Why is the Catholic Church so complicated?

Does the Catholic Faith ever feel complicated to you? For some people, especially those who are non-Catholic Christians, everything that the Church teaches can seem like a lot to take in. Annie and Patrick Madrid spoke about this recently on air.

Annie from Riverside, California, who describes herself as a follower of Christ from the Protestant tradition, said: “My experience of your faith feels extremely complicated. And I say that because as I look at the life of Christ as a carpenter starting out on this earth, he was all into simple and ‘follow me’, and there just seems to be so many traditions in the Church that make it far from simple. … I believe that the Christian life is yielding to the power of the Holy Spirit to walk with the Lord in ways that please him because apart from him we can do nothing. But in Catholicism, it seems like we have a lot to do. And I just get tired thinking about it and feel like it’s a part-time job to be a Catholic.”

“As somebody who’s not a Catholic, I can understand why you’d feel that way. From one perspective it could look very strange to you. I guess I would start by saying, Annie, that I experience it as a Catholic the way that I experience being in a family … there are all kinds of rules, chances are, in your home. So if you’re a mom and your kids are young, you say: you’ve got to do this chore, you’ve got to do that chore, we’re going to have dinner at a certain time, everyone has to be here for dinner, you can’t go have dinner in your room,” explained Patrick Madrid. These rules, he continued, bring order, harmony, efficiency, and help to enhance the family.

“My experience of the Catholic faith has always been like that, so I don’t experience the Mass as a burden. For me, and I can only speak for myself here, my Catholic faith is not a part-time job, it’s not even a full-time job. It’s my identity, it’s who I am, and all of it is ordered toward glorifying God and serving Jesus. And so when I see Jesus, for example, in Matthew chapter 28—the Great Commission just before he ascends into heaven—he gives his apostles the final few instructions. I’m sure you’re familiar with this passage; he says verse 19, ‘Go into the whole world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,’” said Madrid.

“That last verse is very instructive, because Jesus there is reminding his disciples, I didn’t just say follow me, I have a whole bunch of teachings. There are many things that Jesus taught on a variety of issues. And so he says to his apostles, ‘Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.’ And one of the things that he commanded is that the apostles go out and preach and teach in his name and with his authority do things like bind and loose, you see that in Matthew 16:18 and Matthew 18:18. You see Jesus telling the apostles in John chapter 20, ‘He whose sins you forgive are forgiven, he whose sins you hold bound are held bound.’ You see in the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, ‘Do this in memory of me.’ So they are commanded to do what Jesus did at the Last Supper in remembrance of him, but to do it and to continuously do it.

“I could offer you many other Bible passages that demonstrate that rather than simple reducing what it means to be a follow of Jesus to saying, I’m a follower of Jesus and I read the Bible, there’s quite a bit more to it and Jesus himself said this and he established the Church for our benefit so that … it’s not for the sake of the rules, but for the happiness of the family. So the sacraments, the Holy Bible, Apostolic tradition, all of these things are given by Jesus. … That’s how Jesus did it, so me personally as a follower of Jesus and as a student of the Bible, I want to come to Jesus on his terms, I don’t want him to come to me on my terms.”

To hear more of this conversation, listen below:

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.