There has been so much on my mind lately... stuff I would love to fling out onto this blog, like a pulpit for my outrage on various issues. But alas, I have decided to share some positive words instead. Positive words that is, about my Catholic brothers and sisters.
I was raised Catholic. I made my First Holy Communion and participated in the Eucharist. Every Sunday my grandfather and I sat at the back of the church playing 25 games of tic tac toe on the bulletin (insert grandma's disapproving looks here). To be honest I was super bored. It's only recently I have begun to understand the significance of these early spiritually formative years. There was so much I didn't understand. There was so much that went over my head. But I learned that God was present and that Jesus was amazing... the ground of my heart was prepared for my future salvation.
People dump truck loads of criticism on this Church. I have hurled my own judgement on the institution in years past. And yes, some of it is deserved. I have no intention of puffing up the Catholic Church as if it were a poor misunderstood martyr, the victim of bad press. Yet, in the big picture Catholics have contributed a rich quality of Saints to this world. Two of whom God used to help inspire me to keep enduring with Him in the midst of extremely difficult times. Mother Teresa and Saint John of the Cross are individuals whose marks on the world will surely live on, comforting and inspiring others for decades to come. There are also devoted Catholics continuing in the foot steps of these spiritual giants that have impacted me.
In college I spent a lot of time with Benedictine Monks. They graciously allowed me to sit with them during lunches that were eaten silently. From the front a monk would read an excerpt from a book. I found one of these excerpts especially interesting. If my memory serves me correctly the reading was a critique of protestantism. I must say it was a fair and gracious critique and deeply challenged my perception of the protestant reformation. The basic idea framed the pre-reformational church as a group of individuals in a sense "married". The reading portrayed protestants as the discontent spouse who refused to "work it out" and instead chose divorce. The article went on to propose that this may be why there are so many divisions and factions in the protestant church to this day. Perhaps the mentality is, if you don't like your church then leave and make your own or try on another. The challenge of the article was clearly pressing on a weak spot in protestantism, an inability to suffer through disagreements with community in tact.
Before my protestant friends get too frustrated with me, let me explain further. I'm not suggesting that Luther was wrong to launch a reformation. I think he was right to do so in light of the corruption that soaked the church during that time in history. In an ideal world the pope would have seen Luther as a prophet calling his church to repent, but that's all said and done now.
My real message here is that we protestants have missed out on some beautiful teaching, examples, mentorship and fellowship with our Catholic brothers and sisters because of the anti-catholic propaganda we read. I challenge you to ask a priest if he worships Mary and prays to idols. I challenge you to do a google search of convents in your area and ask a nun why she confesses to a priest. I have been blessed to have opportunities like these and I have gotten some very reassuring answers. Part of the problem is that we read biased regurgitated materials rather than discussing differences and misunderstandings in person with devoted catholics, or least researching the topic for ourselves from the original sources.
Granted, there are some very legitimate differences between the two sects but none that I believe should keep us far removed from one another. As protestants we are missing out on thousands of years of wisdom and wise counsel from a whole section of the body of Christ because we think we know what they believe. A whole new world of understanding was opened to me in an extremely vulnerable time of my faith because I softened my heart to Catholic authors such as Henri Nouwen. My hope is that this post will encourage those who feel stale in their faith to dare to look at Jesus afresh. Another perspective may open up a whole new world of spiritual growth.