Easter of 2013 was a big occasion for me. I was confirmed into the Roman Catholic Church.
Interesting for a girl who was raised by a Baptist minister, right?
I won’t use this post to go into what lead me home to Holy Mother Church. What has troubled me nearly every day since my confirmation is how the Church is perceived in our society.
If you live in New York or Boston, or any fair-sized city, I guess, this may mean nothing to you. However, when you live “in the country,” as I do and always have, Protestantism, in one form or another, is pretty much the only religion you know. When you say the word “Catholic,” you can almost watch as the misconceptions about the Church roll across people’s minds.
So, rather than get into a theological debate about the finer points of Catholicism, which I am NOT qualified to do, I want to share with you some of the things I have heard about the Church, and how I know they are not true because of my own personal experience. Here we go:
1. The Catholic Church worships Mary.
The short answer to this, of course, is no, we don’t. Stick with me on this “worshiping something besides God” thing, because it seems to be a recurring theme. The most important thing I can say about this accusation is that Catholics worship one God, and only one God. Further, we believe in God as three persons–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Since we also believe in and follow the Ten Commandments, the first of which is not to worship anyone but God (I’m paraphrasing), to worship Mary (or the Pope, or a saint) would be a mortal sin and a heresy, and as such, would endanger our souls to Hell. So we don’t take this lightly.
However, that is not to say that we do not love our Mother. She is the Mother of God, and, as such, we honor her with highest honor. She was the first Christian. She is a model of how a Christian should behave. Since another Commandment tells us to honor our parents, we feel pretty sure the Mother of God is worthy of honor. And yes, we invoke her intercession in our prayers. More on that later.
2. Catholics aren’t Christians.
In simplest terms, Christians are followers of Christ as the true Son of God, and as part of the Holy Trinity. That is exactly what Catholics believe, and so, yes, we are Christians.
3. Catholics worship The Pope
Please see number 1. We don’t worship our Holy Father. We do not think he is divine.
We do, however, acknowledge him as the Earthly leader of our Church. He is the number one Catholic. Have there been corrupt popes? You’d better believe it. Peter himself, the first head of the Church, denied even knowing Christ. History buffs could tell you all kinds of shenanigans popes have been up to. Here’s the thing–the Pope is, after all, only a human. He is placed at the head of a Church that is also made up of–you guessed it–humans. In his own actions, he is not infallible. However, we do believe that in Church doctrine he is infallible. His being the head of our Church is no different that your pastor being the head of yours. And so what if we all get very excited to see him? Good grief, we live in a society that does nearly worship celebrities! Consider William and Kate, and Brangelina. Don’t even get me started on how people acted towards The Beatles and Elvis. And we can’t jump up and down and cry when we see our Holy Father? Baloney.
4. Catholics pray to Saints/Statues/Pictures/Other Graven Images
Wow, this really is a recurring theme, isn’t it?
Anyway, again, see number 1. We don’t worship anyone but God.
Do we pray to Saints? Yes we do. But not in the way you think. The way we talk to the saints is the same way you talk to your brothers and sisters in Christ here on Earth. Heck, you probably ask someone to pray for you almost every day, don’t you? Why? Well, when we call upon the saints, we are asking for them to pray for us. These are holy people and why shouldn’t we believe that they can hear our prayers and pray for us? All of us need all the help we can get.
Do we love pictures of saints and statues and all of that good stuff? You bet. Let me ask you this–do you keep pictures of a dearly departed loved one? Why do you do that? Do you keep mementos from trips and vacations and baby clothes and locks of hair and who knows what else? I’m sure all of those things are perfectly acceptable to you. Why wouldn’t they be. So, why can’t I, as a Catholic, have a painting of a saint whose life speaks particularly to me? Why can’t I have a picture of The Blessed Mother to remind me that she understands what a mother’s suffering for her child truly is? These things are mementos, and reminders, of people who Catholics love. It has nothing to do with worship.
5. Catholics think a priest can take away their sins.
This one seems more complicated on the surface, but it really isn’t. No, we do NOT believe a priest can take away our sins. God’s mercy takes away our sins. However, for that to happen, Catholics do believe you need to confess those sins, and yes, you confess to a priest. The priest is acting en persona Christi, which means in the place of Christ, there in the confessional. And yes, the priests prays the prayer of absolution over you, but let me tell you, it is Christ who is there in that confessional, and it is Him who absolves you of your sins. The priest is basically your tour guide through the most wonderful experience you can have as a member of the Catholic Church.
6. All that bowing/crossing yourself/incense, etc., is just weird.
If you’re not a Catholic, I’m sure seeing what goes on in an actual Mass would be very intimidating to most. All of the bowing and kneeling may seem strange, and to some, even sacrilegious. Let me tell you, I’ve been to a lot of church services in my life, and I have never felt more in the presence of God than I do during Mass. We bow and kneel because we believe the Body and Blood of Christ are on that altar. Speaking things in unison causes everyone to participate in Mass together. You are doing something, not just sitting there. You are practicing your faith. It is revered as a holy and sacred time and place. Shouldn’t the worship of God be treated with such reverence?
I’m going to stop for now. I’ll leave you with this:
I’m not trying to make everyone become Catholic (although if you want to, good on you!) What I’m trying to do is make people realize that Christians are cutting their own throats by quarreling among themselves. It’s about time we let go of misconceptions and outright lies and just remember that we are all called to follow Christ’s example.
Can’t we all just get along?