The significance of having faith in God, particularly within the framework of the Catholic faith, extends beyond a mere belief system. It forms the cornerstone of a profound and transformative spiritual journey.
Grounded in the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church, this faith offers a source of solace, moral guidance, and a profound connection to a higher purpose.
Being a Catholic is more than just a label; it entails a diverse collection of ideas, traditions, and a strong spiritual connection that molds one’s worldview and informs ethical judgments. It is a style of life that combines faith, community, and a dedication to living in conformity with Catholic Church teachings.
Personally, I am still learning more about the Catholic faith’s rich heritage, which includes centuries of theological development, historical relevance, and a broad spectrum of traditions that have grown and endured, all of which contribute to its richness and enduring appeal.
Table of Contents
The Blessed Virgin Mary
In the Catholic faith, the presence of the Virgin Mary serves as a powerful reminder that Christianity is more than just a collection of beliefs; Mary represents maternal care and supplication. Her revered status symbolizes the Catholic spiritual journey’s intrinsic sense of belonging, tenderness, and familial connection.
In Luke 1:38, Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word,” exemplifies her unwavering commitment to God’s plan.
Mary’s presence at the crucifixion, as mentioned in John 19:25-27, highlights her enduring maternal role even in the face of immense sorrow.
Mary is recognized as an intercessor and advocate for believers. In the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11), her intercession leads to the first public miracle of Jesus, showcasing her role as one who brings the needs of others to her son.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation
People may be hesitant to go to confession since the priest behind the confession box is also a human being and hence a sinner. Going to confession, on the other hand, is a freeing activity in which people openly confess their sins to a priest and get absolution, feeling a great sense of spiritual release and rebirth.
In James 5:16, the Bible encourages believers to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed,” highlighting the transformative power of confession within the Christian community.
Additionally, in John 20:23, Jesus grants the apostles the authority to forgive sins, underscoring the biblical basis for the sacrament of reconciliation and the healing that comes from confessing sins to a designated spiritual authority.
Leaving the confession box always makes me feel relieved, characterized by a profound sense of spiritual liberation and renewal. The acknowledgment of one’s shortcomings, the act of sincere repentance, and the reception of absolution bring a weight lifted, providing a deep and comforting assurance of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
The Holy Rosary
For Catholics, praying the rosary is a contemplative exercise that fosters a close connection with God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. This meditation prayer provides spiritual reflection, tranquility, and a concrete means to connect with the mysteries of faith.
The rosary as a specific prayer form is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible since it is a devotional practice that developed later in the history of the Catholic Church. However, elements of the rosary, such as the Hail Mary prayer and the mysteries it contemplates, draw from biblical passages.
The Hail Mary incorporates phrases from the Gospel of Luke, including the Annunciation (Luke 1:28) and the words of Elizabeth (Luke 1:42). The mysteries of the rosary also focus on events in the lives of Jesus and Mary as described in the New Testament, so I can also describe the rosary as the Bible in beads.
The Holy Eucharist
The Holy Eucharist or Holy Mass is a profound sacrament in which Catholics believe they connect intimately with the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. Through the reception of the consecrated bread and wine, believers participate in a sacred communion that symbolizes Christ’s selfless love, offering a tangible connection to the redemptive act of his crucifixion.
The Holy Mass is very important for Catholics because it is a reenactment of Jesus Christ’s Last Supper and the central act of worship in the Catholic faith. Catholics believe that via consecration of bread and wine, they are partaking in the genuine presence of Christ, fostering spiritual sustenance, connection with the Church, and deep communion with the divine.
A Global Community of Shared Faith
Catholic faith transcends geographical boundaries, existing as a shared global community and culture that unites believers around the world. Whether in Rome or a remote village in Tristan da Cunha, the Catholic faith serves as a unifying thread, fostering a shared spiritual identity and cultural heritage among its diverse followers.
When my wife and I attended masses in places like New York, Prague, and the Vatican, the masses follow the same approach, that familiar environment of solidarity among congregants as they offer each other a sign of peace, such as a handshake (mostly observed in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York) or a verbal greeting, symbolizing reconciliation and unity within the community.
Fasting and Penance
Fasting and penance in the Catholic tradition serve as intentional acts of self-discipline, providing a counterbalance to the excesses of an indulgent society. By voluntarily abstaining from certain pleasures or engaging in acts of penance, individuals aim to cultivate spiritual resilience and redirect their focus towards a deeper connection with God and a more disciplined way of life.
This is a practice not only during the Lenten season, but before every Holy Mass to fast an hour before communion. Fasting holds the benefit of fostering spiritual discipline and self-control, creating space for reflection and a heightened awareness of one’s dependence on God. Fasting has helped me prepare when giving talks in our MFC assemblies.
In the Bible, Jesus himself practiced fasting, as documented in Matthew 4:2, when he fasted for 40 days and nights in the wilderness as a means of spiritual preparation and victory over temptation.
Emphasis on Helping Others
As one of the greatest commandments — “Love your neighbor as yourself” — Catholics are held to a greater standard of aiding others, as stated in Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” This verse emphasizes the responsibility of those who have more benefits to actively engage in acts of compassion and support to those in need, which is a key concept of Catholic social teaching.
Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of Catholic charitable organizations, operates in over 200 countries and territories, offering a range of services such as healthcare, education, and social development to vulnerable populations. Additionally, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a lay Catholic organization, focuses on assisting those facing poverty and homelessness through various local programs and initiatives.
So it was a memorable experience for me and my wife to join the CFC singles in Hong Kong in performing an outreach to the homeless and visiting children with severe congenital anomalies as the least we can do to help those who are less privileged in life.
Rich in Culture, Art and Science
The Catholic Church has a rich culture of art manifested in the awe-inspiring architecture of cathedrals like the Notre-Dame in Paris and the Sistine Chapel‘s magnificent frescoes by Michelangelo.
Intellectual tradition is evident in the works of renowned Catholic scholars like St. Thomas Aquinas, who melded faith and reason, shaping the foundation of Catholic philosophy, theology, and education. Additionally, the Church has been a patron of the arts, commissioning masterpieces that reflect the intertwining of faith and artistic expression, contributing to a profound and enduring cultural legacy.
Catholics have made significant contributions to the field of science, demonstrating the compatibility of faith and reason.
Georges Lemaître, a Catholic priest and physicist, played a pivotal role in formulating the Big Bang theory, reshaping our understanding of the universe’s origin.
Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian friar, is renowned as the father of modern genetics for his groundbreaking work on pea plants, establishing the fundamental principles of heredity.
Nicolas Copernicus, a Catholic cleric and (my favorite) astronomer, challenged prevailing geocentric views with his heliocentric model, catalyzing the scientific revolution in astronomy.
Blaise Pascal, a devout Catholic and polymath, contributed to probability theory, fluid mechanics, and the invention of the modern calculator, exemplifying the rich intersection of Catholicism and scientific inquiry.
A Tarnished History
The Catholic Church, like any human institution, is not perfect because it is comprised of fallible individuals who, despite their best intentions, are susceptible to shortcomings, errors, and moral failings.
The Inquisition put Galileo Galilei on trial in 1633 for his support of heliocentrism, the thesis that the sun, not the Earth, is at the center of the solar system. Galileo was deemed to be a heretic and was compelled to recant his ideas.
During the colonization of the Americas, the Catholic Church played a role in the abuse and exploitation of indigenous peoples. This included forced conversions, harsh labor practices, and the spread of diseases that killed millions of people.
The Catholic Church has also been rocked by child sexual abuse scandals in recent decades. Thousands of priests and other church workers have been accused of abusing children, and the Church has been criticized for its cover-ups of these crimes.
As a youth serving as a sacristan in Davao, I also observed malpractices by peers.
Despite these imperfections, I maintain that they do not overshadow the positive aspects and profound spiritual benefits of being part of the Church.
Loving life as a Catholic believer entails me finding joy in the profound connection with God through prayer, sacraments, and spiritual community, while also embracing the call to live a virtuous and compassionate life guided by the teachings of Christ and the Church. It involves a harmonious integration of faith into daily existence, fostering gratitude, purpose, and a sense of belonging within the larger Catholic community.