In this whole journey of mine to figure out if I am a Catholic, one surprising thing was the amount of misconceptions I had, and even more so how many OTHER people had. (and still do) I had a list. These questions must be answered or it was a no go. My spiritual journey began in the Baptist Church, from there to Hippy Jesus Freak, from there to exploration of it all, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and etc. etc.. There is a great poem I love by Ogden Nash, and it pretty much sums up this time of exploring the whole tapestry of religion.
The Seven Spiritual Ages of Mrs. Marmaduke Moore
by Ogden Nash
Her pigtails slapped on her shoulderblades ;
She fed the chickens, and told the truth
And could spit like a boy through a broken tooth.
She could climb a tree to the topmost perch,
And she used to pray in the Methodist church.
At the age of twenty her heart was pure,
And she caught the fancy of Mr. Moore.
He broke his troth (to a girl named Alice),
And carried her off to his city palace,
Where she soon forgot her childhood piety
And joined the orgies of high society.
Her voice grew English, or , say, Australian,
And she studied to be an Episcopalian.
At thirty our lives are still before us,
But Mr. Moore had a friend in the chorus.
Connubial bliss was overthrown
And Mrs. Moore now slumbered alone.
Hers was a nature that craved affection;
She gave herself up to introspection;
Then finding theosophy rather dry,
Found peace in the sweet Bahai and Bahai.
Forty! and still an abandoned wife,
She felt old urges stirring to life,
She dipped her locks in a bowl of henna
And booked a passage through to Vienna.
She paid a professor a huge emolument
To demonstrate what his ponderous volumes meant.
Returning she preached to the unemployed
The gospel according to St. Freud.
Fifty! she haunted museums and galleries,
And pleased young men by augmenting their salaries .
Oh, it shouldn’t occur, but it does occur,
That poets are made by fools like her.
Her salon was full of frangipani,
Roumanian, Russian and Hindustani,
And she conquered par as well as bogey
By reading a book and going Yogi.
Sixty! and time was on her hands—-
Maybe remorse and maybe glands.
She felt a need for free confession
To publish each youthful indiscretion,
And before she was gathered to her mothers,
To compare her sinlets with those of others,
Mrs. Moore gave a joyous whoop,
And immersed herself in the Oxford group.
That is the story of Mrs. Moore,
As far as it goes. But of this I’m sure —
When seventy stares her in the face
She’ll have found some other state of grace.
Mohammed may be her lord and master,
Or Zeus, or Mithros, or Zoroaster,
For when a lady is badly sexed
God knows what God is coming next.
Even while in the hospital, I had two glaring examples of complete ignorance of the Catholic Church smack me in the face, and puzzle me. The first was a nursing assistant who mentioned to me that she was glad that the cross I wore was not a crucifix, and then began to semi-lecture me about the risen Lord. This “fear of the crucifix” is something I see a lot in protestants, and it is just a misconception I think. I think they probably feel that Catholics give an inordinate amount of time to the Passion of our Lord, and the work that was done on the cross, and not enough time on the Resurrection. This is patently false. On the other hand, to Catholics it seems sometimes that protestants have an abnormal aversion to the Christ hanging on the cross. so it works both ways. I say anyone who cannot gaze at a crucifix and find themselves tearing up with gratitude and love for Christ’s suffering for them, loving them enough to suffer to wipe away all their sins, needs to spend even MORE time studying Calvary. The only thing I said in response to her statement was “Yes, but it is His blood that washed me clean.” and left it like that. She probably would freak if she knew how many crucifixes are in my home. The second incident was even more an example of complete misinformation. A nurse asked if she could pray with me, I of course said yes. Then she said “Because you know you don’t need a priest to talk to Jesus, you can talk to him directly.” I was kind of taken aback for a second then smiled and said “Yes, it works like that for Catholics too.” I am sure this comes from an incomplete understanding of Catholic Confession. Catholics of course confess their sins directly and daily to God in prayer. However we have the added Communal confession done in the liturgy, which is general and gives a general absolution of those sins, followed by a blessing and admonition to go and sin no more. This is completely Biblical and is what Christ taught and did. He never just left them hanging there. “Go, and sin no more.” And we have private confession to a priest, with absolution. This is for grave sins. Remember again that Christ never forgave sins without assuring the sinner they were forgiven. Now we, and more especially Priests, who have had hands laid on them from the BEGINNING of the Church, first from Christ to his Apostles, then the apostles to every priest down the line then there is an anointing done down 2000+ years now to priests. When the priest is in the confessional he is not the priest, he is Christ Himself, in person. How glorious it is to hear the words “Your sins are forgiven.” given that knowledge. We all, even when we do confess, will have the same old sins pop up in our minds and come back and haunt us. With personal confession, you really do feel they are forgiven and forgotten. You have been told –out loud–by Christ.
There is also a great deal of “anti-catholic” sentiment everywhere, but more so here in Oklahoma, the belt buckle of the Bible Belt, and the home of a big chunk of the Southern Baptist Convention, not to mention OBU is here as well. Protestants outnumber Catholics here probably 500 to 1.(And this is pure guesswork, I have not done any research on it) Let’s just put it this way, if you are going out to a restaurant for Sunday Dinner, you best get there before the Baptists let out of church.
Of course the Seventh Day Adventists despise the Catholics. They, and a few others believe the Catholic Church IS the “Anti-Christ” Personally, I am sort of bemused by this logic and the whole the Pope is the anti-Christ conspiracists.
So, there is that. And of course I was a Baptist for the majority of my life and then I was a protestant most of the rest, Granted, I had become an Episcopalian at around age 28, but contrary to popular belief Episcopalians ARE protestant. I fell in love with the Liturgy. Then later in the 90’s I left altogether. I believed the Episcopal Church had fallen into complete heresy. This began my journey to find my Church.
I had been reading a lot of Church History and then the Early Church Fathers, the Mystics, Many of the Extant stuff, Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and I finally just settled back into a kind of “Desert time” where my spiritual life was one of deep contemplation, solitude, and prayer.
The question arose. Why am I NOT a Catholic? Is it because of my own misconceptions and prejudices? So, I made a list. These things must be answered for me. I wiped all the garbage out of my head and began an earnest and thorough search for the truth. I began by reciting the Creed, reading each line and deciding DO I BELIEVE THIS?
The first creed was the Apostles Creed, and was very basic, then came the Council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed was born. Personally I love the Nicene not only for the beauty of its wording but for its clarification on many points of the Apostles Creed. But going back to basics, I chose the Apostles Creed.
I believe every word.
Next I read the entire Bible again 4 times through. I had read it all my life, and of course in Liturgical Services you read it every Sunday all year long. Specific readings, and in a 3 year time frame you pretty much have read the entire Bible in Church.
I believe every word.
So, the foundation is laid. Next was to tackle: “THE LIST’. But that will have to be for another blog post because this one is getting just a tad long at 1500++ words
One last little warning and or disclaimer. I do not like to argue religion. I am not an apologetic (though I have read some good ones, (GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, etc.) . I also will not discuss or argue the scandals in the Catholic Church. I will not enter that field of battle.
Know this however. I love all Christian traditions where the sheep are being fed. I will worship in any house of God where I feel His presence. I will pray for and with anyone who asks me to (and many who don’t.)
A priest once told me this and it stuck in my head: “The sheep follow the good shepherd, they know him and follow him. If you see someone behind the sheep prodding them, then that is not the shepherd, that…is the Butcher.”