Are There Born Again Catholics?
A reader asked me after reading my post "The Reason Why I Blog:"
So does this mean you are a born again Catholic? Why are not all Catholics born again? Why are there different sects inside the Catholic church? Are all of them recognized by the pope?
My response was this:
The long story is that I would suggest you read my conversion story, here.
The short answer is yes, I am born again, but the biblical definition of that is this: I have been baptized by water into Christ, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, which is what the term Born Again has meant for almost 1800 years. In the first 18 centuries of Christianity, no one referred to someone as a "Born-again Christian". This term was used by fundamentalist Protestants to describe a personal spiritual re-awakening, but the New Testament as well as all the Christians for the most of Christendom defined born again as being baptized. You can read an excellent post on this here . The concept of asking Jesus to be your personal Lord and Savior making you "born again" is not biblical. Should we all ask Jesus to be our savior and invite Him into our hearts? Yes, absolutely, but that one-time affirmation doesn't guarantee that person a place in heaven. If he or she is born again through the waters of baptism which the bible says "saves you" and repents and lives a life pleasing to the Lord, they will ultimately attain heaven.
"Whereunto baptism being of the like form, now saveth you also: not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the examination of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
As Catholics we believe the sacrament of baptism is what ultimately saves us, assuming we cooperate with Christ and live a life pleasing to him, "so as to attain the goal, as Saint Paul hoped. But baptism isn't a irrevocable ticket to heaven if you choose to live like the devil! Neither is asking Jesus "to be your Lord and savior" in the Sinner's Prayer.
I was Catholic kid in the 60's and early 70's who was baptized as a baby, but as an adolescent was in a dark place spiritually, going to Mass but living like the devil. I had a conversion at a bible study where I did surrender my life to Jesus. At the time that was called being "born again", but it was really just a moment of surrender, which the Lord honored. Sadly, I left the Catholic Church because this group of Protestants were anti-Catholic and taught me many false and libelous things about the Church, which I should have looked into for myself. Thanks be to God, I returned to the Catholic faith 7 years ago.
Are there born again Catholics? All Catholics are born again meaning they have been baptized. Are all baptized Catholics living faithfully for Christ? Sadly the answer is no, not all, and this can be found in any protestant church as well. When I was a protestant, there were many who would say they had been saved and "born again" on a Sunday, but lived a very different life the rest of the week.
I, as a physician, had many of these folks as patients, and unfortunately, being "born again" did not keep them from worldly vices, nor make them any better at paying their bills for my services than the "non-born again" patients. So my personal experience tells me that calling yourself a "born again Christian" doesn't always translate into someone who is truly attempting to live for Christ on a consistent basis. I proved this in my own life by getting into some serious sin but still thinking I was on the path to heaven because I said a prayer at a bible study as a 14 year old kid. If I had died in my sins during some of those occasions, I am fairly certain I would not have found myself in heaven. Hypocrisy unfortunately comes in all shapes and sizes and is prevalent among all religions, Catholic and non-Catholic. People are people, and there is no guarantee that one group will behave any better than another. The Church is full of wheat and tares, the Lord tells us, and only at the end does He know and decide who ends up on the threshing floor to be tossed out and burned. That being said though, I still maintain that being Catholic and receiving God's amazing grace through the sacraments is definitely the best formula for saintly living, Catholics have a 2000 year track record of lives lived with heroic virtue based on their receiving all the grace He offers. Look at John Paul 2, Mother Teresa, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Edith Benedicta Stein etc.
To answer your final question, there are no sects in the Catholic Church. We are all (theoretically, not always practically) in submission to the pope in Rome, meaning we trust that God leads and guides the Church through him. (We don't worship the pope, by the way)
There are different rites within the Church, meaning some use a different liturgy- the byzantine rite, for instance, but we are all still Catholic. That is what it means to be Catholic=universal, all as one, believing the same doctrines. Catholicism by definition IS THE CHURCH Jesus started, and there are no sects within it. Hope this helps.
Here is another excellent answer to Are Catholics Born Again?