Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wheat and Tares and Only God Knows Who is What.

The following is a response I gave to a person on the fb page Catholics Are Christians! who is contemplating conversion to Catholicism. They went to their first Mass on Saturday night and were scandalized by the inappropriate dress of some of the parishioners.

  "I understand your feelings, having been right where you are. The Catholic Church is made up of sinners and saints. A myriad of souls all at a different place on their journeys to holiness. Some may truly be there to become more holy (as I would hope most), but others attend because it’s the culturally correct thing to do, and others out of sheer obligation. But ultimately, only God knows the hearts of those at Mass. Does wearing tight jeans and revealing shirts mean that person isn’t trying to get more of Jesus? I don’t know. I certainly agree with you that the inappropriate dress of many in Mass belies their understanding of what is truly happening- Christ making himself present on the altar and allowing Himself to be consumed, body, soul and divinity by us clay-footed sinners. If they truly understood that Jesus would become physically present at the consecration, would they want to be dressed like that? I don’t know. Does it mean they don’t respect or know Jesus as Savior and Lord?  I can’t say, nor is it my position or responsibility to say.

At my very first Mass after 31 years of Protestantism, a row of cars would not let me inch out and leave my parking spot because “everyone was in such a hurry to leave.” I was so frustrated! If this is the Church Christ started, then how could these parishioners not even have enough courtesy to alternate, every other car etc? Over time I came to realize, the church is full of wheat and tares as Christ said it would be. That is normative Christianity. Some maybe truly there for the “right reason” and have allowed God’s grace to conform them closer to His image. Perhaps not everyone is there yet, and some may be actually be tares, sad but true. But the beauty of the Catholic faith is that all are welcome and only God knows and should judge who truly is docile to His grace and touch. I can’t judge someone based on their dress or their inability to allow the liturgy of the Word and the reception of the Eucharist to affect their behavior in the parking lot after Mass. 

But, I do know that the Mass is the place to be for conversion.(as well as the confessional beforehand) The Mass opens with the Confiteor. This is the prayer where we acknowledge our sinfulness to God, followed by a prayer to Mary and the saints that they would intercede for us, and we would then pray for each other. We are there to pray for each other, because of the very fact we are all still sinners in need of the healing touch of Christ. The Church is for all, not just a place for those “who have arrived.” Please don’t be discouraged. You will find very devout Christians in every mass who “get it.” But Christ in His Church is always inviting those who don’t ….yet."


Blogger Andre said...

I think we tend to see greater diversity within the unity of Catholicism. We're united in doctrine, but not everyone manifests it in the same way.

In my Reformed congregation, I felt the pressure to look and sound like the Reformed archetype: theologically astute, homeschooled kids, stay-at-home wife, attend every event, etc. There is less pressure to be that in a Catholic Church because the greater focus and model is Christ.

October 19, 2011 1:20 PM  
Anonymous russ rentler said...

I believe that Catholicism really has the Church as Christ intended. Full of those in various places in their journey from tares to wheat and everything in between.
We as former evangelicals are accustomed to everyone in our rather small congregations accepting the pastors directives and behaving cohesively, or at least in appearances.
My experience though in real life is that evangelicals, like practitioners of any other religion, can show one face at church and another at home or at work or in the business world. As a physician in private practice who once had numerous evangelicals from many local protestant churches as patients, suffice it to say that what you see in church on Sunday is not always how things truly are on Monday.
What I have found on Sunday in Catholicism, is that there is no effort to appear a certain way, behave a certain way, or even be noticed for that matter. The liturgy is God's beautiful design to equalize us all during worship. No one can appear more pious than another by their exuberant actions or behaviors. We all kneel at the same place, we close our eyes to pray at the same place, we bow our heads in reverence at the same part of the consecrations! I'm not worried about what my pew neighbor is doing and they are not worried about me! Catholics are not wired that way. We don't judge one anther's spirituality. In 7 years of being Catholic, I have yet to hear someone gossip regarding the "spiritual condition" of someone else. I have yet to hear prayers for someone at a bible study because "they haven't been at adoration lately" or "I noticed they aren't at the confessional line on Saturdays like they used to be." It just doesn't happen, because Catholics know that judgment is up to God. It's almost in the DNA of Catholics not to judge. A very refreshing difference indeed!
Finally, I have asked myself this question before: If I attended my Protestant worship service(which was very charismatic) would I behave the same, worship God the same knowing no one else was there but me and God? Would I behave differently if I knew no one was watching me?

October 19, 2011 7:58 PM  

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