I know many people that are convinced that the Catholic Church is a group of old men who sit around the Vatican all day and make up copious amounts of arbitrary rules so that they can add to the treasury of guilt that pillories everyday Catholics like the wooden stocks of corporal punishment in days of yore. In fact, the very notion that there might be a happy or joyful catholic anywhere would be to them a contradiction in terms.
As a convert to the Catholic church, there was a time when I, personally, held that view of the Catholic faithful, particularly while I was in seminary and later in the early years of ministry as an Episcopal priest. As I discerned that God was beckoning me to enter into fullness of Communion with the See of Peter, the major hindrance that stayed my hand from converting was not necessarily doctrinal disagreements with the Church of which I found very few, but the Holy Spirit forcing me to re-evaluate my prejudiced views on the “Catholic guilt” I believed so many of my Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ were carrying and the perceived lack of joy that so many Catholics seemed to have because of that guilt.
One of the sage bits of wisdom my Benedictine spiritual director gave me when I was thinking about converting was simply, “If you fall in love with the Church, be sure you fall in love with what the Church really is. Do not fall in love with the idealized fantasy version of the Church that exists only in your head because you will become a profoundly disillusioned and unhappy Catholic.”If you fall in love with the Church, be sure you fall in love with what the Church really is. Do… Click To Tweet
Armed with that advice and my own experience in ministry, I was prepared when I converted that I would run into many Catholics who seem to lack any meaningful sense of joy in their faith or their relationship with God or His Church. The Church is made up of the wounded and the dysfunctional, as well as people who have been hurt by the misbehavior or bad theology of someone that was claiming to acting in the name of the Church.
This is why I was quick to accept the offer to be a regular contributor to help launch this new website. I was very much taken with the mission and entrepreneurial spirit of re-presenting the joy and wisdom the Church gives us in the great treasury of beautiful theology and philosophy to help us to encounter the joy of having a relationship with God, despite the best efforts of some members of the Church to steal that joy. I invite you to join me in the coming series of columns that will expand upon a revolutionary idea: to fall in love again with what the Church really is so you may find the joy to become a Catholic that is renewed and able to thrive in a world determined to steal your vast treasury of faith from you.
About Ryan Ashley Hall
R. Ashley Hall is a convert to the Catholic faith and a former Episcopal priest. He is originally from Tennessee but lives currently in Nebraska, and his interests include baseball, cooking, Patristic and moral theology, gardening, home canning, history, and calligraphy.