Skip to comments.Catholic Converts - Marcus Grodi
Posted on 02/18/2007 3:02:35 PM PST by NYer
Lent is the season of conversion of heart. At Easter, new catechumens are welcomed into the Catholic Church. Throughout Lent this year, I will be posting the conversion stories of some well known individuals and their journey home to Rome.
Marcus Grodi - Marcus Grodi (1958?- ): apologist, president of The Coming Home Network, and host of EWTN's "Journey Home" program; originally a Presbyterian pastor.
I am a former Protestant minister. Like so many others who have trodden the path that leads to Rome by way of that country known as Protestantism, I never imagined I would one day convert to Catholicism.
By temperament and training I’m more of a pastor than a scholar, so the story of my conversion to the Catholic Church may lack the technical details in which theologians traffic and in which some readers delight. But I hope I will accurately explain why I did what I did, and why I believe with all my heart that all Protestants should do likewise.
I won’t dwell on the details of my early years, except to say that I was raised by two loving parents in a nominally Protestant home, and I went through most of the experiences that make up the childhood and adolescence of the typical American baby-boomer. I was taught to love Jesus and go to church on Sunday. I also managed to blunder into most of the dumb mistakes that other kids in my generation made. But after a season of teenage rebellion, when I was twenty years old, I experienced a radical re-conversion to Jesus Christ. I turned away from the lures of the world and became serious about prayer and Bible study.
As a young adult, I made a recommitment to Christ, accepting him as my Lord and Savior, praying that he would help me fulfill the mission in life he had chosen for me.
The more I sought through prayer and study to follow Jesus and confirm my life to his will, the more I felt an aching sense of longing to devote my life entirely to serving him. Gradually, the way dawn’s first faint rays peek over a dark horizon, the conviction that the Lord was calling me to be a minister began to grow.
That conviction grew steadily stronger while I was in college and then afterwards during my job as an engineer. Eventually I couldn’t ignore the call. I was convinced the Lord wanted me to become a minister, so I quit my job and enrolled in Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in suburban Boston. I acquired a master of divinity degree and was shortly thereafter ordained to the Protestant ministry.
My six-year-old son, Jon-Marc, recently memorized the Cub Scouts’ oath, which goes in part: “I promise to do my best, to do my duty to God and my country.” This earnest boyhood vow rather neatly sums up my own reasons for giving up a career in engineering in order to serve the Lord with complete abandon in full-time ministry. I took my new pastoral duties seriously, and I wanted to perform them correctly and faithfully, so that at the end of my life, when I stood face-to-face before God, I could hear him speak those all-important words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” As I settled down into the rather pleasant life of a Protestant minister, I felt happy and at peace with myself and God ? I finally felt that I had arrived.
I had not arrived.
I soon found myself faced with a host of confusing theological and administrative questions. There were exegetical dilemmas over how to correctly interpret difficult biblical passages and also liturgical decisions that could easily divide a congregation. My seminary studies had not adequately prepared me to deal with this morass of options.
I just wanted to be a good pastor, but I couldn’t find consistent answers to my questions from my fellow minister friends, nor from the “how to” books on my shelf, nor from the leaders of my Presbyterian denomination. It seemed that every pastor was expected to make up his own mind on these issues.
This “reinvent the wheel as often as you need to” mentality that is at the heart of Protestantism’s pastoral ethos was deeply disturbing to me. “Why should I have to reinvent the wheel?” I asked myself in annoyance. “What about the Christian ministers down through the centuries who faced the same issues? What did they do?” Protestantism’s emancipation from Rome’s “manmade” laws and dogmas and customs that had “shackled” Christians for centuries (that, of course, was how we were taught in seminary to view the “triumph” of the Reformation over Romanism) began to look a lot more like anarchy than genuine freedom.
I didn’t receive the answers I needed, even though I prayed constantly for guidance. I felt I had exhausted my resources and didn’t know where to turn. Ironically, this frustrating sense of being out of answers was providential. It set me up to be open to answers offered by the Roman Catholic Church. I’m sure that if I had felt that I had all the answers I wouldn’t have been able or willing to investigate things at a deeper level.
A breach in my defense
In the ancient world, cities were built on hilltops and ringed with stout walls that protected the inhabitants against invaders. When an invading army laid siege to a city, as when Nebuchadnezzer’s army surrounded Jerusalem in 2 Kings 25:1-7, the inhabitants were safe as long as their food and water held out and for as long as their walls could withstand the onslaught of the catapult’s missile and the sapper’s pick. But if the wall was breached, the city was lost.
My willingness to consider the claims of the Catholic Church began as a result of a breach in the wall of the Reformed Protestant theology that encircled my soul. For nearly forty years I labored to construct that wall, stone-by-stone, to protect my Protestant convictions.
The stones were formed from my personal experiences, seminary education, relationships, and my successes and failures in the ministry. The mortar that cemented the stones in place was my Protestant faith and philosophy. My wall was high and thick and, I thought, impregnable against anything that might intrude.
But as the mortar crumbled and the stones began to shift and slide, at first imperceptibly, but later on with an alarming rapidity, I became worried. I tried hard to discern the reason for my growing lack of confidence in the doctrines of Protestantism.
I wasn’t sure what I was seeking to replace my Calvinist beliefs, but I knew my theology was not invincible. I read more books and consulted with theologians in an effort to patch the wall, but I made no headway.
I reflected often on Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.” This exhortation both haunted and consoled me as I grappled with the doctrinal confusion and procedural chaos within Protestantism.
The Reformers had championed the notion of private interpretation of the Bible by the individual, a position I began to feel increasingly uncomfortable with, in light of Proverbs 3:5-6.
Bible-believing Protestants claim they do follow the teaching in this passage by seeking the Lord’s guidance. The problem is that there are thousands of different paths of doctrine down which Protestants feel the Lord is directing them to travel. And these doctrines vary widely according to denomination.
I struggled with the questions, “How do I know what God’s will is for my life and for the people in my congregation? How can I be sure that what I’m preaching is correct? How do I know what truth is?” In light of the doctrinal mayhem that exists within Protestantism?each denomination staking out for itself doctrine based on the interpretations of the man who founded it?-he standard Protestant boast, “I believe only in what the Bible says,” began to ring hollow. I professed to look to the Bible alone to determine truth, but the Reformed doctrines I inherited from John Calvin, John Knox and the Puritans clashed in many respects with those held by my Lutheran, Baptist, and Anglican friends.
In the Gospel Jesus explained what it means to be a true disciple (cf. Matt. 19:16-23). It’s more than reading the Bible, or having your name in a church membership roster, or regularly attending Sunday services, or even praying a simple prayer of conversion to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. These things, good though they are, by themselves don’t make one a true disciple of Jesus. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ means making a radical commitment to love and obey the Lord in every word, action, and attitude, and to strive to radiate his love to others. The true disciple, Jesus said, is willing to give up everything, even his own life, if necessary, to follow the Lord.
I was deeply convinced of this fact, and as I tried to put it into practice in my own life (not always with much success) I also did my best to convince my congregation that this call to discipleship is not an option?it’s something all Christians are called to strive for. The irony was that my Protestant theology made me impotent to call them to radical discipleship, and it made them impotent to hear and heed the call.
One might ask, “If all it takes to be saved is to ‘confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead’ (Rom. 10:9), then why must I change? Oh, sure, I should change my sinful ways. I should strive to please God. But if I don’t, what does it really matter? My salvation is assured.”
There’s a story about a newspaper reporter in New York City who wanted to write an article on what people consider the most amazing invention of the twentieth century. He hit the streets, interviewing people at random, and received a variety of answers: the airplane, the telephone, the automobile, computers, nuclear energy, space travel, and antibiotic medicine. The answers went on along these lines until one fellow gave an unlikely answer:
“It’s obvious. The most amazing invention was the thermos.”
“The thermos?” queried the reporter, eyebrows raised.
“Of course. It keeps hot things hot and cold things cold.”
The newspaperman blinked. “So what?”
“How does it know?”
This anecdote had meaning for me. Since it was my duty and desire to teach the truth of Jesus Christ to my congregation, my growing concern was, “How do I know what is truth and what isn’t?”
Every Sunday I would stand in my pulpit and interpret Scripture for my flock, knowing that within a fifteen mile radius of my church there were dozens of other Protestant pastors?all of whom believed that the Bible alone is the sole authority for doctrine and practice?but each was teaching something different from what I was teaching. “Is my interpretation of Scripture the right one or not?” I’d wonder. “Maybe one of those other pastors is right, and I’m misleading these people who trust me.”
There was also the knowledge?no, the gut-twisting certitude?that one day I would die and stand before the Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal Judge, and I would be required to answer not just for my own actions but also for how I led the people he had given me to pastor. “Am I preaching truth or error?” I asked the Lord repeatedly. “I think I’m right, but how can I know for sure?”
This dilemma haunted me.
I started questioning every aspect of my ministry and Reformed theology, from insignificant issues to important ones. I look back now with a certain embarrassed humor at how I fretted during those trying days of uncertainty. At one point I even wrangled with doubts over whether or not to wear a clerical collar. Since there is no mandatory clerical dress code for Presbyterian ministers some wear collars, some wear business suits, some robes, and others a combination of all. One minister friend kept a clerical collar in the glove compartment of his car, just in case donning it might bring some advantage to him, “Like getting out of a speeding ticket!” He once confided with a conspiratorial grin. I decided not to wear a clerical collar. At Sunday services I wore a plain black choir robe over my business suit.
When it came to the form and content of Sunday liturgy every church had its own views on how things should be done, and each pastor was free to do pretty much whatever he wanted within reason.
Without mandated denominational guidelines to steer me, I did what all the other pastors were doing: I improvised. Hymns, sermons, Scripture selections, congregational participation, and the administration of baptism, marriage, and the Lord’s Supper were all fair game for experimentation. I shudder at the memory of one particular Sunday when, in an effort to make the youth service more interesting and “relevant,” I spoke the Lord’s words of consecration, “This is my Body, this is my Blood, do this in memory of me,” over a pitcher of soda pop and a bowel of potato chips.
Theological questions vexed me the most. I remember standing beside the hospital bed of a man who was near death after suffering a heart attack. His distraught wife asked me, “Is my husband going to heaven?” All I could do was mouth some sort of pious but vague “we-must-trust-in-the-Lord” reassurance about her husband’s salvation. She may have been comforted but I was tormented by her tearful plea. After all, as a Reformed pastor I believed John Calvin’s doctrines of predestination and perseverance of the saints. This man had given his life to Christ, he had been regenerated, and was confident that he was one of God’s elect. But was he?
I was deeply unsettled by the knowledge that no matter how earnestly he may have thought he was predestined for heaven (it’s interesting that all who preach the doctrine of predestination firmly believe they themselves are one of the elect), and no matter how sincerely those around him believed he was, he may not have gone to heaven.
And what if he had secretly “backslidden” into serious sin and been living in a state of rebellion against God at the moment his heart attack caught him by surprise? Reformed theology told me that if that were the case, then the poor fellow had simply been deluded by a false security, thinking he was regenerated and predestined for heaven when in fact he had been unregenerated all along and on his way to hell. Calvin taught that the Lord’s elect will?must?persevere in grace and election. If a person dies in a state of rebellion against God he proves he never was one of the elect. “What kind of absolute assurance was that?” I wondered.
I found it harder to give clear, confident answers to the “will my husband go to heaven?” kinds of questions my parishioners asked. Every Protestant pastor I knew had a different set of criteria that he listed as “necessary” for salvation. As a Calvinist I believed that if one publicly accepts Jesus as his Lord and Savior, one is saved by grace through faith. But even as I consoled others with these fine-sounding words, I was troubled by the worldly and sometimes grossly sinful lifestyles these now-deceased members of my congregation had lived. After just a few years of ministry I began to doubt whether I should continue.
The Apostles received the gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; and Jesus Christ was sent from God. Christ, therefore, is from God, and the Apostles are from Christ. Both of these orderly arrangements, then, are by God’s will. Receiving their instructions and being full of confidence on the account of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and confirmed in faith by the Word of God, they went forth in the complete assurance of the Holy Spirit, preaching the Good News that the kingdom of God is coming. Through countryside and city they preached; and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty: for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier. Indeed, Scripture somewhere says: “I will set up their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith (Clement of Rome, Epistle to the Corinthians 42:1-5 [ca. A.D. 80]).
Another patristic quote that helped breach the wall of my Protestant presuppositions was this one from Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons:
When, therefore, we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek among others the truth which is easily obtained from the Church. For the apostles, like a rich man in a bank, deposited with her most copiously everything that pertains to the truth; and everyone whosoever wishes draws from her the drink of life. For she is the entrance to life, while all the rest are thieves and robbers. That is why it is surely necessary to avoid them, while cherishing with the utmost diligence the things pertaining to the Church, and to lay hold of the tradition of truth. What then? If there should be a dispute over some kind of question, ought we not have recourse to the most ancient churches in which the apostles were familiar, and draw from them what is clear and certain in regard to that question? What if the apostles had not in fact left writings for us? Would it not be necessary to follow the order of tradition, which was handed down to those to whom they entrusted the Churches? (Against Heresies 3,4,1 [ca. A.D. 180]).
I studied the causes for the Reformation. The Roman Catholic Church of that day was desperately in need of renewal but Martin Luther and the other Reformers chose the wrong, the unbiblical, method for dealing with the problems they saw in the Church. The correct route was and still is just what my Presbyterian friend had told me: Don’t leave the Church; don’t break the unity of faith. Work for genuine reform based on God’s plan, not man’s, achieving it through prayer, penance, and good example.
I could no longer remain Protestant. To do so meant I must deny Christ’s promise to guide and protect his Church and to send the Holy Spirit to lead it into all truth (cf. Matt. 16:18-19, 18:18, 28:20; John 14:16, 25, 16:13). But I couldn’t bear the thought of becoming a Catholic. I’d been taught for so long to despise “Romanism” that, even though intellectually I had discovered Catholicism to be true, I had a hard time shaking my emotional prejudice against the Church.
One key difficulty was the psychological adjustment to the complexity of Catholic theology. By contrast Protestantism is simple: admit you’re a sinner, repent of your sins, accept Jesus as your personal Savior, trust in him to forgive you, and you’re saved.
I continued studying Scripture and Catholic books and spent many hours debating with Protestant friends and colleagues over difficult issues like Mary, praying to the saints, indulgences, purgatory, priestly celibacy, and the Eucharist. Eventually I realized that the single most important issue was authority. All of this wrangling over how to interpret Scripture gets one nowhere if there is no way to know with infallible certitude that one’s interpretation is the right one. The teaching authority of the Church in the magisterium centered around the seat of Peter. If I could accept this doctrine, I knew I could trust the Church on everything else.
I read Fr. Stanley Jaki’s The Keys to the Kingdom and Upon This Rock, and the Documents of Vatican II and earlier councils, especially Trent. I carefully studied Scripture and the writings of Calvin, Luther, and the other Reformers to test the Catholic argument. Time after time I found the Protestant arguments against the primacy of Peter simply weren’t biblical or historical. It became clear that the Catholic position was the biblical one.
The Holy Spirit delivered a literal coup de grace to my remaining anti-Catholic biases when I read John Henry Cardinal Newman’s landmark book, An Essay on the Development of the Christian Doctrine. In fact, my objections evaporated when I read 12 pages in the middle of the book in which Newman explains the gradual development of papal authority. “It is less difficulty that the papal supremacy was not formally acknowledged in the second century, then that there was no formal acknowledgment on the part of the Church of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity till the fourth. No doctrine is defined till violated.”
My study of Catholic claims took about a year and a half. During this period, Marilyn and I studied together, sharing together as a couple the fears, hopes, and challenges that accompanied us along the path to Rome. We attended Mass together weekly, making the drive to a parish far enough away from our home town (my former Presbyterian Church was less then a mile from our home) to avoid the controversy and confusion that would undoubtedly arise if my former parishioners knew that I was investigating Rome.
We gradually began to feel comfortable doing all the things Catholics did at Mass (except receiving Communion, of course). Doctrinally, emotionally, and spiritually, we felt ready to formally enter the Church, but there remained one barrier for us to surmount.
Before Marilyn and I met and had fallen in love, she had been divorced after a brief marriage. Since we were Protestants when we met and married, this posed no problem, as far as we and our denomination were concerned. It wasn’t until we felt we were ready to enter the Catholic Church that we were informed that we couldn’t do so unless Marilyn could receive an annulment of her first marriage. At first, we felt like God was playing a joke on us! Then we moved from shock to anger. It seemed so unfair and ridiculously hypocritical: we could have committed almost any other sin, no matter how heinous, and with one confession been adequately cleansed for Church admission, yet because of this one mistake our entry into the Catholic Church had been stopped dead in the water.
But then we remembered what had brought us to this point in our spiritual pilgrimage: we were to trust God with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding. We were to acknowledge him and trust that he would direct our paths. It became evident to us that this was a final test of perseverance sent by God.
So Marilyn began the difficult annulment investigation process, and we waited. We continued attending Mass, remaining seated in the pew, our hearts aching while those around us went forward to receive the Lord in the Holy Eucharist and we could not. It was by not being able to receive the Eucharist that we learned to appreciate the awesome privilege that Jesus bestows on his beloved of receiving him Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament. The Lord’s promise in Scripture became real to us during those Masses: “The Lord chastises the son whom he loves” (Heb. 12:6).
After a nine-month wait, we learned that Marilyn’s annulment had been granted. Without further delay our marriage was blessed, and we were received with great excitement and celebration into the Catholic Church. It felt so incredibly good to finally be home where we belonged. I wept quiet tears of joy and gratitude that first Mass when I was able to walk forward with the rest of my Catholic brothers and sisters and receive Jesus in Holy Communion.
I asked the Lord many times in prayer, “What is truth?” He answered me in Scripture by saying, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” I rejoice that now as a Catholic I can not only know the Truth but receive him in the Eucharist.
Apologia pro a final few words sua
I think that it is important that I mention one more of John Henry Cardinal Newman’s insights that made a crucial difference in the process of my conversion to the Catholic Church. He wrote: “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.” This one line summarizes a key reason why I abandoned Protestantism, bypassed the Orthodox Church, and became a Catholic.
Newman was right. The more I read Church history and Scripture the less I could comfortably remain Protestant. I saw that it was the Catholic Church that was established by Jesus Christ, and all the other claimants to the title “true church” had to step aside. It was the Bible and Church history that made a Catholic out of me, against my will (at least at first) and to my immense surprise. I also learned that the flip side of Newman’s adage is equally true: To cease to be deep in history is to become a Protestant.
That’s why we Catholics must know why we believe what the Church teaches as well as the history behind these truths of our salvation. We must prepare ourselves and our children to “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15). By boldly living and proclaiming our faith many will hear Christ speaking through us and will be brought to a knowledge of the truth in all its fullness in the Catholic Church. God bless you!
Having fun with dyslexics this Mardi Gras
Wonderful post! (Besides nobody really like paragraphs anyhow!)
NOW I'm mad.
I went to the link and it had a list of notable converts, and was I there? No I was not.
I have GOT to get me a new agent. I'm well known! Why, people as far as five or six miles from here have heard of me! What does a guy have to do around here? Sheesh!
I have half a mind (don't laugh) to start my OWN denomination, or go be hermit or something. Dawg the Irascible! Has a nice ring to it ....
Oh yeah, the article was good too. I'm really happy to be sponsoring somebody through an RCIA program this Lent.
great post and great TV show Mondays 8 pm on EWTN for any who care to watch him and a convert guest
Had I been at work, I would have copied and pasted the original text to MS Word, done a search and replace on the (br) and fixed it all up. Instead, I'm at home on a 9 y/o iMac with dial up. I opted to 'let it go' in favor of the content rather than its presentation. It is a wonderful story and glad you appreciated it.
Bless you! It's an awesome responsibility. Care to share some of your catechumen's story with us?
It is my most favorite program! Unfortunately, I have missed several of these programs over the last few weeks. It seems my parish likes to schedule meetings on Monday evenings at 7pm :-). Tomorrow night, at 7pm, we will gather in Church for Ash Monday. That makes 3 weeks in a row that I have missed The Journey Home. Oh well. Gives me something to look forward to this summer during the reruns.
LOL! I think all our Freeper converts should be on that list!
Newman is wonderful and I think he has answered questions for many sincere seekers. Good article!
What exactly is a Catholic caucus? Aren't all these postings on this public board? Just curious as I'm RC.
There are 40 days in Lent. ;-)
Thank you so much for posting this article, NYer.
It precludes non-Catholics from using the thread to bash us. Non-catholics are welcome to post but must respect the Religion Moderator's guidelines.
There are plenty more to follow.
I never had to suffer through one of those, praise God. I'd probably have a felonious assault conviction in my record. But I'd heard of them. Bp. Lee of Virginia told me he had a priest do that (Fritos and Coke) and he gave him a serious chain-yanking. That was in our conversations approaching my renouncing my orders.
Care to share some of your catechumen's story with us?
No. I'm still sulking because I wasn't on the famous converts list. (sniff) Oh well, Okay. But I"m still mad! I mean hurt, yeah, that's it, hurt.
She was brought up Baptist. Was Episcopalian but here in VA thats sort of variable. I met her because I was the lay chaplain in the Sheriff's Office, her husband was a deputy and she heard I was RC, so she asked if she could buy me coffee. A gallon or so later she allowed as to how when she went to the Church I attend she "knew" our Lord was in the Tabernacle.
So I just said,"If you know that, what else is there to talk about? I must be where my Beloved is. How about you?"
So a few months later she began attending regularly.
The REAL exciting miracle is in her family. Dad is totally nonreligious -- but he came to Midnight Mass with her. Her daughter came to pone Mass and her Son to another and they've all said they want to be there on Ash Wednesday. Her son isn't even baptized! I'm not much of a fisherman, but I think there's more than one on this line here.
This is one of the most exciting things I've ever witnessed.
Gads! He's a very humble and brave man to even admit that he did this...
Is that in the original?
Keep fishin' -- you're on a roll! < /just kidding but not really >
What a grace to know with your heart that the Lord is present. I know with my head, but I have all the spiritual sensitivity of a cast-iron boiler.
I'll be at the 40 Hours' Adoration, Lord!
God's whole deal is to get us to choose Him freely and without distracting enticements. But first He has to get our attention and to persuade us that He's good and all that.
So He gives out lollipops. The professionals call them "consolations", but that's 'cause they talk funny.
SO when God does not give you a lollipop, He's saying,"Okay, I've taken off the training wheels. Get out there and skin your knees."
Now, personally, I'm a wuss, so I always say,"I wannanotherlollipop NO FAYurh!"
SO He kicks me in the butt.
But, yeah! This is really a fine lady. She is so up front with the struggle. After a weekday Mass last week she said,"I guess I feel pretty good about it. I'm in. Where else could I go." And I went off on how backhanded Peter's remark to Jesus is: Where ELSE could we go." as in"It's not like we LIKE you or anything. It's just that all the other stuff is OBVIOUSLY bogus. We're stuck with You."
SO it's not like we LIKE being Catholic all the time. It's like being married. Sometimes, darn it, I am SO ready to pack my bags! I am SO OUT of here! Bring me some young honey, let's have a meal of nothing but sodium and cholesterol! Let's follow it by killing brain cells and risking an STD or two or three. Now THAT's something like!
And Jesus just watches and finally says, "You done yet?"
"Okay. Get to work. There's stuff needs doing."
Okay, Sir. Sorry Sir."
"It's okay. Shut up. Get to work."
It's like Herbert's poem,"The Collar".
Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town to'another due,
Labor to'admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly'I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me,'untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you'enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
- John Donne
. . . why are the 17th century English religious poets so difficult . . . and so true?
Exceptional article and sharing. God bless all our converts entering the Church this Easter Vigil.
Not salvational in nature.
Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you will have no life in you!
I believe that this is salvational and I haven't come across any Protestants who believe that, though I do, and the majority of my Catholic friends and family also believe it.
The cafeteria is closed as far as most of us are concerned. The few that dont subscribe to Catholic Doctrine are relying on Gods love and not His justice as are so many in the Christian world today. That actually scares the daylights out of me!
From my vantage point, it seems as though you have your Catholic statistics a little skewed !
Regardless, from all that I have read that you have written, you appear to be a person living out your faith in Our Savior, Jesus Christ, which makes us brothers and sisters in Christ.
God Bless us all!
Genuine freedom consists of finding the truth, which will set you free. The reason there are an infinity of Protestant (using the term in its broadest sense, as meaning neither Orthodox nor Catholic, since there is no theological unity even among Protestants) sects is that everyone has decided that their particular fragment of the truth, the one that really attracts them, is the only one. And if it's not emphasized in the church to which they already belong, they go off and found another one. The reality of Protestantism is that you have 30-40,000 bigger or smaller groups, each one emphasizing one little splinter of the truth that it finds more important than the others.
Note that I am not saying that Protestantism is based upon falsehood or maliciousness, or even upon the personal desire for power on the part of individual church founders. I think even those who found a church are genuinely seeking the truth, but because they have cut themselves off from the vast tree of doctrine that grows up from the death of the Lord and is watered with the blood of martyrs, they can inevitably get only a splinter of it. And soon someone else in their church comes along who sees another bit of truth he feels is underemphasized, and he goes off to found yet another church based on that splinter.
The Catholic Church does not replace thought and that was not the point the author was making. It's like accepting the Creed or any patristic formulation. Would you want to have to reinvent the Athanasian Creed? The Creeds, the doctrines of the Church, and all of the many doctrinal formulations achieved through the confrontation with historical challenges and often at the cost of blood and suffering and approved as being in line with tradition and doctrine from the very start are there for the taking. It's not necessary to reinvent them, and most of us would not be capable of it, anyway. It is certainly possible to think about them, however, and to call the attention of others to some aspect of them you find particularly attractive.
In the Catholic Church, people who have some aspect of the truth they feel called to emphasize more than another often found religious orders or do something similar to give a collective expression of their particular vision. I recently visited Assisi and was profoundly impressed by St. Francis and his prayerful, humble tenacity in following the Lord in the particular way to which he had been called - even though there was often considerable suspicion of him in the Church at that time, and there were other, similar movements that left the Church.
Yet because he accepted the vast trove of doctrine and simply remained certain that he was called to emphasize one aspect of Christian life within it, now, 800 years later, there are millions of Franciscans all over the world, doing good for the Lord. When I was in Assisi, I met young, orthodox Franciscans from all over the world who are absolutely on fire with their missionary zeal and desire to follow St. Francis' vision - 800 years later.
So the point I am trying to make is not that Protestant founders are evil, but that by cutting themselves off from the fullness of the Faith (that is, the doctrine that comes to us from the Apostles and has been developed over the centuries by the mind of the Church), they are condemned to have to "reinvent" it simply because human nature requires an answer to all questions. And in this process, others will come along who see some other part of it, and they will go off on their own. Human nature requires certainty of truth, but the human mind is limited. Accepting the truths of the Catholic Church is simply acknowledging that there are some things that require the collective intelligence and faith of the entire Church, and one you have accepted these truths, you are free to move on to the particular thing to which the Lord is calling you.
Okay! New Metaphor. Good for Domini Canes and other Dawgs.
To teach a dog to heel, you hold the leash just so with a bight in it. You draw the dog to you and you walk briskly, and suddenly change direction, letting the bight go. The dawg walks out the extra 18" of leash and then gets a yank!
After a while, the dawg keeps his eye on you. Then, after another while no leash is needed.
Or so I hear. Right now, I'm one of those dawgs standing on his hind legs, straining against the leash, hardly able to breathe but DARN that rabbit needs chasing ....
Lord, teach me to keep my eye on you alone.
Okay, maybe Herbert and Donne are better at it than I am.
The Tabernacle. Throughout my travels, each time I have entered a Catholic Church for the first time, I immediately sought out the Tabernacle. "There you are, Lord!" Seeing the flickering candle in the Sanctuary lamp brings such great comfort and joy. It is painful to see the Tabernacle empty and the lamp extinguished on Good Friday.
That's quite true. It was true for me, at one time, as well. We may have been baptized into one particular faith, but the rest of the journey is in our own hands. If we seek to truly follow Christ, He will guide us on the path to our salvation. Otherwise, it's simply lip service.
Hmmmm . . . you must know my dawgs. Straining at the chain collar, bounding up and down . . .
Not quite. We expect imperfection in men, even those who lead our churches. We don't leave because a splinter of the truth that is important to us has been left out, but because the leadership insists on telling us untruth, while calling that untruth, truth. Most of us don't go off & start new churches or found new denominations.
You believe that God has protected your church from that kind of error, that the men leading your church are prevented from committing it. We disagree. Others before us also disagreed, which is why they left in protest.
Imperfection is certainly not something the Catholic Church is exempt from. We have some real stunners among our past Popes, believe me. Reading about them is enough to make you wonder that there is even one stone left upon stone in Rome!
However, the leadership of the Pope is a little different, because Catholics don't regard him as speaking for himself in those VERY rare situations where he issues a binding statement on doctrine. That is, it has to be something that is supported by the constant doctrine of the Church, or, in the case of some things such as the Immaculate Conception, believed by the faithful since the beginning. All the Pope is really doing in these cases is stating the belief of the Church, not something he has come up with on his own. For example, in the encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI adhered to the long-standing doctrine of the Church in opposing artificial contraception, because to do otherwise would have been substituting his opinion (or actually, that of a group of "experts") for long-held Catholic moral teaching.
As for his leadership in other ways, no one is obligated to accept what he says as his private opinion, and Catholics are definitely free to disagree with him. But the important thing is that they are never free to disagree with the established doctrine of the Church, but only to examine it and perhaps develop their own insight into it. Hope this clarifies a bit!
Thanks for the explaination. I've always wondered about the meaning of this term in the context of the FR forum.
What do you think I meant when I said, "You believe that God has protected your church from that kind of error, that the men leading your church are prevented from committing it."?
In my study of the origins of Christianity, I have found it a historical fact that there is no older form of Christian Church on earth than Catholicism (and perhaps the Eastern Orthodox Chuch).
If a person disagrees with the Church and leaves in protest as you say, then all of Christianity crumbles. Jesus would be a liar if the Church ever became so corrupt that it would be better to leave her. He said the powers of hell would not prevail against his church.
The earliest of Christians celebrated the Eucharist, believed in the primacy of the bishop of Rome, the sacrament of reconciliation, etc. To leave this Church is to leave the only church that is ONE. The holy spirit would interpret the teachings of scripture in one way, through one faith. It was also the Catholic councils that put together the cannon of the New Testament. If the church is not infallible, then the Bible would not be infallible.