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Instant faith, instant coffee: Just imitations

Last Friday I was trudging from a 7:30 a.m. meeting to a 9:15 a.m. meeting, eyelids propped open by sheer willpower, brain in a fog that prevented me from remembering my name.

The cup of coffee I had poured in my environmentally-friendly-travel-ceramic-mug had been drained and I needed reinforcement. I stumbled into my friendly local Starbucks for a fix and was greeted by one of the familiar bright-eyed baristas at the door.

Instead of offering me a cup of Anniversary Blend she asked, timidly, “Uh, hi Alison. Would you like to try some Via …?” her voice trailed off, already anticipating my reaction.

For the uninitiated, Starbucks Via is their brand of instant coffee. For the past year the company has been pushing instant coffee on all the customers who walk through their door. I refuse to drink it, on principle.

Instant coffee might be quick and easy, but the results are a hollow imitation of the real thing.

Almost every morning I grind my own beans for a genuine coffee experience. It’s a little bit of effort but it sustains me for the rest of the day. When it comes to coffee, easier does not mean better, and I explained this to my barista, who is a good listener.

Similar to Starbucks, many search for an instant faith experience. I often hear people lament that the Catholic faith is challenging. We look at our non-denominational friends whose Sunday mornings consist of Bible readings and praise and worship, both good things, and wonder if it would be easier to belong to a church that didn’t expect us to attend Mass every Sunday, confess our sins, fast, and get involved in our sexual morality — to name a few common complaints.

The mornings when I’ve settled for instant coffee leave me ill-prepared to take on the day. What seemed like an easy option didn’t give me what I needed for the challenges that followed. The practice of Catholicism is no cake walk, but the very things that can challenge us — a sacramental life, fasting, reconciliation — are what strengthen us to resist sin, live a virtuous life and long for heaven.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, explained that Christ “gave as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” Just like instant coffee can look like the real deal but leave us unfulfilled, many ecclesial communities have some of the characteristics of the church, but only the Catholic Church was established by Christ. It gives us His body, blood, soul and divinity in the holy Eucharist.

In the words of St. Augustine, from The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the church is like a ship which “in the full sail of the Lord’s cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world” (#845).

The Catholic Church gives us all we need for our journey on Earth, it is our surest path to heaven.

Alison Griswold is the youth director at St. Francis by the Sea Church on Hilton Head Island, and writes “Team Catholic” for The Miscellany.

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