(If you’re looking for pictures from my weekend with Jessica to celebrate her wedding, don’t worry, they’re coming!  It turns out being a woman of the 21st century with the digital camera doesn’t automatically mean I take the thing out of my purse and use it!  🙂  So I’m waiting for some pictures from my friends to supplement my scrawny collection of 5 pictures from the whole weekend.)

I’m thinking “unity” thoughts again today.  Awhile back I made a decision that if I’m going to “be” Catholic, I need to understand what the Catholic church teaches and get on board with it.  Or, if it turns out that I discover that the Catholic church is wrong, I need to understand why.  Either way, I need to be able to verbally defend my position, so to speak.

(In this post, I’m going to use the terms “Catholics” and “Protestants,” even though I don’t think they sound like what I mean.  Labels like that sound judgemental, and I hope you understand I’m not making judgements, just observations.  I’m using label-like terms for ease of reading, because saying “people who participate in a Catholic church,” etc., would be distracting to the reader.)

I’ve found testimonies of Protestants who converted to Catholicism.  I’ve found testimonies of Catholics who convert to a Protestant church.  The thing is, both perspectives make very good points!  The idea that the Catholic church would claim itself to be above God is repulsive.  But the idea that Protestants are missing out on key elements of Biblical worship is sad, as well.  And there are hundreds more arguments from both sides!

I find it very sad that there are sides at all.  I think God wants a church that is one, the one Body of Christ.  I don’t know what He thinks about all the specifics that different denominations disagree on, and I don’t think I’m going to know until I’m asking Him in person in heaven.  I will tell you that despite all my research, the most important thing remains the most important thing.  I am to accept Jesus’ gift of his death on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.  And I am to follow him, by pursuing a personal relationship with him, and by treating others the way he wants me to.  Everything else is just discrepancies in how people do those things.

One thing I find very discouraging…and I may have talked about this before…is that I seem to meet all kinds of Catholics who have not accepted Jesus’ gift of forgiveness, and who do not pursue a relationship with him.  They seem to be “culturally Catholic,” meaning they follow traditions and rituals, but not God.  So whether or not I find myself agreeing with Catholicism as a set of beliefs, I find myself in conflict with my fellow Catholics.  I find myself defending Catholicism to those who are not Catholic, and defending Christianity to those who are Catholic.  (Not all who are Catholic, I must clarify.  I have met some very godly men and women who participate in a Catholic church, and I am so grateful for their example.  If it weren’t for them, I know for sure this wouldn’t be a conflict within me, I would be firmly on the Protestant side of the fence.)

I have asked this question of Catholic friends in my Bible study: If God led you to leave the Catholic church, would you go?  I was floored when I found myself arguing with some of them!  I wasn’t proposing that it’s probably what God would do, or anything like that.  My question was simply, if God asked you to do something so dramatic and life-changing, and you were certain it was God who was asking, would you say yes?  It started a deep and meaningful discussion, which was my hope.  Toward the end of the discussion, I wrapped it up with my simple statement:  “I follow Jesus, not the Catholic church.  I am a Christian, a follower of Christ.  I go where he tells me to go.  End of story.”  I was profoundly disappointed and discouraged that my statement was so shockingly received.

Your church community is supposed to be a safe place, a place where you can be confident that everyone shares your perspective in this one issue, the role of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our lives.  I don’t know if other Christian churches are like this, but I’m saddened to discover that within a group of people who are supposed to have fellowship and community, there is such division.

Perhaps the Catholic church is Christ’s true vision for his followers.  I don’t know yet.  I’m starting to doubt if I will ever know.  But if we as Catholics are really Christian, if we are really followers of Christ, then we should be willing to follow him anywhere.  And if the Catholic church can baptize infants into the community of followers of Christ…  I don’t know, I’m starting to doubt (again) that a church community can force faith into a soul the way that doctors can inject antibiotics by IV.  Just because I’m not in a church receiving Communion doesn’t mean God isn’t in me today.  Just because I do the physical act of taking Communion doesn’t mean I’m asking God to be present inside me.  On the other hand, if I do take Communion with a true and prayerful desire for Jesus’ presence, I will receive it.  But if I say a prayer in the morning asking for Jesus’ presence, I will also receive it.  I think faith is not about following a prescribed set of rules and traditions (Catholic or otherwise).  I think faith is about pursuing the Lord, and answering when he pursues us.  It’s about a real and true following of Jesus Christ with our lives.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Becky
    Apr 08, 2009 @ 14:18:13

    Regarding your question in Bible Study, I’m sure you might get the same or a similar reaction no matter where you were posing it. Switch out Catholic Church and pretend you were already not Catholic and asking it in a different group with a different denomination.

    A very wise priest told me, “The more you learn to let go of your problems and conflicts in life, the deeper in love you fall with God, and the better influence he has on your life.”

    I truly believe this, and while I get stressed, worried, and even have questions of Faith of my own, I try to not think about them, and instead Focus that worry on prayer, praise, and worship.


  2. Becky
    Apr 08, 2009 @ 14:19:13

    Also, by “better infuence,” Fr. means more significant and obvious.


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