Since moving from a small, small town in Kentucky to our home here in Metro Detroit, I have had a lot of time to make friends. I began to venture out into this big round-ish orb called earth. I have found that there are many different viewpoints to be discovered. I knew that, but I didn't know that I was so interested in knowing all of them!
I am fascinated when I encounter people who are unashamed and excited to tell others their ideas, beliefs and discoveries. I cannot tell you how joyful I become when I find another human who will indulge my questioning spirit and take the barrage of inquiry as just that; inquiry. It doesn't matter if I agree with the viewpoint, I just want to know what it is!
When I find someone who does not become offended by my inquisition I know that I have found a person who is able to carry the weight of the poll, thus able to satisfy my insatiable thirst to know all there is to know about their thinking and their way of life. This was true when I questioned a witch, an atheist, a Buddhist and each and every one of my Catholic friends.
Many of my readers may think it an odd thing that I included Catholics with the more uncommon list of characters, but I grew up in the Bible Belt. Let it be known that any person who grew up in the Bible Belt of America is usually starved of Catholic friends. That area of the country is predominantly Evangelical and should we ever happen upon a Catholic person we avoid the very thought of asking about their religion.
Don't get me wrong, I mean, I did meet some Catholics in my 18 years of Bible Belt living. In my childhood years I had two friends who were Catholic. They taught me most of what I knew about Catholicism. I knew that they didn't attend church, their parents drank, their dad cussed and their baby sister's Christening was full of kneeling, standing, kneeling, standing and then we ate. Ta Da. Pretty church though.
They did, however, get to go on a school bus to something called "CCD" for a few months when they were around 10 years old. I asked my mom if I could go with them but she said it wasn't for me. I asked why it wasn't for me and she said, it had to do with their religion and that was the end of that discussion. I had no idea they were going to Catechism and honestly, I didn't know what catechism was so I would have still been in the dark had they mentioned the word. So, that was it. My friends were Catholic, and I had no idea what that meant.
I heard it said a few times in our evangelical churches that worldly knowledge is not something to acquire with zest but spiritual knowledge is to be the quest of the Christian soul. However, It was stated many times that we should not open our minds too wide lest Satan jump in and take over. You can imagine then, that for much of my life, I found it scary to question the doctrine in which I was raised. I worried often that I was opening my mind "too wide."
One day, as I was praying it dawned on me that God had obviously made me with the ability to ask questions. I mean, you know, I have so many! He made my physical being with the desire to know ALL about Him. Then I wondered if that were a bad thing, like Adam and Eve and that apple tree. Interestingly enough, as I grew older and wiser, I came to realize that My God Is and Always has been Stronger than any of His creations...and that INCLUDES SATAN! Well, that was one liberating moment my friends! It occurred to me that if it were true that God is living within my soul and if it is true that my desire is to please God, then He will guide my mind, my steps and my life toward the end goal that He desires. In other words:
"Why am I allowing myself to be governed by fear!?! Ask questions and get answers!"
I laid down those false "opening the mind too wide" words that had been spoken to me, I took up my new mission and off I went down the path God had made for my life. I asked questions. I listened. I tried to see the other person's point of view and along the way I found....ANSWERS! Go Figure!
At church...many churches, I listened to my preachers talk about Catholicism. I got used to buzz words. I heard that "works" does not save us. I heard that worshiping idols will damn us to hell and I heard that Catholics pray to Mary instead of Jesus. All of that was bad, bad, bad and we needed to run far, far away from that hell bent religion.
At home I was told that anyone who loves Jesus will make it to Heaven. My parents told me that Catholics will make it too if they follow Jesus and not Mary. I was confused. I listened to my parents tell me that Catholics get to go to Heaven too but I also knew that if I were to become one that it would be a bad, bad thing. Being that I didn't know any Catholics I didn't know where to turn for answers so I went through most of my life thinking that there were like 2 or 3 Catholics who would get to Heaven and the rest of them worshiped Mary and didn't have a clue why Jesus was so important.
Pretty sad, huh?
Then I met my friend Heather P. and she LIKES to talk religion and she's CATHOLIC! She is one of those people who can take the inquisition...AND WE'RE NEIGHBORS! Ha! I am in paradise here!
As we got to know each other we were able to talk doctrine. We don't care if each other convert to our religion we just care that we get to Heaven so we don't get mad or heated when we speak about doctrinal issues.
I have gotten to ask many, many questions. If she didn't know the answer her husband knew, and if he didn't give me an answer I liked, they had many, many books to send my way. Well, then I met quite a few more Catholics who became very good friends of mine. I met some who were born Catholic and I met some who converted from the Baptist church. I now have so many Catholic friends that it's hard for me to imagine that there are others out there, like I was, who are still walking around without Catholic friends of their own. But I digress...
One of the first things I asked Heather is why they have to repent to a priest. She started off talking about the History of the world. I was like, "Hey there, why aren't you quoting scripture? Why are you talking about History?" Ha, Ha! I had her! She can't back up her story with scripture so now she's shot!
I'm paraphrasing here but her answers were something like...
"Well, because there is a huge well of historical fact that will back up the Bible references and the Bible references back up the History. It all goes hand in hand. We live on earth and the Bible tells God's plan while our historical records back it up. The short answer is that only through Jesus does a Priest have any power to heal our sins. During confession, we pray to Jesus for forgiveness. We call the prayer the "Act of Contrition." After we pray, the Priest says, "Jesus Christ Absolves you of your sins." or he quotes Luke 15, saying, "I absolve thee from thy sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
"Oh. Well why do you pray to Mary?"
"Yes you do. You pray the Rosary."
"No, we say the Rosary."
"No, that's talking."
What's the difference? Apparently, when I ask my Christian friends to pray for me I am talking to them. I am asking them to help me get through to Christ. THAT is exactly what Catholics are doing with Mary. They are asking her to pray for them.
Also, my Evangelical friends, it may interest you to know that Catholics can and do pray to Jesus and one of the things they pray is this...
"O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy."
Sound like Repentance to Christ? It does to me.
Oh and Guess what! The number one thing that I've found that most divides Protestants and Catholics is what actually brings us all together!
Many Catholics think that Protestants think they can just pray to Jesus one time and all of the sudden they get to go to Heaven no matter what! But almost all Protestant's actually believe that all children go to Heaven no matter what. It is only at the age of accountability, (whatever that may be 7, 8, 9 or above) the person can make a decision to live for Christ. When that decision is made, the person will ask Christ Jesus to forgive them of their sins and to lead their lives. They then have to live for Christ. They can't just go back to sinning and think that they will make it to Heaven. We are asked to "pick up our Cross daily" and live for Christ. We pray for forgiveness all the time. Daily usually.
By the same token...
Many Protestants believe that Catholics think that just because they were baptised as babies that they get to go to Heaven no matter what! But most Catholics actually believe that Baptising a baby is to bring their child to Christ. They are not forbidding the children to come unto Christ. They are exemplifying the teaching of being saved by Grace rather than faith alone. The child does not have the faith yet, however the parents do have faith, Jesus saves by Grace and the baptism is allowing the child to be saved from childhood HOWEVER Catholics do NOT believe that this act alone will "get their children to Heaven" through their entire life. That is why there is Confirmation. At the age of 7 or above the child can make a choice to live for Christ or not. If they choose to live for Christ they can come to Him. Yes, they can pray to Jesus my Protestant friends. The kids go through the step of choosing to become a confirmed Christian. After that they must live for Christ. There are no short-cuts. They have to strive to live the life God wants for them to fulfill the purpose God has for their life.
So I've come to realize that though "works" is not what saves us, each religion has their idea of what we must do to "stay saved." (oh buzz word for Catholics...but I digress..again) Jesus did tell many people to "go and sin no more." That means, watch it buddy cause there is work I have for you to do in this life. (Yes work!) The Grace of God and our faith and obedience will allow us to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Right? Wrong? There lies the question we each must ask ourselves.
The short of it is this...
Shockingly enough we ALL (should I say most?) believe that we HAVE to live for Christ in order to get to Heaven...thus we all believe in "works!" Although, none of us believe that works actually get us to Heaven it is by the Grace of Jesus that we are even allowed to come to Heaven!
But what about Mary?! I'm going to try to get this right...I may get it wrong but it's my blog so I'll write what I think I know and you can correct me later in the comments! LOL
I found out that The Rosary is actually a meditation on the Life of Christ. It begins by holding the first "bead." The beads keep your place in your meditation on Christ. The first bead is where they think about the moment that Gabriel came to Mary to tell her she is with Child. They say "Hail Mary." The Hail Mary is actually the first scriptural verse to take place in regard to Jesus here on earth. It is the words that Gabriel said to Mary in Luke chapter 1...thus the Rosary "chant." (Uh Oh...buzz word)
"Ah, Vain Repetition!" My Evangelical friends will say.
Is it vain to meditate on Christ? Is it vain to quote scripture about the beginning of Jesus' life on earth while working your way through beads to remember each and every part of Jesus life? I'm thinking it's not a bad, bad thing..or even a bad thing. Is it vain for our children to pray the same prayer at night or to say, "God is Great..." at the dinner table?
How can it be blasphemous for a Catholic to ask Mary to pray for them, when there are many Protestants who ask the elders of their church to anoint them in prayer for Faith healing? If Jesus is granting people on earth the power to Heal through His power, how much more power would He grant His earthly mother to help His people? It is commanded that each person Honor their Father and their Mother in the Lord. How much honor would Christ have given Mary? He was fully human and fully God while here on earth. How would He want His earthly Brothers and Sisters to think of her and/or His Heavenly children?
So there's that bag of pickles I'm left to think about.
I have learned more about the Catholic church than I ever knew I WANTED to know! It's fascinating and it has been hugely liberating to examine the thoughts and worship of our "other" Christian brothers and sisters. I am so thankful that I have been blessed with the friends that I have, both Evangelical and Catholic. They put up with my questions. They pray for me and they love me. God is so very wonderful and I am so very blessed.
So, It's no secret that I was raised as an Evangelical Christian, and I do believe I will remain evangelical. In the end I think we can all agree that it is all really about Jesus. His sacrifice is what gives us all hope and He is the reason we live the way we do. Our religions may be different, but our goal is the same...to get ourselves and our children to Heaven...and that is something we can all agree on.
UPDATE: POST NUMBER 1: EVANGELICAL ME AND MY CATHOLIC FRIENDS
UPDATE: POST NUMBER 2: THE WHOLE CONFESSING TO A PRIEST THING
UPDATE: POST #3: WHAT DO CATHOLICS BELIEVE?
UPDATE: POST #4: DO CATHOLICS PRAY TO DEAD SPIRITS?
UPDATE: POST #5: THE WHOLE RELIGION THING