I need to interrupt my series on Sermon on The Mount. It seems appropriate to me to reflect this Easter on what my life is like since the big change. Not a sex change operation. Not a marriage situation. A lot less of a change than that but some would say more.
For those of you who are new to my blog, I became a Catholic at Easter Vigil 2013 in Wickenburg, Arizona. This was after considering myself a lifer Protestant for thirty years. I had been in several denominations and one underground church. My direct formation had included periods of discipleship from godly men and a semi-formal theological institution at a good church that I went to for several years at Living Hope Fellowship in Aloha, Oregon. For a few years I was educated in theology, biblical hermeneutics and church history. With the richness of those experiences, one would think that would stay a Protestant.
But being a Protestant was not enough. After my wife and I left a great church in Portland when we moved to the suburbs, something seemed to be missing. I had these occasional “bread crumbs” that I was not getting resolved. Where is there a solid, unifying stance on social issues in Christianity? Why did communion always seem to have something missing? Why is there so much division? And one question that I always had was: How can Christianity reclaim the lost,mysterious truths of the 1st century?
When we had moved to Arizona for a few months, I had some inexplicable obsession on the Lord’s Prayer. It was so much in my head that it felt like a touch of insanity. All I could pray was something like, “God, get this out of my head or show me your kingdom!”
One fateful night I stumbled on a show while channel surfing called, “Genesis to Jesus”. It was a bible study led by Dr. Scott Hahn that traced patterns through the bible that anticipate both the coming of Jesus as Messiah and also The Catholic Church with it’s expression of grace and truth in the sacraments. I went to many resources on the internet soon including from Protestant websites that presupposed that Catholics do not live a Christian life. I prayed for God’s wisdom and really tried to “play both sides of the chess board”. God won out and His leading has been the Catholic Church. I was received in 2013 and my wife was received in 2014.
So what has changed concretely in how I live my life?
In the words of Catholic concert from Protestantism, “I get to know my sins are forgiven”. This is not to say that I could not ask God for forgiveness before. But in the sacrament of reconciliation unveiled in Sacred Scripture (Matthew 9:28, John 20:21-23, James 5:14-15) and Sacred Tradition there is a more holistic experience of God’s forgiveness. Let me be clear on one point: I do not confess my sins to a priest instead of God. I confess to God, occasionally, through a priest because when I sin it is against God and the Body. God is not lessened but magnified.
That brings me to another aspect: Mary. She said “my soul magnifies the Lord”. When i reflect on Mary and ask for her intercession as the Queen of Heaven (Revelation 12:1-6) my appreciation of Jesus in the Incarnation and Atonement is only more well rounded which includes that the Kingdom is not “an old boys club”. Starting with Mary, and not only because of her, I would say that the Catholic Church is the most feminist organization in the world. And I say that with complete confidence as a masters level social worker.
And as a social worker I can turn to social issues. There is not enough space in one blog to address this property. Suffice it to say that I appreciated Humanae Vitae and the parts of Theology of The Body that I have read. The phrases that stand out in my years as a Catholic are the life and dignity of the human person and “We are called to love people and use things, not love things and use people”. This ethic full explained has helped me to be more consistently pro-life, pro-traditional marriage and even to be less of a conservative Republican regarding immigration.
Speaking of humanity, there is two more portions of humanity that have been effected by my wife and I coming into the Catholic Church: Josiah and our unborn daughter yet to be named. We were content with the game plan of having our two kids together my previous three. But looking into the limitations couples put on the blessing of children stirred something in my wife first when she was not yet joining me in discerning the Catholic Church. As of August I will hold in my arms by seventh child.
So, yes, I am glad to be Catholic. The scary part in my research process was that I was not entirely sure what I was losing and what I was gaining. I can say that I am still an evangelical and charismatic and definitely “a Bible Christian” (The Catholic Church ratified the canon of Sacred Scripture). What I gained was the Church founded by Jesus, maintained from error on faith and morals and as universal as John 3:16’s words imply. I am just glad to have hopped aboard and off the “protest”.