Monday, December 19, 2011

PrayerRequest: Presbyterian Elder Wants to Become Catholic

This last week I received this email:
Brantly, 
I came across your website: Young, Evangelical, and Catholic. I really appreciated it. I'm middle-aged, Evangelical, and - in the past few years- have come to a catholic perspective on my faith. The liturgy of the hours has been the foundation of my daily devotional life since 2004, I "pray" the 20 mysteries of rosary each week, I take part in Eucharistic adoration each week at the Newman Center at the university I teach at. 
I love the catholic faith. However, I'm an elder in my Presbyterian church, and my wife reacted with absolute horror and anguish when I told her of my interest in Catholicism. She literally cried for almost a week. Yet I also find my fellowship with my evangelical brothers stimulating and encouraging, even life changing. 
So for now I'm kind of in a spiritual no-man's land. At adoration, I remember the Syrophoenician woman, pray a sincere act of contrition, and ask that Christ would come spiritually into my heart. One day I hope to enter full-communion with the Catholic church with my wife. 
God bless you and your journey and service to him.
And he also had this to say in a follow up email in our conversation:
I spoke with a gentleman from Opus Dei and the chaplain at the Newman Center. They both advised/agreed with backing off - for now - with entering full communion as quickly as possible. The Newman Center chaplain also said advised not to get too comfortable with "spiritual communion and absolution."

This morning's rosary was the joyful mysteries. Elizabeth's words - " And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" - struck me especially today personally. How does this happen that the mother of my Lord should come to me - a stanch evangelical who was utterly convinced that prayers to Mary and the saints were idolatry?

It is my prayers to Mary that are the most distressing to my wife. She calls them idolatry, as once I would have, too.
Please pray for this person and this person's family and church! (Wouldn't it be great if he could pull an Alex Jones?)

As many of you out there know, stories like this are not uncommon. Over the course of my blog, I have received several emails like this. Those of you who were born Catholic should be grateful for the gift that you have. When I was considering Catholicism, one Protestant pastor I spoke to who said he believed the Catholic Church to be "the fullest manifestation of God's Church on earth", encouraged me to join while I was still young: "Do it now. It'll only get harder the older you get."

One reason is of course because the longer a person lives as a Protestant, the more their life becomes entrenched in Protestant social structures. And that's on top of the fact that, even if someone becomes convinced of the Catholic faith, actually joining the Church can be quite a culture shock that can require a significant shift in one's thinking, and that can take time (I know it did for me!).

But to those of you who are Protestant clergy/pastors who have been led in your heart to Christ's Catholic Church: know that you are not alone! There are many other people out there like you and many resources to help.

Here's at least one: The Coming Home Network is organization that supports Protestants clergy/pastors who want to become Catholic with resources about the faith, job postings, and a community to help you through the transition.

Another great resource is Called to Communion, whose writers are all converts to Catholicism from the Reformed tradition, many of them clergy/pastors.

10 comments:

  1. My guess is that he is a presbyterian elder at a conservative congregation in the TC. I may have even met him. My guess is that those in the liberal PC USA wouldn't fuss as much as those in a PCA over one leaving for Rome.

    ReplyDelete
  2. There should be missions set up for accommodating Evangelicals interested in Catholicism, where certain accessories of mainstream Catholicism could be toned down without watering down the faith. Sacred imagery and statuary, as well as the Rosary, are not indispensable to proper Catholic devotion. And yet these are the things that keep many Evangelicals away from the Church. When they become comfortable enough with Catholic doctrine on the few minor points that cause the most dissonance, they could integrate a regular parish.

    ReplyDelete
  3. On the other hand, I was just speaking at a Christmas party to a former Baptist minister convert. He said the greatest impact of his first visit to a Catholic church were all the images of Jesus: a statue of Jesus; a statue of Jesus in his momma's arms; Jesus on a cross; Jesus in the stained glass; and Jesus in the Stations.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey Daniel,

    I've been thinking about your comment the last few days. It's an interesting idea. I think I tend to think though that the way to bring people in is to be fully Catholic. Let's give people the whole deal. If people are searching, they don't want something that looks just like where they came from. These Catholic practices are beautiful, inspiring, and should be a part of any fully Christian life. In fact, as kkollwitz said, I think they can lead people to the Church.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Also, I think it's part of the courage building and humbling process. Each person has to literally step away from themselves, from their pre-conceived notions, from their fears of what their family/friends would think if they only knew they were "praying to statues!" The same grace bringing them towards the Eucharist and the Mother Church could help them with their former attitudes. Not to downplay it..that's such an understandably difficult aspect of the Catholic Church to grasp if you were raised to be morally against it. But I think learning how to slowly adapt to it while in an authentic Catholic environment may be more fruitful that being given a watered down version. Also, watering things down could inadvertently reinforce the concept of "catering" to people. Where people believe things that they "can swallow", "grasp" or "feel comfortable with". There are so many mysteries in our faith..so adjusting to the images (with proper guidance and instruction) could be a great start. My 3 cents :0)

      Delete
  5. I agree with Brantly, and will pray for the gentleman

    ReplyDelete
  6. What an interesting post.. thank you for sharing. I think that is so cool that you shared the email you received.

    ReplyDelete
  7. From David M
    To Brantly,
    I am aware that this anxious man’s posting is from Dec 2011, but I found his comments and their implications thought provoking.

    Every person today is on the same journey between two critical events, we can all look back to the life, death & resurrection of Christ and we can all look forward to when we all bow (believers and unbelievers) before the judgement seat of Christ.

    This man’s closing is touching, but what a greater joy IF it read – “One day I hope that my wife and I enter into the presence of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and be bathed in the Glory of our Heavenly Father forever.”

    How did this man; a husband; an elder, and a fellow sinner come to be in this predicament?

    This man, a professed follower of a Protestant tradition, in practicing aspects of a Roman Catholic tradition has warmed toward these, and has caused his wife much deep anguish. The dear man and his wife are under great anxiety. A seismic shift is threatening their lives.

    God teaches believers* through His scriptures that when we hem ourselves in – in this manner, that we are to STOP! And turn to Him in true intelligent and coherent prayer.

    Do not be anxious for any reason, but instead through diligent prayer and petitions, with thankfulness to God make all your concerns known directly to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

    This instruction is true and trustworthy to a believer.

    I can not determine by the content of this mail whether or not this fellow sinner actually intimately knows and trust Jesus as his redeemer and LORD.

    Perhaps the question to be asked of the beloved sinner is do you really know Jesus?
    The only way to communion and restored fellowship with the Father is through the Son - Jesus the Christ.

    Gospel of Christ, is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes,

    Do you believe? (as in willing to take a bullet type of belief) – That Christ died for your/our sins according to the Scriptures, and that Christ was buried, and that Christ rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
    If yes, then your identity is solidly in Christ and not in any denomination or organisation that claims to be Gods exclusive representative on earth.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Your comments about Protestant social circles is spot-on. As a Catholic I use Protestant schooling for my kids (no Catholic school in my area), my kids go to Awana, I'm envious of the resources Protestant parents have for their children during worship as I struggle to quiet my little ones during Mass. And then there's all the socials for Moms and kids that your average Catholic Church doesn't have. When I married my Protestant husband and met his friends the first time the first question the women asked me was what church I go to. When I said Catholic you could see the message written on their foreheads: Ain't gonna be seeing you too much then and most likely not gonna even try to become buddies with this lady." At the end of the day I remind myself that the sacrament of reconciliation and eucharist are my lifeblood and I wouldn't trade Christian Lady Bible and Coffee Socials with Free Childcare for ANYTHING!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,

      Yes, we have a lot to learn from our Protestant brothers and sisters in some regards, but you are of course right: those benefits don't outweigh the Sacraments and the fullness of Christ's Church.

      God bless!

      Delete