It’s 2015 and I’m still surprised at how many people misunderstand what the Catholic Church teaches and believes. Just last week someone told me that those 6 million people who gathered in Manila to see Pope Francis viewed him to be God. She went on to say that she hoped “they know Jesus.” I was stunned. This lady is a Christian and yet she knows almost nothing about the oldest and largest Christian Church in the history of the world. Is this her fault? Nope. It’s mine. Since Martin Luther, we Catholics have allowed others to tell our story, instead of telling it ourselves. It’s no wonder that in this part of the South especially, where there are relatively few Catholics, what others know about us can be so frightfully wrong. We need to change that.
To begin with, you can’t explain your Catholic faith to someone else if you don’t know what the Church teaches and why we teach it. Read your Bible, especially the Gospels. Read the Catechism and know how to use its Index so you can find answers to your questions. Be able to answer the most common questions you’ll hear from many Protestants. Like: Are you saved? Do you worship Mary? Why do you pray to statues? Why do you call priests “Father?” What is a Rosary? Do you believe that the Pope is God? There are dozens of other questions and misunderstandings about the Catholic faith. But start with these and you’ll be ahead of most. Whenever we are asked a question and we don’t know the answer, just tell that person: “I don’t know but I’ll find out and get back to you.” The worst thing you can do in this situation is to fail to contact that person with the answer to their question. When you do that, you’ve missed an opportunity to share the truth of our Catholic faith.
If this sounds a bit overwhelming, relax, it isn’t. Don’t try to learn everything all at once. Pray that the Holy Spirit will help to enlighten you and give you the courage to share our faith boldly and joyfully. Remember that our Protestant brothers and sisters have heard a lot of misinformation about Catholics and that we share many beliefs with most of them. We love and worship Jesus Christ. We believe that the grace of His Holy Cross is our salvation. Our hope is in Him. Of course, we do have our differences and they’re important ones.
The most important difference is that we believe the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Most Protestants teach that their communion (or “Lord’s Supper”) represents Christ in a spiritual or symbolic way. We believe Holy Communion IS Jesus. Why? Because this is what Jesus tells us in the Gospels. We hear His words at every Mass—“This is My Body…this is My Blood.” I often recommend that anyone who wants to know what it means to be a Catholic needs to read the sixth Chapter of John’s Gospel. It’s called the “Bread of Life Discourse” and it’s a rich treasure of Jesus’ own words on the Eucharist. It is the heart of what it means to be a Catholic because the Eucharist is the heart of Catholicism. He is the Bread of Life, the Living Bread come down from heaven. We must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have eternal life (John 6:55). Many who had followed Him could not believe this and they left Jesus. And He let them go. He could have said, “No, don’t go. I meant that communion is a symbol or a kind of spiritual remembrance of Me.” But he didn’t say that and He didn’t stop the ones that wanted to leave. It must have hurt Him to see them go because they couldn’t accept the truth of the Eucharist.
Clinging to the truth of the Eucharist is clinging to the heart of Jesus. This is why I became a Catholic and why I remain in His Church today. The Eucharist is Jesus Christ. So yes, Catholics certainly do know Jesus—intimately and lovingly. He is our Savior and Lord, our Redeemer and our King. This is our Catholic faith.
“From the Eucharist comes the strength to live the Christian life and the zeal to share that life with others.”
—Pope St. John Paul II