The Toughest Way to Be a Christian
“You know, accounting is the toughest business major. You probably couldn’t handle it, though.”
Want to guess what his major was?
At the time, I was a business management major, following an epic failure in the psychology department. My friend was right, I suspected, but it wasn’t easy to hear – especially coming from him.
The comment really got under my skin. I decided to approach one of the accounting professors to get his take. Unfortunately, this only added fuel to the fire. “Yes, I agree that accounting is probably the most difficult business major we have here at Franciscan University. In fact, most CEOs in business either come up through the sales or accounting/finance ranks.”
That did it.
To make a long story short, I decided to thoroughly investigate the matter and ended up switching my major to accounting, much to my friend’s amusement. I eventually became a CPA, and the accounting professor is the Godfather of one of my sons. Professor Materniak was right – accounting was a tough major. But it was where I belonged – and all the added difficulty was worth it.
It has often occurred to me that just like accounting was the toughest way to be a business major, being Catholic is the toughest way to be a Christian.
Why? There are lots of reasons, here are just three:
1. I don’t get to decide what’s true. Being a faithful Catholic means believing in objective truth (can you believe that?) I can’t simply superimpose my own beliefs (political, cultural or whatever) over the Church’s teachings while claiming the “faithful Catholic” title. Before entering the Church, I acted as judge and jury on matters of faith and morals, rendering judgements regardless of my highly questionable yet intensely visceral convictions. As a Catholic, I am called to change myself to conform to God, not the other way around. Unreal. It was easier trying to convince people that God agreed with me (well, he usually did).
2. I don’t get to be Pope. Unbelievable, I know. Being a faithful Catholic means submitting to the authority of the Church. Being obedient, even. Can you imagine a more foreign concept? This requires a profound level of humility, and it doesn’t come naturally. As a non-Catholic student at Franciscan University, I thought studying Humanae Vitae for an entire semester was a waste of time. Stupid. Outrageous. Yes, I made that fact known at the time. Then I discovered the whole thing makes ridiculous amounts of sense. I had never heard this stuff before. Yes, I now have eight kids. Yes, things would probably be far worse if I were Pope. Sigh.
3. I have to change. Even (especially?) among converts, who so many people tell me “make the best Catholics,” ongoing growth is an absolute requirement. Am I really the intellectual or spiritual match of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Therese, Blessed John Paul II, or Pope Benedict XVI? Homer Simpson, maybe. In almost twenty years as a Catholic, I’ve hardly scratched the surface of the cumulative wisdom and rich treasury of Church teaching. Besides, all this striving for holiness and dying to self stuff is hard. My only consolation is having the tools to live a sacramental life, and the grace to tackle my biggest project – myself.
Here’s a bonus reason: there are plenty of people who love to give Catholics a hard time, including many who consider themselves experts on every conceivable aspect of Catholicism. My wife was counseled to divorce me during our conversion to the Church, since I was “leading the family to hell” according to a misguided former friend. Catholics are in the cross-hairs of plenty of groups who take a dim view of the Church’s teaching on moral issues, for example. What am I supposed to do? Pray for them! Seriously!
Life sure was easier before I got into the habit of taking the tougher paths. Yet in becoming an accounting major, a CPA, a father of eight children, and a Catholic, the rewards have more than made up for the difficulties. I’m grateful beyond words that all these challenges have become blessings.
If you’re a faithful Catholic, please add to the list above! If you’re not, have you ever considered becoming Catholic? It’s tough, but worth it.
Note: Before lighting up my combox, know that I continue to have a high regard and great respect for my non-Catholic brothers and sisters, this post isn’t meant as a slam to them. But let’s face it, there is a huge cost to disunity – and therefore an equal opportunity. Thanks for visiting.