Protestant and Catholic Sacraments

“Lord’s Supper”

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

February 20

Something weird happened to me the other day. My buddy, who was/is Catholic, not sure, kind of annoyed me. It was a weird feeling because I felt defensive of the Catholic church. I felt like an annoyed/offended Catholic. I felt kind of judged and maybe even attacked and maybe even silly for some of the choices that I make. Now, my buddy would feel so bad if he knew any of this. He doesn’t want to annoy me or offend me, and when he thinks he does, he feels so bad.

I was talking about the paperwork that goes into Catholicy wedding things, and he said something along the lines of “Maybe just not do any of that bs.” Essentially, a Catholic wedding. Maybe I sounded like I was annoyed at all the paperwork and he was trying to empathize? That actually makes more sense. But the fact is, wedding planning is a lot of paperwork no matter where/how you do it. Sure, there are ways around it, like, don’t invite anyone, but otherwise, it’s a serious ordeal. And no doubt, when/if he gets married, it will be a serious ordeal for him.

Even though he says, “Maybe not do any of that bs.” I know his present girlfriend will be all about a super liturgy. She doesn’t want a Catholic wedding, and that’s fine, but she wants a wedding in a church, and any church wedding requires “that bs.” I felt a little caught off guard because Steve wants a Catholic wedding (because he’s Catholic), and I’m perfectly fine with a Catholic wedding (maybe even also want it), and I didn’t like my decision to be okay with a Catholic wedding to constitute as any more BSy than any other type of church wedding.

Again, I don’t really think my friend meant any harm by it, he just says those things sometimes as a way of empathizing with a potentially crappy process. Like confirmation!

Marriage is a sacrament, and like confirmation, there are all these rites and rules, and there is no bending any of it to be “officially sanctioned” somehow by the Church as a-okay! Now you’re married and can have sex and babies. Just like confirmation (kind of), you get “officially sanctioned” as a-okay by the church to, I don’t know, take communion? Be fully in grace? I have no idea.

If you’re an adult you get all the sacraments at once: baptism, confirmation, [confession], communion. And if you’re raised Catholic it’s baptism, confession, communion, confirmation, all spread out over about 13 years.

Anyway, I just needed to get this Catholic defensive feeling off my chest, because I didn’t really like it.

June 8, 2016

I barely remember this day, and this day seems like I was very annoyed. There were a couple things going on. First, I had just recently become engaged, and the the first couple months of wedding planning are the worst. It is exhausting, and I wasn’t Catholic, planning a Catholic wedding. Looking back, it probably was a lot of bs. The paperwork is ridiculous. On the other hand, this meticulous record keeping is part of what keeps the Catholic church in business. In that sense, I get it.

But the part of this entry that got to me was the part about the rites and rules and steps that a person must take in order to par-take in something in the church. I know it’s all holy and sacramental and all that, and no one is perfect, but I still don’t get confirmation. I get these things on a very trivial level. Let me explain the sacraments in Protestanty terms: 

  1. Catholic Baptism—For Protestants this is like a baby-dedication. We’re initiating this child into the community and committing to training this child in Catholicy things.
  2. Catholic Communion—Protestant Cracker and juice. Think about Jesus.
  3. Catholic Confession—Protestant Feel sorry for your sins, confess them to someone.
  4. Catholic Confirmation—That member training/teaching that some Protestant churches do before you place membership. Confirmation and confession in the Catholic church are kind of like baptism in some protestant churches— at this point, you know you’re sinful, and you know what the church is about, so commit with baptism.
  5. Catholic/Protestant Marriage—Now you can have sex.
  6. Catholic Ordination—Protestant Process of becoming a church leader.
  7. Catholic Healing the sick—Protestant Caring for others.

All that to say, I still don’t get confirmation, and I do get why people don’t want to do it. It is extreme.

Mystery and Desire

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

February 18

I just read a little piece on DailyTheology.org here: http://dailytheology.org/2014/02/18/living-the-questions/

It’s about a High School teacher in theology in Massachusetts. It’s a nice piece about the mystery that is God.

I find myself at this point where I’m half in one place an half someplace else. I just want to be in the other place, the place I’m not in right now. I want to be out of my job. I want to be married. I want to be in Florida. And I want to be Catholic. It’s strange how I have gotten here, but I feel less waiting now and more readiness.

I don’t know exactly what is compelling me to question less and do the confirmation. It’s because I have already asked a lot of questions, I don’t have all the answers, some of the answers aren’t even adequate, but I still want to go through with confirmation. Is there worry or fear or wonder? Of course, and maybe that’s part of the draw. Will there be a drastic cultural shift or no? I don’t know.

I started reading a textbook on the sacraments because I don’t know them. I don’t think that it will greatly change my mind or even make me feel more secure in the Catholic choices I’ve made thus far, but I want to learn. Not taking a course on the sacraments was another short-coming of my dual-degree program. But alas, I wasn’t in it to become Catholic, or to teach Catholic things. I was in it to become a counselor, and now look at me.

If I Were God… on making humans, free will, the afterlife, sin, evil, and punishment.

In my prayer the other day, I decided to play the game “If I were God.” A popular “If I were God” thought, is about the idea of hell. Because, if I were God, I don’t think any short life of evil deserves eternal conscious punishment. Yes, I know, I am not God. I cannot understand these weird God things, but allow a little room for some human brain gymnastics. After all, the Truth can handle it, and if I were God, I’d give humans brains so that they can use them.

If I were God making humans, my first idea would be for everything to be good! I think I’m on the right track here, but what does that mean? I would want life to be great! No sadness, or suffering, everyone is living in the present moment, everyone makes the right choices, and we all love each other, and get along, and we don’t worry about death or dying or do anything terrible to each other, and there is really no other option.
Eeek. Paige God, what about that whole “free will” thing? Sound like you’re losing it in this perfect world of snuggly nice humans without a worry in the world. These humans sound like spoiled well-loved puppies. They do right, they stay in the present, they give love, receive love, and that’s about it. Deep and meaningful conversations might be challenging.
If I was God, I don’t think I would actually like a world where my closest companions were only dogs. I think I would like someone I could talk to, I could experience with–someone who gets me and I get them… That may come with some drawbacks. If humans can think like God, like me, like they are in the image of me, God, we got some tough stuff to deal with.
Do I even want this universe? Yes. I def do. But these conscious beings, how are they going to work without killing themselves? They probably will. Is it worth it? I mean, I’m God, so I can do what I want. They might destroy themselves, but they might also do great things, and I could get along with them and help them, and they could talk with me, and I could talk with them, and ultimately in the end, we’d all be one. Right? I’m God. I can make that happen.
So, I’m going to give these beings that are like me a short life, so that they don’t have to endure the torture of universal questions they’ll never really understand for eternity. But I will give them hopes and dreams and talents and abilities, and they’ll all fit together so perfectly, even if they don’t really get that either. And they can go after their dreams with reckless abandon because this life is all they have before I consume them.

NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM

See, that was fun. But really, it kind of made me realize how much I think of life as going after some reward or expecting some sort of punishment. It’s more difficult to get out of this kind of thinking than I think we realize. And, if I were God, I wouldn’t want the end of everything to just be a giant reward or punishment like The Good Place.
I was asked a long time ago, “What would you do if there was no reward or punishment?” Or phrased a more true way, “What would you do, if your only reward or punishment was in the present time (not eternal)?” There are always reward for doing good things, and there are consequences for doing selfish things.
This is Paige trying to figure out “WHY EVIL!?” I will end with two ideas that I’m still sitting with regarding all of this…
  1. “We are not punished for our sins, so much as we are punished by our sins.” Like I said, there are consequences for what we do, and we might think that those consequences only affect ourselves or whoever (like if you punch someone). We don’t think of our personal sin as affecting others that we love, like our children or friends. So, choosing not to do something bad/selfish, is less about our own reward, and more about loving and protecting others from our insanity. Or something like this.
  2. “If we could somehow understand the gift we’ve been given, and be genuinely grateful, how could we possibly sin?” How could we be entitled and do anything selfishly in gratitude? And maybe that is what the all-consuming God, in the end, does–makes us capable of all-consuming gratitude, where the option of evil is like an old well-rehabed addiction.

I don’t know. I’m not God…

Everyone is Spiritual

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

October 31

As I begin this post, I’m actually listening to Katy Perry’s album Prism, and the song is “Spiritual.” 

“And I am finally here (or healed?)/This is spiritual, under your spell/Phenomenal, the way you make me feel/Like an angel, oh, at blow/Like a feather, you make me float…”

Katy’s Christian undertones are showing through the whole album.

Everyone is spiritual. Rob Bell has a talk called “Everything is spiritual,” and I’m down with that too. And all this is bubbling to the top of my brain because I watched this movie Good People Go to Hell, Saved People Go to Heaven.

The documentary follows a group of pentecostal, Bible believing, lower middle class white Americans, in post Katrina New Orleans. The characters are a guy who carries a cross across the US and up and down the Mississippi river, a single mom with an agnostic marine son (married to a Christian convert), and a perfect pentecostal teenage son.

The story is of all these good, simple people, surviving the Louisiana weather and preaching Christ is coming. You better accept him, or you’re going to hell. Many of them described the events in New Orleans as a spiritual cleansing. At the very beginning of the documentary, a pastor is standing amidst the ruble of his own church building and says something along the lines of, “If God did this, then I would guess he’d target Bourbon Street and all that, and they didn’t get a drop.”

Even when I fall prey to it, I despise interpreting when I get what I want, that it was God’s will, and that when I don’t get what I want, then it is the enemy, sin, or punishment. It never makes any sense. For every person who get’s what they want and attribute it to God, there are hundreds of people crying out and not getting what they want. What’s worse is that as I believe I’m getting what I deserve, I then have to believe that they are getting what they deserve. This is terrible.

Even though I have a lot of problems with the Christianity that many of these characters in the documentary boldly proclaim, I actually really enjoyed the people in the documentary. I know those people. Those people are my friends, and while sometimes I think they’re crazy, I don’t actually think they’re crazy. Everyone is doing their best with what they know. Everyone is spiritual.

I read a comment on Amazon about the movie. Someone complaining that they thought the documentary depicted the cross carrying guy as crazy, and I didn’t think that at all. He explained, and I wasn’t sure if I believed him, that he never asks for things from people, he only asks God, and he won’t take anything from anyone unless they say, “God told me to give this to you.” Sounds like a great loophole to me. Not asking for anything?! He’s living in a trailer, traveling, and loving God in the best way he knows how.

They all seemed normal and like very genuine people. They are caring for people in ways I can’t. They feed people, even if that food is later used to frighten them out of hell.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of dangers with their readings of the times, the Bible, salvation, and the afterlife, but as I was watching, I found myself being particularly attentive to what those people do that is Christian. Take away hell, take away scare tactics, and watch them pray, watch them care for one another, watch their trust, watch their experience. There is Spirit there.

Spiritually Stressed: Caught Between Two Communities

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

October 8

I was told I can get on the preaching rotation in January. Okay. Hmmm. About that.

As expected, I’ve become spiritually stressed. This is understandable considering I go to Mass at least four times a week, RCIA, and Church of Christ. Soon into RCIA, I have felt pretty strongly that I do want to just do it. Get confirmed. Be, technically, Catholic. I just can’t imagine my life, going to Mass, and not, technically, be a part of it.

This morning at Mass, I remembered Jesus saying to, “become like a child” (Matthew 18:3). Now, Paul has something opposite to say about this, what whatevs (1 Corinthians 13:11). Anyway, children in the Catholic church usually get baptized first thing (babies), then do confession and communion (elementary), then do confirmation last (middle school/high school). It’s not fair to us adults. These kids get to take Eucharist for years before ever being confirmed! I don’t get it. Well, they have to do confession along with it, i.e. acknowledging their (elementary) sins, so okay.

I guess if I sneak into a first confession, then technically, I’m a-okay to take communion. But this whole “closed-communion” thing is dumb, and killing me.

The whole inconsistency of the Catholic community makes me feel less bad about a) taking eucharist sometimes (though I have largely stopped), and b) well, becoming Catholic. They are not perfect like everyone, and I like them, and they make sense (sometimes), and I want to share in this obviously broken and inconsistent community.

I am caught between two communities, and some days I’m being pulled towards one, and another day, another…

I was reading a little bit about Catholic communion, i.e. Googling “Can Catholics take communion in Protestant churches?” and “Can Protestants take communion in Catholic churches?” As usual, the answer from the Catholic church is, “No, but…” There is always an exception in the Catholic church. Which is hilarious. Writers who were holding hard and fast to the “Absolutely not,” seem to like to make gross and archaic generalizations about Protestants that are totally untrue. For example, “Why in the world would you ever share in communion with those super wrong Christians who all think that all Catholics are wrong and going to Hell?” Or, “All Protestants reject transubstantiation! So, obviously stay away!

I think while many Protestants have moved on from the schism, many Catholics are still holding fast. Seriously, I don’t understand how we hold onto 500 year old grudges and think they still apply today. Admittedly, I love how, even as old as some Canon law is, there is always an exception. And protestants? Well, we don’t really have canon law so much, so it doesn’t really work the same (at least in the evangelical tradition).

I know it’s not true of all Protestant churches, but to assume that a person in a Protestant church agrees with everything that church says, is not the case. But in canon law, and with more conservative Catholic writers, they do paint Protestants with extremely broad strokes. To Catholics it makes sense because Catholics are supposed to all think the same (I kid).

Then, in Evangelical world, it’s all about my personal relationship with God. Luckily, there isn’t any creed, or canon law from evangelicals saying I can’t do what the Catholics do, or believe what the Catholics believe. If my relationship with God takes me there, then amen, I guess.

The biggest problem between Protestants and Catholics seem to be Catholics thinking that all Protestants all think the same, and Protestants thinking that all Catholics think the same. People in these Christian institutions aren’t robots! I guess that’s why the exceptions and loopholes exist…

More Complex Millennial Expectations

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

September 24

Five days from preaching, and I’m going to assume that since I haven’t heard anything serious back from my friends who I shared my sermon with, that there isn’t anything drastically wrong with it. That’s good.

Today is one of those days where I feel a bit lost. It’s a usual thing, asking myself questions like, “What am I doing?” “Where am I going?” “Why am I doing it?”

Last night, I was talking to my mom about Gen Y (Millennial), and a HuffPo article about our expectations being way higher than previous generations, and thus, leaving us unfulfilled and unhappy when we don’t meet our “change the world,” “have a successful non-profit,” “live overseas,” “be paid to do nothing” expectation.

Then, I thought about my own life, and what I expected from it growing up, and where I am. And my teenage dreams where/are kind of boring. My life plan was pretty basic, you know, get a job (either as a doctor or teacher or something), and get married, and live the life somewhere.

Now, I think I’ve highered my expectations. My expectations have become more complex, and are less dependent on my job and marital status. My expectations are day to day: help people, listen to family and friends, express myself, be honest, be good, love…

First draft: Done.

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

September 23

The first draft of my sermon is done. When I started writing it, I thought, “Ok. I’ll step away, and then come back and see how I feel about it.” Then when I came back to it, I thought, “This isn’t bad at all. It’s pretty good.” Then, after reading it over and over and over, I’m, of course, insecure again. So, I sent it to my friends to judge.