Friday, September 29, 2006

"Former" Catholics

It seems the most difficult people to inform about my conversion to Catholicism are those who were "raised Catholic" and are, for various reasons, bitter against it. I encountered this last night at my Bible Study when I informed them that I was becoming a Catholic but would like to continue attending the study, if they would be okay with it.

One gentleman was not out and out rude or anything but he told me that maybe my calling was not to enter the church but to attend in order to bring people OUT. As graciously as possible, I said, "No... Actually I AM being called to enter the Church. I've done a lot of reading, studying and praying and this IS where God is taking me." He then made some comment like, "Well, if during the study you ever felt led to stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down... (ha ha)" I said, "No, no... when in Rome..." I could sense his "horror" at the idea that I was becoming a Catholic. He announced, "Well, we will need to be praying for YOU then!" I responded, "Thanks! I appreciate your prayers and I ask that you do not pray that I will leave Catholicism but that I will follow God's will because that is what we should ALL be doing... following God's will for our lives."

Other members of the group said they have enjoyed my insight up to this point and that they will enjoy hearing my perspective of things in the future... This was wonderful to hear. One of the guys said, "I only hope you'll continue to be comfortable with US!" I said, "Absolutely! This is what I've always known. This IS my comfort zone... I love the people of that church and I love the pastors. I simply don't agree with all of the theology but it doesn't mean I want to end all my relationships with the people."

Overall, the reaction, though not positive, was not really negative and I left feeling good that I was able to let them know where God was taking me without being condemned on the spot. I told all of them that if they EVER wanted to discuss with me the various doctrines or question the things they believe the Catholic Church teaches that they think are in error, I'd be more than happy to plan a time to meet with them or talk with them on the phone. I let them know that I realized many would not understand this decision without an explanation and that I completely understand because I would have thought the exact same way less than 6 months ago!

But back to the original thought... the most difficult to talk to are the ones who left the Catholic Church... I think it's horribly unfortunate that their experience left them with animosity toward the Church since that is never what the Lord would have wanted.

There are also those who have had one bad experience that formed their opinion of the entire Church as well. My dad, for example, went to the funeral of a friend when he was much younger in which the priest condemned to hell the guy who'd died stating that anyone who lived like him would also end up in hell. This one experience gave my dad the impression that ALL priests do this... HORRIBLE! But I told him that this is NOT normal nor allowed and that one cannot base their entire opinion on one bad experience. If one has a bad experience at a grocery store, do they stop going altogether? At the doctor's office? The dentist? The car repair shop? They don't blame the entire industry! They just find another one within the industry where they have better customer service...

It saddens me when I hear someone was "raised Catholic" and they claim to never have heard about what Christ did for them... about a personal relationship with Christ. How could they look year after year at Christ crucified and not have an understanding of what Christ did? Why does the term "personal relationship" used in Protestant circles with Catholics make them think they didn't already have a personal relationship just because that term hasn't been used?

This makes me realize how much I must ensure that my children grow IN the faith... with a deep understanding of the faith so that when they grow up, they will never doubt that they DO have a personal relationship with Christ and have a full understanding of who Christ is and what He did for us. My hope is to raise my children to love God and the Church that He established so they will not be a "bitter former Catholic" who simply missed all the beauty and truth within Catholicism.

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