Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sunlight on the Forest Floor: my journey toward God, trying to see the forest for the trees

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, "There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive the Catholic Church to be."

I used to be one of those people, though hate is perhaps too strong a word. I had a very strong, very foggy dislike of the Catholic "institution", and for the life of me, I cannot tell you from where or what it stemmed. Perhaps it is hereditary among Protestants. I believe I heard from various people I respected that Catholics were destined for hell, a passage from Revelations entering in here, and I think it's likely that I heard some blunt opinions about Catholicism growing up in the Bible Belt. But I could not have told you why I distrusted the Catholic Church or what exactly they believed about Jesus Christ that was so very different from my faith in Him. I only know my perceptions were called into question when I first learned that the man I would someday marry was Catholic.

I freaked out.

Now, of course, I can look back and laugh at my little tantrum. I can remember fondly my dad saying matter-of-factly, "Hillary, that's the oldest Christian church there is!", and how I felt comforted by that. I can remember the night I first truly received Communion, after attending Mass for 10 years with my husband, and how I was overpowered by God's love and mercy and spent my time in that front pew before the altar, kneeling and sobbing.

Since that night I have learned so very much, much of which I could not have remotely grasped without God's grace and guidance. I have learned just how ignorant I was of everything save the Gospel (and I have my dad to thank with my whole heart that I was not equally ignorant of the Word). Not only did I not read the Old Testament and the Epistles or appreciate their relation to Jesus, I did not understand fully, or even reasonably well, the hallmarks of Protestantism, and I presumed to know Catholic theology based on a legacy of several-hundred-year-old prejudices.

That last statement is definitely not the case for some, but I suspect it is for many Protestants.

I have many relatives and dear friends in many different Protestant denominations, and I have been in many different churches - Methodist, Baptist, Assembly of God, Church of Christ, and Jehovah's Witness (with a dear childhood friend). My favorite Gospel singer, Keith Green, was Protestant. These posts I intend to write regularly are not to disprove the validity of any denomination. I mean to dispel prejudice, misunderstanding and ignorance about the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church in order to foster greater unity.

Wow, good luck! you might say, but I will try.

And never fear: I will continue to write humor (One of the greatest humorists, Erma Bombeck, was Catholic!) when the mood strikes, and I will write about my little rascals often. Yet I must be able to write what I wish, and often I wish to talk about God. It is something my family did quite a lot of while I was growing up, and it's not healthy, as many of us know, to suppress the Good News.


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