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Why Am I a Catholic child and why should others consider becoming a Catholic?

Why Am I a Catholic?

There are many religions throughout the world. Why are we Catholic? Why do we not belong to some other religion?

Part of the answer is that most of us were baptized when we were very young. Our parents were Catholic, and they therefore chose for us to be Catholics. Very often our parents' parents (our grandparents) and even our great-grandparents were Catholics as well.

But some of our parents or grandparents chose to be Catholics. They were raised in another religion or they might not even have had any religion, and then they chose to become Catholics.

Yet, even those who were raised as Catholics had to make a choice at some point in their lives to stay as Catholics. They decided that they really believed that this is the true religion.

Why do people make the decision either to become or stay Catholic? The answer is that God has given them the gift of Faith, the ability to see many ways that God has blessed them as Catholics. There are so many ways that God shows His love through the Church that they -- and we too -- can truly say that it is wonderful to be a Catholic!

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

The greatest gift that God has given the Church was given the day of its birth on Pentecost Sunday. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Fifty days after Jesus rose from the dead and ten days after He ascended into Heaven, He and the Father sent the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and Mary. They were praying in the Upper Room where Jesus had celebrated the Last Supper.

Suddenly, they heard a great wind and the Holy Spirit descended upon them in the form of flames of fire. They were filled with courage, and they immediately began to preach that Jesus, the Son of God, had died for our sins and had been raised from the dead.

The Apostles would never have had the courage to do this if it were not for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit also helped them to remember what Jesus had said and done and to understand its deeper meaning. They experienced a sense of hope because of the consolation of the Spirit. They were guided in what they were to say and do by that same Spirit.

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would always guide the Church until the day He returned in glory at the end of time.

The Pope and the Bishops

Jesus also gave the Church the gift of leadership. One day Jesus was speaking with the Apostles and asked them who people said He was. They answered that people said He was a prophet or John the Baptist. He asked them who they thought He was. Peter answered that He was the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of the living God.

At this point, Jesus told Peter that this revelation came from God. He gave Peter, and those that would follow in Peter's footsteps, the keys of the kingdom and commanded him to lead and guide His Church.

Ever since then, the Church has been guided by a successor of St. Peter. We call these successors the Holy Fathers or the Popes of the Church.

The Holy Spirit guides the choice of a new Pope, giving the Church the right Pope for every age. The Holy Spirit guides the Holy Father or Pope in his teachings and actions.

The Holy Father leads the Church by making sure Jesus' Teachings don't change and clarifying confusing issues that can arise. That same Holy Spirit also guides each and every Catholic to the special calling, God had planned in their life from the beginning of time.

We also have Bishops who guide the local Church. They have responsibility over a city or an area. Some of these Bishops are Cardinals who advise the Holy Father and who elect a new Pope when one dies.

There are also priests who celebrate the Mass, listen to confessions, anoint the sick, and baptize. They guide the local parish. They are assisted by deacons who preach and baptize and who help the poor. There are also all the people of the Church who work together to live Christ's message in today's world.

The Holy Eucharist

Jesus did and said many things during His life to show people how much God loved them. The seven most important things Jesus did to show us how much God loves us was to give us the Seven Sacraments. These were actions Jesus started and wanted us to continue so His message of love could be continued in every age.

The Sacrament that we receive most often is the Sacrament of the Eucharist: Holy Communion. It is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.

At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread, broke it, gave thanks, and said,

"Take this and eat; this is My Body."

He then gave it to His discipline. He also took a cup of wine and said,

"This is the cup of My Blood in the new covenant poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of Me."

When Mass is celebrated, we do what Jesus commanded us to do. Jesus is truly present in our midst.

Saint Paul also reminded us that we are not only one with Jesus; we are also one with our brothers and sisters. We should treat them with as much respect as we would show Jesus.

We are even called to go forth from church after Mass and share the Good News of how much God loves us with everyone whom we meet.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

We also see this love in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus died on the Cross so that our sins might be forgiven. The Sacrament of Reconciliation allows us to experience that forgiveness in a very real way.

Our sins make us selfish and lonely. When we sin, we tell God and those around us that we do not care for them. We push those people out of our lives.

Jesus presented many parables (or short stories) that speak about the forgiveness of sins. He spoke of the Prodigal Son who sins against his father. The father is not only ready to forgive him; he wants to forgive him with all his heart. Jesus also spoke about the lost sheep whom the shepherd goes out to find. The sheep represents people who have fallen into sin.

In all the parables, Jesus speaks of the joy God has when the sinner turns back from his sin.

This is the same joy that God feels when we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession. God, through the priest, tells us how much He loves and forgives us. We get to start over again, almost as if we were being born anew when we confess our sins.

The Other Sacraments

There are also the other five Sacraments: Baptism; Confirmation; Matrimony; Holy Orders; and Anointing of the Sick.

Baptism is the gift of being reborn as children of God. God sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts to teach us about God's love for us. Saint Paul says that the Spirit reminds us that God is our Father. That same Spirit teaches us how to pray.

This is the first Sacrament we receive. It makes us members of the Christian Community.

Confirmation is a gift of the Holy Spirit that continues the work begun at Baptism. In Baptism we received the gift of the Holy Spirit for ourselves; in Confirmation we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit for service in the Church.

Matrimony is the Sacrament in which a man and a woman make a solemn promise to each other and to Christ to be united as husband and wife for the rest of their lives.

Holy Orders is the Sacrament in which the Holy Spirit descends upon a man to consecrate him as a deacon, priest, or Bishop.

Finally, Anointing of the Sick is the Sacrament in which someone who is ill or very elderly is anointed with the holy oil of the sick. We pray for healing and protection and forgiveness.

The Word of God

The Holy Spirit has also given us the gift of the Word of God, the Holy Bible.

The Old Testament has forty-six books and presents the story of how God led his people from the creation of Adam and Eve until the days just before the birth of Jesus.

The New Testament has twenty-seven books and begins where the Old Testament left off. It tells of the life of Jesus and the early days of the Church.

The Holy Spirit inspired all of these books. This means that the Holy Spirit used the talents of many Catholic and Old Testament authors in many different times to reveal God's plan to us. The Holy Spirit guarantees the truth of what these books contain about God and our Faith. The most important books for our Faith are the four Gospels, for they tell us about the teachings and actions of Jesus.

At times, people have gotten confused by the teachings of Jesus when they read in the Bible. During these periods, we turn to the gift of leadership in the Church to clarify any confusion we may have about certain biblical passages.

Every Mass has two parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The first part, the Liturgy of the Word, is the time during which we have readings from the Old and New Testament. These readings are God's Word speaking to us and teaching us how to live in God's love.

The Blessed Virgin Mary

God has not only granted blessing through words and actions. God has also blessed the Church through people.

The holiest of these people is the Blessed Virgin Mary.

God protected Mary from sin through the Immaculate Conception. Mary's mother was St. Ann. From the moment that Mary was conceived inside her mother, St. Ann, she was protected from the weakness and selfishness that sin brings into our lives.

Then when Mary was engaged to Joseph, God sent the archangel, Gabriel to her. He greeted her by calling her "full of grace." He invited her to be the Mother of the Son of God. Mary was generous and loving and she called herself the handmaid of the Lord. She asked that, "it be done to me according to Your Word."

Joseph and Mary raised Jesus to be as generous and loving as they were. Jesus, who was both Son of God and Son of Mary, grew in wisdom and grace.

This is why we call Mary the Mother of God; not because she came before God, but because she gave birth to a divine person, Jesus. To say Jesus is a human person is a mistake.

The Blessed Virgin Mary stood by Jesus when He was dying upon the Cross. Then, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles on Pentecost Sunday, she was present with them and received the gift of the Holy Spirit just as they did.

The Martyrs

From the earliest days of the Church until our own days, there have been men and women who have been willing to die to give witness to their Faith. We call these people martyrs.

There were many persecutions in ancient times. Saint Stephen was the first to die for the new Faith. Saints Peter and Paul both died for the Faith in Rome. The martyrs were young and old, men and women, lay people, deacons, priest, Bishops and even Popes!

One would think that people would be afraid to join the Church if Christians were suffering for the Faith, but the opposite is true. The more that people died for their Faith, the more people wanted to follow their example. There is a saying that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."

As the Church spread worldwide, it often encountered persecution. Christians have become martyrs in almost every country throughout history.

There also have been many people who have died as martyrs - those who gave up their lives to save others. Saint Maximilian Kolbe is an example of this, for he gave up his life during World War II to save the life of a fellow prisoner.

The Saints

There also have been many, many Saints throughout the history of the Church. They come from all walks of life and each one gave witness to the Faith in small and great ways.

The Church publicly celebrates the fact that certain people are Saints. These are people who were so holy and courageous that the Church says that they are examples for all of us. The Church is very careful before it proclaims someone to be a Saint. It examines everything that the person said or did to make sure that it was the right thing to do. The Church even requires that there be miracles through the person's intercession to make absolutely sure that the person is in Heaven.

There are also millions and billions of people who have lived holy lives and who are in Heaven but might never be officially proclaimed Saints, and we celebrate their feast day on November 1, the Feast of All Saints.

Saints are people who are so holy and generous that they continue to help us even after they die. This is why we pray for their intercession when we need help. They are our friends. They are our family. They present our needs to God Himself.

History and Tradition

God also speaks to the Church through its history. For over two thousand years God has guided it. The Holy Spirit guarantees that it can never make a mistake in Faith or morals.

The Church is guided by Tradition, for it is one of the ways that God reveals His will. Tradition can be defined as practices and beliefs that were not written down in the Bible but which have been passed down to us throughout the history of the Church. Tradition is as sacred as the Bible, for while the Bible was written on paper, Tradition was written on people's lives. You were taught, when growing up, by your parents to:

  • behave a certain way,
  • perform certain chores around the house at a certain time and
  • wake up and go to sleep at a certain time.

These oral traditions were passed on to your parents based on how they were brought up to behave by THEIR parents. The same process happens in passing on Oral Teachings down through the history of the Church.

As we look at the history of the Church, we are filled with a sense of wonder and gratitude. Even though the way that we do things might have changed over these many years, what we are doing stays the same. We can trace our Sacraments back to the actions of Christ Himself. It is the Holy Spirit who keeps us faithful to that Tradition.

Sacramentals

We also have small, everyday things that remind us of our Faith. We call these things sacramentals. They are different from Sacraments. With a Sacrament, whether I believe it or not, Jesus is there. I do not have to believe that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus for it to be true.

With sacramentals, I have to be willing to believe in order for the sacramental to have an effect. If I do not know that the holy water was blessed, it might as well be regular water for me. If, however, I bless myself with holy water with Faith in my heart, then it can be a true blessing.

Some sacramentals are objects like holy water, medals, rosaries, holy cards, ashes on Ash Wednesday, and palm on Palm Sunday.

Other sacramentals are seasons. The Church sets aside seasons (like Lent, Advent and Christmas) and days (like the feast of Saints) to call us to a greater holiness.

Still other sacramentals are places where we can go to pray and draw closer to God. (like a Church, Adoration Chapel or a Marian Shrine.)

Finally, some sacramentals are actions, like making the Sign of the Cross on our body. This reminds us that we are temples of Our living, loving God.

Living Our Catholic Faith

In other words, we are surrounded by reminders of our Faith. We have Sacraments and sacramentals. We have the Word of God. We have the history of the Church and the gift of Church leaders. Most of all, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit.

But we have to live this Faith every day of our lives. We go to Mass every Sunday to thank God for all these gifts and to praise God's goodness. We should not look at Sunday Mass as something "we have to do." We should see it as something we wish to do, to thank God for his assistance and to assist us in making good choices for the coming week.

Most people during the week have a meal three times a day. This gives them the mental and physical energy needed to perform their daily tasks for each day.

When we go to Mass every Sunday we are feeding our will and intellect so we can make good moral choices for the rest of the week.

It is not so much an obligation as a privilege. Without being spiritually fed on Sundays making good moral decisions throughout the week is fare more difficult.

We begin and end our days with a morning and evening prayer to make God a part of our day's activities and our sleep.

We also say prayers all day long for ourselves and for others.

We have to remember our Faith even when we watch television and play sports or video games. We try to give a good example in these ordinary actions and in everything else that we do.

Being Catholic is a job that never ends.

Our Parish Community

We can thank God that we have help in this. We do not have to be a Catholic alone, for God has placed us in a parish community.

When we come together for Mass or at other moments of prayer, we form a family of Faith that supports and encourages each other. Jesus said that wherever two or more are gathered in His Name, He is in their midst.

We listen to the same homilies at Mass, so we are working on the same things as a community (and it is always easier to do something when you know that you are not doing it alone).

Often we recreate together. We show that being a Catholic does not mean we cannot have fun. Many parishes have sports teams, get-togethers, dances, trips, and other activities.

Even when we are outside of church, we are still a family of Faith. That is why we should be so careful to give a good example to everyone, no matter what we are doing.

One of the most important things for a Catholic, is for our words to reflect a matching set of actions on our part. If our actions, don't agree with our words, people will have far less of a reason to believe in what we say to them.

If I say, "I'm a millionaire.", but my friends discover I only have $36.16 in my bank account, how much trust will my friend put into other things I say in the future?

If I say, "I'm a Catholic.", but don't follow well-known Catholic teachings, how much trust will people put into other things I say in the future?

It would be a shame if people would see us acting holy in the church on Sunday and then sinning on Mondays.

Ways to Share Our Faith

It is so great to be a Catholic that we would like to share this gift with everyone. This is why the Church has always sent our missionaries. These are men and women who explain our Faith to others and to invite them to become Catholics too.

But we do not have to go to a distant land to be a missionary. We can do it in our everyday lives.

We can give a good example in everything that we do. If people see that we are at peace and trying our best, then they will be impressed and ask us what our secret is.

We can practice our Faith with devotion by going to Mass, going to Confession, and praying throughout the day. Remember, our Faith is a privilege.

We can be proud of who we are and not be afraid to show that we are Catholics. A good example of this is saying a prayer before we eat, even if we are at school or in a restaurant.

Finally, we can pray for others. If we see that the are having a bad time, we can promise to pray for them. Then, when we say our evening prayers, we ask God to send His help and love into their lives.

Thanking Jesus for the Gift of Our Faith

We have so much for which we can be grateful. Possibly the most precious gift is our Catholic Faith.

Every time that we bless ourselves with holy water and make the Sign of the Cross, we should say a quick thank-yo to God for our Faith.

We have received a gift that not everyone has. Those who do not have the gift of being Catholic are not bad people. They just have not gotten the gift yet. But we who have this gift should work to make it grow in our lives and be willing to share it with others.

Edited content from St. Joseph Picture books, "The Joy of Being a Catholic Child" by Rev. Jude Winkler OFM Conv.

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
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