Becoming Catholic

September 4, 2009

I registered for RCIA last night. It was only an informal setup to meet the people running the classes and to fill out forms, give them your baptism certificate, find out how the program works, when classes start (in two weeks), etc. I talked to the lady who does the organization part of RCIA for a while. She asked all about my family and why I was there, initially very carefully and diplomatically, probably in case I was a skittish Protestant. So I ended up going through the whole story of how Chris and I met, and how he was able to convert after moving to America, how I became convinced of the truth of the Catholic Faith, etc. She was very excited by it, and said this story topped any she’s heard. At one point she used the phrase “become one of us” and I almost laughed. At least I know there is a Church-faithful Catholic involved in RCIA at our parish. It’s a fairly liberal parish, in a rather liberal city, so I’m wondering how this is all going to go.

I’m looking forward to joining the Church. I’m most looking forward to my first communion, which is one of the things that has moved me to go ahead rather than give this any more time to percolate. I really want the life that Christ has promised in his Body and Blood. I’m nervous though, and feel a little like I’m rolling down a steep incline uncontrollably toward my inevitable future. I dread telling my parents, on the level of when I told them I was pregnant before we were married, although I’m sure I’m working myself up over nothing and will get little overt response. I’ll probably get more sarcastic below the belt remarks like when I told my parents, “Hey, I wanted to ask you something.” and my dad answered, “No, we’re not going to become Catholic.” It’s not like they don’t expect it. I’m sure they’ll just take every opportunity to remind me of the “truth” and as my dad says “go back to the basics” that we agree on. He almost chants “saved by faith through grace” sometimes. I want to say “Yes, dad, but what exactly do you think that means?”… “saved by surrender to Christ through the gratuitous gift of God enabling us to do His will.” I’m not sure he’d agree with that understanding, but what fault can he find with it?

As a side note, I’m considering getting a Masters in Theology from the Augustine Institute, part time and long distance. I read so much already, it’d be nice to have some instruction and direction. Yet, I’m not sure that a physics/math B.S. is a sufficient preparation for it. And I really don’t know what I’d do for a recommendation letter. My astronomy professor I interned for and keep in touch with would write a letter, but has no idea what they’re looking for. Neither do I, really. Thoughts?


Fighting Convert Zeal

July 13, 2009

My highly controversial recent post, Another Note on Catholic Guilt, received a hit from the google search term “why do catholic converts suck” because there was a fortuitous meeting of the words “catholic” “convert” and “suck” in the post. That, and the rather disdainful accusation thrown my way in the comments that zealous converts do more to hurt the Catholic Church than any other thing, got me thinking. Not that I believe a convert does more to hurt the Faith than all the scandals and abuses in it, not at all. But there’s obviously some negative feelings toward converts out there, and I recognize a little bit of just cause behind the resentfulness. Maybe sometimes our pride does get in the way, and we hurt others.

I’ve always had a problem being judgmental. I, like so many others in this world, think I know exactly what everyone else’s problem is. Most of the time, I open my big trap and let people know exactly what I think. I’m so very “helpful” that way. Of course, most of the time people don’t listen and they just get mad, so my well meaning words are more harmful than helpful. I’ve had quite a lot of experience in this with my family. They’ve let me know that although I’m a pretty “good” person in general, my worst trait is that I judge people. Try not to think that I’m running around thinking I’m better than everyone, or that I think less of them if they do show themselves to be sinful and flawed. That’s really not the case. I just think I’m Miss Fix It. I’ve got it all figured out, so I can help you figure it out too, and you’ll be a happier person for it, and you’ll thank me so much in the end… You see how it goes.

Transfer this attitude to a new and zealous convert like me, and you get an irritating mix of “I know what you need” with “I just figured this out and it applies to everything.” Please understand, I mean no harm, in fact I mean to help. The problem is, I think way too highly of my analytical skills and am spending my time judging others rather than seeing to my own behavior. I need to act out of kindness more than judgment. And here’s the biggest realization: I should shut up about my judgments, because never in my life has anyone ever listened constructively. Even if I happen to be right about whatever judgment I have made, I am still sinning by passing judgment, and it will do nobody any good. I have been making an effort to stop for over ten years now, and have especially been trying to keep my mouth shut on my blog, but I fail.

One of the reasons I began my blog in the first place, besides wanting to trace my own conversion journey and get my head straight about it all, was that I felt an overwhelming need to put down on record all these wonderful things I’ve found out that I didn’t know before. I needed to proclaim the truth, because I had never heard it before and needed to hear it. I had to give others a chance to see what I had seen. I had to set the record straight where lies were spread before, and I knew them to be lies. That is a good thing! We are all supposed to spread the gospel and proclaim the truth. This part of a convert’s zeal is commendable, but it heads south quickly for personalities like mine.

Suddenly we doing more than just sharing our recent revelations. We’re not only analyzing other people and how they fit into this new world view, but we’re recognizing where they fall short in it, or operate contrary to it, and we let them know where we think they’ve gone wrong. I think that’s where the real sin is, when I start criticizing and trying to fix others’ behavior. I can come up with all sorts of excuses to do it: It’ll help me understand them better, I’ll be able to deal with them better, maybe I can help them, etc. But in the end, what I do is pass judgment, open my mouth, and tell others what they ought to do instead of just loving them as I have been commanded. Judgment doesn’t come from love, no matter what we tell ourselves.

My problem now is knowing where to draw the line. I need to express these truths that so many people are ignorant of. But is it a sin to call them ignorant in the first place? Is it a sin to say “You should be Catholic”? I don’t think so. But I’m getting really gun-shy, not knowing what to say or when to shut up. Apologetics is a harsh bracket, one I don’t want to jump into. But I’m putting myself out there, saying I have the truth. How do I do that without telling others they don’t have the truth? Is it possible and is it necessary to avoid that? Or should we view these offenses as acceptable casualties, and forge ahead? The Church Fathers were mean and sarcastic with their opponents, and I have to say I think they’re great, but they had much more of a place to pass judgment on heretics and erroneous beliefs. Where’s my place?

Perhaps this is why some people think converts suck. Maybe like most problems, it’s a good thing gone wrong and not knowing how far to go. I would hope people could look at us with a little sympathy and forgiveness, since we are still trying to figure things out and oftentimes our world has been turned upside down in pursuit of the truth. Please, whoever may google this post with less-than-appreciative feelings for converts, please give us a chance, and help us go the right direction without getting frustrated.

Reading Scripture in a New Light

March 24, 2009

Since My Paradigm Shift, the Scriptures speak to me in ways they never did before. It’s almost as if there were cataracts over my eyes and now they’ve been removed. Where passages and parables were cloudy and trite, they now reveal God Himself and His plan for Christ’s Body.

One example of this is the parable of the servants entrusted with the Master’s treasure (Matt 25:14-30). Many times, I’ve heard this parable expounded to exhort good stewardship of the “talents” that God has given us, to be active in God’s work, to be a “good and faithful servant”. While this is one truth we can gain from the story, it now speaks to me of Christ’s Church.

Notice first that the parable is describing the kingdom of heaven. The master leaves and will return, like Christ has left with the promise of returning. His people, His Body, His Church are the treasure of the Master, and they have been entrusted to His stewards, his vicar here on Earth. To me, this speaks particularly of the Pope. History will not allow us to deny the lazy and wicked Popes that have obtained the seat of Peter, like Leo X. This parable reassures me that though they may bury the Master’s treasure and fail to provide an increase, the treasure is not lost.

Most recently, I have been reading John Calvin’s dialogue in the Lausanne Articles. He uses common sense to argue against Christ’s body being spread without limit around the world in the Eucharist. Calvin says, “Thus it does not follow that, if the divinity of Christ is infinite, hence his body must also be so… I ask you if on your conscience you believe that the bodies of the children of God, when glorified, will be in all places without being limited or circumscribed and having none of the properties of their nature. Your judgment must convince you that this is an absurdity which you cannot concede. No more then ought it to be accorded to the body of Christ, which (according to the aposstle) they will resemble.”

Calvin’s objections bring to mind the multiplying of the loaves of bread (Matt 14:13-21). Christ demonstrated before thousands His ability to satisfy without being bound by the restrictions of nature. He prophesied feeding His people with the bread of life, His very Body, without limits. From five loaves, he fed thousands! How much more so would he multiply His Body in the consecrated bread, and more than amply feed everyone who hungers, that they may partake of His divine nature by consuming Him.

I never before saw these things in the Scriptures, and I’m constantly amazed. For me now more than ever, the miracles and words of Christ are purposefully designed to reveal an aspect of God’s plan. They are no longer simple morality tales, teaching us to be good little boys and girls. God Himself is reaching me through the Scriptures, drawing me nearer to Him, deapening my understanding and my relationship with Him.

Responding to the Liturgy in Love and Unity

March 10, 2009

I’m not sure I have the delicacy or balance to be discussing the issue of orthodoxy in the Catholic liturgy. However, I have seen many extreme blog posts crying for orthodoxy, and none giving it balance urging acceptance of flaws in the Church community. I will make my best attempt to give such balance, and I beg from everyone that they not take offense. Any reference that may sound like you is not. I assure everyone that the issues I’m discussing are not just found in one or even a couple places.

There is a general cry among bloggers, especially of recent converts to Catholicism or those contemplating conversion, to have a strictly orthodox mass. There are complaints about semi-heretical music choices and flubbed wording in the liturgy. I have heard complaints about the “Judas shufflers” ducking out after communion, which happens to be my pet peeve. Worse, RCIA poorly catechizes initiates and they’re left with confused and vague notions of the Church. Most seriously, there are complaints about poor handling of the Eucharist. Since Vatican II relaxed many things including the liturgy, some believe those on the ground have taken the freedoms too far. Catholic parishes are accused of trying to be Protestant in their laxness and trendiness. Thankfully, Pope Benedict XVI seems to be fighting against this backlash from Vatican II.

This isn’t the whole story. There are plenty of people who love their bishops and I’m one of them. I love Archbishop Naumann and Bishop Finn, who both have urged the priorities of life and charity in their diocese. During election time, they were hugely vocal about pro-life issues, and even now they fight FOCA and similar legislation with a vengeance. More than ever during these economic hardships, they not only urge parishioners to share with their fellow man and give to the Archbishop’s Call to Share appeal, which supports programs and charities in the area (it has already exceeded its goal of $4 million), but they also urge those in need to come forward and give their brothers an opportunity to share with them. One of our priests gives regular homilies on being a proper Catholic, stressing personal encounter with Christ and sincere and complete observance in every expression of it. There are people doing it right, and people who want to do it right, including those bloggers crying for orthodoxy.

Besides those specific examples, the Church as a whole is getting things right. Running in online apologetic circles, I’m convinced more than ever that the insipid, passive, ignorant stereotype of all Catholics is just a stereotype and there are plenty of examples of those well-versed and passionate in the Faith. Also, the Church still stands against homosexuality, contraception, and abortion where all others have fallen by the wayside. Without a strong root of faith and the blessing of God working through His children, we would never see such positive fruit.

Still, there are those who would separate themselves from the failing liturgies and unorthodox communities. Many travel a long way to find an orthodox mass to attend. But why? Doing that is not addressing the problem. I believe it may even worsen the problem by removing those few who do carefully observe from the community that so desperately needs them. What is the motivation in such a case? I do not pretend to read the hearts of men and women, but if the motivation is selfish, so that said person can distance themselves from the rotten apples and experience the pleasure of orthodoxy, then the motivation is wrong. In all things, we must be motivated by love that is not inward-looking and divisive, but outward-looking and unitive.

Some may protest from their love for God that abuses in the liturgy dishonor Him, and scandalize others, making it difficult to worship Him. Honor and glory given to God is important in itself, but is this the sole purpose of the liturgy? Don’t we all profess the same creed and say the Lord’s prayer, partake of the same divine nature in the Eucharist, to preserve unity of the Faith and of the Body of Christ? Take care with this protest that your motivation is not pure legalism. The liturgy is designed to honor God, but I believe it is designed mostly to unify the Church in the Faith. Legalistic attitudes only destroy the purpose of the liturgy and divide the Body of Christ further.

Yet another reason everyone seems to be so passionate about orthodoxy in the liturgy is because it affects our Faith. This is how we are spiritually fed and how we maintain and pass on the beliefs of our Faith. But we must not make the mistake of thinking messy liturgy causes lazy faith, rather the opposite is true. The poorly catechized and careless individuals are the source of this complaint. We can’t just fix the liturgy when it is merely a symptom. Lack of faith in the people is the real problem, but separating ourselves from them is not the answer. Instead, we must work to strengthen the faith of others by being a good example, giving our fellowship, and volunteering to teach and serve them.

My primary concern is not checking what people are saying or doing, it’s checking the motivation behind their criticism. Our words and actions must be motivated by love, or the most perfect liturgy sounding of the “tongues of men and angels” is worth nothing. For easy reference, I’ve included the entire description of a response born in love below.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)

Maybe we should ask ourselves whether we want orthodox liturgy because it better honors God, or because it better serves a need to feel close to Him. In the latter case, we may be ignoring committed faith which overcomes that empty loss of the presence of God. This kind of faith has become vitally important for me since attending to the needs of my children make it nigh impossible to work up an emotional connect to God, especially during mass. Mother Teresa lived with this kind of emptiness for fifty years. She told Malcolm Muggeridge, who was suffering from the same:

Your longing for God is so deep and yet He keeps Himself away from you. He must be forcing Himself to do so — because he loves you so much — the personal love Christ has for you is infinite — The Small difficulty you have regarding His Church is finite — Overcome the finite with the infinite.

In an article about Come Be My Light, we hear more about abandoning our feelings and working in commitment:

Kolodiejchuk thinks the book may act as an antidote to a cultural problem. “The tendency in our spiritual life but also in our more general attitude toward love is that our feelings are all that is going on,” he says. “And so to us the totality of love is what we feel. But to really love someone requires commitment, fidelity and vulnerability. Mother Teresa wasn’t ‘feeling’ Christ’s love, and she could have shut down. But she was up at 4:30 every morning for Jesus, and still writing to him, ‘Your happiness is all I want.’ That’s a powerful example even if you are not talking in exclusively religious terms.”

I do understand that the liturgy is important, and if we are critical of it out of concern for the corporate Body of Christ and love for God, then there are certain actions available to us. The canon law says it is the duty of the priest to guard against abuses and ensure the nourishment of the faithful through “devout celebration”. It also declares the right of the faithful to take their opinions and needs to the priest, adding that we should act in concern for the common good of the Church and in reverence and obedience to the priest.

Canon 528 §2. He is to work so that the Christian faithful are nourished through the devout celebration of the sacraments and, in a special way, that they frequently approach the sacraments of the Most Holy Eucharist and penance. He is also to endeavor that they are led to practice prayer even as families and take part consciously and actively in the sacred liturgy which, under the authority of the diocesan bishop, the pastor must direct in his own parish and is bound to watch over so that no abuses creep in.

Can. 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.

§2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

Can. 218 Those engaged in the sacred disciplines have a just freedom of inquiry and of expressing their opinion prudently on those matters in which they possess expertise, while observing the submission due to the magisterium of the Church.

Can. 223 §1. In exercising their rights, the Christian faithful, both as individuals and gathered together in associations, must take into account the common good of the Church, the rights of others, and their own duties toward others.

§2. In view of the common good, ecclesiastical authority can direct the exercise of rights which are proper to the Christian faithful.

Throughout, we must be careful of our own behavior. Working for the common good means not only striving for the sanctification of your community through faithful observance, but also avoiding divisive and negative language toward the Church. If our efforts outlined above and our requests directed toward those in authority meet with overruling, we must submit quietly. Love and obedience guide the sound walk of the Catholic faithful. Above all, behave in a manner worthy of the gospel, and, in every thing we do, build up the Body of Christ.

The frustration of living with rejected efforts and careless liturgies may be hard to deal with, but take heart. St. Josemaria Escriva contemplates the dual-natured Body of Christ, that of humanity and that of divinity, in In Love with the Church. Perhaps he can help us see past the despairing treason in the Church, and love her, flaws and all.

In the visible body of the Church, in the behavior of men who make it up here on earth, we find weaknesses, vacillations, and acts of treason. But that is not the whole Church, nor is it to be confused with this unworthy behavior. On the other hand, here and now, there is no shortage of generosity, of heroism, of holy lives that make no noise, that are spent with joy in the service of their brothers in the faith and of all souls.

I would also like you to consider that even if human failings were to outnumber acts of valor, the clear undeniable mystical reality of the Church, though unperceived by the senses, would still remain. The Church would still be the Body of Christ, our Lord himself, the action of the Holy Spirit and the loving presence of the Father.

The Church is, therefore, inseparably human and divine…

It would be a serious mistake to attempt to separate the charismatic Church, supposedly the sole follower of Christ’s spirit, from the juridical or institutional Church, the handiwork of men, subject to historical vicissitudes. There is only one Church…

Faith, I repeat. Let us believe more, asking the Blessed Trinity, whose feast we celebrate today, for greater faith. Anything can happen, except for the thrice holy God to abandon his spouse.

I believe we should approach the Church in the same way we approach marriage. A marriage based on unrealistic expectations is doomed to fail. One in which both partners are grounded in reality, aware of their duties and committed to them, and willing to overlook a good deal of imperfection is bound to be happy and fulfilling. Like in a marriage, we need things from the Church, but she needs us as well. Although we go to her so that our needs can be met, our duty is to perform our specific function with perfection. We must know our place and perfectly fulfill our call, trusting that Christ will fulfill his promise and meet our needs in return.

Despite the loss of orthodox liturgy, we are still needed to serve the broken Church in the hope of healing her. Your broken and sinful communities need you. If you know more about the faith than the RCIA instructor, get certified as a catechist, and volunteer to teach. Befriend your fellow Catholics, join the community, be a good example of how a devout Catholic should behave at mass. Request traditional songs of your choral director. I requested Latin hymns to the chagrin of our old choral director, but she complied. You may be surprised how God can use your effort.

I urge everyone, do not abandon your communities, do not rob them of your fellowship — you are needed right where you are! Don’t separate yourselves from them because they are not good enough. None of us are. Don’t grumble, and do not speak out of turn and correct those in authority over you unless it’s serious enough that the mass may not be valid. Be certain that you strive for personal perfection in the body of Christ because of a sincere and holy love for Christ and his Spouse, and not out of an obtuse legalism. When our motivation is always, first and foremost, love for God, and, secondly, love for our neighbor, then we will not go wrong.

Hope is Not Always Deferred

February 24, 2009

Spending time in the blogosphere, I find a lot of people set in their ways and unwilling to listen. It becomes very discouraging sometimes. I grow to believe that what I say doesn’t matter, that it won’t make a difference, and nobody ever changes anyway. Then I tell myself: Don’t listen to Screwtape!

Your words can encourage and inspire the work of the Holy Spirit in others. I know this, because it has happened to me, to my husband, and to so many converts and those contemplating conversion here online. This is the beautifully written conversion story of Patty Bonds. I cried reading through it because so much that she says ressonates with me. It’s beautiful to see Christ’s Church embraced and Christ known deeper and more fruitfully. Don’t despair. We never know the effect our words may have on others.

To be fair, I will post James White’s reaction to her conversion. Both are worth reading.

Then you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free…

February 6, 2009

My copy of “Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Volume III: The Writings of the Church Fathers Affirming the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura” arrived in the mail a couple days ago. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but it’s not what I got. With a couple of kids in tow, I’ve hardly read the whole book, but I’ve skimmed a fair portion in each of the sections. What I’ve found is a lot of quotes that either are completely irrelevant to the point they’re trying to make or are taken wholly out of context. I have not found one quote that suggests to me what it does to the authors. How is it possible that someone has compiled a whole book of quotes in which they’ve bolded and emphasized sections which they think mean one thing, and then I read it and find something completely different? Someone is deceiving themselves here. So I have to ask out of fairness, is it me?

Honestly, I’m astounded. How did I transform to this perspective? If only you all could have seen me a year ago. What happened? Were my eyes opened and now I’m left gaping at everyone else wondering why they’re so blind? Is there only a sane remnant left on this planet and have I been admitted into its brotherhood? I know that Protestants think that they’re the sane ones and Catholics are blind, so how do you figure out who’s right, without automatically being biased by the emphatic “I am!!!”? Led by my over analytical nature, I sat down with Chris the other night to discuss how I might figure out whether or not I am deceiving myself, or just believing what I want to believe, or seeing what I want to see. Here’s what we came up with:

First of all, you may be somewhat certain that you’re not just believing something because you want to if you do not want to believe it. I’m sure there are always doubters who will accuse me of desiring the Catholic Church to be the true Church for whatever reason they may come up with, but this isn’t for them. I am rather convinced that this is the last thing I ever wanted. When I met my husband, Catholicism repulsed me. I debated issues with him vehemently, even without checking what the foundations of my beliefs were, because my beliefs were the only possible true beliefs! He thought we could lose our salvation, I thought the sinner’s prayer saved you once and for all. He emphasized serving the Lord, I emphasized a personal relationship. He wanted to baptize our children, I wanted to wait until they could confess their faith themselves. Talking to him about it, he even says he can’t see how a person as adamant as I was could sound like I do now. I asked him why he married me then. He felt that was what God wanted of him and so he better do it! I think I can say with reasonable certitude that I didn’t just want to believe this.

Even if you aren’t just believing because you want to, how do you know you aren’t being fooled? Assuming the beliefs in question are reasonable and self-consistent, then one way of testing the spirits is to judge them by their fruit. This may be more difficult than the simple phrase implies, and it brings up a lot of subsequent questions. Undoubtedly, I have experienced bad fruit in Protestantism in the form of radical ideology, unseemly behavior, hypocrisy, pastor veneration, self-promotion, etc. There are also people who say they’ve experienced bad fruit in Catholicism. They say everyone was just going through the routine and they experienced dead faith and corrupt priests. My theory says that this Catholic bad fruit is a result of faithless individuals and the Protestant bad fruit is an inevitable result of a corrupt system. Of course, I can’t prove that to anyone, although I may share my reasons for believing this at a later date.

I can’t judge whether or not these people who experienced Catholicism accurately understood the faith of those around them, or had any faith of their own to begin with, or why Protestantism works better for them. What I can do is relate my own experience. I was a very sincere little Christian girl. For as long as I can remember, I have loved God and wanted to do His will. I went through life trying to be good, not to win my salvation, but out of love of Christ. In high school I was a little evangelist, wearing Christian t-shirts and jewelry, taking every opportunity to share Christ with others. I was surrounded by people only pretending to be spiritual, and so backed away from the “in” crowd at my church. Meanwhile, I was still trying to be faithful. In college, I got tired of the hypocrisy, and stayed away from Churches for a few years. I still read my Bible faithfully, had little post-it notes with verses to memorize all over my apartment. Eventually I got back into a better spiritual community. That’s when I met Chris. I don’t think the bad experiences I had (which I will detail in another post soon) were a result of insufficient faith on my part. I know that there are good churches out there, and I have gone to them. But a look at the history of the Reformation and the foundations of Protestantism makes me believe there is absolutely nothing protecting Christians from these things, and the system actually encourages it.

In high contrast, Catholicism has been a haven for me. Individuals are not singled out and praised, no one person can over-run the church and lead it into heresy or insanity, and the Church is devoted in every way to serve the needs of its parishioners and of the community. Catholic Charities in the Kansas City diocese serve over 84,000 people annually. The Church has Bible lessons, community events, fellowship and they feed the poor, fight for the unborn, educate the uneducated, and love the unloved. This is just a little bit to say: I have experienced abundant good fruit in the Catholic Church, and have grown in my spiritual understanding because of it. Were the people doing the Judas shuffle (which is what my old priest called it when people duck out right after communion) just not paying attention?

As best I can determine based on reason, fruitfulness, and desires, I am not fooling myself with my current Catholic perspective. I can’t know for sure, and I can’t persuade anyone else to believe me. I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t expect to find anything that the Church cannot stand against. All I can do is be prepared to face the consequences if I should find something. If I did, I don’t know if I could return to the folds of Protestantism. Would I be a lone Christian with my Bible in the wilderness? I guess it depends on what I might find. I asked Chris what he would do, and he thought he might head to the Orthodox church down the road and have a talk with the priest there to figure it out.

Now I wonder, how is it that my perspective has changed so dramatically? And how is it that others cannot see what I see? Are those people more concerned about being right or being their own masters than learning the truth of the gospel? And who out there is willing to face evidence that challenges them to change?

I’m reminded of the via moderna saying right now: “God will not deny grace to him who does his best.” People have interpreted this phrase to mean that you can work really, really hard and get to heaven. But what if we understand “does his best” to mean “earnestly seeks God with all his heart”? In such a case, maybe that is the real key to finding the truth. Seek God earnestly and you will find Him. Become what God wants you to become and you will recognize truth when you see it.

Living in a Mixed Marriage

February 2, 2009

A vital part of marriage is sharing your faith. Living in a mixed marriage, myself being some sort of non-denominational evangelical Protestant and my husband being a Catholic convert, has shown me firsthand exactly why so many people put an emphasis on being equally yoked in this respect, and how hard it can be when you are not. It is not impossible to have a happy mixed marriage, but there are many difficulties that arise and a lot of opportunities for compromise and growth!

Despite our differences, I have been blessed to be able to share my faith with my husband even from the beginning. His authentic faith is what drew me to him in the first place, and it’s something that I continue to admire in him and it’s one of the things I love most about him. God has given me a perfect match, in which I feel unbelievably blessed. The circumstances of our meeting convince me that God had this planned all along. His plan is better than anything I could come up with, so I’m all in. Here’s some of the work He has done:

In a mixed marriage, there are many opportunities for growth that come in the form of fervent prayer and frustration accompanied with heartache – sanctification at its best. There is an inability to share the deepest part of yourself with the person most important to you in the world. If you’re like me and have a hard time expressing yourself, the frustration is compounded by an inability to help the other person see your perspective. From my experience, the best advice I can give is to beg for understanding first, before acceptance. Communication is top priority. A huge relief can come from just knowing that the other person understands what you’re saying, regardless of if they agree. For me and my husband, this involved a lot of repeating back (a tried and true counseling method) to check that we’ve listened correctly, and a lot of yelling phrases like “Please let me finish and just listen!” As a woman, I’ve had to overcome my innate need to be treasured which gets twisted to me wanting to be understood without having to say everything. Don’t ask me, I just live with it. So I’ve had to work to tell Chris when I need something from him or I’m angry or whatever might be going on with me. Hard work to change your twisted self-centered nature, I tell ya what.

Once we understood each other a little better, it was a lot easier to start swallowing all that pride and make compromises. A lot of the compromise happened on my side of things for a few reasons. First, I’m a woman and as such I am submissive to my husband. Secondly, I wanted to maintain unity in our family, so I rejected a few of the compromises Chris offered on that basis. Lastly, I had a more permissive faith which allowed me to acquiesce to the restrictions of Chris’s faith so as to not cause his conscience to sin (1 Cor. 8:9). Looking back, each compromise took a lot of effort and I resented it somewhat at first, but a peaceful home is priceless.

I’ve detailed the compromises on baptism and contraception in a previous post. But we also had to decide where to go to church on Sunday mornings. That implies a lot more than just how you spend your Sunday mornings, because where you go to church determines the spiritual atmosphere of your home. Chris offered to go to Mass alone and we could all go to my parent’s non-denomination church together on Sunday mornings. I hated the idea of him living out his faith without me. Maybe I’m clingy. But I also believed I could live my faith out in a Catholic church as well as I could in a Protestant one, and I have. I believe that maintaining your faith in Christ regardless of your surroundings is an incredible witness. I ended up being witnessed to instead.

There are some issues that we still haven’t worked through. For instance, we were married before he officially converted, so when he did convert, it came time to have our marriage “blessed” by a priest. I am not comfortable with these vow renewals and the reasons behind them, so we have not done this, and I think we only will if I do convert. He was careful not to push me into the blessing, and only wants me to do it if I am alright with it. In fact, Chris’s attitude in this whole thing has been a wonderful. He never expected me to convert and never asked anything of me that I didn’t volunteer apart from the obvious things regarding how we live our lives.

Logistical problems aside, it takes a lot to understand and be understood when you live out a five hundred year old squabble in your family life. But it is worth every single minute of it to come out on the other side. I can’t explain how much I better understand my own faith, where it has come from, how it applies to my daily existence and how best to live it out. I’ve worked out problems that I’d shelved with Christianity as a whole and come to a secure and solid belief in God. In this process, I’ve changed more than my husband with respect to beliefs, but these changes were a completion and not a negation of the faith I already had.

I remember at one point, after I had lost a small fight with my husband, I told him, “I’ll be so mad at you if you’re right about all of this!!!” and he replied, “Why? Wouldn’t you love it if we were unified as a family?” It now looks like that’s where we are headed, and I am not angry. There’s a peace and joy I feel that’s wholly unexpected, but very welcome. I pray for all those in similar situations that they can experience that as well. After all, the main reason I began this blog was the hope that I could help others overcome the same obstacles that Chris and I have.