I believe in God, Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ, His only begotten son, Our Lord, who was born of the Holy Ghost and of Mary, the Virgin, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and buried; on the third day He rose from the dead ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead; and in the Holy Ghost; the Holy Church; the remission of sins; and the resurrection of the dead. (Apostles Creed)
I am Catholic, and this prayer that is said at church every Sunday encompasses my beliefs as a Catholic. Before I get into what I believe in as a Catholic, I would like to give some background on the religion itself, because this has also shaped my beliefs.
Catholicism comes from Christianity. Of all the religions, Christianity is the most widespread and has the largest number of members. (Smith, p.317) Christianity is based on actual history, and they have historical facts to back up a lot of the ideas.
The word “Catholic” is generally taken to mean “universal”, although the Greek roots of the word mean “according to (kata) the whole (holos). In the ancient Church, it was used to refer to a single, visible communion, separate from others, bonded together through faith in Jesus Christ (web). As far back as the ninth century, St. Cyril of Jerusalem stated: “The Church is called Catholic, because it teaches universally and infallibly each and every doctrined which must come to the knowledge of men, concerning things visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly, …because it brings every race of men into subjection to holiness, …because it universally treats and heals every class of sins, and because it possesses within itself every conceivable form of virtue, in deeds and in words and in the spiritual gifts of every description.” Catholics are followers of Jesus. Our journey begins at baptism, and we continue on that journey towards eternal happiness.
There are two main ideas that separate Catholicism from Christianity. The first is that Catholics believe in the Church as its teacher. This means that just as you might need a math teacher to explain your textbook in a way that you understand, we need the leaders of the Church (Pope, bishops, and priests) to interpret the Bible. We shouldn’t take everything the Bible says literally, and these leaders help us to apply its teachings to our lives. The second main idea is that there are seven Sacraments (baptism, confession, communion, confirmation, marriage, annointing of the sick, Holy Orders) that we need to incorporate into our lives so that we may live the teachings of the Church. It is one thing to hear how we should live our lives, but it is another to do. That is where the Sacraments help. The Church has laws governing the reception of all the sacraments. Members are expected to try and understand the meaning of the Church’s rituals and to develop a full sacramental lifestyle. (web)
Catholicism has other teachings that are integral to the religion. Followers are expected to live according to the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament, the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, and the laws and moral teachings of the Church. The Church is officially against any racial or national criteria for membership. It is a universal church, and everyone is welcome. (web) There is also no age requirement to become Catholic, although there are age restrictions on some of the Sacraments. Members of the Catholic Church are expected to offer Christian services within the Church and the community, and to be especially generous with both time and money to the poor. Church members are expected to support their church. However, no one is excluded based on his or her lack of financial contributions. Baptism is required for membership. The Catholic Church requires its members to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, and to participate in prayer services and celebration of the sacraments. Those are the core beliefs that date back to it’s earliest teachings.
Some of the beliefs that are heard about in more recent times, are the church’s stance on abortion, the death penalty, birth control/premarital sex, women in high church positions, and same sex relationships. The church is opposed to all of these.
I was baptized Catholic, and raised in a Catholic family. I went to Catholic school, and made my first communion, reconciliation, and confirmation there. I enjoyed my time in Catholic school, and am grateful to my parents for putting me there. However, it was never my choice to be Catholic, that’s just the way it always was. By the time I was in high school, my parents let me decide if I wanted to continue going to Church on Sundays, and I, being a teenager, decided that sleeping in on Sundays was a much better idea.
I haven’t attended church regularly since then, but I still consider myself to be Catholic, just not a practicing one. I plan to get married in the Church, and to have a funeral there as well. It is a part of me, and who I am, and I am glad I have that faith to turn to. My relationship with God is private, and I don’t feel the need to go to Church every Sunday to maintain that relationship. My mom always let me be exposed to other religions, and taught me that I shouldn’t judge anyone based on their religious beliefs. This has proven to be hard for me, I sometimes tend to be elitist when it comes to my religion. Now that I have taken this class and learned about other religions, I realize that my religion is right for me, but it might not be right for everyone. I appreciate the fact that my parents raised me with a spiritual background. I can’t imagine not being exposed to God. Although I sometimes take it for granted, I rely on my faith to get me through rough times, and it has definitely helped.
I think that one of the reasons that I no longer attend Church is because I find it very boring. I think that a lot of the religion is out of touch. I want to learn how to apply my beliefs to the here and now. In school I learned that God loves all, but the Church is unaccepting of homosexuals. I have a problem with that because I feel that it is not a choice, and they are entitled to live their lives the way that makes them happy. I hope that in the future, the Church will accept them for what they are: God’s children. The Church is also opposed to the death penalty. The Church believes that anyone whose life is terminated in a gas chamber, by hanging, by lethal injection or by a firing squad is one of us-a human person, a brother or a sister, however cruel and inhumane his or her actions may appear. (web) That is probably the one thing that the Church has taken a firm stance on that I 100% agree with. The two things that I 100% disagree with is the Church’s stance on birth control and premarital sex, or sex for procreation only. I know that the Church is taking a look at this stance with the overwhelming tragedy of AIDS. People should be able to express love, and it shouldn’t’ matter whether or not they’re married or want to have children. People are dying of AIDS, and there are unwanted pregnancies that could be prevented by birth control. I am on the fence about abortion. As a woman, I believe in the right to choose, but as a Catholic, I’m not sure if it is taking a life or not. I definitely believe that women should be able to have the same opportunities as men do in the church. That is something that I see changing as the church evolves.
I plan on being Catholic forever, and I am proud of my religion and spirituality. My religious beliefs have made me a better, more compassionate, and stronger person. I believe in life after death, and look forward to the end of my faith-journey.
I am glad that I was exposed to many other religions in this class. It has taught me to be more understanding of differences. The Perennial Philosophy taught me that we’re not all that different after all. Religion should be a choice, and although my parents gave me a foundation in Catholicism, ultimately it is my choice. And I’m proud of my choice.