Visitation Rites (Part One)

Here at the Practical Catholic, we’re all about ecumenism and working together. This is another post to my little themed category called the “Conversion Survival Guide” which you might want to check out if you know a convert, are a convert, or are thinking about coming into full communion with the Catholic Church.

Today’s post is about visiting Protestant Churches while in the catechetical and post-confirmation process.

I think we have a lot to learn from the separated brethren we commonly call protestants. I have three major and practical reasons for this claim.

1) We live in a post-protestant age, mostly.

Most “Protestants” are done protesting actively, and some have ceased altogether. Many Christians of the protestant traditions have stopped seeing Catholics as the enemy. Some still actively hold these views, but they’re dying off and many people are in the position of inquirers. Many are curious or could become curious through a simple dialogue that charitably undoes misconceptions without slamming the catechism down someone’s throat.

Many of my Protestant friends have grown to tolerate or even appreciate Catholicism through the charitable conversations they have had with other Catholics that were positive examples.

This is a time when many Protestants feel their lack of history, or are at the very least, beginning to feel it. Catholics have the sacraments, we have the creeds, and they have stopped protesting, but it’s still incumbent upon Catholics and Protestants to work together towards reconciling the breach we call the “Reformation.”

And if all else fails, there’s the whole, love your neighbor thing, that might be good to keep in mind from time to time.

2)There are things that Protestant churches get right.

I know this may shock you, but it’s true.

We should respect the Spirit where He is at work, and upbuild the future of reunification through the gifts and fruit of the Spirit at work in the churches. The Protestant emphasis on the gifts has been taken to the extreme, and detrimentally for persons like myself who reject the emotionalism but sometimes throw out more than is worth doing.

I want to be honest here: I am not Mr. Charitable, in fact, I’m rude, and belligerent sometimes. Sometimes I’m coarse, or mean when I am trying to be patient, or simply refuse to be patient. I do not always listen with the intent of helping someone along, but I’m learning to at the very least bite my tongue.

I am sometimes a cesspool of bitterness at my past, but I’m learning to work through it slowly. As my sponsor says: Being Catholic means working with a full set of tools. Even the tool called humility. Especially the tool called humility. This means we should learn from the activity of the Spirit where he is truly at work in other churches that bear the name Christian. If these are separated brothers and the Lord uses them, what might we learn through His activity in their midst?

I think Protestants have got the right intentions with the laity. There I said it. Priesthood of all believers: yes. Catholics rightly affirm a difference between ordained priests and the sanctified Christian laity, but we are all types of priest. Baptism or Chrismation depending on your rite/tradition are a type of ordination that are not the sacrament of holy orders, but upon enjoining themselves to the One Church through baptism all Christians are mediators of Christ’s presence spiritually. All Christians are called to religious vocation, and Protestant churches often aim right, and sometimes get it right in this respect.

I think Protestants have a good idea for contemporary worship, often but not always in bad form. What I mean is, the use of contemporary music isn’t bad, it’s just that a lot of contemporary music is theologically atrocious. The Church has for two millenia used her music to teach and affirm the gospel, not us, our emotional state, or our desire to make worship meaningful for us. Worship, like the liturgy should be about God, and His praise and our recognition of His Holiness, goodness, and the mystery that is the Eucharistic gift.

I think we have a lot to learn from each other. I do not think the Catholic Church should be more Protestant by any means, I think she should be fully Catholic. What I have noticed is that there is among some Catholics I now a fear of claiming all Truth as ours. Whereas ancients used even pagan celebrations rewritten to tell the story of the gospel, I see my friends rejecting even where Protestantism succeeds in Truth, or in things that might be truthful. I think that’s one of the biggest tragedies of our day, is the fear of being a Catholic with an ecumenical agenda that is “progressive” because one thinks that maybe Protestants might have gotten something right somewhere in there. I for one reject that such persons are “progressive” because the standards of Orthodoxy are intact and so long as we uphold the dogmas of the Church and observe the canons of the Church we may do as we wish, and in that there is freedom.

When I visited a Protestant church last week, I felt the presence of Christ’s Spirit. I do not feel ashamed for saying so. Of course he was not there bodily, but his presence was in the midst of a people seeking to call Him to themselves through song, and worship and word. I noticed a familiar feeling, and a beauty to it that was not alien to how I feel in the mass. They were not identical, but they were similar. I think it’s incumbent upon us to learn that we have 90% in common, and the 10% difference is a matter of clearing misconceptions and working with greater fervor for the spiritual transformations necessary in the laities for the reunification of all the churches with Rome.

3) No one likes a prideful windbag

Well, I mean it’s succint, it’s right there. But let’s talk about some practical tips for visitation.

If you’re a catechumen and not a Catholic, taking communion isn’t really a problem, insofar as it would cause less scandal to do so.

If you’re going to disagree with the preacher, or someone else, hide your disgust or disagreement and recognize that these pople are often trying to be as faithful as possible given the tools that they have.

If you really can not find charity in your heart while visiting another church that is not Catholic, maybe you need to reexamine your interior life, and remember that Christ is not bound to the Church, but the Church is bond to Christ. Christ may use whomever and whatever He wishes and while we disagree with the form and some of the content of the Protestant churches, we cannot deny that Christ moves in their midst.

Let’s talk about some more tips on charity next time.


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4 responses to “Visitation Rites (Part One)”

  1. Mike says :

    Hey Eli,

    I’ve never really been a convert, but I fully agree with your what you’ve said about ecumenism. I think it’s important to extend it beyond our immediate theological neighbours as well. You mentioned how Christianity uses metaphors from ancient paganism to explain the gospel, I think similarly we have much to learn from Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and other faiths of our brothers and sisters.

    On another note, I don’t really want to keep bringing up the same topics (especially because this one can be kind of sensitive) but something set off my “definition alarm”.

    “the fear of being a Catholic with an ecumenical agenda that is “progressive” because one thinks that maybe Protestants might have gotten something right somewhere in there. I for one reject that such persons are “progressive” because the standards of Orthodoxy are intact and so long as we uphold the dogmas of the Church and observe the canons of the Church”

    My issue with this is that you seem to be setting a theological dichotomy between “progressive” and “orthodox”, and maybe its just my reading of it but you seem to be suggesting that “progressive” beliefs aren’t within the dogmas or canons of the Church.

    The problem I see is that you seem to be using a different spectrum than the normal (and in my mind uselessly polarizing) theological spectrum which goes from “progressive” to “traditional”. What is seems like you’ve done is replaced “traditional” with “orthodox”. Since we both agreed in a previous discussion that its the goal of every Catholic to be Orthodox (whatever that means), this is the equivalent of replacing liberal or conservative with “correct” on the usual political spectrum. In other words, it’s not much use at all, and both terms used to describe the spectrum become useless since they are just politically charged ways of saying “right” and “wrong”.

    My question is, if you hold a belief that other people would call progressive, why do you try to define the label away rather than accepting it? Do you not think that you can hold progressive beliefs on some issues and traditional beliefs on others and still be Orthodox?

    Again, I hate to put too much focus on what was overall a very small part of your piece, and like I said I agree with most everything you’ve written, and I look forward to reading more. I’ll stop myself here before I go on too long about how it seems to me these labels allow us to easily dismiss other people’s ideas, especially in a heavily fractured medium like blogging where ignoring someone is worryingly easy. Maybe another time 😉

    Look forward to reading more,

  2. Eli says :

    Mike, you raise great points. I don’t think progressive is opposite of Orthodox, not in the least. That’s the beauty of Catholicism. SOme hate it for being too liberal, others hate it for being too conservative. No one seems to be able to reach consensus on what the Church is, truly. Liberal or Conservative. With good reason.

    Thanks for pointing that out to me because it was not my intention to shape the discussion that way in the least.

    Great observation, and thanks for helping me keep journalistic integrity.

  3. Mike says :

    Hey Eli,

    Glad we agree then! I apologize if I came of a bit confrontational, it wasn’t my intention. And like I said, it was only really a minor thing.

  4. Eli says :

    Not at all, I enjoy your comments, always. ^_^

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