I mentioned in my first blog that I’ve never wanted anything to do with the Catholic church. Since the age of 16, when I fell deeply in love with Jesus Christ, I grew and matured in Him through the years, and was very happy with my life as an evangelical Christian! Had I been misguided? Was I misinformed? Or was I simply convinced that “I found Jesus in the evangelical church”, and that was all I needed?
Perhaps it was all the above. At age sixteen, I asked Christ into my heart as my personal Savior and sensed His deep work within my life, I heard many evangelicals say that Catholics didn’t really know Jesus and that we should pray for them. I didn’t refute that understanding because it seemed to describe my own experience. Why would I want to look back anyway? So I began praying hard for my parents from then on!
After realizing the Catholic church’s doctrine to be true, just over two years now, I have felt so badly that I had such anti-Catholic opinions and beliefs! I have been completely wrong and, yes, I’d been misinformed! Just prior to joining the Catholic church, I explained the church’s Scriptural Doctrine and Truth with an evangelical close to me. She retorted that none of it was true and that I had been deceived by Satan himself! My heart bled for her misinterpretation of the Catholic Church’s teachings. Unfortunately, she had only read books written by Protestants who don’t know, or care to know, the truths of the Catholic Church. In the Catholic church, the same God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit is preached straight from Scripture to teach us to know, love and serve Jesus Christ, our personal Lord and Savior.
I remember where I was when, for the first time, I heard a priest preach an entire sermon on knowing Jesus as our personal Savior by asking Him into our hearts! What? I sat there in shock! Did they really believe that? Yes, they really do! I had judged Catholics all those years. And to think that I could have had a spiritually healthy relationship with my mom had I really known and understood this!
WHY ALL THIS CONFUSION?
So why, as an evangelical, was I so against Catholicism? I grew up when some outward changes like moving away from the Latin Mass, were taking place the Catholic Church. This created some general confusion, especially for Baby Boomers like myself. I remember wondering why did I have to confess my sins to a priest, kneel in church, and fast from meat on Fridays?
I wonder if some of the changes from the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, created a certain amount of confusion that led my family away from church for a while. Like many my age, I lost that spiritual fervor, little by little, as I entered my teen years.
I was very close to God as a young child. I now understand that it was God’s Grace at work in me from having been baptized as a baby. If that baptismal relationship with the Holy Spirit had been nurtured through discipleship (as Catholics call it “catechesis”) into my teen years, I could have grown in my relationship with God. But that didn’t happen and I lost interest in church.
However, when I was sixteen years old and struggling, it was the work of the Holy Spirit in my life that made me sensitive to God’s Grace calling me into a deeper walk with Him. As previously mentioned, my friend Melanie showed me God’s love at just the right time. Because of this spiritual awakening, I walked away from the Catholic church and began attending her church youth group.
Three years ago, when my dad told me that my mom had loved Jesus like I did, I couldn’t let it go. But it wasn’t because I wanted to know why. It was only because I found myself feeling extremely guilty. I had never tried to find common ground in our spiritual lives because I assumed there were none! I was CLUELESS! As I look back, I realize that I kept my parents at arms-length spiritually because I believed we were essentially on two different pages! Again, I was clueless! It was convenient for me to ignore my Catholic heritage because I had discovered a fresh relationship in Jesus Christ!
THE TRILOGY UNFOLDS
This trilogy is one of obedience to the Voice of God deep within our hearts.
First, Gary and I obeyed God’s call on our lives to serve as Wesleyan missionaries for fifteen years.
Second, God called us to New York City. We thought we were to build a church here, but instead, in humble obedience to Him, we stepped down from a failed church plant and patiently waited on God. Thanks and all glory to Him, He used another church, Trinity Grace Church, to open our eyes to a bigger church story.
Through TGC, among so many other things God did in our lives, we experienced a broader vision for contemplative prayer, Freedom in Christ, the Lectionary, the deep meaning of Advent and Lent and so much more! The beauty in that is that they are all things that the Catholic church does so well! We now realize that our years with TGC were God’s preparation for entrance into a church we had no interest in becoming a part of!
Third, God called us into the Roman Catholic Church! This was done in sheer obedience to that call! It took me a year and a half longer to say “yes” than for Gary, but God graciously tugged at my heart day after day after day during that time.
This trilogy has helped me recognize that, of the many truths God has had us experience through these many years of ministry, the Catholic church encompasses them all! I believe it was in God’s plan to show us His purpose in all of that, and has now guided us into the church that Jesus founded some 2,000 years ago!
Who would have thought!