Friday, August 3, 2012

What the Catholic Church Means to me

When I was attending school in my youth, I recall that one of my Health teachers told us that it was unknown what the purpose of the appendix was, that it was an unnecessary part of the body. Perhaps, they have discovered the purpose of the appendix. When it comes to the Church, the Body of Christ, I “feel” that I am an appendix. Now, I know that there are no worthless “parts” in the Church, that God has an extremely important purpose for every single member of the Body. Nevertheless, the “feeling” remains, regardless of the fact that I realize that our feelings are fallen and deceive. Everything I put my mind and hand to, I fall extremely short. I can identify with St. Paul when he said, “That which I desire to do, I do not; that which I desire not to do, I do.” Yet the question always remains: Did I not do what I did because I wanted to? Even if a knife was put to my ribs, would I be forced to do something? Could I not choose death rather than sin against my God? Therefore, do I not do what I do because, at the time, I want to, whether out of fear or not? How does this make me love the Catholic Church?

All my life I was a Protestant. Twenty some years ago, the Truth began to be extremely important to me. I had to know Truth, otherwise I was going to perish. I was, at the time, a Baptist. Questions started coming into my mind. I would go to the pastor with my questions, and his answers would create more questions. Finally, he asked me, “Why can’t you just believe the way you do, and I believe the way I do?” I said, “I can’t; I must know Truth.” I left the Southern Baptist, and went to the Presbyterian PCA. From there, I went to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS). I began to fear one thing: I knew that truth was not in me; but would I recognize Truth when it came to me? I knew something was not Truth just because I sincerely believed it; hence, how would I know Truth was Truth if it confronted me?

As a Lutheran, I found a Lutheran website called Wittenburg Trail. They would ridicule the Catholic Church, especially the Pope, who we were taught was the Antichrist. This bothered me for I was taught in the LCMS that we were saved through Baptism and the Pope was baptized. If the Pope was saved through Baptism, how could he be the Antichrist? I was told that the Pope as a person was not the Antichrist, but the position. But how do you separate the person from the position? This caused me to wonder what Catholics really believed.

The Catholics I had met in the past did not impress me at all. They did not know why the Catholic Church believed as it did; they had very little knowledge of Scripture. When I was in the military, a Catholic told me that one only had to go to Mass twice a year—Christmas and Easter—that, if you missed either one, you would go to hell. The Catholics I met could not explain to me why they believed as they did. But, because of the attacks on the Catholic Church by those on the Wittenberg Trail, I decided to search out what Catholics believed, why they believed. I came across the Catholic Answers website.

I was impressed that they did not ridicule or attack Protestants. What was also impressive was that the Catholic Church did “not” believe that Protestants were going to hell because we were not members of the Catholic Church, that indeed many would be saved. This encouraged me to delve in further. I learned that, in order for me to become a Catholic, I had to believe that the Catholic Church was The Church, that I had to accept what the Church taught regarding faith and morals was Truth, that I would perish if I left the Catholic Church, after having admitted that the Catholic Church was The Church. This made me very hesitant. Then I learned that the Catholic Church believed that it only had the fullness of Truth. Then they had the audacity to prove it. I began attending an RCIA class to learn more about the Catholic Church. I was still teetering, couldn’t readily accept that the Catholic Church was The Church. I had to be very sure before I became Catholic because I knew there was no turning back if I became a Catholic. While in RCIA, the doctrines regarding the Virgin Mary troubled me so much that I knew I couldn’t go forward; but I also could not let go. I began downloading the Catholic Answers radio programs and listening to them. I knew more and more I was leaning towards Catholicism.

Finally, I came to the conclusion that I would never know Truth from within, that it had to come from without. I knew of no other denomination that stated it had Truth, the fullness of it, and then set about proving it. Then came the comforting words, “We are the Body of Christ, of which Jesus is the Head; and He will not deceive His Body.” The Catholic Church, I realized, was the Ark. Our Bless Mother is the ark of the Covenant, making her the Mother of the Church. There was safety in Noah’s ark; there is safety in the Catholic Church. Just as there was a devil in Noah’s ark—Ham—I could become a cancerous tumor, a devil, in the Catholic Church if I did not trust that Jesus Christ was the Head of the Catholic Church and that He would not let His Body be deceived, be wrong, and therefore what the Catholic Church taught is Truth. It is so comforting to trust that Jesus would give discernment to the Catholic Church, who in turn would teach the members. The Catholic Church is not an organization; it is a Living organism. In the Mass, God gives us His Word, gives us His only Begotten Son dying on Calvary for us, and He rising for our justification. He gives us the Sacrament in order to maintain our holiness. Let us not receive the Sacraments ignorantly, without knowledge, haphazardly; but let us receive them with knowledge, repentance, with growth. The Israelites believed they would be safe if they cling to the altar, e.g. Joab; let us cling to the Catholic Church and its doctrines, teachings. If we do not agree with them, we are theoretically believing that the Catholic Church does not have the fullness of Truth, that the fullness of Truth is what we sincerely believe. It is then we begin drifting away from Jesus Christ. TT

This theological reflection courtesy of the parishioners of St Paul Catholic Church in Pensacola, Florida: