25 April 2013

Catholic|Protestant Ramblings (pt. 1)

In moments when I should have been doing something more productive, my mind went back to a Christian music festival I went to four Summers ago (only four? When did I get so old?!). As I remembered certain moments--the grungy layer of dirt we had on ourselves constantly, the chaotic dancing to music too heavy for my taste, the great flood of rain the last day that had us spending half the time in the car and the other half skipping over puddles and dodging mud fights--I got the all too familiar question mark in my brain that is always hovering somewhere around in there. It asks: how do I resolve Protestantism and Catholicism?

I know, right? I'm a twenty year old, weeks (again: so old) from a college degree and I am nowhere near close to being able to answer such a question. Sometimes it seems really easy to be overwhelmed by this problem of the Christian faith for the last five centuries. When I was a Protestant, it was easy to make assumptions or suppose about Catholics and their faith. It was easy to think, "You gave up chocolate for forty days? How is that special?" without having learned about year round penance or different levels of mortification for all good reasons: making oneself holy, showing love to God, for the salvation of souls....

Prayer candles at a side altar at Notre Dame Cathedral.

Now that I profess Catholicism, I wonder if it is becoming/will become easy to forget the reasons Protestants do things: will I forget their sincerity or their firm belief? I don't think so...but the difference in outward actions or word choice so simply trip me up into thinking, "They're not being as reverent as they should here. Don't they understand the significance of why they do that in the first place?"

The last thing we should be okay with is being irreverent, of disrespecting God, of not honoring Him in the best way possible. That's tough: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind..." It's hard to love anything to that magnitude, and even harder to love God to that magnitude when you claim that you can't see Him and you can't hear Him but all along knowing it's only your fault, knowing you've been the one silent in the relationship for too long.

All of us need to work a LOT more on holiness. I think a misconception is that Catholics say, "We are right!" while Protestants say, "We are sincere!" At least, that's the idea I've gotten from the experience. But we should be both. We should strive both to be in line with Church teaching and to follow God passionately.

Looking up at Notre Dame Cathedral.

So would I disagree with what my friends or the musicians I saw four Summers ago say now? Probably. I would likely shake my head, put my hand on my younger self's shoulder and say, "This hundreds-of-people Communion that you think is so fantastic? It isn't. Not in comparison to the Eucharist you will enjoy several months from now. Not compared to the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ that you will receive, that will fill your eyes with tears and your soul with life and your lungs with your first real breath. You have not seen Heaven come down in the form of the Mass, have not walked toward Christ with heart-shattering anticipation, have not been anointed with the intoxicating smell of chrism oil, have not called upon your Mother in Heaven to aid you, have not found familiarity with St. Therese like a twin, have not been absolved of your sins, have not admired priests who hardly know you but who fill you up with hope. You have not stood breathless in cathedrals of immense beauty, have not sought refuge in an empty chapel between classes and dissolved into tears because look how far you've fallen, have not been struck by the mystery and reverence of Mass that urges you to return, have not met your amazing sponsor who you can only hope to be half as holy as in your life, have not met your fiance who will patiently teach you and beam at you when you say, 'Yes.' to the Church's call. You have so much more beauty to see. Just wait.... "

I love Catholicism. I love the Catholic Church. Now I need to work on loving others to her....

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