Why Am I a Catholic child and why should others consider becoming a Catholic?
Why Am I a Catholic?
There are many religions throughout the world.
Why are we Catholic? Why do we not belong to some
Part of the answer is that most of us were baptized
when we were very young. Our parents were Catholic,
and they therefore chose for us to be Catholics.
Very often our parents' parents (our grandparents)
and even our great-grandparents were Catholics as
But some of our parents or grandparents chose to
be Catholics. They were raised in another religion
or they might not even have had any religion, and
then they chose to become Catholics.
Yet, even those who were raised as Catholics had
to make a choice at some point in their lives to
stay as Catholics. They decided that they really
believed that this is the true religion.
Why do people make the decision
either to become or stay Catholic? The answer is
that God has given them the gift of Faith, the
ability to see many ways that God has blessed them
as Catholics. There are so many ways that God shows
His love through the Church that they -- and we
too -- can truly say that it is wonderful to be
The Promise of the Holy Spirit
The greatest gift that God has given the Church
was given the day of its birth on Pentecost Sunday.
It is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Fifty days after Jesus rose from the dead and ten
days after He ascended into Heaven, He and the Father
sent the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles
and Mary. They were praying in the Upper Room where
Jesus had celebrated the Last Supper.
Suddenly, they heard a great wind and the Holy
Spirit descended upon them in the form of flames
of fire. They were filled with courage, and they
immediately began to preach that Jesus, the Son of
God, had died for our sins and had been raised from
The Apostles would never have
had the courage to do this if it were not for the
Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit also helped them to
remember what Jesus had said and done and to understand
its deeper meaning. They experienced a sense of
hope because of the consolation of the Spirit.
They were guided in what they were to say and do
by that same Spirit.
Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would always
guide the Church until the day He returned in glory
at the end of time.
The Pope and the Bishops
Jesus also gave the Church the gift of leadership.
One day Jesus was speaking with the Apostles and
asked them who people said He was. They answered
that people said He was a prophet or John the Baptist.
He asked them who they thought He was. Peter answered
that He was the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of
the living God.
At this point, Jesus told Peter
that this revelation came from God. He gave Peter,
and those that would follow in Peter's footsteps,
the keys of the kingdom and commanded him to lead
and guide His Church.
Ever since then, the Church
has been guided by a successor of St. Peter. We
call these successors the Holy Fathers or the Popes
of the Church.
The Holy Spirit guides the
choice of a new Pope, giving the Church the right
Pope for every age. The Holy Spirit guides the
Holy Father or Pope in his teachings and actions.
The Holy Father leads the Church
by making sure Jesus' Teachings don't change and
clarifying confusing issues that can arise. That
same Holy Spirit also guides each and every Catholic
to the special calling, God had planned in their
life from the beginning of time.
We also have Bishops who guide the local Church.
They have responsibility over a city or an area.
Some of these Bishops are Cardinals who advise the
Holy Father and who elect a new Pope when one dies.
There are also priests who celebrate the Mass,
listen to confessions, anoint the sick, and baptize.
They guide the local parish. They are assisted by
deacons who preach and baptize and who help the poor.
There are also all the people of the Church who work
together to live Christ's message in today's world.
The Holy Eucharist
Jesus did and said many things
during His life to show people how much God loved
them. The seven most important things Jesus did
to show us how much God loves us was to give us
the Seven Sacraments. These were actions Jesus
started and wanted us to continue so His
message of love could be continued in every age.
The Sacrament that we receive most often is the
Sacrament of the Eucharist: Holy Communion. It is
the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.
At the Last Supper, Jesus
took bread, broke it, gave thanks, and said,
"Take this and eat; this
is My Body."
He then gave it to His discipline.
He also took a cup of wine and said,
is the cup of My Blood in the new covenant poured
out for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory
When Mass is celebrated, we do what Jesus commanded
us to do. Jesus is truly present in our midst.
Saint Paul also reminded us that we are not only
one with Jesus; we are also one with our brothers
and sisters. We should treat them with as much respect
as we would show Jesus.
We are even called to go forth
from church after Mass and share the Good News
of how much God loves us with everyone whom we
The Sacrament of Reconciliation
We also see this love in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Jesus died on the Cross so that our sins might be
forgiven. The Sacrament of Reconciliation allows
us to experience that forgiveness in a very real
Our sins make us selfish and
lonely. When we sin, we tell God and those around
us that we do not care for them. We push those
people out of our lives.
Jesus presented many parables (or short stories)
that speak about the forgiveness of sins. He spoke
of the Prodigal Son who sins against his father.
The father is not only ready to forgive him; he wants
to forgive him with all his heart. Jesus also spoke
about the lost sheep whom the shepherd goes out to
find. The sheep represents people who have fallen
In all the parables, Jesus speaks of the joy God
has when the sinner turns back from his sin.
This is the same joy that God feels when we go
to the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession.
God, through the priest, tells us how much He loves
and forgives us. We get to start over again, almost
as if we were being born anew when we confess our
The Other Sacraments
There are also the other five Sacraments: Baptism;
Confirmation; Matrimony; Holy Orders; and Anointing
of the Sick.
Baptism is the gift of being
reborn as children of God. God sends the Holy Spirit
into our hearts to teach us about God's love for
us. Saint Paul says that the Spirit reminds us
that God is our Father. That same Spirit teaches
us how to pray.
This is the first Sacrament we
receive. It makes us members of the Christian
Confirmation is a gift of the Holy Spirit that
continues the work begun at Baptism. In Baptism we
received the gift of the Holy Spirit for ourselves;
in Confirmation we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit
for service in the Church.
Matrimony is the Sacrament in which a man and a
woman make a solemn promise to each other and to
Christ to be united as husband and wife for the rest
of their lives.
Holy Orders is the Sacrament in which the Holy
Spirit descends upon a man to consecrate him as a
deacon, priest, or Bishop.
Finally, Anointing of the Sick
is the Sacrament in which someone who is ill or
very elderly is anointed with the holy oil of the
sick. We pray for healing and protection and forgiveness.
The Word of God
The Holy Spirit has also given us the gift of the
Word of God, the Holy Bible.
The Old Testament has forty-six books and presents
the story of how God led his people from the creation
of Adam and Eve until the days just before the birth
The New Testament has twenty-seven books and begins
where the Old Testament left off. It tells of the
life of Jesus and the early days of the Church.
The Holy Spirit inspired all
of these books. This means that the Holy Spirit
used the talents of many Catholic and Old Testament
authors in many different times to reveal God's
plan to us. The Holy Spirit guarantees the truth
of what these books contain about God and our Faith.
The most important books for our Faith are the
four Gospels, for they tell us about the teachings
and actions of Jesus.
At times, people have
gotten confused by the teachings of Jesus when
they read in the Bible. During these periods,
we turn to the gift of leadership in the Church
to clarify any confusion we may have about certain
Every Mass has two parts: the Liturgy of the Word
and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The first part,
the Liturgy of the Word, is the time during which
we have readings from the Old and New Testament.
These readings are God's Word speaking to us and
teaching us how to live in God's love.
The Blessed Virgin Mary
God has not only granted blessing through words
and actions. God has also blessed the Church through
The holiest of these people is the Blessed Virgin
God protected Mary from sin
through the Immaculate Conception. Mary's mother
was St. Ann. From the moment that Mary was conceived
inside her mother, St. Ann, she was protected
from the weakness and selfishness that sin brings
into our lives.
Then when Mary was engaged
to Joseph, God sent the archangel, Gabriel to her.
He greeted her by calling her "full of grace." He invited
her to be the Mother of the Son of God. Mary was
generous and loving and she called herself the handmaid
of the Lord. She asked that, "it be done to
me according to Your Word."
Joseph and Mary raised Jesus
to be as generous and loving as they were. Jesus,
who was both Son of God and Son of Mary, grew in
wisdom and grace.
This is why we call Mary the
Mother of God; not because she came before God,
but because she gave birth to a divine person,
Jesus. To say Jesus is a human person is a mistake.
The Blessed Virgin Mary stood by Jesus when He
was dying upon the Cross. Then, when the Holy Spirit
descended upon the Apostles on Pentecost Sunday,
she was present with them and received the gift of
the Holy Spirit just as they did.
From the earliest days of the
Church until our own days, there have been men
and women who have been willing to die to give
witness to their Faith. We call these people martyrs.
There were many persecutions in ancient times.
Saint Stephen was the first to die for the new Faith.
Saints Peter and Paul both died for the Faith in
Rome. The martyrs were young and old, men and women,
lay people, deacons, priest, Bishops and even Popes!
One would think that people
would be afraid to join the Church if Christians
were suffering for the Faith, but the opposite
is true. The more that people died for their Faith,
the more people wanted to follow their example.
There is a saying that "the
blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."
As the Church spread worldwide, it often encountered
persecution. Christians have become martyrs in almost
every country throughout history.
There also have been many people who have died
as martyrs - those who gave up their lives to save
others. Saint Maximilian Kolbe is an example of this,
for he gave up his life during World War II to save
the life of a fellow prisoner.
There also have been many, many Saints throughout
the history of the Church. They come from all walks
of life and each one gave witness to the Faith in
small and great ways.
The Church publicly celebrates the fact that certain
people are Saints. These are people who were so holy
and courageous that the Church says that they are
examples for all of us. The Church is very careful
before it proclaims someone to be a Saint. It examines
everything that the person said or did to make sure
that it was the right thing to do. The Church even
requires that there be miracles through the person's
intercession to make absolutely sure that the person
is in Heaven.
There are also millions and billions of people
who have lived holy lives and who are in Heaven but
might never be officially proclaimed Saints, and
we celebrate their feast day on November 1, the Feast
of All Saints.
Saints are people who are so holy and generous
that they continue to help us even after they die.
This is why we pray for their intercession when we
need help. They are our friends. They are our family.
They present our needs to God Himself.
History and Tradition
God also speaks to the Church through its history.
For over two thousand years God has guided it. The
Holy Spirit guarantees that it can never make a mistake
in Faith or morals.
The Church is guided by Tradition,
for it is one of the ways that God reveals His
will. Tradition can be defined as practices and
beliefs that were not written down in the Bible
but which have been passed down to us throughout
the history of the Church. Tradition is as sacred
as the Bible, for while the Bible was written on
paper, Tradition was written on people's lives.
You were taught, when growing up, by your parents
- behave a certain way,
- perform certain chores
around the house at a certain time and
- wake up
and go to sleep at a certain time.
traditions were passed on
to your parents based
on how they were brought up to
behave by THEIR parents. The same process happens
in passing on Oral Teachings down through the history
of the Church.
As we look at the history of
the Church, we are filled with a sense of wonder
and gratitude. Even though the way that
we do things might have changed over these many
years, what we are doing stays
the same. We can trace our Sacraments back to the
actions of Christ Himself. It is the Holy Spirit
who keeps us faithful to that Tradition.
We also have small, everyday things that remind
us of our Faith. We call these things sacramentals.
They are different from Sacraments. With a Sacrament,
whether I believe it or not, Jesus is there. I do
not have to believe that the Eucharist is the Body,
Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus for it to be true.
With sacramentals, I have to be willing to believe
in order for the sacramental to have an effect. If
I do not know that the holy water was blessed, it
might as well be regular water for me. If, however,
I bless myself with holy water with Faith in my heart,
then it can be a true blessing.
Some sacramentals are objects like holy water,
medals, rosaries, holy cards, ashes on Ash Wednesday,
and palm on Palm Sunday.
Other sacramentals are seasons. The Church sets
aside seasons (like Lent, Advent and Christmas) and
days (like the feast of Saints) to call us to a greater
Still other sacramentals are
places where we can go to pray and draw closer
to God. (like a Church, Adoration Chapel or a Marian
Finally, some sacramentals are actions, like making
the Sign of the Cross on our body. This reminds us
that we are temples of Our living, loving God.
Living Our Catholic Faith
In other words, we are surrounded by reminders
of our Faith. We have Sacraments and sacramentals.
We have the Word of God. We have the history of the
Church and the gift of Church leaders. Most of all,
we have the gift of the Holy Spirit.
But we have to live this
Faith every day of our lives. We go to Mass every
Sunday to thank God for all these gifts and to
praise God's goodness. We should not look at Sunday
Mass as something "we
have to do." We should see it as something
we wish to do, to thank God for his assistance
and to assist us in making good choices
for the coming week.
Most people during the week have
a meal three times a day. This gives them the mental
and physical energy needed to perform their daily
tasks for each day.
When we go to Mass every Sunday
we are feeding our will and intellect so we can
make good moral choices for the rest of the week.
It is not so much an obligation
as a privilege. Without being spiritually fed on
Sundays making good moral decisions throughout
the week is fare more difficult.
We begin and end our days with a morning and evening
prayer to make God a part of our day's activities
and our sleep.
We also say prayers all day long for ourselves
and for others.
We have to remember our Faith even when we watch
television and play sports or video games. We try
to give a good example in these ordinary actions
and in everything else that we do.
Being Catholic is a job that never ends.
Our Parish Community
We can thank God that we have help in this. We
do not have to be a Catholic alone, for God has placed
us in a parish community.
When we come together for Mass or at other moments
of prayer, we form a family of Faith that supports
and encourages each other. Jesus said that wherever
two or more are gathered in His Name, He is in their
We listen to the same homilies at Mass, so we are
working on the same things as a community (and it
is always easier to do something when you know that
you are not doing it alone).
Often we recreate together.
We show that being a Catholic does not mean we
cannot have fun. Many parishes have sports teams,
get-togethers, dances, trips, and other activities.
Even when we are outside of
church, we are still a family of Faith. That is
why we should be so careful to give a good example
to everyone, no matter what we are doing.
One of the most important things
for a Catholic, is for our words to reflect
a matching set of actions on our part.
If our actions, don't agree with our words, people
will have far less of a reason to believe in what
we say to them.
If I say, "I'm a millionaire.",
but my friends discover I only have $36.16 in my
bank account, how much trust will my friend put
into other things I say in the future?
If I say, "I'm a Catholic.",
but don't follow well-known Catholic teachings,
how much trust will people put into other things
I say in the future?
It would be a shame if people
would see us acting holy in the church on Sunday
and then sinning on Mondays.
Ways to Share Our Faith
It is so great to be a Catholic that we would like
to share this gift with everyone. This is why the
Church has always sent our missionaries. These are
men and women who explain our Faith to others and
to invite them to become Catholics too.
But we do not have to go to a distant land to be
a missionary. We can do it in our everyday lives.
We can give a good example in everything that we
do. If people see that we are at peace and trying
our best, then they will be impressed and ask us
what our secret is.
We can practice our Faith with devotion by going
to Mass, going to Confession, and praying throughout
the day. Remember, our Faith is a privilege.
We can be proud of who we are and not be afraid
to show that we are Catholics. A good example of
this is saying a prayer before we eat, even if we
are at school or in a restaurant.
Finally, we can pray for others. If we see that
the are having a bad time, we can promise to pray
for them. Then, when we say our evening prayers,
we ask God to send His help and love into their lives.
Thanking Jesus for the Gift of Our Faith
We have so much for which we can be grateful. Possibly
the most precious gift is our Catholic Faith.
Every time that we bless ourselves with holy water
and make the Sign of the Cross, we should say a quick
thank-yo to God for our Faith.
We have received a gift that not everyone has.
Those who do not have the gift of being Catholic
are not bad people. They just have not gotten the
gift yet. But we who have this gift should work to
make it grow in our lives and be willing to share
it with others.
from St. Joseph Picture books, "The Joy of Being
a Catholic Child" by Rev. Jude Winkler OFM Conv.