Brianna Heldt is a writer, speaker, and radio show host. She blogs at www.briannaheldt.com, has been a featured guest on BBC Radio, and her work can regularly be found in other online publications as well. A convert to the Catholic Church, Brianna explores topics ranging from faith and social issues to adoption and large family life. She and her husband make their home in Denver, along with their eight children.
When I was received into the Catholic Church eight years ago, I had no idea that less than a decade later I would be seeing scandal after scandal unfold, week after week, day after day. Call me naive — and I was, blissfully so! — but I would never have imagined I’d see the day when journalists were discussing pagan idols in churches, bishops who don’t take clerical sexual abuse seriously, or modernists who openly wish to change magisterial teaching in the area of human sexuality. Objectivity is out, it would seem, and relativism is in.
Why, I can’t help but wonder, has truth fallen out of fashion?
Back before I was Catholic, when I was first seeking the big answers to the big questions about marriage and children and life, I really, truly had no idea what Catholicism even was. I confess that the fullness of the faith appeared to me as both a mysterious and, frankly, arbitrary conglomeration of rules and doctrines.
But, I figured, maybe they had some of the answers. What was the purpose of procreation in marriage, I had wondered for longer than I could remember? What methods were licit for us to utilize in planning our family — and why, oh why, did God appear to be silent on such a universal matter? The Protestant paradigm was not up to the task of addressing the problem, so I decided to give Christ’s Church a look. Such a longstanding institution ought at least to have some sort of framework for understanding the various truths that the Bible seemed more or less silent on, like the truth about how children and contraception ought to fit with marriage.
When it came to seeking the truth, if it existed, I would not be deterred.
The reality was, though I couldn’t necessarily have articulated it at the time, that Sola Scriptura had ceased to make sense to me — because for all of the talk about “relevant, practical teaching for your life” in evangelicalism, there actually seemed to be very little that was practical there whatsoever. What could possibly be more relevant to a woman my age, for example, than guidance in the area of motherhood and marriage? Is contraception okay? How are we supposed to view our marriage in light of the potential for procreation? How can I love and serve God when I’m at home all day, every day, with many small children? Nobody seemed to have an answer. Nobody was consistent in their approach to these matters. Everybody believed that if it was not explicitly forbidden by God in Scripture, then you could decide for yourself.
Perhaps most frustrating of all, nobody seemed to see anything lacking in this relativistic approach to life and love.
Appeals to conscience and supposed private revelation by the Holy Spirit had resulted in seemingly nothing more than otherwise pro-life faith communities embracing abortifacient methods of contraception. What ought to have been a scandal was instead common practice, and few subjects sparked such strong feelings in a woman as when someone gently questioned whether the pill was a good idea. Furthermore, there persisted an overall attitude that children were intruding upon marriage, the union’s happiness depending primarily upon how well husband and wife could delay/avoid/mitigate all things childbearing. It didn’t seem like a very good way to spend your fertile years, but then, nobody ever had a better suggestion.
Why would God have kept hidden from me and my contemporaries the critical truths that surely the early Christians, those with access to the apostles, would have understood? Why did it seem as if real life was so far removed from the Bible that we all claimed to hold so dear as the very guide of life?
Needless to say, what I found in the papal encyclicals and saint stories and testimonies of faith-filled Catholics changed everything. Everything. Discovering that God had not only a plan for my life — which I’d always believed — but also a clear, consistent directive about what that plan was, was a tremendous relief. It made sense.
It still makes sense.
The beautiful thing about truth is that it is timeless and dynamic, never growing stale as it offers the fertile ground necessary for faith, hope and love to grow. This modern notion that everything must somehow be softened, updated, or abrogated to fit the surrounding present-day culture is an insidious lie, because it robs those most in need of the very medicine they are (albeit sometimes unknowingly) craving — and replaces it with poison. If the Catholic Church will not stand up to the forces of feminism, paganism and modernism, who will? Who will tell the truth about Heaven and Hell, about the Real Presence, about marriage, or about something so basic as what it means to be a man or a woman?
I remember what it was like to feel slightly adrift and uncertain in my attempts to make sense of my life’s purpose. I can recall thinking that without any sort of objectivity, we were all left to fumble around for ourselves with no assurances we’d gotten it right, and I knew that didn’t sound like a very good way to live. People seemed to make peace with it, and yet I just couldn’t.
So call me crazy, but I’m actually grateful for the truthful clarity and astounding beauty I discovered in the timeless teachings of the Catholic Church. No, I did not immediately “buy” everything I heard. Yes, I found some of it to be offensive to my modern ears. Yes, I initially felt defensive. But I kept studying and I kept praying because I simply could not deny that the doctrines of the Catholic Church were in keeping with nature and rooted in history, and that the institution was peopled throughout the millennia with saints who were deeply, passionately in love with Jesus Christ.
What I had ignorantly assumed was a set of empty rules and rituals turned out to be a profoundly beautiful, life-giving and holy faith, one that held the answers to life on Earth and eternal life — precisely because it is true.
Catholics must not be afraid of the truth, either to speak it out loud or to seek and live it wholeheartedly. Especially during these times. Much of the world may oppose our message, but I know there are those hungering for it, too, like I was all those years ago. We simply must bear witness to Christ. For me, called to the vocation of marriage, this means loving my husband well. Nurturing, nourishing and training my children. Keeping my home. Affecting the culture for good through the hidden and the unseen, attempting to emulate the Blessed Virgin Mary in her grace-filled humility. Giving my yes.
Our world is hungering for light and for hope. It is yearning for Christ. So let us speak and live the truth.