So the #30DayAfriBlogger topic for Day 8 (and the #blogtemberchallenge topic for Day 10) is a topic I actually don’t want to get that into on my blog, but that’s why it’s called a challenge right?
So with that in mind, here’s a surface level view of my thoughts on being Catholic.
What I like about being Catholic
1. The Uniformity
No matter where you go in the world, the Catholic mass has the exact same structure and the readings for that day will be the same worldwide. This means that no matter what language a Mass (Catholic service) is in, I can follow along and know where we are and the general gist of the prayer we’re saying. It also warms my heart to know that thousands of miles away, my mom is listening to the same readings. being able to follow the mass in any language and that my mom is listening to the same thing.
2. The Accountability
The Catholic church is able to coordinate that many thousands of churches and millions of Masses because the bureaucracy of the church runs DEEP. This means there’s a lot of accountability all the way back up to the Pope. So if you priest is acting up, there’s usually someone you can report him to. It also means that more affluent churches can step in and help other churches. It’s a cool network/system.
3. The Age
The Roman Catholic church is the oldest Christianity (and they consider themselves the purest form of it, since they trace their origins right back to St. Peter, one of Jesus’ apostles). There’s a kind of pride and certainty that comes with being part of something centuries old.
What I Dislike about being Catholic
1. The Bureaucracy
Sometimes the church is TOO big for its own good. And we’ve heard all of enough scandals from the Catholic church to know that the accountability isn’t full proof. The Church has defended some questionable priests and allowed some horrendous practices to slide. I also think some of the policies and practices (including abortion for medical reasons, practices around aid and contraception, and the boys club mentality) are out of touch and out of date. Because of the bureaucracy it’s hard to change anything…this is also partly because of the uniformity – see below
2. Icons & Ostentatiousness
In almost every church, you will find statues and paintings of saints, apostles, people from the Bible, Mary and of course, Jesus. It’s something you don’t often find in Protestant Churches. While alters and decorations are nice, if I have to look at one more white Jesus, I’ll scream. Italian artists dictated the aesthetics of the Catholic Church and of course rendered Jesus and his people in their image. This means, that around the world are historically inaccurate depictions of Jesus, Mary and the Apostles. If I have to stare at an historically inaccurate Jesus – especially in Nigeria, then I want him to look like me and the people around me. It’s not as if Black Jesus is an uncommon thing. So predominantly Black Catholic churches need to work harder to not have such white-washed icons in their churches.
Icons in church are part of a larger point of intricately decorated churches – almost to an ostentatious level. Clearly this is not true of all churches, but again, you just don’t see all that in Protestant churches. Some Catholic churches are just super distracting to be in. For example, I can’t imagine worshipping at St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest (pictured above)…I would find something new to look at each time. I also can’t help thinking: what if we put all this money in the community or helping the poor instead? I know many of these churches were built centuries ago, but would have thought the same back then as well. That said, I’ll still go check out old churches that are said to be beautiful when I visit a new city.
3. The Uniformity
Sometimes it feels like as a Catholic you can’t have opinions and thoughts that differ from the Pope. It’s like you can’t disagree with even one teaching, or dogma or any other of the rules and regulations set out by the Church. I also don’t think the Catholic church does a good enough job of promoting critical thinking, reading the Bible on your own, and other things of that nature. Before you say anything…I went to catholic church for 8+ years, so I know a bit about how the Church teaches youth. I honestly don’t want to go into it all, partly because of the ways Catholics react when you have ONE negative thing to say about the Church. It’s like we all have to have one mind.
So while I had a bit more to say about what I dislike, don’t read that much into it. The important thing about being part of a religion is as long as it’s drawing you closer to God, then the other stuff doesn’t matter as much. Many of the things I listed as disliking don’t affect me on a day to day basis, so there’s no need to whine about it (this took me a while, and a lot of personal research and Bible reading time to arrive at).
They’ve memorized the Bible in their heads, but haven’t installed it in their hearts.
You also don’t have to worry that much about those people in Church that think they are God’s own ordained police on all you do and wear in Church and in your life. They’ve memorized the Bible in their heads, but haven’t installed it in their hearts. This especially goes for the scandals that befall the Church and the Bishops and Cardinals that don’t do enough about it. Like I’ve been told, the Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church and fix itself where it can (for example, the Crusades and then the members that decided it wasn’t a Christian thing to do). We just have to remember that corrupt individuals, doesn’t necessarily mean a corrupt Church.
So no matter what Church, religion, creed, etc; you’re a part of, don’t let annoying people or doctrines ruin your experiences for you. Just do you and build your relationship with your creator.