March 24 of this year was a special day for me. In the morning, I had the privilege of joining more than 500 pilgrims from the Boston area to witness the consistory that elevated Archbishop Seán O’Malley to cardinal. Now, at around 3 p.m., I was returning to St. Peter’s Square to take my turn in front of the camera.
With the beautiful, large dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the background, the crew from Boston Catholic Television was interviewing Catholics of all ages and from all walks of life. They were posing the same question to every interviewee. But it wasn’t, “What did you think of the consistory?” or, “What do you like most about Rome, the Eternal City?” Rather they were asking a question that on the surface seemed basic and easy: “Why are you proud to be Catholic?”
It was compelling to listen to the parade of answers to this query -- no two were alike! But I found myself agreeing with all the responses. What a rich faith we have!
Then it came to my turn in front of the lights. Many thoughts had been flooding through my mind during the powerful morning. It seemed like it would be quite difficult to sum it up in 5 minutes or less! BCTV director Father Bob Reed placed the microphone in front of me asking “So Scot, what makes you proud to be Catholic?” I thought of three reasons:
I’m first proud to be a Catholic because Jesus gave us the Catholic Church.
Jesus had so many acts of love toward us. He took on human flesh. He cured the sick. He willingly suffered a brutal death for us and then rose from the dead -- which changed everything! But, knowing our need for Him, He sent us the Holy Spirit, gave us the Church and gave the Church the precious gift of Himself in the Eucharist. The Church is where we encounter Christ in Body and Word.
I’m also proud to be Catholic because we share our faith with so many Catholic heroes of the past.
Rome is a perfect backdrop to consider the Catholics that gave everything to witness to the truth of the faith. St. Peter, St. Paul, so many Catholics have been martyred here! So many other holy women and men have walked these Roman streets over the Church’s 2,000 years! I think about my heroes of our recent past. Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the many holy men and women in the archdiocese that helped me learn the treasures of our faith, and the fine priests that through their sacrifice helped so many others and me encounter the risen Lord!
Finally, I’m proud to be Catholic because I get to share the journey toward God with a “club” of more than 1 billion members.
Standing in St. Peter’s square for an hour, we see Catholics of hundreds of different nationalities, ethnicities and languages pass by. It really gives an appreciation of the universality of our Church and its mission! But I also think about people with my favorite accent -- Bostonian! -- the people with whom I work, pray, minister, and share a friendship with God. The best thing about our billion-member “club” that is the Catholic Church is that it isn’t exclusive -- just the most inclusive group in the history of the world! I am inspired every day by Catholics who, after encountering Jesus and His love for us, respond generously by sharing their time, talent and resources so that others will come to know Him!
I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on this interview and its one question a number of times since March. Our Catholic Church was given to us by Jesus. But the Church exists today because of the generous sacrifices of Jesus’ Catholic disciples for the last 2,000 years. These heroes of our faith have ensured that the treasures of Catholicism get passed down to us. Some Catholics gave their lives -- literally -- as martyrs. Millions since have given their lives figuratively as dedicated missionaries, priests, religious and lifelong workers in support of the Church’s and Christ’s mission. Many millions more have sacrificed their time and financial resources to pass on the faith, assist in liturgies and serve the needy.
Locally, our Catholic predecessors in Boston suffered tremendous hardship and discrimination. But they heroically persevered, not only building many magnificent parishes, schools, hospitals and charitable agencies, but making our country better in their fight for the dignity of workers, the needs of the poor, and the respect for human life.
These great generations of Catholic believers now pass the torch to all of us, young and old, cradle Catholics and recent converts. Many local Catholics are responding very generously to this call. And we hope all Catholics will jump aboard this mission. Let us commit to passing on to our grandchildren’s generation a Church as strong as the one we inherited from our grandparents!
So in summary, I have billions of reasons that I’m proud to be Catholic -- I’m proud of every Catholic that has responded to Jesus’ abundant love with the generous sharing of their own time and resources. Now it’s your turn to reflect on this question: Why are you proud to be Catholic?
Scot Landry is Secretary for Institutional Advancement and Chief Development Officer for the Archdiocese of Boston.
Your turn -- Share why you are proud to be Catholic. Visit www.BostonCatholicMen.org/proud or call 617-977-0916 for more information.