Struggling to Accept Church Teaching? There’s Good News and Bad News
When I was in early high school, a Catholic relative of mine was going through the annulment process, as he had been divorced nearly a decade earlier and had now met another woman he wanted to marry. I overheard a conversation he was having with a friend about how difficult the whole situation was, and how uncertain he was that he would even be granted an annulment.
The friend asked him, “What happens if you’re not?”
And he replied, “Well, then I stay a single man for the rest of my life.”
To him, it was very simple. Difficult, sure. But he fully intended to break things off with this woman he loved if that’s what he had to do to live within the precepts of the Church.
Now, my 14-year-old eavesdropping self didn’t quite fully understand the depths of his pain or difficulty. But years later, I’ve come to much more fully appreciate his commitment to being a faithful Catholic in the face of really, really difficult obstacles.
The Bad News: Being a Faithful Catholic is Hard
Duh. I think we all know this. And yet, everywhere we look in our society, we find people who are crying, whining, or yes, sometimes very legitimately lamenting about the fact that the rules the Church proscribes for us are very, very hard.
Perhaps we think, regarding whichever Church precept we’re struggling to accept and live out, “Why does the Church have to be so hardline on this one issue?” But is it really only one issue, or does it just feel that way when we’re in the throes of a misery that seems to be happening to us solely because we’re trying to follow the precepts of the Church?
I think that if we take an honest, unemotionally-charged look at the world around us, we’ll see that the Church is opposed to many things that society tries to say are fine and dandy.
And maybe we say, “What the heck, Church? Can’t you just get with the times already?” But the reality is that, as much as it might feel unfair to us, the Church can’t “get with the times.” Her rules and doctrines are from God. And Christ meant it when He said, “My kingdom does not belong to this world,” (John 18:36).
If the world and the Kingdom of God jived together a bit better, we’d have things a whole lot easier. But then again, Christ would have too.
“If Only I Were Married…”
Okay, maybe you saw my bio blurb at the top and think to yourself, “Easy for you to say. You’re married with kids. You’re living the dream.” That’s a nice thought—but utterly false.
When my husband and I learned Natural Family Planning in the months leading up to our marriage, I remember thinking the approximate 10 days we’d have to abstain from sex each cycle if we wanted to delay or space conceiving kids not a huge deal. It’s easy to think this as a celibate person. You’re doing it now, after all.
But it turns out it’s much harder to abstain from doing a holy thing with your spouse than it is to avoid a mortal sin with your fiancé or someone you’re dating.
So, boohoo, cry me a river, lady. Just have more kids—much easier said than done when you’re poor, and a much less appealing option when you’re up at 2:00 am with a screaming eight-month-old, while you’re three-year-old wakes up with a potty-training mishap.
All of this marriage business would be so much easier if we could just use contraception like the rest of the world. Just as it would be so much easier if the Church said masturbation were okay now and then (like maybe during the six-plus weeks after childbirth when you medically can’t have sex).
It’s Not Just You; It’s All
But the thing is, it’s not just one group of people who have it hard. It’s not just single people trying to follow the Church’s teachings on chastity. It’s not just the divorced person with no hope of remarriage in the Church. It’s not just the homosexual person whom the Church forbids from uniting sexually with the person he desires. It’s not just the young, extra-fertile married couple whose lack of ability to keep their hands off one another is visible in their huge young family.
It’s also the guy working a 12-hour shift every Sunday who still has to fulfill his Sunday obligation and go to Mass. It’s the broke dude with crushing debts who isn’t allowed to do something dishonest to get the money he needs.
It’s the family watching their suffering, dying loved one who isn’t allowed to “put him out of his misery.” It’s the rape victim who can’t go get an abortion to try and erase what happened and get her life back to normal.
The truth of the matter is that as much as our legitimately mind-blowingly difficult circumstances might make us feel like we’re the only ones who have a hard time following Church rules; it’s actually hard for everyone.
But There’s Good News
So, doom and gloom—yes, being a Catholic is hard no matter our circumstances. But luckily, there is good news as well. And yes, it is the Good News with capital letters—Heaven.
For those of us who persevere and put the desire to do God’s will at the very top of our list, we’ll have quite the reward in the end. The terrible suffering we endure in this life does not go unnoticed by God. He only wants us to turn to Him, unite our sufferings with His own, and beg Him to give us the strength to somehow persevere.
He doesn’t want us to suffer, but Original Sin happened, and here we are with everything messed up. So He’s allowing it, in order to work for the good of us all, in one of those mysteries that are a bit beyond our complete understanding here on earth.
So, even though it might seem harder than we can even put into words, we must trust in Him and go all in, resolving to do His will no matter the cost.
Adrienne Thorne is a Catholic wife, mother, screenwriter, and blogger. She blogs about TV and Movies from Catholic perspective at Thorne in the Flesh: A Faithful Catholic's Guide to Netflix, Hulu, and More.