Following my recent blog on David Aaronovitch’s memoir, there was a comment by someone going by the name “Terry Mushroom”. I don’t always read all the comments following blogs, but Terry’s was so good I actually wrote it down (a first for me) and wish to share it here for those who might have missed it. Someone had asked Terry the reasons for his faith and this is what he replied:
1. Watching his parents pray when he was a child and when life was hard for them. We must never underestimate the power of example – often much more powerful than argument.
2. Accompanying the sick at Lourdes. I have done this too, so recognise the importance of immersing oneself in a Catholic culture, where the sick and infirm are loved and celebrated, especially when in one’s ordinary circumstances of life euthanasia is constantly being promoted as the sensible “choice”.
3. Visiting Auschwitz and recognising that atheism has no explanation for evil. I have not done this, though I have visit a smaller Nazi transit camp in Holland, which was grim in its own way. The sheer scale of Auschwitz is what horrifies visitors ie. the sheer scale of the human capacity for evil.
4. The memory of his father’s stories of meeting an Australian priest, Fr Marsden, who was chaplain to the Australian troops forced to work on the Thailand railway in World War II. Interestingly, I had also heard of this priest, when reading the short memoir by the late Fr Hugh Thwaites SJ, describing his time as a prisoner of war of the Japanese. Then a young man, not yet a Catholic, Fr Thwaites was struck by the quiet heroism of Fr Marsden, who never failed to lift the spirits of the men under his spiritual charge, whatever the appalling circumstances they endured.
5. His recognition that no merely human institution could have survived as the Catholic Church has done these last 2000 years, given (Terry quotes Hilaire Belloc here) the evidence of its frequent “knavish imbecility.” This is not the first argument one would employ in defending the Church, but it still has a grimly amusing force.
6. His sense of the “awesome nature” of the natural world and the marvels of science. This is a reminder to those outside the Church that we are not, as atheist scientists often seem to assume, members of the flat-earth society.
7. His love for what Catholicism has to offer in the way of confession, Scripture, the Mass, the Rosary and prayer. This reminds me that Fr Thwaites, whom I referred to above, said that if he had to choose between celebrating Mass and hearing confession he would always choose the latter – because there is nothing more joyful for a priest than to be instrumental in bringing a sinner home. Incidentally, Fr Thwaites called his memoir “Our glorious Faith and how to lose it”.
8. “Catholicism has jokes”, as well as saints such as SS John Bosco, Thomas More, Martin de Porres and Philip Neri. This is overlooked but it deserves to be highlighted. Those outside the Church often think, mistakenly, that the saints are all sad-faced, self-flagellating ascetics. As Terry’s list shows, they are actually the kind of people who can be light-hearted and makes jokes while on the scaffold. In reading Aaronvitch’s book, My Family and Other Communists, I was struck by the joyless world of Communism.
9. Terry concludes: “God gives me what I need”. He adds a comment that will reverberate for many others who follow the Herald’s website: “It’s not always easy being Catholic. Much is demanded. I lapsed for some years through sin and boredom. Sometimes one has to leave home to find it. I’m glad I’m back.”
Thank you Terry, not only for giving me an idea for a blog but for reminding me of all the reasons that I too choose to be a Catholic.