Visitation Rites (Part Two)
Alright, last time on The Practical Catholic we talked about some ideas behind how to visit Protestant churches and how to be charitable in the midst of what can sometimes be an awkward transition.
I think there are three major requirements for visiting Churches that are non-Catholic in the midst of transition into full communion.
This is the big one. I don’t always agree with Protestant friends on various issues, but I have found that my most powerful fallback in times of trial is patience, and charitable action. If we intend to visit, let’s make sure it’s with the right hearts.
If you’re stuck in a situation where you have to go to a Protestant church out of necessity, be it familial or otherwise, make sure you’re praying before, and just pray with intentions for your own virtues, for patience, charity, graciousness, and love.
If you have Protestant friends who invite you to participate in an event or assist, don’t be bothered or offended at the invitation. Sometimes conversion is a grueling process of discernment, but make sure your private life is carrying on strongly enough to empower you for public “ministry” when others call on you.
Every charitable act in your process of conversion and after is an advent of the Catholic claim on who and what Christ and His Church truly are and mean to humanity.
I went to college. I learned the Catholic faith through education. Some have made the journey through visiting a Catholic parish, or through friends or other means. Look back on your journey with acceptance of your former ignorance of the beauty and glory of the faith, and be empathetic. Instead of shutting down, breathe deep the faith of the Fathers, and be actively excited to share your faith, when asked. There will be some who attempt to trap you in arguments or want to test your faith, insofar as you can handle these graciously and with humility feel free to engage.
When in a service, remember that these people are carrying on the traditions which they were handed by various ministers and movements, and their faithfulness to these things is an echo of what you have found. Don’t be snide, or arrogant, remember how you felt when you discovered God as a Protestant, and what you now know.
Sometimes it hurts to hold up a mirror to the past and look and see where we come from, but it’s in that pain and memory we can find humility and gentleness to understand the ignorance or lack of exposure of others.
My sponsor is an incredible man. He has taught me humility.
When I first began my conversion process I was excited, and full of questions and doubts, and those doubts having been answered quickly went to my head. Having a great memory for theology I could quote anyone on anything and provide a Catholic answer to any question, but I lost my heart. I lost my passion for Christ and replaced it with a passion for certainty.
I learned a lot from my sponsor thusfar, he’s the most humble man I know, and he has no qualms, no claims. He’s rather quiet, he’s shy, and thoughtful, but he’s like a human Aslan from C.S. Lewis’ great Narnia series. He’s virtuous, and while not much to behold at first glance, (unlike Aslan) he is full of the wisdom of a hard-fought battle to overcome pride. He’s genius, and thought provoking because he has no claim to greatness.
In my conversion process from Atheism, I had many people try to lord over me, and I wanted this. I wanted mentors, but they quickly became self-autocrating militant radicals who were building mini-spiritual-armies. This man on the other hand, leaves me free. As Christ’s love, he makes room for me to grow and calls me to higher standards through his example. He is someone Father Poemen of the Desert would say has truly learned the way of Christ. He does not lord over any, he has taught me what it means to be a charitable Catholic.
I have never respected any man more than this man except perhaps Venerable John Paul II. But they both taught me the heart of ecumenism. It’s not jettisoning things that make us disagree, it’s agreeing that Christ is Lord and that His Spirit has anointed us in different ways and that we can have a true sharing of gifts instead of an exchange of words, or a war of ideas.
When visiting a service which is non-Catholic, keep these things in mind and if you are seriously grieved by the process of the service keep a rosary in your pocket or purse that you can count prayers on concealed. Or just recite the Jesus prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner” and remember that all who say this prayer or one like it are fellows in one company, even if we cannot have a visible unity at the moment.