Even though I would have never previously admitted that there is a need for authority outside of the Bible, I began to realize that there were popes all around me. Every pulpit came with a pope. He would never say it, or believe it. And he would encourage me to go home and read for myself and let the Holy Spirit speak to me. Maybe your pastor has said this, too. Well intentioned? Yes. Born from a sincere desire for each member of the congregation to know God deeply and personally through His Word? Yes! But truly, had I taken his advice and came up with another interpretation of the same passage he preached on that day, would I be allowed to preach my angle from the pulpit? I knew I wouldn't. Of course not. None of us would. There is authority, there has to be. In your church now, it is there. Still, we are divided. A church on every corner reminds me that there are countless men and women, reading the exact same book, under the inspiration of the exact same Holy Spirit, winding up divided on every other letter. I saw the church around me rejecting human authority but silently assuming it because the flock still needed to be led. But it has yet to lead us to total oneness. We can all attest to that, right?
The need for an authoritative presence in the Church made sense. And in a hidden way, I knew it also made sense to the thousands of pastors currently intermingling with one another on every side of the modern Christian divide. All confidently poised as some leader with some interpretation and some sincere belief that theirs is the right road. (Aside: I believe these are mostly leaders of good, noble, and sincere faith. And they bring many, many to the truth of Jesus.)
By the time I found myself concerned with this division, that road had split over 40,000 times. That's how many denominations there are. And an authority is always present, and it is always human. Good, wonderful, faithful men and women, I cannot stress that enough. But the resulting fracture was a clear proof to me of the failure of the method.
Ok, so what else made sense? You're yawning, I know.
Opening the Bible as an almost-Catholic was like this beautiful illumination of some secret code embedded in the pages I thought I had known so well. It was electric and firework-y! Catholicism is biblical! It's so biblical. Let's face-palm here together a bit...
Baptism is not just an "outward symbol of an inward change." It *actually* forgives our sins and gives us the Holy Spirit! Oh hey now, Acts 2:38- "Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'"
And you, Acts 22:26, I see you there- "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name."
Oh and this- "in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God's patient. waiting in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, we're saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." I Peter 3:19-21
And I saw Scripture defending Sacred Tradition! I saw it St Paul's first letter to Corinth when he says, "I commend you because you remember me in everything and you maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you." (11:2). And I saw it in his second letter to the Thessalonians- "so then brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter." (2:15)
And how about that Sacred Tradition being passed on? Oh yeah, here! "You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is Jesus Christ and what you have heard from me before many witnesses, entrust to
faithful men who will be able to teach others also." 2 Tim 2:1-2
And the Eucharist was there, too. It was realllllllly there.
"'Amen, amen I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and they died. This is bread which comes down from heaven, that a man
may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.' The Jews then disputed among themselves saying, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' So Jesus said to them, 'Amen, amen, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do
not have life within you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink." John 6:47-55
(emphasis added, y'all.) and go on and read the rest. It was a hard saying, but didn't renege. Eat my
flesh, says Jesus. True food, true drink.
And really, there is so, so, so, SO much more.
I'm not intending to give you all the biblical reasons for why you should be making your way to the nearest Catholic parish to sign on up. That isn't my intention for any of these posts. My enthralling take? Yep. A defense of what I know to be true? Yep, yep.
I'm gonna to slowly shuffle this towards a wrap up, but, it's important for me to share that when I did
begin to believe that the Catholic Church was the one established from the very start, by Jesus himself... when I realized that the Word of God included also the traditions of the Church, it's not as
if I had to rationalize all the contradictions of Catholicism with Scripture. Isn't that such a common
assumption? That Catholic teaching contradicts the Bible? That couldn't be any further from the truth.
Catholicism is in and with Sacred Scripture; and when I became a Catholic, it felt more mine than it ever had before. And it all made sense.
Another common (false) assumption of Catholicism is that it is oppressive and heavy handed. Keeping the faithful from the Word of God and from the truth revealed in Scripture, stacking rule upon rule on the heads of her faithful... you know, all that. But, do you know what I felt like when I
submitted myself to the Church and her teachings? Freedom. Total and absolute freedom. I was tired of being my own authority, I was tired of it being all up to me to discern the truth of Scripture when still so many disagreed. All alone, with my Bible, to sort out what it all meant. That is pressure. That is a suffocating pressure.
I love that I have a Mother (Church) to defer my questions to. A Mother who's job is to lead me to Christ and help me to be holy. A Mother who gives me the mass so that I can eat Jesus, like He told
me to. A Mother who offers the sacraments of Reconciliation and Baptism, among others, so that I can receive injections of grace throughout my life. A Mother who wants me to learn and to think. A
Mother who loves Science! A Mother who I'm no longer protesting.
A comment on another post reminded me of that, and it such a valuable reminder for me and for any faithful Christian. The reformation was a protest. Its result and its movement away from historical Christianity is still the same protest. Protestant.
If you pay attention to any part of this series, I think I'd like for you to pay attention to this...
From Martin Luther, founder of the reformation, in a reflection on what came of his descent-
"This one will not hear of Baptism, and that one denies the sacrament, another puts a world between this and the last day; some teach that Christ is not God, some say this, some say that: there are many sects and creeds as there are heads. No yokel is so rude but when he has dreams and fancies, he
thinks himself inspired by the Holy Ghost and must be a prophet."
Luther watched his co-reformers run in opposite directions with their flocks, all propelled by personal interpretation, and he lamented. We are still running, y'all. We are still running.
I never intended to include some big, wordy series on my conversion in this blog. I'm not a scholar or an apologist. Maybe some of you think my reasoning is poor or uninteresting. That's really ok with me. I have not lost my love for a good post on mom jeans or how to do your laundry efficiently. I'm still just a thinking, feeling fool and I'm grateful that I got to share a bit with you. I may not know you but I deeply respect the intimacy of your spiritual journey. It's not mine to command or boss around.
And that's the real.
But, whether you like it or not (any of it), I'm praying for you. In fact, I say the fourth decade of my daily Rosary for you. And maybe you don't love the fact that I'm offering up some good, ol' Catholic prayers for you. But someone, somewhere was saying them for me, too.
Do I think you are saved? Absolutely. Brothers and sisters, we are! Do I think the Protestant Church
is missing something? Absolutely. And they are big things. Or else I wouldn't have wasted a second trying to figure all of this out.
I was a Protestant for 23 measly years but I know how you think. I think it's safe to say that a good number of us don't think too hard about the why's, right? We don't really know Church history or
even why we belong to the denomination we do. I know I didn't. Don't feel bad! We are not typically taught to care that much. We know we find truth in our respective church communities and in the Bible and in a personal relationship with Jesus. And that is good. Please, don't get me wrong. That is essential. My hope for you is that you start thinking more. That's it. Did Jesus intend a method for us? Did He give us one Church? Does He long to meet us in the sacraments? Is there something that you're missing?
I am the chief loser. I need knowledge and understanding the most, hear you me. Let's be people that know why we stand where we stand on Sunday. For all the knowledge I lack, that is one truth I know.
And hence.... All this yip yap.
Love all y'all, seriously.