is thirsty for the truth but doesn’t know how to find it. So many people within Christendom claim to have the fullness of the truth. I have gone from mainstream Protestantism to dabbling in Catholicism to Christian Universalism to liberal Christianity to Messianic Judaism/Hebrew Roots Movement. And now I don’t even know where I am. I just call myself a believer in Christ. God has shown me that following Christ is the only logical way to live life, but I don’t know how to really go about doing that. I have many Catholic friends and have a soft spot for Catholicism, but I just don’t understand a lot of things. I have seen convincing arguments for the eventual salvation of all mankind and also for Torah observance (from my Universalism and Hebrew Roots studies), though I’m not 100 percent sold on them. The Catholic Church claims to be the fullness of the truth of the church that Jesus Christ set up. But I just don’t know where I am with it all. Please help. -N.H.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It is good that you believe in Christ. That is the best starting place.
There is no way to prove that Catholicism has the fullness of Revelation. If it could be proven, a person wouldn’t need faith. So there is always going to be an element of faith in accepting the Catholic Church and its teachings and practices.
But let’s return to Christ. He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). Jesus shows respect for the law and prophets of the Old Testament, but he adds that he has come to fulfill, to complete, what the Old Testament was pointing to.
In practice that meant Jesus would perform miracles on the sabbath without disparaging the idea of a day of rest (see Mark 3:1-6). He also “declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:19), in effect superseding the dietary rules of the Torah.
I mention these examples because you mention “Torah observance.” God’s revelation to the chosen people was, in theological terms, progressive. This meant God revealed himself and his plans little by little. The fullness of his revelation was the person of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity who took on human nature and walked among us.
What did Jesus do? He founded a church on the faith of Peter (see Matthew 16:18). Peter as head of the apostles (he is mentioned by name more times than any other apostle, for instance) is the first pope. And the Catholic Church can trace the lineage of the popes (or “successors of Peter”) from the apostle all the way down to Pope Francis.
What did Jesus tell us about his own body and blood? “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (John 6:53-55). Who purports to offer the real presence of Jesus, body and blood? The Catholic Church does – in the Eucharist, which is celebrated at each Mass.
These are some simple reasons for connecting what the Catholic Church does and believes with what Jesus taught. The process of your entering into a deeper relationship with Christ is something that goes beyond mere logic, of course.
The Church believes that faith and reason are invented by God, and so he wants us to use both in order to draw closer to him.
On the spiritual side, take what you read in the Catechism to prayer (maybe even take some time to dip into our free online Retreat Guide resources, to help your prayer and reflection). Ask for light from the Holy Spirit. You will find a great unity and richness in the Church’s teachings.
Feel free to send along questions from time to time if you get stuck on something. I’ll caution you ahead of time, though, that the Church doesn’t have answers for everything. There are some things that remain mysteries. It seems Our Lord prefers things that way for now – it keeps us humble and aware that God’s ways are not always our ways (see Isaiah 55:8).
I pray that the Spirit lead you to all truth. God bless.