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Day 12: Our Sweet Christ on Earth

Originally from “across the pond,” Sr. Mary Catherine OP is presently a 2nd year novice in initial formation with the Dominican Sisters of St. Joseph in the New Forest and is currently working towards a B.A. Divinity with the Maryvale Institute.  

 Dear friends, truth is not an imposition. Nor is it simply a set of rules. It is a discovery of the One who never fails us; the One whom we can always trust. In seeking truth we come to live by belief because ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ. That is why authentic freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in; nothing less than letting go of self and allowing oneself to be drawn into Christ’s very being for others.

Pope Benedict XVI – 19 April 2008, Meeting of Young People and Seminarians at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, NY; Apostolic Journey to the US

Sister Mary Catherine

Sister Mary Catherine (right)

I suppose one might say I’ve had an ongoing “love affair” with Truth my entire life.  As a young child, I seemed to possess an insatiable thirst to know “Why?” and “How come?” especially when it came to religious matters.  This insatiable thirst lingered throughout my childhood upbringing as a Southern Baptist, then as an adolescent “New Age”-er, then as a teenage Pentecostal, and finally as a generic “non-denominational” evangelical Christian.  By the time I hit university, I felt as though I was on a never-ending – and somewhat frustrating – “search for Truth.”  I didn’t want to remain a generic Christian, not knowing how to articulate what I believed in and why I believed it.  If it were possible, I wanted to find substantial objective truth in faith and in divine revelation, not a faith based on subjective feelings, opinions, or interpretations.  If Christianity were true (which I believed it was), then why were there so many denominations and churches all claiming to have the fullness of revealed truth?  Surely one of them had to be The One Church that Christ founded 2,000 years ago!   I firmly believed as Fox Mulder (The X-Files) did: “The Truth is out there” – and I wanted to find it (though not in the form of little green men and flying saucers)!

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in his studio at "Congregazione per la dottrina della fede."  Ratzinger, of Germany

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

This search eventually brought me not only to my knees, but to a somewhat indirect encounter with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).  Though I wasn’t too thrilled about reading anything “Catholic” (“Catholics, of course, weren’t real Christians…they didn’t know Jesus Christ, just an institutionalized man-made religion!” so I thought), it was during this time of research that I came across what I considered to be the Mother of all Rule Books: the mighty Catechism of the Catholic Church.  I purchased this book convinced that I could find something in it that would prove to be Biblically blasphemous or just plain crazy and therefore irreconcilable with human reason and thus, perfectly worthy of being “crossed of the list,” so to say.  However, to my shock (and yes, even disappointment) I could find none of these things.  Instead, I was confronted with more questions: “Where did this book come from?”, “Who wrote it?”, and “How on earth did this much Scripture get into this Catholic book – and still make sense?!?”   This led me to the CDF and to Cardinal Ratzinger, and ultimately, to the Roman Catholic Church.

Prior to this incident I had never heard of the CDF or Cardinal Ratzinger before.  Thus, I turned to my faithful friends: Google and my local Barnes & Noble bookshop.  Like a madman on a mission, I scoured the internet and bookshop trying to find anything to legitimately debunk Catholicism and “this Ratzinger guy.”  Yet, as God would have it, the more I searched, the more I discovered that my own anti-Catholic preconceived notions were being definitively debunked, one by one.

Along with the various works of Scott Hahn, Dave Armstrong, and Fr. John Hardon, S.J., I also became acquainted with the works of Cardinal Ratzinger, specifically Introduction to Christianity and The Spirit of the Liturgy.  As I read, I gradually began to say with the prophet Jeremiah;

Thy words were found, and I devoured them, and Thy words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by Thy name, O Lord, God of hosts.

Jeremiah 15:16

 In the works of Cardinal Ratzinger I met a man of not only extraordinary intellect and clarity, but of a deep faith and profound humility, a man living in the love and knowledge of the Truth Incarnate – in Jesus Christ, the Word of God.  And it was (and still is) Jesus Christ who seemed to permeate his entire being, so much so that my own insatiable thirst for Truth, for the very Person of Jesus Christ, became increasingly set ablaze.  In Cardinal Ratzinger I knew I had found a trusted guide and teacher in the fullness of the Christian faith.  It was then that I became an unofficial member of the “Ratzinger Fan Club”.

Soon realizing my thirst for Truth – for the Person of Jesus Christ – could only be quenched in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, by God’s grace in 2003 I was received into full communion at the Easter Vigil.  Here, in the Church alone, would the waters of everlasting life spring eternal – as manifested in her unshakable Faith, her sanctifying Liturgy and Sacraments, her firm moral teachings, and in the riches of her Prayer.  In becoming Catholic, I found the fullness of Truth or rather, it was He who found me and called me to Himself in His Body the Church through the Sacred Scriptures, Tradition, and Magisterium – and through the “humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard,” our beloved Pope Benedict XVI.

To you, our “Sweet Christ on earth,” my beloved Father, I can only offer a meagre word of thanks, for I am unable to express fully that gratitude and love that exists in the depths of my heart for you.  With deep filial affection, I love you and I will miss you, but I know and believe what you have said to be true:

Those who believe are never alone – neither in life nor in death

Inauguration homily, 24 April 2005

May we always remain united in the Most Holy Eucharist and in the One Body of Christ’s Church.

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