Browsing Daily News

Father Nicholas Nelson: There is one true faith, the Catholic faith

As far back as I can remember, I have always been convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith. It is something my parents formed in me. I wasn’t always as zealous as I am now. I hadn’t always desired to be a saint, but I always believed in the truth of the Catholic Church. That conviction is a grace I am most grateful for. With that said, it may be worthwhile to lay out the logical progression for being Catholic. Why does it make sense to be Catholic? 

Father Nick Nelson
Handing on the Faith

First, that there is a God can be known by reason alone. 

We have to start with our reason. There needs to be a foundation in my own mind for a particular truth. Some people make the mistake saying that believing in God takes faith. That isn’t true. Faith is believing on the authority of someone else. We believe a lot of things because God has revealed them, such as the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and that God is a Trinity, but that there is a God — that doesn’t take faith, just our reason. We can look at the created world and logically conclude there must be first cause of everything and a being who holds everything in existence, i.e. “God.” Ironically enough, it is an article of faith that God’s existence can be known by reason alone. This is from the First Vatican Council (1870): “God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of human reason, through the things that he created” (Dei Filius 2). 

Second, Jesus is validated by the resurrection. 

Once we have established the existence of God, we must admit that we don’t know a lot about him. We can reason a few things, such as God is one, unchanging, eternal, all-powerful, pure, immaterial, and all good. But after that, we can’t know much more. He had to reveal himself to us. He did that slowly throughout the Old Testament, but with Jesus of Nazareth, we have the fullness of God’s revelation of himself. 

That Jesus rose from the dead is a historically verifiable event. Consider the Gospel accounts, the radical conversion of his followers willing to die for him, and the fact that after his death, his Messianic movement didn’t end or even continue with a different leader. Rather, his followers claimed it continued with him! Why? Because he was alive! The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth validates Jesus and his mission. The resurrection of Jesus categorically proves that every other religion or claim of revelation is man-made. God cannot contradict himself. He could not at one time affirm Jesus as his Son while at the same time revealing other messages that contradict Jesus’ revelation. For example, we cannot believe in Jesus as the Son of God and at the same time say Islam or Buddhism are true religions. 

Third, Jesus set up a church to continue his saving mission. 

Once we establish Jesus’ validity, we can look to what he said and did, because we can trust it. He claimed to be God. He claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life. And He established a church. He said to Peter, “You are Peter and upon this Rock I will build my church.” He gave Peter and the other Twelve his very own authority. He said, “Whoever hears you, hears me.” Before he ascended to heaven, Jesus told them, “Go and make disciples, baptizing them, teaching them all I have commanded you. And behold I am with you until the end of time.” 

Fourth, the church Christ founded is the same as the Catholic Church today. 

Where is that church today? Where is Jesus’ authority today? Protestants today don’t even claim to have Jesus’ authority. They point to the Bible as their only authority. Catholics make the same claim as the early church, that our pope and bishops in communion with him actually have God’s very own divine authority. We can trace the succession of popes from Pope Francis to St. Peter, and if we did have good enough records, we could trace Bishop Daniel Felton all the way back to one of the Apostles. The church Jesus founded is the Catholic Church we find today. Every other Christian community is man-made. 

God is a good Father. He wants his children to know who he is and what his plan is for us. He wants us to find him. Despite the confusion in the world and the church, every person sincerely open to the truth can see that the Catholic Church is the true faith. One God, one Savior, one church, the Catholic Church. 

In the end it just takes the gift of grace and a little leap of faith to give yourself entirely over to God and to follow Christ wholeheartedly as a Catholic. It will always take some faith to make that final step, but it takes faith for a man to entrust his heart to a woman for the rest of his life. 

That’s what God wants from us. He doesn’t want to be a math equation. He wants to be loved as Father, and as a friend. But this relationship isn’t a blind leap, but a rational one, one that makes all the sense in the world to make! 

Father Nick Nelson is pastor of Queen of Peace and Holy Family parishes in Cloquet. He studied at The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome. Reach him at [email protected].