How to go to Confession
(Insert token scary howling wind and foreboding crash of thunder here.) Confession scares people who have no idea what it is.
When I first began looking into Catholicism, confession seemed like some sort of arcane ritual where the priest decided he would be God and forgive sins or something like that. It all seemed magical in an occult and paranoia-inducing sense of the word. But it’s nothing scary, and nothing like that. I’ll go into the theology of confession a bit before we get to the ‘How To’.
Confession was not devised by the Church to secure power, nor is it a way for priests to play God. Christ works his saving grace through men to save, the equivalent would be an honest look at what evangelicals believe about the sinner’s prayer, and how it takes both a minister and the prayer for salvation to occur, at least in most theologies. The act of confession is a bit more modest though, and only states that God grants outwardly, through the words of the priest the inward grace of spiritual renewal, just like when we take communion the bread and wine as Christ confer to us the grace and spiritual renewal of eating and drinking the fruit of the Tree of life.
A common myth is that confession is automatic, and that regardless of whether someone is sorry, it works. That’s not true, because without real repentance, the act is invalid.
Some people have also argued that confession is too shameful, too heavy a burden, whereas I’d argue that those who argue this probably don’t have good community in their gatherings. To confess our sins is shameful, and indeed dreadful and harsh, but if we are prodigals, we must return to the Father’s house. You cannot enter into the house without passing through the gate which is Christ, and He has established that we should confess our sins and receive forgiveness on behalf of the Church. Jesus was indeed kind and loving, but he confronted people on their sins, and exacted from them a true repentance that seems almost inconceivable without some sort of public and private accountability for sins.
If you have further questions or want to discuss this, please leave a comment, I’d love to answer some questions.
Anyways, here’s the long and the short of confession:
1. You always have the option to go to confession anonymously, that is, behind a screen or face to face. I like going face to face, it hurts more, but it’s worth it to tell the truth when looking at someone. It makes me feel like i am looking at myself honestly when I do this.
2. After the priest greets you in the name of Christ, make the sign of the cross. He may choose to recite a reading from Scripture (I have never had this happen, usually he just waits for me to begin), after which you say: “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been (state how long) since my last confession. These are my sins.”
The whole point of this is to come back into the family. In Brazilian culture we are strongly Catholic and so even when I greet my parents or grandparents, I do not greet them with ‘Hello,’ I greet them with “Bless me, (Father, Mother, Grandpa, Grandma…etc.),” so this was not an issue for me. I understood immediately the desire to ask for a blessing, especially when one has done wrong.
3. Tell your sins simply and honestly to the priest. And keep it short. If you’re in confession at the common time, other people want to confess their sins too, and you should be as brief and exact as possible. If you have some time you might even want to discuss the circumstances and the root causes of your sins and ask the priest for advice or direction. However, do not expect a counseling session, save that for your own schedule when you can meet the priest one-on-one at a time outside scheduled parish confession.
4. Listen to the advice the priest gives you and accept the penance from him. Then make an Act of Contrition for your sins. There are others, but that’s the standard one, and usually there are prayer cards with this prayer on them in the confessional for first timers and people who forget.
5. The priest will then dismiss you with the words of praise: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. You respond: “For His mercy endures forever.” (This is a scriptural reference, for those of you who thought that Catholics don’t like scripture.) The priest will then conclude with:”The Lord has freed you from your sins. Go in peace.” And you respond by saying: “Thanks be to God.”
6. This is the part where you might feel a burden lifted, or spiritually aware, and open to the possibilities God has for you, it’s a very good feeling. However, remember the purpose of this sacrament is to return us to proper community and to bring us back into God’s family to properly celebrate the mass with the priest and the faithful.
7. Spend some time with Our Lord, either in Church, in prayer, in the chapel, or at a side altar thanking and praising Him for the gift of His mercy. Try to perform your penance as soon as possible, and remember that this gift of confession is so that we may be prodigals no more.
I very much wish I had stopped to take pictures tonight. I had a wonderful evening, and to come clean: I did not enter the Church tonight. I thought to, I wanted to, but in the end, I am glad I decided to wait. I’m exploring still, and I’m young and the whole wide world is before me.
I journey with an open heart and a curious mind, and love and support my friends who made it all the way.
My reasons for not entering are more circumstantial than anything and it truly was my desire to go through with conversion. However, my life is full of unexpected twists and turns, and surprises, and this was one of them.
However, Chirst is Risen! Indeed He is risen!
And that meant two things for this wandering and practically Catholic ex-protestant: Easter Vigil, and Pascha with the Orthodox.
Easter vigil is a really solemn and thoughtful rite. I went to a latin mass for it, and it was long, but rewarding. The liturgy was intense, and the litanies were heavy to bear. But having brushed up on my Latin, I found the whole experience rewarding, and I understood a great deal more than I expected to.
The candles and other sacramentals were great, the blessing of the fire and the darkness of the church was also wonderful. I did feel a bit like Harry Potter enter Hogwarts wince the church had a full processional into the sanctuary by candlelight in a dark sanctuary. The ladies were also wearing vintage hats which made the whole experience that much more interesting and memorable.
Then, after the kneeling, the prayers and the litanies were said and done, we rushed south to join the Orthodox for their Pascha service.
The service was beautiful, and since it was my first time in an Orthodox Church I was absolutely enthralled by the entire setup, the standing and the plethora of icons. The ikonostasis was gorgeous, and the whole thing was an experience full of light.
I loved everything about the liturgy, and the fellowship.
The feasting after the liturgy was also wonderful. The people celebrated Christ and their fasts and everything else with excitement and vigor, with triumphant shouts of “Christ is Risen!” With the response “He is risen indeed!”
Christ is risen, and while I didn’t get to eat Jesus, and I very much wish I had, I got to be with friends, much Like Frodo, before he leaves the Shire. I felt myself in good company all night, and when we are with the body of Christ, that’s what’s important.
I cannot wait for the day when I fully share in Holy Communion, but I’m glad that day was not today. I have time, and I will continue faithfully pursuing the Good, The True and the Beautiful, until such a time as they shall have claimed me for themselves.
Thank you for journeying with me, and if I have disappointed some of my readers, I apologize. It’s been a good time, and I intend to keep blogging here at the Practical Catholic, since, well, I’m practically Catholic. Feel free to drop in, leave comments, whatever, as usual.
I’ll keep you guys posted on changes as they come. Thanks for all the love, all the comments and al the support. Christ is Risen! And that’s what matters in the end.
Or, Why I Bring a Rosary to the Movies.
It was a cold evening, overcast and treacherous ice lay on the roads and byways, and I was running late for my date with the one and only Secret Vatican Spy. We were off on another adventure, this time to see The Rite. And so, scheming up plans for dinner and enjoying a long conversation in the process, we prepared ourselves for the movie. We talked about how excited we were to see it. I had not even seen the trailers for it, I just knew it was endorsed by my bishop, and I wanted to see it for that reason.
The Secret Vatican Spy on the other hand was full of taut and energetic awe at going to see this film of films, this magnum opus, this scary endeavor into the great and dark beyond. We made our way treacherously upon the sheet of us that stood between the car where we had parked to the front of the theatre.
After taking more than one verbal cue from Kassie to slow down, (she was wearing heels) we finally made it to the front and purchased tickets. The warmth of the inside of the theatre was a blessed relief after the biting cold outside.
Coffee in hand, we entered the theatre and had a seat.
The previews rolled by, and we wanted to see every film on the reel for the previews. And then there was one unexpected trailer, one neither of us had been prepared for. There Be Dragons. Someone is making a movie about St. Josemaria Escriva!Now, this might not be of interest to everyone, but I love it. I cannot wait to see this film and will do all I can to endorse it. But anways, back to our tale.
The movie then started. Kassie clutched my arm and squee’d with excitement (she loves scary movies,) and I just sort of let the film take me in slowly.
From the moment of its beginning, I could tell I was going to like it. The camera work was exquisite, the colors, vivd, the dialogue splendid. And I wondered quietly to myself why this movie wasn’t a winter blockbuster.
The story unfolded and then, suddenly, there we were, Rome. My little convert’s heart fluttered and stuttered at the beauty of the Vatican, and at the sights and sounds of the Ancient City. I could have squealed with joy, I got chills, I wanted to be in St. Peter’s square and Kassie too kept excitedly whispering how the sights and sounds gave her chills too. We grinned, and laughed and smiled, and enjoyed the subtexts where Catholics could laugh at things that other people miss out on.
We curtailed through the streets of Rome following Fr. Michael Kovak, and his training to become an exorcist. He was a reluctant skeptic, offended by the idea of the supernatural and trying to resort to psychological explanations for everything. However, even his annoying skepticism couldn’t phase me as we passed the Coliseum, and saw the various fountains of Rome in the backgrounds and forefronts.
We saw the little neighborhoods, and the Vatican rising above the Ancient City, to stand majestically at her heart. For a convert, it was awe-inspiring.
It was indeed an exciting time, thrilling and enjoyable. And suddenly, the movie unrolled the creepy music, the long pauses, the silences, the tensions and the underlaying foreshadowings, and things changed. I was glued to my seat, scared, and enjoying it. Kassie whispered “Are you scared?” And I, being a latin man full of bravado said “No, I’m ok.”
A few minutes later, she whispered, “Do you have a rosary?” to which I replied “No, I forgot it in my other coat before I left.” She smiled at me and said “Do you want this one?” producing a rosary I’d seen her make, and I smiled, and said “No thanks, I’m ok for now.”
All this comes on the heels of a previous date where we felt compelled to go visit the hospital’s perpetual adoration shrine and get some holy water before we could go home. Yes, we like scary movies, but we also like Jesus, a lot more. So, I was wondering if it was going to be a ‘Holy Water After the Movies’ sort of affair.
About 20 minutes later I was near shaking, and I found my hand clutching Kassie’s with the rosary between us, both of us touching the crucifix with hope, and enjoying the fears being brought before us. Rome had suddenly become a place where the forces of darkness were doing battle with a skeptic seminarian, and his teacher, Fr. Lucas. Possession wasn’t about pea soup, or spinning heads or magic words, it was about doing battle with the devil.
It was a battle as ancient as the ministry of Christ and before, the battle of faith vs. doubt. A battle of Truth vs. lies.
I loved the themes in the film, doubt vs. certainty, fear vs. faith, the nature of the supernatural, modernism, religion, belief, etc. There were so many positive points to this film that I’m surprised that there is not a more massive outcry for this movie to be watched.
The demonic portrayals were accurate, intimidating and realistic. The writhing, the facts that the film used to convey the reality of demonic possession was intense, and a welcome relief from movies where skepticism and jadedness are the meal ticket. I applauded the accuracy, and the fairness of the film, and I applauded the themes, the maturity of the film and the way in decided to speak favorably of Rome, and priests despite the media’s obsession with negative press for the Vatican.
I loved that this film was so well made, and so positively in favor of the Church, and yet managed to pull it off without being preachy or annoying.
I was so glad that the film ended the way it did, because it ended up not being a holy water at the adoration chapel sort of affair, and I felt satisfied and hopeful in the end. I figured out why I love going to the movies with Kassie so much last night. Besides her being my best friend, it’s because she remembers the rosary, and because she knows when I’m scared, and because she will totally pray in the middle of a movie and still be able to enjoy it. It reminded me of why I’m Catholic, the ability to share in little things, like taking a rosary to the movies.
- I bring a rosary to the movies because there are places in everyday life where prayer can make a difference and scary movies happens to be one of them.
- I bring a rosary to the movies because the bible tells us to pray without ceasing
- I bring a rosary to the movies because my girlfriend doesn’t forget them, even if I do.
Hey, for those of you who are subscribers, thank you for reading and subscribing. For those who are readers, thank you for reading. For those who want to know more about my personal life, you’re gonna get a treat.
I have a hard time opening up sometimes, but I want you to know that things are well. I feel satisfied, and fulfilled. I still miss my church, and the people I used to lead. It’s not easy going from Baptist pastor to Catholic layman sometimes, but I am managing and Kassie always helps.
I sometimes feel that maybe I waited too long to convert, the journey now has a more contemplative and somber tone, instead of the fire that was so ardent in my interior life two years ago. I think that it’s for the best though, that I be made sober. I am full of joy, it’s just hidden much of the time, I am not worried, or in pain, just sober-minded and vigilant.
I feel as though something is waiting to be discovered, and I’m not sure what it is, but when i find it, I will let you know.
Anyways, I wanted to say that life is good. I feel that I’m spiritually developing, and that this is very, very good. I feel connected to the Church at large and to all the saints. Recently, I have started to look into working for Catholic Charities, maybe with immigration or some other place where my bilingual skills could be best put to service.
If you follow me on twitter you’ll notice I’ve been watching lots of movies, mostly because film is a way for me to clarify my thoughts and engage reality on another level. There’s nothing like watching movies to me, and I feel hard pressed to find something as soothing or as contemplative as watching films.
Christmas is right around the corner and it’s the first time I’ll ever have spent Christmas itself away from home. I have always spent Christmas with my family, except once before. This time rings of permanence, and change, and that’s a bittersweet thing. I miss my family, but I’m also excited to be spending it with Kassie’s family, who are jovial and good-natured people full of light and love and welcome.
I think the biggest challenge I face related to conversion right now is the waiting. I cannot express how long the waiting seems to be taking, but if Jesus had to wait, I know I must also. I’m trying to see the good in waiting, even if it frustrates me at times. I know that God is with me, the Holy Spirit has worked through my friends and fellow converting colleagues to work in all of us a network of support, guidance and love, and I know we are all benefitting.
The following are things I have been thinking on. The first is one that has popped up this week is a line from scripture: “My flesh is real food” -Jesus in John ch. 6
I have been meditating on this, and how, if these words are historically accurate, they have profound existential meaning for the life of Jesus. “My flesh is real food,” he was fully aware of what was going to take place, the anguish and the sorrow of his very self he connects to the meal, making himself the passover, the One who allows God to spare Israel. He is saying that He is the manna of God, the bread which brings life to those in the wilderness.
That’s deep, troubling, and illuminating all at once. It is concurrent with the repeated appearance of the line: “O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.” It is my Advent meditation, to think on how the infant Jesus, becomes a man, and bears for us all, the weight of sin, to bring to us the hope of glory. “My flesh is real food,” he says. He offers us Himself, and it struck me.
The sorrow of this Jesus, it hit me afresh the other day, and never before have I felt so deep a pain when thinking on those words.
This other line is from an Orthodox prayer:
“…[T]hou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ Our God...”
This line happens in a prayer before reading the gospel/scripture, and asks for God’s illumination. The food, from the above meditation, has echoed in my mind with this line of this prayer, and I think it’s for the best. Christmas is indeed a time of illumination, a time of welcoming God into our lives once again, and making room for God to once again reshape us, to refashion us, to illuminate us.
Come Holy Spirit, kindle your fire in the hearts of the faithful, bring us to Christ, the King of All Worlds.
I have endeavored often along this journey to make a moral and spiritual conversion as well as an intellectual one. I have tried to remember often along the way that I do not exist for the sake of myself. I do not exist to make Christianity my own.
One cannot apprehend Christ, we can only be apprehended by Him. Any system that places Christ at my disposal or the Church at my whim is a flawed system.
I have left behind a system of religion that compelled me to invent a religion and spirituality on my own. I have left behind a system of religion that was exciting yet, incomplete. I have in the end left behind nothing, but gained everything. Christianity makes no sense apart from the fullness of faith found in the Catholic Church. The entire story of Christianity, from beginning to end is being told by the Catholic Church.
I have left my rebellion, in order to finally come home. Just like the prodigal son, every Protestant out there has asked for his entire inheritance and then spent it chasing vanities, be they relevance, good feelings, prophecies, the supremacy of a certain interpretation of scripture, the right to have a faith that agrees with me. All of these are vanity.
So I took the first step. Hearing the Church like John the Baptist calling out in the desert. I heard the call to repentance, and decided to enter into full communion. This process has been going on three years, and I have become overjoyed at my journey. The rite itself was beautiful, the church was lit, the faithful were there, packing every pew, our priest was smiling and overjoyed. The one catechumen and all the candidates were all prepared to make a public confession of the faith, and so we did. With Kassie at my right hand, and Kassie’s Godfather behind me with his hand on my shoulder we entered the Church. It seemed somehow more illuminated, more imbued with holy light.
In that Church, I felt again the majesty of The Roman Catholic Church, I felt the grandeur of the Church which Christ has founded and established upon the testimony of the apostles. Oh and I picked a patron saint on Monday.
My newly elected Patron has this to say about Rome:
For, from the descent of the Incarnate Word amongst us, all the churches in every part of the world have held the greatest Church alone to be their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our Savior, the gates of hell will never prevail against her, that she has the keys of the orthodox confession and right faith in Him, that she opens the true and exclusive religion to such men as approach with piety, and she shuts up and locks every heretical mouth which speaks against the Most High. (St. Maximus the Confessor, Opuscula theologica et polemica, Migne, Patr. Graec. vol. 90)
Am I sure about my journey? No. I’m not sure that this is the right move, but if I were to wait for certainty I should never leave my seat. Historically every church has held that Rome has the orthodox confession, that she has the Keys to the Kingdom which are given over to Peter. I have read testimony after testimony to the praise and glory of the Roman Catholic Church from Church fathers and contemporary converts. I feel compelled by faith, and by the desire to serve Christ, I feel that this is the right thing to do. Am I certain? only as certain as I am that my girlfriend cherishes and loves me. I cannot prove it, but I know it. My certainty is subjective, in other words, it’s faith. It is certain that it is uncertain, it’s objectivity is nothing but subjectively grasped, and it continues to prove itself to me as the right decision, over and over, because of the infallible concreteness of Dogma, because of the ever more gloriously radiating presence of Christ.
In the course of studies and a many nights reading the testimonies of the saints I find myself pressed with the conclusion that Rome alone has the True proclamation, for it has never ceased, and never changed. I have come to the conclusion that this is maybe the most dangerous adventure I have ever embarked on. Yet I have come to one conclusion: ”If we are intended for great ends, we are called to great hazards.” says Bl. John Henry Newman who himself was a convert. I agree. This is indeed a great hazard, i gave up my church, my people, my protestant heritage, and much more, but the greatest end of all has come to me, Christ Himself, embodied daily before me in the Eucharist.
I do not think that the Roman congregation is perfect, but were I to wait for perfection, I should never be satisfied. I have decided to act on what has been given to us, and what has been given to us is NOT the reformation, but the apostles. I refuse to treat the reformation as some do, as a new dispensation of grace. I refuse to believe the gospel was lost for 1400 years before a deranged monk decided to act on his own whim.
The world in all its fullness could not possibly recreate the majesty of Rome to me. Her ancient faith, and her continued testament to the rightness and otherworldliness of the Truth is inspiring. I sought to find a congregation that truly reflected what it means to be “not of this world,” and only Rome made sense. Only a Christianity that could not have been invented by me, or my local pastor is worth following. Dogma, real objective rules for Christianity make sense. Personal feelings, spirituality without history, or trying to convince people that certain events in the life of Jesus make sense and appeal to us because they are simply exemplary make no sense. Dogma is the only thing that makes sense of all of Christian history from Christ through the apostles and middle ages until today.
As I sat fighting back tears, the Church welcomed me, it was simply indescribable. Kassie’s godfather smiled down at me, mostly because he’s really tall, but partly because he was welcoming me into the Church. The light that filled the place and myself was otherworldly, it was fantastic. I loved it.
I am an honorary Catholic until Easter, or to put it another way, I’m practically Catholic, which is why I named the blog thus. Not because I actually talk about anything practical, but because I’ve been almost Catholic for three years now. Anyways, it was an amazingly beautiful rite, and anyone who wants to know what the Church is all about should visit a rite such as that one. The Church loves me, her rite of welcoming acceptance has told me so.
Short Update: Went through the rite of acceptance, and then I felt compelled to pick a Patron Saint. The Rite itself was beautiful and thought provoking and has challenged me in ways I never thought it would. It was hard to say goodbye to my protestant faith in some ways, but I am happy with the choice I have made. So here’s my thought process on that whole deal, with a heavy focus on patron saints. Also make sure to check out the Secret Vatican Spy, She’s got a few really interesting things going on at her blog you might like to take note of. Thanks for reading.
The Patron Saints
So, I’m in the process of picking a Patron saint. I’m researching and thinking about who in the canon of saints relates to me strongly so that I might have a friend to pray with from the communion of the saints. Some people imagine this means that I’m walmart shopping for who will be my stand-in for Jesus, since I never pray to Jesus anymore now that I’m Catholic. I want to set up as many mediators between myself and Jesus as possible obviously, to protect me from the grace of Jesus, and keep myself bound to religion. I mean, I get that people don’t understand, so I’m here to dispel some myths, and let you in on my thought process.
Firstly, picking a patron saint is not like picking a pokemon, you do not send these icons or people out to do your battle for you. You do not keep them in a little necklace and let them out to fight the bad spirits whenever you see fit. You do not get a special Jesus outfit, or a challenge to “catch ‘em all” forgetting Jesus in the midst of the process.
There are three things a Patron Saint is:
1) A Prayer Partner
A patron saint is someone who we can relate to, or seek help from in our following Christ. My process in picking a patron saint has been difficult, but I often pray that St. Augustine pray with me, both him and Pope John Paul II. I ask them for prayer, not because I cannot go before the Father, but because it helps to have prayer partners. Just as in life we have people pray with and for us, for special graces or anointings, if you’re a charismatic, or just lead us in prayers of repentance or other such prayers. Patron saints do this same thing, they are pastors for all the faithful.
They are our prayer partners.
No, not the send me 35.00 and I will grant your wish or heal your entire family with this little vial of oil, but real prayer partners, the kind we can have REAL communion with because they are even more in Christ than we are. Surviving conversion can be hard, but it can be made easier when you have prayer partners, both living and dead praying with you along the way. We turn to them in Christ, with the faith that they are with Him, and with that confidence we ask them to pray with us, just like a spiritual director or pastor would who is alive.
2) A Role Model in the Faith
The saints are our role-models in the faith, they inspire us. They, are the pastors in the faith, they continue to lead us towards ever deeper communion with Christ. The communion of saints is the spiritual solidarity which binds together the faithful on earth, and the saints in heaven. It is through the unity of the same mystical body which has Christ as its head.
Patron saints are people to whom we turn for solidarity in prayer. For Catholics, in the Christian worldview there is a thin veil between life and death and that veil is made nearly invisible through Christ who is the Head of the Church, both of those who are living, and of those who are dead. Indeed the scriptures say that he is God of the Living and not of the dead (Mark 12:27).
Often when we feel alone or overburdened we turn to prayer partners in life, pastors or teachers, the saints are the guiding light of the Church in what it means to follow Jesus. They are not Jesus, no one worships saints, at least no real Catholic worships saints.
The saints are role models, just like good protestants turn to the life of St. Paul or Abraham for inspiration and guidance, the same Holy Spirit has been available in all of time and space to lead those in Christ. Those same people became foundational examples of the work of Christ, we call those people saints. Not because we are not saints, but because these people stand a cut above, and their stories of God’s interaction with them is worth remembering.
Surviving conversion into the Catholic faith is made more tenable if you have role models, maybe other converts. Some that have helped me are G.K. CHesterton and Bl. John Henry Newman. Both those men have made profound impact in my life and led me into a deeper connection with Christ through their writings, through their faith.
3) A Friend, who is praying WITH you
A Patron saint is not a mini-god or mini-goddess. They are examples, and leaders. We look to them to help us know what it means to follow Christ. Just like many Christians might look to either the apostles, or their local pastor or a pastor that they know as an example of the faith, so too the Catholic Church does this, she just does it with style. To call these people saints is not to say they are the only ones in heaven, but rather, the Church can validate that they are actively helping people on earth with their prayers from within the very presence of God.
They are not deities, they do not pray instead of you, they do not grant special favors, they pray with us to God the Father, for the final redemption of all things. They and their miracles are just like the miracles of the faithful in life, they are in and by and through Christ, and ot one thing that they do can be done apart from Him.
Good news Everyone!
Since starting this post, I have picked a patron since starting this post. and he’s an amazing man. St. Maximus the Confessor is a very special saint to me. When I first moved to Florida a while back, I got my hands on the Philokalia one afternoon, and started reading. Over and over these writings would hit home. I was in a Barnes and Noble bookstore, but I could not help it, I was in tears, and in my little corner, looking out the window, I had made a connection with a great pastor of the Church and a man of heroic Virtue.
St. Maximus reflects a personal hope as well. He is honored in both East and West, and it is my sincere hope that the Church reunites East and West into One Body. St. Maximus is not only a profoundly personal teacher through his writings, he is an symbol of what could someday happen. I often ask for his prayers with me, for the reunification of the Church, and I also seek to follow his example in courage, and boldness.
An Orthodox site offers this on St. Maximus:
As a theologian, he taught, against those who sought to compromise the Faith for the sake of political and religious unity, that Jesus Christ was the incarnate Son of God, fully divine,and fully human, thus having two complete wills, natures, and energies. For his stubborn confession of Christ the Truth, St. Maximus was persecuted by compromising imperial authorities, put on trial three times, and finally, having had his tongue and right hand with which he had so eloquently defended the Faith cut off, he was sent into exile, where he soon died on August 13, 662.
St. Maximus is also in many ways the Aquinas of the East, his writings have shaped Eastern Christianity for many generations through the writings of the saints they have complied into a book called the Philokalia. St. Maximus’ writings hold heavy academic weight and yet are spiritually available, and thus I seek to follow his profound and luminous example. If only we had the boldness to remember saints like St. Maximus who have suffered bodily harm for the Faith.
It is with his shining example in mind, that I enter into the Roman Catholic congregation, bridging a gap between East and West in my memory of this saint, and in all the outflow of my life that results from my contemplation of his teachings on Jesus. May we all be so bold. Amen.
I guess I’ve been touching on so many other issues that I haven’t really had time to talk about my experience of Jesus as a Catholic.
1. God With Us
The Real Presence has shaped my experience. When I walk into Church, I expect Jesus to be there, when I see the candle at the side of the tabernacle, I know God is with us. I feel the reverence and the sanctity when i enter for Church. I behold the Lamb of God weekly, and it has made me more devout in my walk. I feel I take Christ even more seriously than I did as a radically devout Charismatic. God’s Spirit is in the mass, and He has filled me with good things, but at the very first, he has taught me to be silent, to be sober.
God with us, it shapes my daily expectation, to join in with my heart in adoration for all the masses being said worldwide. To contemplate the incarnation, as it happens right before me, it makes the Church truly an echo of Mary, for every week, every day she makes present to us the incarnate Lord. To be able to see the Lamb which John preached, and to apprehend God with my senses, it’s baffling. But more so, I am apprehended by Him, by the peace He brings, and by the light which He alone can give.
2. A Jesus for All Ages
This Jesus is not MY Jesus, He is the Lord of the Church. He’s my Lord, but he’s not my fabrication. My experience happens with all others. My experience at Church isn’t to isolate me, it’s to bring me into worship and communion with others.
As a Charismatic, I love that my experience now has a place in the universal expression of Christianity. I am with the entire communion of the saints in worship, in adoration, and in prayers. We all have a common experience, it’s diverse, but we know we share in the same bread, and therefore are the one Body. This Jesus is not just about my today, or what the pastor says, he is about yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is truly a Jesus who was, in the history of the Church and the Jesus who is present to us today, and the Jesus who shall come again to judge the living and the dead.
The feast days for saints are reflections on this Jesus continuing to work in history, the feasts for Him remind us both of His life, and His Resurrection and ascension. The gospel daily reminds us that He shall come again.
3. The Family-Maker
Jesus is not just in the business of saving souls, he is in the work of creating families. This Jesus is drawing an entire church into His presence. He has set me in a broader context. I commune with Him and His people. He has established a large and welcoming family, whose merit is Him alone. He is the merit by which men are saved and He is the grace which He bestows. He is the One who shall reconcile all things to Himself, both things in heaven and on earth.
He has given me a family, a mother, Mary, who I can behold, and contemplate and remember. She was and is the most perfect disciple of them all, and we should all seek to emulate her life. He has given me an earthly pastor, the apostolic office of Pope Benedict XVI, and before him Pope John Paul II to lead and to guide, to preach and proclaim. He has given me priests and bishops, prophets, and evangelists, teachers and speakers, miracle workers, charismatics, laymen and laywomen, an entire communion of saints, and most especially my girlfriend and my sponsor. He has given me a family, and a home; He has given me Himself by inviting me to dine with Him in Rome.
That’s what some people think of my new faith. I have heard it before, and I have seen some examples. Some people I know who have forgotten the meaning of the faith, or the meaning of the interior quest and have gotten sidetracked into apologetics and not taken the time to develop. Some assume that to be Catholic means to forsake the mind.
Sometimes people see Catholics as mindless prayer drones comparable to the Cybermen in Dr. Who. And sometimes this is sadly the case, but it’s true in any religious setting big enough to have moderate participants. I have seen it in myself earlier on in this journey. People who no matter what they say seem to know only one word: Indoctrinate. They run around and no matter how eloquent their speech, the heart of everything comes down to a rigid dance that is sung to the tune of “Indoctrinate! Indoctrinate! Indoctrinate!!”. They’re all about assimilating and dehumanizing, leaving a swathe of emotional and spiritual distress in their wake.
I think we all know what I’m talking about. The person who becomes the walking catechism, the person who insists on debates on a regular basis. I have taken to sitting down, and keeping my thoughts inside. It’s been difficult at times, since I get excited about things, but I have learned there’s a lot to be said for that whole pearls before swine thing. Especially if I do not want to be or be seen as a robot. (And yes, I know that there are some people who will always perceive you thus, no matter what you say or how gracious you are. Let us pray: “Lord in your mercy! Have pity on those who perceive us as mindless robots, and get them some oil for their own hinges. Amen.”)
There’s nothing wrong with sharing, but I refuse to let myself substitute one fundamentalism for another.
My sponsor, Papa Smurf, says that that’s the real tragedy. People get out of Fundamentalism, but they don’t give up being fundamentalists, as if they never learned what the real issue was in the first place. They have simply changed churches instead of being transformed in the interior life by the sacraments and the Community of Faith.
I have tried to make journey as moral and spiritual as it is academic and theological. The blog has helped a lot in this process because it asks me to think through the faith and present my ideas and life to an audience. I think I have been learning a lot by doing this. My vacation from blogging taught me a lot of practical things, and I learned that I’m not superman along the way. I have seen friends or read stories about people who cut themselves off from all life, and the only thing that matters is their new faith, or the transition or the mass conversion of all their friends and family.
I have tried my best to make my journey broader than that.
I have seen some though who become militant in their journey. Just like the Cybermen, they violate human dignity for some higher ideal, some greater good, when Christ teaches us that he embodies every single act of charity, not acts of theological or spiritual arrogance. If this is you, go find a hug, go appreciate life, paint a picture, listen to music, be human. Where we gather according to His way, he is there. Your Protestant, Atheist, Muslim and Hindu friends don’t need an “upgrade” they need exposure to a charitable disciple. They need an evangelist who preaches with actions and then and only then, words. I mean, there’s a need for healthy separation, but being Catholic isn’t the end of thought at all. The worst testimony to your faith is to be a walking book of doctrine or the jumpy-evangelist. The best example is to be loving, thoughtful and meek.
Many of my friends from college have converted or re-verted back to the Faith, and many are success stories, and I appreciate watching them grow, but some others simply stop thinking. Some simply re-quote things, and have let dogma become their answer instead of the method by which they approach all else. They have become, as it were, thoughtless, and I understand there are practical reasons this happens from time to time, but it frustrates me to see brilliant minds left unattended. Lobotomized, as it were.
I have discovered that Catholicism has become a lens through which i see all else. Some call it Christianity, some call it Catholicism, I call it both, but its my lens, it’s my way of looking at the world. Being Christian is not about ideas, it is about a worldview. A commenter, Mike recently shared the quote “They call it Christianity, I call it consciousness” and I could not agree more. Jesus’ lordship really has a claim on me, and it is really transformative of the way I see everything else.
I have discovered the moral and spiritual lens by which I see the world, and it invites me to think, and to feel and to experience the world Christianly. Christianity and specifically the Catholic faith have invited me to see think and feel through God’s love and His call to be a disciple. I have not stopped thinking, in fact I am learning what it means to think, to feel, to have faith and to be human all over again.
So, I haven’t touched on this issue in a while and it’s partially out of neglect for my blog, and partially because it’s a bit of a touchy subject sometimes. But here we are, and I know you all love reading about my personal life, so here we go.
I stopped pastoring for many reasons, none of them include me hating the Church or thinking all Protestants are hell-bound heretics. I think I stopped pastoring mostly as a matter of integrity.
Here’s what I mean, I was a good leader, in my own opinion. I worked hard, studied and spoke well, and developed some hopefully lasting effects on my previous church. However, I didn’t ever see eye-to-eye with them. It was a job. One where my faith had to be hidden, and where my allegiances to Rome and the Church Fathers had to be kept secret because a different Tradition had superseded the Catholic ones in my church.
I served well, and even saw lasting effects in my kids and in the adults I taught on Sunday evenings, but it was a job. I know that at my alma mater, the spiritual advisors were not often the people with the titles but that weird kid on the floor who just seemed to know God. I was one of those guys, at least I’ve been told I was one of those guys. The program tried to capitalize on me, but I always preferred my indirect approach, my counsel at two in the morning in the living room for our dorm, where we could sip coffee and talk about real life. I never joined that program.
I was incredibly shocked when I became a pastor. It’s not that I didn’t have the gift for it, I just had never intended it, in my first year of overzealous Christian efforts I thought I might sell all my belongings and start a worldwide ministry in Asia or something, but after that first year, I came back to where God was calling me.
I have always been the go-to-guy, but never the pastoring type. I love answering questions, I love talking about God, but I don’t know that pastoring was my calling. I’m still thinking about priesthood in the Eastern Catholic rite, but that’s neither here nor there. I have lots of questions and few answers. Getting back to the point, I feel I never really retired. Sure I let behind a title, which some people still use. Some call me Reverend, which always makes me laugh or blush or otherwise shy, and some use pastor which still makes me giggle, but is a bit easier to stomach. I left behind a title, but pastoring is forever. I still minister to my friends, to my colleagues, to the people I work with.
Thursday I went on a sales call for my new job, and I had a great time. Earlier that day i had been reading Pope John Paul II’s thoughts on the subject of work in his book The Way to Christ and I loved what he had to say. He basically said that work is a means to an end and never an end. It can be seen as providing something useful to those who receive our work. We can and must see our clients as humans, as beneficiaries of the services we provide in whatever work we do. He said that work can humanize us to the extent that we allow it to humanize those we come into contact with.
I wrote my girlfriend, the Secret Vatican Spy and told her as much before I met with my clients, and that changed the entire tone of the meeting in my mind. I had had this vision more or less in mind, but with the words of the Holy Father I was set. I knew what it meant, and I knew that it would have positive effects on my work life. My boss has the same view, he never pushes a sale, we are guests and servants, ministering with the work of our hands and the talents imparted to us to help renovate homes. I believe i what I do because I see the help that it can bring. I love that.
Another thing that I have been working on is attending my friend’s Tea and Theology which is an informal seminar on all things theological. Last time we talked about ecumenism. Last night we talked about the relevance and importance of the doctrine of the Trinity in daily life and how it applies not just as an idea of God, but how it can become part of our worldview.
The tea and theology group really helps me be in community outside the Catholic sphere which can be helpful in maintaining a hierarchy of priorities. I think the Tea and Theology group has invited me to participate in acts of charity, answering questions and testing my Catholic faith without being attacked. It’s a safe environment and one where there’s an orthodox leaning friend, a guy who grew up calvinist and is now as he terms himself “post-protestant” since he feels like he’s not actively protesting the Catholic church, a Charismatic Evangelical and another charismatic who is attending RCIA classes at another parish here in town. The intra-faith perspectives are really helpful and the pastoral bent that these talks sometimes take is definitely helpful in the transition.
I may not be a pastor in title anymore, despite the fact that I guess I’m still legally such, it’s comforting to have other things to do in the Church. I love my friends, I love my girlfriend and the way she facilitates this sometimes arduous transition. I mean, I miss my people, I miss the intensity of the pastoral life, I miss the projects and the deadlines, and the frustrations, the failures and fears. I miss the budget meetings sometimes, and the stale smell of that southern baptist sanctuary, i miss the lovely people, and the way they loved me.
My life after pastoring though, is one of peace. I have rest, I have struggles too, and difficulties, not least of which has been actually settling in to all the changes. But in the long and short of it, I have rest, I have peace. i have time to meditate and to study, I have time to think and to feel, and to live. I appreciate the silences, and the sunsets more, and I have found that when life makes no sense, and I don’t have the answers, I’m part of a larger family of faith.
My priest is awesome, he’s welcoming, and encouraging, our deacon is a thoughtful and quiet man, my sponsor is the most humble man to ever live, after Jesus; my girlfriend is a portrait of Christian courage and stands strong for family values and supports me at every turn. My friends have been really supportive, my friend who grew up Calvinist is a wonderfully thoughtful man, and he’s extremely encouraging. I love everything about where I am.
Sometimes I miss being a pastor, and then I realize I never really left anything but the title. I have retired my rebellions against the Roman congregation, and come into the fullness of faith. We are all sacramental manifestations of the Lord until he comes. I still help, I still do everything I did before becoming a professional pastor. I was a pastor before the title, and remain pastoral after the title has left me. I just do so with a bigger Church and bigger purpose in mind, and I don’t need to invent the answers. I love being able to turn to the saints openly, and to be humble enough to seek answers with instead of for my friends. I love being able to share in Christ’s work where I am right now, especially since it involves tea, and theology.
Hey all, sorry i have been absent, life has been hectic, welcome back, and thanks for the patience. Let’s get right into it.
Have you ever read that verse and been like…whoa? I know I have.
Anyways, some people i have been talking to recently feel that people received into the Church (still rather erroneously called converts) hate where they came from.
I want to say two things:
1) This is not always the case, and in fact I think it’s rarer than some assume.
2) I think that there are legitimate reasons this appears to be the case.
Jesus says that unless we hate mother, and brother, and father and sister for his sake, we are not worthy of Him. I think many people coming into full communion go through a process where they have to break from the old. They can’t put new wine in old wineskins, much less can they fit the Catholic faith which is broad and wide and deep, into the protestant/other religious life they once had which is often more shallow. The Catholic Church is like having a full set of tools in a big enough tool box. Where protestantism is like having various tools and various toolbox sizes depending on your denomination.
In fact, When I look at the verse I titled the post with I think that there’s something positive to be said about taking an axe to your former faith. I think that there needs to be a pruning, there needs to be a chipping away of the smallness of what your faith used to be. I think there needs to be a cutting away of closed doors. Sometimes this might look like a lot of shutting doors. But I think ultimately we come full circle and find that we’ve been closing extremely small doors, to throw wide the large doors to a large house, the house of the Catholic Church.
I think we find that we’ve closed some small fringe doors to mouse-holes that we’ve taken, but find that there are infinitely larger doors and infinitely larger answers and spaces for our minds to play.
I know that in my life, I’ve tried to be as Catholic as possible for the past year and a half theologically, but I don’t have everything down. In fact, the other day I said something really stupid, and it was foolish and uncharitable, to be honest. I was wrong, and sometimes we are wrong. Sometimes we prune the wrong thing, we close the wrong door.
I try to remind myself that confirmation and reception are the fullness of faith, a broadening, a deepening, an opening of new paths. I focus on what new unexplored ventures await me in the counsel of the saints. I try not to be rigid about my faith and I know I still fail at being as gracious as some other converts I know. I think that the time waiting has served me well, but I’m not perfect.
I feel like I have had to close my options from some theologians I used to really enjoy, simply because I believe differently in some areas now. This is not to say I cannot have a healthy appreciation of them in the future, it just means I’m not ready for that appreciation to not dominate my life and make my reception more difficult where they might disagree with my decision to enter full communion.
There are reasons to shut the door on your former faith in some ways, and I’m not presenting an exhaustive list, but here are a few:
1) To solidify a renewed identity in your faith
2) To be stronger in your convictions
3) Because full communion is a heavily internal process
Sometimes converts are less like joyful lambs, and more like yipping chihuahuas. The bark can terrify some people, but these are moments, this is a baby learning that hitting is not ok, this is a child learning to stand on two legs, this is a gardener pruning and tending a garden and killing what she perceives as weeds.
Confirmation and reception for me, are less like uprooting a tree and planting another, and more like taking said tree, and adding a new branch. I see my reception into the Catholic faith as an ingrafting. I have learned a lot as a protestant and without my initial conversion to Christianity, I could never come into the fullness of faith.
Do I always get it right?
But I do know one thing: I am grateful for where I come from.
I am grateful for my Pentecostal/Charismatic school. I am grateful for my protestant friends, pastors and leaders. I am grateful for my own parents who raised me well in the faith so that I cannot depart from it. I am grateful for those experiences which have shaped me, as flawed and unlovely as I can be sometimes. I might be dirty with sin and sometimes with frustrations and irritations that cause me to sin against my protestant brothers and sisters, and for this, I am sorry.
I might have laid an axe to my tree, but only to cut a place where I can make room for a new and growing faith to spring up into fullness right beside it.I may have pruned some pentecostal-charismaticism, but only to fulfill my pentecostal faith with a tree that bears much fruit. I may have taken out some parts of my former faith, and I might be rough around the edges, but I still have a relationship with Jesus; I still love Him. I ask you to pray for me and talk to me along the way, if I’m really rough around the edges, pruning isn’t an easy task, and I could use some loving hands.
If you’re married, you’ll get this right off the bat. If not, you’ll know what I’m talking about too, since I’m not married.
Spouses make mistakes. We all know this. It’s not a mystery. Those we love hurt us, sometimes even very profoundly. It’s awful that this happens. That much is true. Yet, Sometimes we expect some sort of perfection from faith.
Faith is disappointing at times. But that doesn’t mean you love it any less. The disciples were disappointed that Jesus left their hopes dashed, did not conquer the Romans and in fact died a shameful death at the hands of Pagans. Yet they didn’t forsake him utterly.
I guess this is my first “Reasons I’m Catholic” post. I didn’t want to present a huge apologetic, or a fantastically solid defense of doctrine. I could do that. I have done that. Today I’m not in the mood. Today, I want to tell you something.
My Church is flawed, She is wounded, She is hurt by the failures of bishops and individuals, through sins of omission and commission. However strong she is, there seem to be people always screwing things up. Sometimes She needs my help, at others I need hers.
How can we expect faith to be anything other than an echo of marriage? If that’s the case, then Christians are the ones who run to God and His Church in their hour of need. Marriage isn’t getting all your needs met, it’s meeting the needs of others. When I join the community of Faith I marry Christ, and in some sense His people.
Despite abuses, and misunderstandings and failures in communication, I love my Church the way one loves their spouse. She has made mistakes, but she’s still Holy. She isn’t perfect, but she’s mine.
I love my Church, I love her, her songs, and her worship, her theology and presence and power. She extends fellowship to the poorest of the poor, and makes the rich tremble, she stands firm against the desecration of life, and makes peace where there is war. She incites peaceful revolutions, and upholds human dignity. Her servants, her children, stand strong in the name of virtue, and defend the cause of widows, of lepers, of those condemned to death. She is not perfect, other of her children falter, they flag, the wound her, yet she stands.
I love this woman, Church. Mother Church, for all her imperfections is still wholly perfect to me. She is filled with human beings and while some are running away in this time, or staying away from conversion for fear, I am running to her. I need her. I love her.
You may say, “She’s all corrupt from the top-down!” Yet, give her to me corrupt and I shall clean her, give her to me imperfect, and I shall wipe her tears. Give her to me, where you might cast a stone, and I will stand for her, protecting her, loving her. I have given myself to my faith, and she is mine. I have given myself to Jesus, and I am His.
Where you might sneer, or jest I shall lay down my cloak for the Bride of Christ. Where you would point fingers of accusation, I will spread my cloak over her, and place the ring that binds us in confirmation upon her finger. Where you would call me away from so strange a Church, I say that I shall run to her because of her quirks. Where you would question her son the Pope, I say, my oldest, wisest living brother in Christ likely knows the way in which Mother and Father know best.
I see her flaws, I see the wounded across history. I see their tears, but I don’t see them alone. She does too. She weeps for her faults, she repents for her mistakes. She affirms man and woman, she makes way for the celebration of life and light. She offers me the Bread of Life when I am hungry. I know she is imperfect. I know her citizens, her children can damage her image, and yet she stands. Embattled, she looks resplendent. In times of war she brings calm and offers asylum to all who would run to her houses.
When the world has cast us out, it is always she who welcomes us, calls to us and takes us in. Mother Church, with Mother Mary, and all the saints. Where my friends have failed to pray for me, her saints, her blessed children never have. Where I have been left hungry or alone, she has shown me that I am not alone, and that brothers and sisters worldwide feel this same hunger. Where I have lacked direction, she has given me libraries of counselors and saints who have all quested after the Triune God through her embrace, and real flesh and blood men and women of wisdom, and virtue; shaped in the fires of sacrifice these have shared depths of understanding that pierce through my everyday.
How shall I judge so great a lady and esteem her fallen?
Where shall I rise to stand above her? By what authority, whether heavenly, or earthly shall I judge this great and holy Mother Church? By what right shall I cast shallow and snide judgments on the bride of my Lord?
If she is who she says she is, then despite her disappointing me from time to time, it is with her I shall stand. I have made my peace with the fact that She has authority over me, and that though my water of purification was not at its time, she has asked me to let Christ make wine, and so I shall. She has told me to take hold of this new wine, and celebrate new life, and new virtue in the fullness of faith. She has called me to rejoicing, she has called me to her side, and asked me to join a family larger than any I could have dreamed of.
Where shall I stand? On the authority of the Bible? She has written it and given it to me. By the authority of secularism? She defeats every attack on logic with her compelling and powerful words of wisdom. She is the gift of the Logos Himself. By the authority of Christ? He Himself gave her over to us through the apostles. By the history of the Reformation? A rebellious priest/monk is no basis of comparison to the Church Fathers. Where shall I find the higher ground to hold her as inferior to the “freedom” which my evangelical upbringing brought to me? Certainly not in Charismatic expressions of faith, because she is their origin. The One Church has never stopped being Charismatic.
There is no authority then by which I shall presume to judge her worthy of condemnation. If this be the case, then to call her Mother, to take upon myself the surname of Catholic, is simply an act of spousal love. I have tried to refute her, I had tried to dissuade myself, but for all my damnable logic, it was love that overpowered me. I have only one choice, to Love my God, and to love my neighbor, if these are the commandments, then to be Catholic is simply the most logical and most loving way to go about these commands. No other Church has spent as much time or energy fighting poverty, or abuse or famine or suffering. She may be imperfect in my eyes at times, but it is especially in these imperfections that I must run to her. Where I notice a weakness, I must rebuild the walls of Rome with all my brothers and sisters, and together we shall love her and those she gives to us.
I love the Church, and from Her I shall never depart, she is my Mother, and it is through her Motherhood that I have come to once again call God my Father.
I just finished my last Sunday as a protestant preacher. My year of covert Catholicism has finally come to an end, and I am now free to embrace the fullness of faith, fully.
I never expected it to be like this.
I am sad.
I thought there would be a sudden release, maybe a glorious light from heaven, a pillar of fire, hell I would have settled for a shooting star. I just feel a bit thoughtful.
My people gathered about me, they prayed for me, they exhorted me, and I feel happy, it’s a bittersweet happiness, but nevertheless.
I preached my last sermon from the First Epistle of St. Peter, and I loved it. It was just, thoughtful. I don’t know how to put into words how I feel.
I’m still collecting myself.
Anyways, just pray for me. I’m turning a page, and I’m not sure what adventures await as I get ready to cross the Tiber.
This week is going to be really hectic, but I have written some posts that you might enjoy. Also, make sure to tune into Kassie’s blog in case you miss me. She’s a way better blogger than I am, and I love reading her stuff.
I suppose if I were to summarize tonight and this past year: humility.
I learned to put away my desires, and support others, in thier quest for God. I know that I feel called across the Tiber, back into full communion, but the beautiful love that I experienced tonight, there are no words. I just wanted to thank you for your prayers, I’ll write about this more as the thoughts coalesce and become lucid.
Do Not Be an Ex-Protestant
Listen. To. Me.
Don’t do it.
This is one of the most important things you can keep in mind to survive your conversion before and after reintegration with the Roman congregation.
When I first started attending mass, once I went with a friend who brought an older woman with us to lunch afterwards. She was bitter, and angry. She was less a Catholic and more an ex-protestant. I do not claim to judge her heart, but I do claim to observe her actions as well as my own and those of many converts.
I understand that we carry hurt, we carry pain, we carry fear, and anger and sorrow. We carry anger and loss, and disillusion. But, we also carry Christ, we carry crosses, we carry one another.
I understand that this is a process, that no one is perfect and that we all go through refining and sifting. Just like in relationships, breaking up or taking off an engagement ring does not just restore you to what you once were, you have to go through a reassessment. You have to take the time to develop and to grow.
Just a note: There will be bitterness. There will be anguish. There will be sorrow.
However, this does not have to define us.
Sometimes we get caught on a strongly militant wave of emotion and we attack anything protestant. We are focused on being not-protestant instead of simply being Catholic. Instead of choosing to affirm something we seek to negate something else. If you spend all your time developing yourself by the shape of your enemies, you have nothing to stand on. If you’re determined to be an ex-calvinist, or an ex-evangelical, you’re missing the point.
And to be fair, we all have moments of anger, frustration and bitterness. We all have times where we fall short, or get caught in an “us vs. them” mentality. Converts especially bring a lot of vigor and enthusiasm and passion for the faith with them, but unless it’s eventually properly redirected towards a constructive means, it ends up like adrenaline, turning out to be poison instead of power.
Actively Making a Choice
Eventually, we all need to make a choice for the Church. We need to make a choice to lose the embattled mindset and find things to engage in.
Choose a patron, a spiritual discipline, a prelate, a penance, an indulgence, and do these things. Be for the Church, be for her active call in your daily life, not just her academic call in the thoughts of your mind. Being Catholic is about bodies engaged in worship, find a good work and do this.
You do not have to fit the entire Catholic faith into your mind, rather let yourself swim in the faith, in the scandalous freedom to be and have grace and the sacraments. Let your heart delight in the mysteries, in the call of the saints to worship and behold God. Remember why you wanted to convert in the first place. Was it logic? Or reason? Surely there was some of that. However, what about passion and presence?
Make a choice to be humble, and define yourself by the Church instead of against your “enemies” or those you used to commune with.
If you wish to lord over others, you will fail. If you want to bash others with your truth, you are disgracing the Church and her call to worship. Be an example of the Catholic life. This is your best apologetic.
Be Catholic, Be for the Church
Instead of being a douchebag ex-protestant running around trouncing evangelical Christians, be Catholic, be for the Church, for the poor, for the broken and the needy. Be for the world and all its needs, be for their redemption through your life and your participation in the cross of Christ.
Be for the Church in all her splendor and in all her humble teachings. Be for her in the same way one should be for a lover. Be available to Mother Church, be available to serve her, instead of rejoicing that you are not the husband of every ugly woman that passes by, rejoice that you have the most beautiful wife in the world. Instead of sneering over those with faith that you consider incomplete, serve them, and DO NOT be an ex-protestant.
Simply be Catholic, and watch what God does through your life, your spirituality, and your virtues. In the name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Welcome to the Conversion Survival Guide, a new category at the Practical Catholic. This is my project at developing some guidance, and really a handbook for conversion. I understand that my experiences are not comprehensive, you might feel I’m wrong. Talk to me, tell me what’s up. Anyways, let’s get to it.
I Have Some Rules that shape my Conversion Survival Guide. I feel that these might help you along too. I want to offer these things I have gleaned from the experiences I have had recently.
The first rule of the Conversion Survival Guide is:
Don’t talk about conversion.
The Second rule of Conversion is:
Don’t talk about conversion.
1) Shut up.
Look, I have one piece of advice. Sit down. Shut up. Be ready to learn. You are not the Catholic Church, you are not the Magisterium. You have a long road of unlearning ahead. I have a long road of unlearning ahead of me. I don’t mean don’t talk about conversion at all. But don’t throw it around carelessly. This is already a difficult process and letting the wrong friends or persons know about your conversion can bring a heavy burden to your doorstep. Besides, until you’ve developed the sensibility to not pick fights or take ignorance as personally as you might, you’re likely to do more damage than good.
Protestant pastoring has taught me to use feelings and intuitions rather than sources. I have to unlearn seeing myself as an authority and learn to take upon myself the light yoke of the Church and of Christ. I have to learn to read the documents that shape my faith, and I am held accountable to them. However, not only this. I need to learn to let the entire life of the Church transform me. I need her theology and her practice of the faith.
It feels like blessed relief to not have to make things up. As a protestant pastor I felt the burden to kinda “wing it” where as a Catholic, I don’t have to do that. It’s nice. But even now, it’s not just a head thing, it’s a heart thing. I have to even more actively take upon myself to learn humility, and service to the entire body of Christ.
2) Do NOT become a convert-apologist.
Seriously, shut up. Stop trying to convert everyone. They are not your flock, they’re his. They’re your friends, but they’re the Lord’s sheep. They are your spouse, but you can take your time, and be patient. Trust God to help you meekly express your faith with patience. Do your homework, but do not go about trying to reform all the protestants in your life and make them see the light you have found. Be Patient, do not lord your new faith over others.
If you want to express the validity of your faith, shut up, be patient, and suffer. You think I’m kidding. I’m not. Endure it, and in doing so people will see what kind of God you’re really serving. You will be accused of apostasy, of being “religious,” of causing scandal and of being misguided, fallen and stupid. People will not want to “talk” they will want to unload their presuppositions on you, and this will try to make you defensive.
My suggestion is to be silent, offer little to no argument. If it is a lost cause, let it be. Do not answer the source of your frustration with venomous retort, because in doing so you debase your faith. If you have nothing nice to say, go to mass. For the love of God, shut the (insert choice word here) up.
The only defense the Church needs is humble Catholics embracing their task to worship and celebrate the victory of God through their actions. This will not happen in a moment as much as in a practice of lifelong growth in humility.
As a former pastor, the temptation is to bring as many with you as possible, but the best way to do this is a humble procession ever towards Christ and His Church, not a rampaging papist-imperial march on Potluck Baptist Fellowship and brother so-and-so or deacon-JohnCalvinFan.
Let the Lord work through your determination to humility and patience, instead of leaving him a mess of spiritual fallout and poisonous representation to clean up after you. Don’t be a tornado, be a breeze, blow through refreshing others and not leaving a swathe of destruction in your wake. I understand that this is not always possible, some of us have the St. Paul anointing, and cause riots with even our most innocent actions towards devotion to the Truth. However, in the best of your ability, be at peace with others, and refresh them with the odor of Christ that flows from your wounds. Let them perceive him in the piercings upon your soul just as Thomas did with Christ.
3) Dedicate time to being silent and learning.
Take a year, and refuse to argue.
Take it upon yourself to build a foundation instead of defending a loosely gathered village of ideas. If you are looking for a fight you’ll find it, but your Catholic identity will not coagulate into a firm foundation that is as moral and spiritual as it is rational and theological.
The best theological argument for being Catholic is humility, active penance, and a charitable spirit when engaging your protestant brothers and sisters. Take a year and build a good apologetic basis, but as a defense, not an offense.
Apologetics is a spiritual and moral process as much as a logical and rational process. You cannot carry out true apologetics without humility. Drop the arguing, drop the theological talks with people who will anger you. Take up good works, that people may glorify the One who has called you into Communion.
Shut up, and let God humble you, so that when the ichor has left your heart you may be gracious and offer pearls, not to swine, but to those who will heed your words.
Not casting pearls before swine is as much about knowing who and what swine are as it is about letting the pearl develop in you through pain, and in secret. Once you have acquired this great treasure, you will recognize its value and treasure it, rather than throwing it about.
Trust me, and sit down, shut up. Or else you will regret it later. After your year is up, if you need more time, take it. It’s not a problem to need time to develop virtue, it is a problem to forego virtue and attempt to still speak the Truth. Take time and finish your conversion. Dedicate yourself to it fully. Don’t forget that there is time. There is always time to talk later. Make sure that you have become Catholic, and are not just breaking away from a former faith. Don’t define yourself by your enemies. Choose yourself for something, and in doing so, you will have made headway into the meaning of the faith. Choose a personal cause, a person, an act of penance and service, choose a healthy and helpful relationship. Dedicate yourself to it.
That’s how you survive conversion, maybe it’s not as difficult as you’ve made it.
Feedback is always welcome, even if you disagree, or want to crucify me on your front lawn. Have a nice day.