On my being Catholic.
[With apologies to Thomas Howard]
This is a response to a pretty interesting discussion going on in the comment boxes below, discussing the importance of a Catholic identity, extra ecclesiam, etc. It's by no means a developed or complete thought on the subject:
I believe that mere Catholic identity means squat. I could point to several dozen Catholic politicians whose "faith" appears to be a matter of assuring face time with the "Catholic" vote (however defined).
To the extent that a Catholic's (or anyone else's, for that matter) faith life is a matter of showing up on Sunday, without a living commitment to Christ, that is insufficient. Pew sitting won't do.
The problem is that I'm not competent to judge who has that living commitment. It doesn't have to be a firm grasp of the intellectual principles underlying the Faith. I'm becoming envious of the Italian grandmas and Irish grandpas who can't explain dogma in any detail, but are Christian prayer warriors and disciples par excellence. It's not that the principles are unimportant, though. It's just that you have to assent to them, not be able to defend them in a Ph.D thesis.
Do I think there are Orthodox and Protestants in Heaven? Yes. Are there Catholics in Hell? I'll let Mr. Alighieri speak for me on that one. What's the dividing line? Well, I agree the Nicene Creed (as historically understood, and not defined so as to be empty of all meaning) is a good starting point.
Does that mean I think being Catholic is meaningless? Hardly. I believe that, were it not for the Holy Spirit steering me to the Church, I would be on my way to the Inferno. I met Christ as a Catholic, and was convinced--brutally--of my own sinfulness and need for *the* Savior. I have been walking with Him--albeit a frequently stumbling gait--ever since. I meet Him in the sacraments, which have strengthened me immensely.
First of all in baptism, where He washed my sin away and claimed me as one of His own thirty-four years ago. Next in confirmation, where the Holy Spirit prods me to holiness--a task only an omnipotent and omnipatient God would endure. Next in confession, where I rise, healed by Christ of my self-inflicted wounds. Next in the Eucharist, where I relive the hardest of hard sayings and stand at the foot of the Cross I assembled. Next in marriage, where one of His uncountable blessings is sitting five feet away as I write this, watching "Dora the Explorer" while two others sleep. Finally in the Annointing, watching an unknowing toddler be strengthened by Him before her first surgery.
Yes, being Catholic matters.