Sunday morning. It’s about time for me to put myself together and head out into the frigid temperatures to mass.
Sometimes I long for the days when I was a protestant, and could deem a 0 degree reading on the thermometer as adequate justification to stay in my warm bed and forego church. But, since I’m a Catholic now, I let the guilt consume me and in fear would drag myself through snowstorms to make it to mass.
I am, of course, jesting. I can with complete and total honesty say that I would never go back to my pre-Catholic days. And, contrary to popular opinion, I do not generally feel large amounts of guilt. I do notice, however, that since becoming Catholic feeling guilty is not necessarily a bad thing…There are reasons that God allows us to feel guilty, and provided us with consciences that sometimes promote feelings of guilt. I take it as a sign that something isn’t in order, and I’d best have it out and perhaps repent.
I’ve noticed, too, since becoming Catholic, that mass is not about the music, the church building, the people who lead the music, the pastor, the sermon, the lovely people sitting there, and is most definitely not about me. It is so Christ-centered, and culminates with the Eucharist. And most often it serves to remind ME that I’m there because I’m a miserable, imperfect sinner. And that I receive in a very powerful, corporal way Jesus Himself through the Eucharist, which helps me become a better person. It equips me for the purpose of getting it together.
The Christ-centered aspects of mass are especially apparent to former protestants who are Catholic converts. I can recall feeling like a person afloat in a giant sea of denominations, drifting aimlessly from one to another, desperately reaching out for a solid piece of land, and finding again and again nothing but a flimsy piece of driftwood. This process is often known as “church shopping,” and always struck me as rather horrifying, though at the time I couldn’t say why this was so. But now I know…it was all about me, Me, ME! “Try many different churches and see what fits YOU.” For crying out loud, was I looking for Christ or a pair of jeans?
I remember meeting David, and falling almost instantly in love with him. (I have to remind myself of this from time to time.) I remember finding out he was Catholic, and thinking, “I’ll have to stop THIS nonsense!” And try I did. But, although David, like many life-long, “cradle Catholics” wasn’t always able to provide adequate explanations of his faith (although I think Catholics in general know way more than they think they do), he WAS immovable in his annoying, pragmatic, and logical way, and exhibited a marked resistance to the fluff with which I was presenting him. And carried off his defense of Catholicism quite well, actually. Over the course of time, he represented a strong anchor in the sea of options, and I was beginning to envy his stability.
This story is way too long for one post. And the clock is ticking. I’ll just say for now that the first thing that initially really struck me, and was, in fact, the thing that made me go from, “No way” to “Yes, absolutely” about Catholicism came down to one thing: Authority. I recall thinking how stupid 30,000 plus denominations make Christianity look to the world. If the Bible is so easy to interpret, why are there so many people who see it so differently? Unified, my patootey. This lack of final authority is what allows people to start churches at the local pizzeria. It just didn’t seem to me that THAT was what God had in mind for his Bride, the Church. Surely God would have provided guidance and a final authority when it comes to interpretation of Scripture, etc…And he did. But most protestants don’t know about it, or they don’t want to hear about it, or they’re absolutely confused about it. (I was.)
And then, history came into play, and the writings of the Church fathers, and the actual origins of the Bible, and the Reformation and its aftermath. And I read about all this and realized that THIS was the way it was supposed to be. And I realized how miserably I and others had mischaracterized the Catholic faith. I was wrong, Wrong, WRONG!
So, that was the beginning of my conversion to the Catholic faith. And I keep finding out more and more. It’s like opening a fantastic present, and finding that there are ever more presents inside, waiting to be opened. It’s all there and more. Perpetual Christmas morning.
No longer do I feel adrift in the sea of denominations. I can recall speaking to David about some non-denominational church, and him annoyingly (and accurately) asking, “So, is that a denomination?” To which I responded by opening and closing my mouth several times in succession with no words coming out, rather like a landed fish. Ahem. Another check for the Catholics.