Sunday, October 21, 2012

Becoming Catholic, Becoming Christian

Technically, I've been a Christian for 30 years now, according to my Evangelical Protestant roots. I was received into the Catholic Church this year on April 7th, so I'm now a Catholic on top of being a Christian... Wait... how can this be? To some of my own family members, this sounds like heresy. I am either Catholic or Christian. I can't possibly be both. Or can I? Aren't Catholicism & Christianity two distinct movements that should be separated, or are they in fact, one in the same? How can I become more "Christian" by becoming more Catholic?!

If I were to say something like "Protestantism didn't really change me", the onus would be on me. I probably didn't work hard enough to pray or read my Bible or evangelize. It certainly wouldn't be Protestantism's fault, because so many other Protestants experience powerfully changed lives... why not me?! And if Protestantism didn't make me a better Christian, certainly Catholicism is akin to driving the wrong way on a one way street. But honestly, I always wondered what the "Good News" was- what exactly was I supposed to be sharing? I was always so miserable. The Gospel didn't seem like anything profound to me & I couldn't figure out how to "know" Jesus from the Five Solas. I was literally believing on sheer faith that I was really saved... really forgiven... but I don't think I could never bring myself to actually believe it. "Jesus loves you" was kind of just a catch phrase- more of a profound, uncertain hope I held in my heart than something I was able to grasp... until I became a Catholic.

How did becoming a Catholic reveal God's love to me?
As a Protestant, I was told we are sinners & when we repent, we are instantly forgiven, without consequence. Since no one has to know what we're repenting of, we can do it in secret, where there's no guilt, no shame, no trace left behind (& therefore, no punishment necessary). If I were a parent who attempted to raise my child this way, its a fair bet he or she would have some issues later on in life. Why? because I did not teach the child to a) respect authority, b) that there are consequences for mistakes, c) that mistakes need to be amended if possible & d) that something constructive can always come from the experience. Protestant belief did not teach me these things, but Catholicism did...

As a Protestant, I was taught to pity the Catholics because they were deceived, living by works & law & constantly burdened by guilt... As a Catholic, I now understand that the liturgy, sacraments & disciplines of the Church aren't in place to oppress people & bind them to some archaic standard. These things are meant to teach us, correct us, & guide us in the way we should go. It does that through scripture & tradition both, much like a parent does when  raising a child. Think about it- the parent brings their own history alongside a kind of universal morality in order to groom their offspring for life... But if one or the other are lacking, look out! In my limited experience, I believe becoming a Catholic somehow brings balance to my faith, enabling me to "become"  more  Christian in practice, heart, mind & soul, than ever before.

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