Why is it that we Catholics get such a bad rap? How can I love being Catholic so much yet hear so many negative comments about the religion? Gosh, even some Catholics I know don't like Catholics. An awful lot of the dislike seems to stem from the teachings (rules) of the Church and the theory that they are meant to exclude, to make Catholics seems superior, and perhaps unwelcoming. Perhaps we don't realize the Church is Christ, and the teachings of the faith are meant to protect us.
Our Monsignor had a wonderful homily this past Sunday. He referenced a story I was able to find online at http://www.gerhardy.id.au/lent3_06.htm. The story went like this:
...As the Boeing 707 landed on an airstrip in Vietnam during the war there, a newcomer to the US military presence in that country asked if there were any minefields in the area. An officer on board replied pointing out the window, "There's a minefield, over to the left".
The newcomer described it this way, "It was not what I expected. What I saw looked like a beautiful soccer field. All around our compound were the flattest and most lush fields I had ever seen. They were as green and flat as the top of a billiard table.... their moist greenness begged to be massaged by bare toes, to be played on, to be marked off for a game of football. The only problem was that they were deadly fields. These inviting fields were killing fields.
I remember one afternoon not long after, seeing a group of kids were kicking a ball right in the middle of one of those minefields. The soldiers who were supposed to be watching the field went colourless, then started yelling, screaming, and waving their arms at those kids, who didn’t understand a word of English. It would have been funny, had it not been so dangerous.
One sweating soldier quickly found a map of the field that gave the location of the mines, and his squad cautiously made their way to the children. They grabbed the children, who immediately started kicking and screaming in terror. They thought the soldiers were going to hurt them. Slowly with the terrified children in their arms, the men carefully began to retrace their steps back to the end of the minefield.
At about the same time the children's parents arrived to see the fear on the face of their kids as they thrashed around in the arms of the hefty soldiers. I could only wonder at the terror the mothers of these children felt. I am sure these mothers believed their children were being killed. They tried to run toward the children, but they were held back at the edge of the minefield by another squad of soldiers. The mothers screamed all the more. They didn’t realise that the soldiers who were preventing them from running out to their children were actually saving them from the dangers that lay out there in that beautiful patch of green grass.
And herein lies the lesson, or at least my interpretation of Monsignor's point: Yes, our Catholic faith has a lot of rules. I am a rule follower (usually). Maybe this is why I have no problem with them in my faith, and why should I if I can see the good that they will bring to my life? Maybe I have never really thought about it that deeply. I would prefer to think that I like the rules because I can see their beauty and how they will increase the love I have of my husband, my children, and my neighbor.
My biggest beef with others (which implies I might be breaking one of the rules right now) is the loud arguments they make that the Church is not an all all-loving, all-accepting faith. Quite the contrary - we are taught to love everyone. Just because we disagree with certain actions and lifestyles doesn't mean the Church doesn't love, and doesn't care. It does care. Monsignor described it this way with his own personal story from his youth - one day he asked his 15 year old friend why he was allowed to stay out late at night, yet the future pastor's parents required him to be in by a certain time every night. "Simple," the friend stated, "my parents don't care."
So many times it seems that we use the excuse that God loves us no matter what, and that as long as we accept Him we are guaranted a spot in heaven. We fail to see there may be some things that keep us from living FOR Him and that is where the teachings of the Catholic church step in. We tend to live for our own wants, needs, and desires, and wrap it up in a pretty little package assuming that as long as we still accept Him as our God we will be okay - we need not do more. By embracing the Church's teachings and putting our trust in the rules and guardians of our faith, even when our desire is to do something different, we will be protected. The Catholic faith is meant to protect me and help me navigate the minefields of life just like those soldiers not long ago.
*special thanks to Follower 17 who helped me put my thoughts into words.