So I got to thinking the other day what basic human needs does the Catholic Church address that perhaps a Protestant church might not? What holes does it fill?
-The need for family: The "Holy Family" (Mary, God & Jesus are our mother, Father & Brother). "Extended" family in the faith is comprised of a great cloud of witnesses- church fathers & saints as brothers & sisters, etc., even the prophets & those justified by faith in the O.T. There is comfort in knowing there are a billion (+/-) Catholics in the world.
-The need to feel needed: Via offering prayers for the dead, indulgences, intercession, novenas, tithes, alms, works of service, etc.
-The need to be (and feel) forgiven: Addressed in the sacrament of reconciliation.
-The need to be accepted: Catechism, communion, etc.
The Protestant church can offer a sense of family too, but it's scope & range seem much smaller, incomplete. The dead are dead. All we have are their echoes in the form of letters or story. We also have the fresh new voices of the living... which usually turn out to be the most shiny, prominent people of the flock. We have Father God & perhaps even "Brother" Jesus & a friend in the Holy Spirit, but sadly, we are motherless. Community seems to be determined by the movers & shakers & dividing lines are drawn among the faithful. Each church is it's own entity & everyone inside is just as different. This structure seems to lack the sense of stability put forth by the Catholic church.
The need to feel needed can be addressed by the Protestant church as well... afterall, there's always new programs to run, positions to be filled & money needed to make it all happen.
The need to be & feel forgiven on the other hand, is more of a faith thing- one can confess to a pastor or brother, but its really not desirable or necessary. You're "covered in the Blood". God knows your heart.
And finally, the need to be accepted is again addressed by what you can do within the congregation. There are no "Rites of Initiation" here. Do you confess with your mouth, believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord? Great! Welcome to the fold. What gifts do you have & how can the church benefit from them? This sounds innocent enough, even scriptural, but often times this seems to perpetuate burnout & bitterness due to lack of preparation, counsel & ongoing support. Chances are you will be invisible if you offer nothing & used up if you offer anything.