Thursday, January 19, 2012

World Religions Series: The Catholic Faith

Another submission to the World Religion Series!  This one is from my dear friend Jessica Harrison.  

Jessy and I have such an interesting history tying us together.  Jessy's father owns the company David worked for after Grad School.  David took me with him on the company retreat to Arizona that year (2008), and although we never met, Jessy and I have similar stories from the entire weekend and probably passed each other in the hallway a time or two.

Then, two summers ago Jessy came to work for me as an intern in my office which is where we learned of our connection.  She was not only an amazing intern, but she and I were fast friends.  At the end of the summer, Jessy left to go back to college in San Diego.  Although I was sad to see her go, I'm always so happy to see someone like Jessy do so well in life.  I wrangled her into interning for me again last summer too.  It was so fun to have her back in town!  And, now every time she's back she gives me a call and we hit a coffee shop for a quick catch up chat.

Our last catch-up was about 10 days ago, and I told her about my blog and my World Religion Series.  I knew about her family's strong Catholic Faith, and I also know that she is a fantastic writer, so I asked if she was up for participating.  She said, "Yes" immediately and I'm happy to say she got back to me with her responses quite quickly and I'm able to share them with you now.  Enjoy... and Thanks Jessy!

Jessy, GOP Chairman Michael Steel, and Me at an event
Jessy and I put together in Sun Valley in 2010
What religion do you practice, and how did you come to practice it?

My parents are both Roman Catholic and baptized me when I was a few months old. Since then, I have been to Catholic mass almost every Sunday morning (although I'm bad about going to church on my own when I'm at school). My parents put me through Catholic schools from kindergarten to college I am now a senior in college.

Tell me about your religion. Describe what the tenants of your religion are in your words.

I could go on and on about the tenants but I'll try to be short and clear. The Catholic Church is part of the Christian Church. We essentially believe everything that Christians believe. For example, like Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ is God's son, God is one in three divine persons (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit), Jesus died for our sins, and we should live our lives how Jesus taught us to in order to make the world a better place and eventually go to heaven. The Bible is our sacred scripture and we look towards this faith text to guide our moral lives. This is a very brief summary of the shared Christian and Catholic beliefs.

Catholics, however, practice some rituals that Christians do not. The Catholic faith embraces transubstantiation - the act in which the Eucharist changes from bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. The "changed and blessed" bread and wine is handed out during communion in our mass and we eat what we believe is the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

The Catholic Faith has typically been viewed as more traditional than most Christian faiths, especially in regards to social issues, the interpretation of the Bible and the structure of the Catholic mass. Indeed, many masses around the world are still spoken in Latin (the Latin language dominated the Catholic Church centuries ago).  Furthermore, the Catholic Church does not allow women to become deacons or be ordained into priesthood. This naturally draws a lot of criticism in our day and age, when the fight for equality is stronger than ever.

What does your religion mean to you?

I am very grateful that I was raised Catholic. My faith has always been a part of my life and I hope it always will be. My love and respect for Jesus helps guide my moral life and I have truly seen it make a difference in many circumstances. However, I do believe that the Catholic Church is a bit too traditional in many aspects. I struggle with living my life how I believe Jesus wants me to and how the Catholic Church wants me to.

What are five things you love about your religion?

1) I love the traditional masses. The music, sacred images, prayers, incense,  moments of silence...I find it peaceful, fulfilling and inspiring.
2) Anyone can be a Catholic. I've met Catholics from all different backgrounds from around the world - it's a very universal religion that welcomes everyone.

3) The Catholic Church continues to impress me with its charity and donations for the less fortunate and those in need. The poor and suffering children of God certainly seem to be the Church's first priority.
4) I admire the Church's focus on family.

5) I think it is impressive that the Catholic Church has stuck by its traditions over the centuries, demonstrating its consistency and persistence.

What are five things you don’t particularly agree with about your religion?

1) I struggle with the Catholic Church's view on gay marriage, euthanasia, and abortion (all of which the Church opposes). My parents are convinced that I am merely going through a stage since I am studying at a liberal arts university in California, which, by the way, is Catholic but not seemingly so. We'll see if my opinions change over time, but as of now, I disagree with the Church on those three social issues. That is not to say that I disagree with the Bible, however. I simply interpret the Bible differently.

2) The Catholic Church understands moral issues in a very black and white manner - actions are either right or wrong. I don't believe that the morally permissible act is always so clear. Again, my parents think this is because I'm studying Literature and Philosophy. I'll let you know in ten years if my opinion has changed.

3) I firmly believe that a person will go to heaven as long as they treat others with love and respect while also loving and respecting themselves. Unlike the Catholic Church's understanding, I don't believe that faith is an important factor when one dies and is judged before God. I also believe that if a person made some horrible decisions in their life but genuinely felt bad about them, they have a chance of going to heaven. But of course this is all my humble opinion. The Catholic faith, from my understanding, believes that the forgiveness of sins is required to go to heaven. I don't necessarily hold this to be false, but the question of what is a sin and what isn't certainly comes into play here.

4) I don't like how the Catholic Church involves itself with politics.

5) I think that women should be able to be deacons and priests.

What are the most common misconceptions about your religion and how do you address them?

Many people believe that Catholics worship saints. This is not the case! We ask saints to pray FOR us.

Many people also believe that the Catholic faith is responsible for the tragic instances of sex abuse in the Church. This is absurd. We need to remember that there are sick people in every walk of life: politicians, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and even priests. This is not a justification but is a reflection of human nature and not the Catholic faith.

How does your religion affect your family life? Your work life?

When I'm home I attend mass with my family and pray regularly with my family. We often discuss religious issues and how they are prevalent in our every day lives. 

It hasn't affected my work life yet. I anticipate it will in the future as I pursue my career in criminal defense. 

If you could leave people with one idea that most closely describes the way you see and understand your religion, what would that be?

I wish people could see the exceptionally loving nature of the Catholic Church and its good intentions throughout the ever changing social issues that come to challenge.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I am, in no way, attempting to represent the Catholic Church. Although I have a strong faith, I am still learning and growing.

To check out the rest of my World Religions Series, click on the links below:

1 comment:

  1. I can relate to your post because my parents thought me about those things.Having faith and fear with God.Catholic Faith