Thursday, December 04, 2008

A peak in my life and a fond memory...with many peaks and valleys since...but HOME where I belong.

The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception

On December 8, 2004 Rich and I returned to the Catholic Church, so I look forward to that day, the feast of the Immaculate Conception! Our Lady, Mother Mary, called her prodigal son and daughter home. We were at the time, members of an Interdenominational Fellowship here in Omaha. But, as questions started arising in Rich's heart about the religion of his youth, and being drawn back (unknown to me at the time) the weekend (this one) 4 years ago, we discussed this whole idea, and plan that he had of going back to the Catholic Church.

It was Friday evening Dec 3, 2004, and we commenced sipping some suds in the living room, like a normal Friday. Rich then started with some trepidation to explain why he wanted to return to the CC. I say "trepidation" because he knew of my anti-Catholic feelings. I listened intently, because internally I'd been once again "backsliding" somewhat in my Christian walk. I was disillusioned with many things, but nothing I could really put my finger on, except that I'd stopped going to Saturday night service regualarly and barely on a Sunday. I was waning in my zeal once again, a process and pattern too familiar after 25 years or so. I was one who was either "hot" or "cold" and now I was nearing that lukewarm area, and knew it. If like in the past, it could have very well meant forsaking any assembaling in a "church setting" and then who knows where that could lead. If not into a complete apostatacy, certainly dipping my toes in lukewarm water was having a damaging effect as it always does.

I was bothered that some of the people we knew were leaving Trinity and going elsewhere, never to be seen again. It seemed the "community" was crumbling once again. And when you think about it, "why not?" That's the way of Protestantism, especially in the Independent faith "communities" where community and or "church" is just a "spiritual" metaphysical group. A nebulous "church" that floats hither and thither "as the Spirit moves" that is what so many are so fond of saying and telling others. "The Holy Spirit is leading us to thus and so now, so we are leaving here and going there." Well, it seemed odd to me and it kind of "ticked me off." I was becoming 'bummed out' to put it in common vernacular, with "Christianity" as I'd come to know it and observe it lived. It was "empty." It was becoming a 'self'-guided tour of other churches, claiming to be seeking that "one church" that 'fits my style' or "where I'm at" right now in "my walk." Pray tell, how is that living the FAITH ON GOD'S TERMS? It's not. It's only in America's comsumer culture that we find Christians "picking and choosing" from the smorgasboard of churches. Like a big buffet line, you can find any and every type of 'church' to suit your fancy. Is that really "ok" with God? If you think it is, PLEASE explain HOW you know! i see it as tragic and even worse, bordering on presumptuous! It's like dictating to God what "we want" and "where we want to go" to get what "we like." Not a lot of "OTHER" there, but mostly only "I."

So along comes Dec. 3, Rich opens his heart about his longing to return, I listen and fail to interrupt him (shock) and the next thing I know, I'm reading Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic, by David Currie. Sunday I read Rome Sweet Home and Monday morning I read, Surprised By Truth. Then, Tuesday evening we go to the vigil Mass of the Immaculate Conception and again on Wednesday the 8th and almost every single day since!

I have NOT looked back, hit the ground running, and leaping and praising God to have finally found HIS CHURCH! I was gifted with the faith to hear the call and my heart was overflowing with tremendous abundant JOY! That is why I am a Joyful Catholic and why I want all my friends, Protestant and Catholic to know that when the bible speaks of THE CHURCH, it clearly means the Roman Catholic Church, the Church Jesus established to be the beacon, the authority, teacher and safeguard for His children. When that knowledge is recieved in one's heart and mind, it is FREEDOM and not bondage or oppression!

How I long to share that with all of my friends, but sadly, not that many are curious enough to ask me anything. Maybe it's fear that keeps them "ignorant" (I don't mean that in a derogatory way) but if they really were to give the history of "the Church" attention, then they'd have to take into account their own lives and rethink things and research things and study history and then have to admit that they're wrong about some things and possibly many things. They're not bad people. I wasn't a 'bad' person. I did love Jesus, but I was wrong in MUCH of my thinking and theology. Not every jot and tittle I'd been taught in various faith communities was wrong, but the FULL and complete Truth was NOT taught. There was no authority for that to be the case. No apostolic succession. Where did our independent faith community originate? From a nice and kind gentleman and his opinion of scripture. His interpretation of the Holy bible was the teaching. His opinion and interpretation being unlike in varying degrees from the opinion of the pastor of another independent faith community across the street. So how is that "one faith?"

I've come to find out the past 4 years that with the splitting of these churches, there is NOT unity, but only division. That is NOT GOD's desire! These pastors and their pastors teach only "bits of the Truth" but not the FULLNESS. How can they have the fullness when there's so much discord? Again, Jesus demands us to worship in Spirit and IN TRUTH. Get my drift here? That's just the Truth of the matter. When you want the complete 7 course dinner, and filet mignon, the FULLNESS of Truth, that the Holy Spirit DOES lead one to, then why keep settling for a few fries and a couple of chicken nuggets?

There are good and fine and very holy Evangelicals that put many a Catholic to shame. HOWEVER, there are many HOLY Catholics that go "unnoticed" by evangelicals because MOST Catholics are in a culture that is not "flamboyant" and "outspoken" about their faith. They just "live it" quietly and unnassumably without a lot of 'fanfare' or 'happy clappy' worship and praise. Catholic culture isn't the same, and sometimes we could benefit by more 'overt praise' but then again, evangelicalism has the "tradition" of it's own, and it's own rituals. Many times they become geared to "pumping up the emotionalism" in folk, and calling that praise and worship, when a simple stop before the tabernacle at a Catholic Church, to utter one Hail Mary is just as much worship and even at times far deeper than a lot of "noise" and loud singing. I do think we need to find common ground, but we can't water down the mystery of Catholicism to "attract" our brothers and sisters, for that would be wrong. That was what was done in the 70's and why we found it so easy to leave the Church. There was nothing of mystery, nothing of tradition left to witness. Rosaries were gone, scapulars were gone, Mary was gone and the Tabernacle was moved to the side or placed in another room. There was nothing spoken of Jesus' REAL and ABIDING PRESENCE in the Eucharist. For that was simply now a "communal meal" shared by all believers. I know, because I received Him without believing the Host was/is Jesus!

It's my prayer that all my friends will be unified IN CHRIST, and with all my heart, I long to see some of them become Catholic here...rather than go through purgatory to become Catholic. Don't get me wrong, I know Protestants will be in Heaven, as will Hindus, Buddhists, and other faithful people. However, Jesus did establish His ONE Church on earth, so it would seem that the most expeditious route to perfection thus arriving in Heaven to behold Him would be to be IN His Church, a part of His Church now, if we have the opportunity. I am no way intending here to slam others' faith(s). So please, no angry comments, okay?

History cannot be denied, and yet many in the Evangelical world do just that. They don't go any further back than a few years or a couple centuries at most. Even going back to Luther is sometimes frowned on by many Independent communites, since they've gone completely off the rails from what even their founder taught and believed. Even Luther had devotion to Mary, but try finding that in some Lutheran circles now, let alone some independent "house church." Jesus wants us to be ONE. Let us let Him have HIS way with us, and forsake going OUR way. For when we go our way, we are in essence rejecting the WAY of CHRIST, and that is really most frightening, to profess Christianity and yet leave Christ's Church doesn't seem to be the unity prayed for by our Lord in John 17. I pray along with Jesus that we will be united here, for the powers of darkness are upon us in full force. How much better for us all to be ONE now, in this culture of death.

I guess what I'm saying is, if you're not Catholic, and harbor negative assumptions about Catholics and the CC, just take a breath, and give the Catholic Church a chance. Maybe you're a Catholic who left the Church for whatever the reason. We left for 26 years. For starters, I suggest reading Mass of the Early Christians. Also the above mentioned books that opened my eyes to the Truth. See for yourself what the Early Church DID believe. Read the Early Fathers of the Church. Let history become your friend, not remain some phantom and haunting enemy. At least do that much and stop believing lies about Cathoicism. If you want to dislike or even hate the Catholic Church, do so by rejecting the Truth about it, not false information. Her founder, OUR Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ would welcome your sincere honest questions and I do too, as do all of my Catholic friends.

As Faithful Christians we want to please the Lord, our hearts want to please Him. He is our Saviour and our Life. But do we truly please Him by rejecting His Church? Do we please Him by believing what we've been told, even by well meaning folk, about the Catholic Church, if what we've been told is simply not true? How does that unify us? How are evangelicals united in the faith when they keep fractioning and splitting, and doing so in many instances with malice and anger? Is the Holy Spirit schizo? Or is the Trinity ONE? Ask those questions, read the history of the Church and ask God to help you understand how and where you are really to be, and then, gulp down your pride with a bite of humble pie and come and see that the Lord is Good and abides most FULLY in HIS CHURCH. There's a Catholic Church down the street. Go there. Sit in the silence and ask Jesus there.... He's waiting and He's listening and He'll let you know. So will Mary, His Mom. She's your Mom too, and she misses her child. Make her Heart glad and delight the Lord by COMING HOME.

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