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GROWING UP CATHOLIC | Witnesses of God’s love

In the recent vision statement for the archdiocese, one quote stood out: “Pope Paul VI said it best: The world does not merely need teachers but witnesses.”

In this column, I write about “growing up Catholic,” by which I mean the journey of discovery we’re all on to mature faith. As an adult convert, this has meant learning to actively engage with Catholic devotions and culture. It’s amazing how, over the years, the real, lived practice of the faith has deepened my love for Christ. It may be something as simple as learning about St. Nicholas and putting out shoes on his feast day, making Catholic friends who authentically embody their faith and have become examples to me, or shifting the way I experience the annual calendar to a cycle of feasts and fasts. All of these cultural and devotional practices, the faith incarnate in real people, have been a witness to me. They’re a signal fire, a beacon leading home to the heart of God.

We’re embodied creatures. The intellect is fed by the senses, so it’s important that we not only hear the faith but see, touch, taste and feel it. This is the theme of my book, “The Forgotten Language, How Recovering the Poetics of the Mass Will Change Our Lives.” Our testimony to God’s creative love is to make our souls as beautiful as possible. By doing this, every aspect of our lives, everything we care about, is gathered into the greater story of God’s love.

Christian pilgrimage is a seeking out, a heroic adventure to discover the source of beauty and goodness and love. We desire knowledge of our beloved God. Knowledge of the faith isn’t only intellectual, as if it’s nothing more than an abstract idea. Yes, it’s vital to begin with correct knowledge, understanding the Scriptures and Catechism of the Catholic Church (and building that knowledge constantly), but we must put flesh to that knowledge.

Most of all, what drew me to Catholicism was the holy sacrifice of the Mass. This is where any discussion of the value of our personal witness begins. Evangelization begins with a beautiful, reverent Mass, unapologetic about the treasures of the Catholic liturgical tradition. The Mass isn’t a lecture; it’s adoration of the living God, a participation in Christ’s perfect sacrifice to our Father. We turn to our Father together and look to Him as one people. There is no greater display of the faith than this corporate action, full of awe and mystery.

When I was not Catholic, I searched places like the cathedral. I didn’t understand Catholicism, but simply by the reverent beauty of the Mass, I intuited that it was a sacred and transformative encounter with God. This encounter is what draws converts. It’s what drew me. I knelt before sacred beauty in wonder and awe and knew, just knew, that even if I didn’t know when or how, before I died I was going to be Catholic.

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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