Far be it from me to promote the Catholic faith on purely practical terms. I have a very small reputation as one of the arch-enemies of Utilitarianism. See my essay in Disorientation: 13 Isms that Will Send You to Intellectual La La Land. or check out the essay over at Patheos here.
We do not follow the Catholic faith because it is therapeutic or moralistic. Go to the doctor, the self help guru, the gym or your masseur if you want therapy. We are not Catholics because of morality. Moralism leads to legalism which leads to Pharisaism. Not good. Furthermore, There are few people more tiresome than the sincere do-gooder. You remember C.S.Lewis’ quip, “She was the sort of person who lived for others, and you could tell the others by their hunted look.”
We follow the Catholic faith not because it is useful or because it gives us a list of rules to follow so we will be good boys and girls. We follow it because it is true.
Nevertheless, there are great practical benefits that come from following the faith. Here are twelve.
- Religion is good for you – Just speaking generally, the practice or religion–any religion–is good for you. Check out this webpage for a detailed description of the mental health benefits of religion. A few of the general benefits: a sense of purpose and peace which helps with stress, a belief system that helps make sense of life’s ups and downs, access to forgiveness and reconciliation.
- Prayer Brings Peace – When you pray and meditate there are observable health benefits. Your breathing slows down. Your body relaxes. Your brain stops racing. You attain inner peace and calm. Go here to read about seven proven health benefits from prayer. Among them are reduced stress, strengthened immunity systems, better coping techniques, improved relationships.
- Confession Clears the Decks – “Confession is the one thing I really envy in my Catholic friends” said an Evangelical friend of mine. Confession clears the decks. Not only do you receive forgiveness, but most of all, the true penitent has a mental shift by which he or she takes responsibility for himself and the situation. This is huge and has great ripple down effect in a person’s life because eventually they start to take responsibility for everything in their life.
- Doctrine Gives Structure – Everybody needs a belief system. In fact everybody has a belief system even if they don’t think they do. When I was doing prison re-hab work I asked the guys what they believe. One guy sassed, “I don’t believe nothing.” I replied, “Then that is what you believe.” Catholic doctrine gives an ordered, structured system of belief which touches not just Jesus Christ and his teaching and life, but the whole shooting match. It offers a theological and philosophical basis and structure–a grid by which everything can be viewed and assessed. This gives a person a tremendous foundation for life. They can get on to build great things on this foundation.
- Moral Teaching Gives Guidelines – It’s a moral maze out there these days and Catholic moral teaching is grounded in natural law and divine law. This gives a rational, realistic and positive set of guidelines by which moral decisions can be reached. This relieves stress and helps people through moral crises in their lives. Not knowing how to live or what decisions to make gets people into huge problems and while the moral teaching doesn’t solve all problems, it provides a map to help guide the journey.
- Community is Healthy – “It is not good for man to be alone” With the breakdown of the extended family, increased mobility, breakdown of marriage and smaller families people are more and more on their own. Church is a place to gather with other people who share you beliefs and values. This is a good thing which strengthens both the community and the individual. Furthermore, religious communities benefit everyone. Check out this webpage to read about the statistics of the positive impact or religion.
- Religious People Live Longer – This is a no-brainer. If you’re religious you are not only more likely to be involved in positive practices like prayer, but you will also be less likely to be involved in destructive practices like drinking, drug abuse, crime etc. This research shows that religious people, on average, live seven years longer than non-religious. That’s not to mention the benefit of eternal life that we hope and pray for!
- Catholicism Makes You Prosperous – Note I did not say Catholicism will make you rich. There is a difference between prosperity and wealth. Prosperity refers to financial well being. Wealth refers to having lots of loot. How does Catholicism make you prosperous? Well, if you tithe (give a percentage of your income) your attitude to wealth changes. It becomes outward not inward. If you have less money (because you tithe) you are more thrifty. You work harder. You therefore accumulate more wealth. You also spend what you have on necessities not fripperies. This affects your lifestyle positively and moves you towards prosperity. Your attitude to money changes and you soon realize you have enough even if you don’t have much, and this is the attitude of prosperity.
- The Economy Benefits From Religion – Check out this article at Forbes: Just one detail: religious people contribute to charities which cut down the tax burden, lift the local community and re-charge the local economy. According to Rodney Stark, a professor of sociology, the American economy benefits to the tune of $2.6 trillion per year thanks to being a strongly religious country. That is about one-sixth of our total economic output.
- Liturgy and the Rosary Have Hidden Benefits – The deepest needs of the human heart are hidden below the surface of consciousness. It is in the realm of our ancestry, our memories, our depth psyche that the roots of our problems are buried. How to access that underground realm of the unconscious? Ritual and repetitious prayer opens the gateways to the unconscious mind safely. To put it simply, praying the rosary with its repetitious prayer and attending liturgical services which are repetitious and ritualistic open the wordless and unconscious realm to healing, peace and reconciliation. The roots of our problems are healed so the rest of us gets better naturally.
- Catholicism Brings Universal Purpose – Everybody wants to be part of something that has meaning and purpose. Catholicism not only helps us to make sense of our local everyday lives, but it gives a framework to integrate ourselves and belong to a movement of God in the world that is global and timeless. We’re part of a purpose for humanity that goes back to Eden and forward to Judgement Day. We belong to a family that includes brothers and sisters from every age down the centuries and from every corner of the globe in every race, language, tribe and nation. That puts a spring in my step and helps me realize that my life has meaning and purpose that is far greater than my own little needs and problems, and that wider perspective makes life worth living. This brings an eternal dimension to life. As Jesus said, “I have come to bring you life–a life more abundant.”
- Catholicism Integrates Beauty – Beauty is the language of worship, and Catholicism rightly practiced embraces beauty. Whether it is in art, architecture, language, literature, liturgy or music, Catholicism is captivating for her beauty. To visit a cathedral, and ancient parish church or a quiet monastery–to hear the monks or children sing, to ponder the beauty of paintings, mosaics, sculptures and stained glass is an enriching experience which opens the mind and heart to greater and more mysterious things. How does this help the human soul? It opens us to a wider and more awesome appreciation of life, and this brings quiet and beautiful benefits to our ordinary existence.
We believe the Catholic faith because it’s true, not because it does good stuff for us, but it doesn’t hurt from time to time to be reminded of the practical benefits of following Jesus Christ in the fullness of the faith in the Catholic Church.