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GROWING UP CATHOLIC | The radiance of truth

Even as a young Anglican pastor, I was fascinated by Catholicism. I would sneak into Masses, sit in the back pew and soak in the beauty. But there were Church teachings I found difficult to accept; partially because I was prejudiced against Catholicism and looking for reasons to argue, and partially because I didn’t understand what she really taught.

Even when I disagreed with Catholic teaching, I respected it. Catholicism never abandons the truth in order to become relevant or from a misplaced sense of niceness and tolerance. The principle of Catholicism is to love and tolerate all people (including sinners like you and me) but to never tolerate sin. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Without truth, we lose Jesus.

The ancients described the truth as luminous. When something is true, it glows with beauty. This is why beauty and truth always go together. It’s why I came back to Mass again and again, even when it was challenging and obscure. Through beauty, God’s truth had gotten hold of me, and even if I dragged my feet, conversion was inevitable. Truth is transformative. To a lost and hurting world, it’s a sign of hope.

G.K. Chesterton, a convert himself, evangelized countless people. His work is full of no-nonsense, counter-cultural, Catholic teaching. He’s a supremely talented writer, winsome and kind, but it’s important to note that he never, ever compromises the truth. Time and again, he leads his readers to contemplate the living truth. He tirelessly encourages us to follow Church teachings to their fullest.

I suspect he’s so insistent because, like me, he had so drastically misunderstood Catholicism before he was Catholic. Because of this, he learned to go straight to the source. He writes, “Instead of looking at books and pictures about the New Testament I looked at the New Testament. There I found an account, not in the least of a person with his hair parted in the middle or his hands clasped in appeal, but of an extraordinary being with lips of thunder and acts of lurid decision, flinging down tables, casting out devils, passing with the wild secrecy of the wind from mountain isolation to a sort of dreadful demagogy; a being who often acted like an angry god — and always like a god.”

God’s ways are not our ways. We can second-guess, doubt, come up with our own tame versions of truth. We can try to change Church teaching on marriage, or protest against what the priest said in his homily about protecting innocent life, or fasting, or avoiding contraception. We can rebel against God’s truth as overly demanding and mysterious, but we ought to expect that the truth, the truth of Jesus Christ the Son of God, calls us out of comfortable familiarity. He calls us to a heroic journey. There may be dragons to fight along the way. There may be sacrifice required, and faithfulness and courage. But we are fighting our way to the truth, and Christ leads the way, luminous and bright.

Father Michael Rennier is vice-rector of the Oratory of Sts. Gregory and Augustine. A former Anglican priest, he was ordained in 2016 under a pastoral provision. He and his wife, Amber, have six children.

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