- 8 years ago
- Wedding: October 2010
Long story short, one of my bridesmaids and close friends, is Protestant. She always came to mass with a bunch of us, and bible studies, etc… but, was protestant. She attended Oral Roberts University, which is a pretty hardcore protestant univ.
Well, SURPRISE! Just got an email that she’s been secretly attending RCIA and is getting confirmed and receiving her first communion SATURDAY NIGHT at the Easter Vigil! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I am beyond stoked! She comes from a background of very strong protestant leaders, people who work closely with Pat Robertson and CBN… and I know this has been extremely trying on her. I am THRILLED that she will be receiving the Eucharist at my side during our wedding!
(disclaimer) I have nothing against Protestants and understand the hesitancy many have against the Catholic Church in other Christian denominations. I did however, pretty much cry reading her letter, and almost feel ashamed at how much I take my faith for granted.
This is long, but I encourage you to read her conversion story, which was mainly written to explain the process to her family and friends. (names changed)
“It wasn’t until I moved here almost four years ago that I met Catholics whose sincere relationships with God, love for Jesus Christ, and hunger for His Truth and the Holy Spirit were unmistakable. …It was also not until then that I became a “Protestant.” I had always simply been a “Christian,”…like all the other Christians I knew. Largely due to my own pride, I stubbornly fought Catholicism and the teachings I didn’t understand or had seen over-emphasized. It wasn’t until after a good friend of mine, Mike, and I took a step back from considering a serious dating relationship that I realized I had a few questions about the Catholic faith that I had previously so adamantly fought him on. In researching ways to “prove him wrong,” I had come across many writings of the early church fathers describing communion as more than symbolic…as very really, truly Christ’s body and blood.
Ignatius, who studied directly under the Apostle John, wrote, “…They [the heretics] even absent themselves from the Eucharist and the public prayers (c.f. Acts 2:42) because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ.”
There are many other early writings from church fathers affirming this, and I actually could not find any that contradicted this or even slightly emphasized a symbolic nature of communion. I came across one from St. Cyril of Jerusalem which actually described the very opposite… “His body is given to us under the symbol of bread, and his blood is given to us under the symbol of wine, in order to make us by receiving them one body and blood with him.”
I heard a Protestant pastor say that Catholics believe that Christ is “re-sacrificed,” which is not Biblical (Hebrews 7:27 – true), but have researched and have found that they actually believe it is made “re-present” to us, because God is not limited by time or space. Although interpretation of Scripture can affect any verse, the Bible also seems to be supportive of this in John 6 and in other passages describing communion. Being asked by Christ in the Biblical accounts of the Last Supper to “do this in remembrance of” Him does not necessarily mean that it is solely symbolic. I Corinthians 11:27-29 is clear on the seriousness with which we should approach communion: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself” (italics mine).
It sounds crazy to think that His presence is there, although even when I first heard the doctrine of transubstantiation in New Testament class my freshman year at Oral Roberts University, I thought, well, if God wanted to do it, He certainly could. In my research, I realized that many Anglican and Episcopal churches believe this, too (and Lutherans and others to a lesser degree). But I also saw some of them divided on this subject, as well as many others.
I came to a place where I knew “too much to go back,” so to speak, but still disagreed with the Catholic beliefs as I understood them. I read up on the Protestant Reformation and the beliefs that were instilled there (and completely believe that reform was needed in the then corrupt and selfish politics of the church). I “knew” that Catholics emphasize works too much, but also saw the parallel between faith (Heb. 10:38, Eph. 2:8-9, etc) and works (James 2:24, Matthew 16:27, etc) in Scripture and the need for a balanced relationship between the two (James 2:20-22; Galatians 5:6). I looked more into the Catholic teaching of faith and works and discovered that, although incorrectly emphasized and practiced by the church at times over the centuries, the actual Catholic teaching is the same as I had believed to be true. I discovered that Lutherans and Catholics had come to an official agreement about ten years ago on the basic tenants of justification in their Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. Sola Fide was a major tenant of the Reformation, and I cannot find Biblical basis for it when I look at Scripture as a whole. From the research I have done into Catholic teaching, I have found that they do believe that salvation is available to each of us solely by God’s grace. Faith itself is an action, and we are called to live out our faith, made possible by Christ’s death and resurrection and through God’s grace in our daily walks. The aspects of God’s grace has been incorrectly under-emphasized by many in the Catholic Church during certain periods in history and even probably by some families today.
Sola Scriptura is another major part of the Reformation – one which I could not find in the Bible (although the infallibility of the Bible IS proclaimed) or in any early church writings. I am not negating Scripture by any means and truly believe that nothing should ever contradict it. Although the Bible does warn multiple times about corrupt or human tradition (Matt. 15:9, Col. 2:8-9, etc), Paul also advises Timothy, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2:15). There are other verses in the Bible that support godly tradition, such as I Cor. 11:2, I Thess. 2:13, 2 Thess. 3:6 and John 16:12.
I was comforted to see how Protestant churches typically seemed to take the “good” aspects of Christianity and have gotten rid those that seemed to me to be “weird”…but also noticed how divided Protestant churches are across the board both within and apart from each denomination (and read how Martin Luther and some other reformers had attested to those “Catholic” things post-Reformation, as well).
The question of the origins of the church and authority of the Pope are probably the biggest issues that Protestant denominations disagree on together on across the board. I have personally never had a problem with authority in general and believe that hierarchy is important in any organization and in the church (with God being the head). I have, however, been very turned off by infallibility in general…(mainly due to things that well-meaning Christians have told me with authority like it was infallibly from God. I know the motivation and heart has always been pure, but it has been very hard for me). What I didn’t understand about Catholic teaching is that the office of Pope is believed to be infallible only with certain criteria on matters of faith and morals (each has certainly been a sinning human being just like all of us) and when speaking in the official capacity (not in everything that he says or does), which has only happened a few times over the past 2,000 years (although it was not officially put into specific wording until Vatican I, it seems to be a generally accepted belief throughout history). Even during the times of the most corrupt Popes, no infallible statements were made, although their poor leadership unfortunately affected the implementation of teaching to some degree and possibly attributed to unrest that lead to the Reformation.
This is very long and extensive…I am not attempting to argue or dispute apologetics (and have never been very good at it, quite honestly J), but I want to give you some background into where I am coming from and all that I have put into this. I have been reading a lot, praying a lot, and discerning a lot.
Back in July or so, I came to a realization that if I, as a very intense people-pleaser, never had to tell anybody about this, it is something I believed God was calling me to pursue, while making sure that He remains the ultimate authority in my life. I have been discretely attending R.C.I.A. on Wednesday evenings at ________ since September. (For those of you who are part of Bible study at _______, I do apologize for any deception to those of you who asked about my attendance; I did my best to be vague and say things that were true but not directly related to my absence…“Uh, work has been really busy.”). 😉
I came to place personally where I realized that I couldn’t simply read the Bible and church history for the rest of my life without acting on anything. I was talking to a very close evangelical friend about the possibility of Christ in the Eucharist and how I really wanted to read enough to know for sure whether or not it was true. She wisely responded with something along the lines of, “I don’t think that is something that you can ever simply read enough to know ‘for sure.’” I realized at that moment that I neglected to make significant room for one of the things most critical to God having full reign in my heart and life: faith. To have faith and trust fully in His goodness, His ability to do the impossible, His love to catch me if I fall or if I need to be re-directed, His Spirit to guide me, and His courage and boldness to be with me.
I have felt that God has been personally directing me towards pursuing the Catholic Church, and I have a peace about it…despite my anxiety in how it will be hard to talk to many others about. Every time these past few months that I would have a concern come up (such as being afraid that I would give up my charismatic heritage), I felt like God took care of it, almost within 24 hours (such as being invited to be a potential guest speaker at a Catholic charismatic ladies prayer breakfast to share about that very heritage…without even remembering at first that I had mentioned it to them). I have been very intentional in prayer and surrender to make sure that this has nothing to do with Ben or any other friends. At various times throughout this journey, I have prayed about moving and even looked at jobs in other states, but I recognized that, although moving might put if off for a bit, it would still something I would always wonder about and/or come back to.
Talking to my family about this has been the most difficult thing I have ever done. Despite my own weaknesses, fears and self-doubt, I look back on our conversations and truly believe that God’s grace and strength was with me (even though the conversations didn’t always exactly turn out the way I had hoped). After crying for awhile after one particularly difficult phone conversation, I had a breakthrough in my relationship with God. You see, all my life I had always been dismayed and almost terrified at the thought of eternity with Him. It sounds horrible, but it is true. When I would think about it for more than a few seconds, I would get this sinking feeling in my stomach, possibly because of a combination of lack of understanding and trust and/or a desire for control. So, I simply wouldn’t think about it much at all and never really talked to anyone about these fears. After that night, for the first time in my life, I actually had a peace about and looked forward to an eternity of intimacy with God. It is like, for the first time, I understood what Paul meant when he said “to live is Christ and to die is gain” and “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
Growing up, I used to love reading the “Jesus Freaks” books and other accounts of those who fully gave their life to Christ through physical martyrdom. I was (and still am) in awe of their courage…but I had always been afraid that, when it came down to it, I could never do anything like that. This has surprisingly turned out to be my own personal, non-physical martyrdom – a sacrifice of myself, my will…and, potentially, people I deeply care about that may not understand this. I am fully reliant on and so grateful for God’s grace through this and see how this whole journey is truly an opportunity from God for me to really surrender to Him.
Throughout this process, I have been surrendering to the Lord daily and praying against spiritual warfare and that I would not be deceived. Despite my own personal fears, I have had a peace about each step I have felt the Lord lead me towards in regard to this, similar to what I experienced in deciding to go to ORU, the level to which I haven’t experienced since then. I know that He can and will re-direct me if necessary, but I am also choosing to take this step of faith towards what I believe God is calling me to. I truly want to be obedient to do whatever God desires me to do, to be whatever He wants me to be; to love Him more than I love anyone else, especially myself. In doing this, I not simply choosing to love Him, but I am responding to His love. I greatly appreciate your prayers.
It is amazing how God uses difficult things in our lives to see Him more clearly, both directly and also through those in our lives – this whole process has undeniably shown me how valuable certain people are in my life. I look back on our friendship and realize how blessed I am to have you in my life. Thank you for your friendship and undeniable impact on my life. I certainly greatly appreciate your prayers, as I continue to do my absolute best to die to myself (so hard!) and surrender all of who I am and will be to my Creator and Father, Savior and Lover, and Guider and Comforter.”
Wow! I posted this mainly as a great reminder to all of us of the beauty of the Holy Week and Easter season. The gift Jesus gave us, At the Last Supper as we remember today, Holy Thursday… His Dying on the cross, Good Friday… and the Eternal Life which he wins for us on Easter… WOW. I regret that I take the Sacraments and church for granted so many times. To see the anticipation and beauty through someone for which it is so new and personal can be a real eye opener.
I also wanted to post this as a wittness to those who are marrying a Catholic and family may not like it, those who are about to get welcomed into the church Saturday, or those contemplating, RCIA.
May we all be open and so willing to die to ourselves and follow Christ’s call.