Is there any advantage in being Catholic, given the demands on us?

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Dear Father, in view of the teaching that anyone, of any religion, can be saved, is there any advantage to being a Catholic? Wouldn’t it be easier to be a Buddhist, a Hindu or a Protestant since our faith makes more demands on us than do other religions?

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

It is not a matter of finding a religion that makes few demands on its members. Such religions abound.

It is a matter of finding a religion that comes from God himself and that teaches with divine authority the way to heaven.

There is only one such religion and it is the one Jesus himself gave us: the Catholic Church.

And yes, the Church does make demands on us, but at the same time it gives us all the help we need to live up to those demands.

We are expected to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, to observe certain days and seasons of penance, to love our neighbour as ourselves, to respect the life of the unborn child by not having an abortion, to be faithful to our spouse until death do us part, etc.

Of course this makes life harder for us.

But it is the way, the truth and life that leads to happiness here and hereafter.

What is more, the Church’s teachings on issues like abortion, euthanasia and the permanence of the marriage bond are not something dreamed up by medieval popes or councils and then imposed on us forever after.

They are teachings based on the natural law, on the very nature of the human person, and as such they are applicable to all, whether Catholic or not. Since they are so fundamental to human flourishing, they help us live as decent human beings who respect one another, and a society which lives them is all the better for it.

For this reason we are grateful to Jesus Christ for leaving us a Church which has the assistance of the Holy Spirit to teach us faithfully down the ages the way to happiness here and hereafter.

It is true that other religions are not as clear and demanding in their teaching but this only makes it harder for their followers to live the kind of life that will lead to their true good. What is more, the Church not only teaches us the way to happiness, it gives us in the sacraments the fulness of the means we need to live up to that teaching.

Baptism gives us a share in God’s own life, with the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in the soul and the sanctifying grace to make us holy and pleasing to God.

Confirmation confirms the grace of Baptism and strengthens us to live up to our commitments as Christians.

The Eucharist, which we can receive everyday if we want, unites us fully to Christ and makes it easier to be Christlike in our behaviour.

Penance forgives our sins and sends us on our way cleansed and strengthened to begin the spiritual struggle again.

The Anointing of the Sick strengthens us when we are in danger of death.

Matrimony gives us the grace to be faithful to our commitments in marriage, and Holy Orders gives us sacred ministers to administer the sacraments, say Mass and guide us on our way. Where would we be without these helps?

We should remember that all people in the world, whether Catholic or not, have to struggle to avoid sinning.

No one is immune to temptation or sin. But how much easier it is to win out when we have clear teachings of the Church about right and wrong and we have the sacraments to strengthen us and cleanse us when we have fallen.

All will be judged on how they lived the basic precepts of morality and it is so much easier when we have the helps the Church gives us.

What is more, attendance at Mass on Sundays is not a burden but a big help to live a good life.

In Mass we are surrounded by the congregation, who pray with us and for us in our struggles.

We hear the Word of God, which reminds us of basic truths about God, life after death, and life here on earth.

We have a homily, which suggests practical ways to put into practice what we have heard in the readings and helps us struggle for holiness.

We pray together with the priest and the congregation, bringing us closer to God, whom we worship and thank for all his blessings.

And above all we receive Communion, which makes us one with Christ. In short, there is every advantage to being Catholic.

Not for nothing do hundreds of thousands of people enter the Church at the Easter Vigil each year, many of them coming from faiths that make far fewer demands on their members.

Thank God for the Church.