Why did you do it? Three Reasons I Became Catholic.

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 9, 2016

Why did I do it? I was asked this the other day by a post church of christer married to a catholic post church of christ… I don’t think I answered the question. You’d think after 3 years I would have my answer all worked out. I just met this person. My words?

“It was a slow burn…”

“The community…”

“I don’t know if I could have done it outside of Boston, the Jesuits, etc…”

Even though I wrote in the last post that the reason was to do the denomination thing and liturgy–totally true. It’s a copout for the more mystical answer, that is, the Eucharist.

Why did I do it? The Eucharist.

There is something indescribable that happens. And in trying to explain it, I would only ruin it for myself or someone else. That’s what Mike Montegue says in Finding God in the Waves. To sit and to be and to experience the ritual – everyday, any hour, in any language, all across the globe. There are not many (if any?) churches that can say they do this.

I love communion in church of Christ and I continue my adoration in the Catholic church.

Why did I do it? Universality.

Like in the above–I can go anywhere in the world, and be at home. The Catholic church is so huge and so small and homey at the same time. Then there is this sort annoying paradox of “universality” and “exclusivity.” How can something so huge actually be exclusive? The only exclusive part of being Catholic, is that you choose to commit. Is that too much to ask? Is that any different from any other church?

I understand the issues many have with the Catholic church (particularly on gender and sexuality), but it is still in dialogue. I appreciate this. Leadership in the church is like parents fighting over what they think is best for their children. They want the best, we’ll turn out ok…

Lastly, why did I do it? Conversion.

Because I believe in a God of conversion. If you are born and raised Christian, are you really a convert? Where is your heart blocked off from God, because you don’t believe you can be converted, changed, transformed, healed, forgiven, forgiving, or reconciled. That’s what God is after. Just because I was confirmed Catholic does not make God any less after me. Regrets? No. Issues with Mother One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church? Of course.

If I can believe in conversion for myself and others, I can believe for the same for any religious institution that is made up of myself and others.

What if there is no priest!?

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.

January 9

Daily Mass is a strange and beautiful thing. Honestly, I don’t know if it’s different than any Christian community one might regularly attend. Ideally, if you go once, or every day, Mass is all about community, hence, communion and eucharist. The idea that, whether you know it or not, you show up and it is community. You are in.

I attended an evangelical church in Boston for a year. I lived next door to a regular attendee of this church. No one there really badgered me until, my neighbor noticed me there. Now, I’m not annoyed that I wasn’t badgered to “get involved” in church earlier, but there is this weird sort of feeling being in and out. In Evangelical church it is kind of expected that you get what you put in. You build community. You are building community. But in Catholic church, the community is already there, built, through all space and time, and you are always welcome and well-regarded as a part of the community.

That’s not to take away from real relationships with people in a church that are built in the present. But it’s important to recognize the different emphases. Relationships in real time do take time, that is a fact of life. But God is beyond time and space, so how God “builds” relationship and communion are beyond our comprehension.

I also go to daily Mass. I’ve done this for over a year now. I go maybe 3-5 times a week to Mass. Eight a.m. weekdays. When I started, it was in St. Mary’s Chapel at Boston College. This chapel is a beautiful chapel on BC’s campus. It’s big, and very narrow and long. The back of the church feels very far away. It always felt like a lot of people were there. The priests were never late or no-shows to Mass because they also lived in the building. Well, soon after getting used to being in there, we got relocated (due to renovation) to a repurposed library transformed into Chapel in Gasson Hall. It seems like about a third of the size of St. Mary’s.

A lot of people stopped showing for mass when the community moved. Or it seemed that way. I still am not sure, because I was never sure how many people were in St. Mary’s.

Welp, it got real awkward in Gasson real quick. There is tight seating. There is no way to avoid walking by across or through the very front of the altar. The sacristy is awkwardly placed, and there is no rhyme or reason to the order of how eucharist is done. And priests regularly stand us up and flake! This depends on the time of year and the weather. This week, the first week of the year, and one week before class, there was no priest. There are like a hundred priests within 2 miles of this chapel, but that’s far and it’s cold.

The stress, anxiety, whatever you want to call it, of sitting in the chapel waiting. Watching people come in late with Mass not started. A couple of the usuals get antsy, check the sacristy, whisper things to a couple other people, walk in and out of the chapel semi-frantically… Seriously, what is Fr. Punctual doing? There are more Jesuit priests in Boston than anywhere else in the world! And we can’t get one here at eight a.m?

Enter, something beautiful. Most of the time the priest is just late, flustered, and flies through Mass. But this week, there is no priest at all. What do we do? Communion Service! Basically, there is already some left-over Jesus in the tabernacle, so the community does the intro, mass readings, our father, sign of peace, eucharist, and benediction. What?! So the priest is just there to make the Jesus magic happen.

Even though this sort of service is on the fly, and due to lack of priest, it really shows how willing everyone is to pitch in and make something happen. This is why there are so many loopholes in the Catholic church—because what if there are no priests?! What if all the males die! What if there are aliens!? Stuff like that. They really have their “what if’s” down.

Back to sermon writing…

Protestant, How Catholic Are You?

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 12, 2012

From the archives:

I love Mass so much. I enjoy the motion, the quiet, and the occasional smells and bells. I love the meditative quality. I love watching as how others in the room “do” Mass. I wonder what their favorite prayers are, or why they’re there… when it’s not a Sunday. Especially not on Sundays, it seems as though most Mass-goers are loners. And so, I wonder…

I love Mass so much, but I’m not Catholic. And after attending, probably more than most Catholics, for the past four years, how I do Mass is basically a test. It’s a test for me as a Protestant, and it’s a test for the Catholic on how to treat said Protestant. Being a part of a Catholic community at a Catholic school of theology, when I first began attending Mass, I took the Eucharist. To my Catholic buddies, their first assumption was, “It’s okay because she [as a Protestant] doesn’t know what she’s doing.” However, I did know what I was doing, and I took the Eucharist for several reasons. The main reasons being that it is a part of my Protestant tradition and I love Jesus. Other reasons included that I knew most of my Catholic peers desire for open-communion, and at the time, it just felt wrong not to take part in the sacrament with my community. I couldn’t not take communion!

But then I started dating this Catholic boy and I got this job at a Catholic retreat center, and I could no longer remain the anonymous Protestant pretending to be Catholic… Or as Rahner might suggest, the inverse: anonymous Catholic pretending to be Protestant. So, I stopped receiving. I haven’t received in a Catholic Mass in over a year. I stopped because I was going to be working with and worshiping with rural communities in Northern Ireland. They would know outright that I am not Catholic, and that I should not be receiving. It was hard for me to do, and it caused a lot of spiritual anxiety. Essentially it was a feeling of being excluded in church. As if, the gift is not for me, and that my receiving was wrong all along. I was also slightly annoyed knowing that many Catholics don’t follow the “rules” of what they are supposed to do (or not do) in order to receive, i.e. confession. Regardless, I started crossing myself for a blessing.

Like I said, at first, this was weird and upsetting. But after a while, I really began to take to it. Confusing priests and Eucharistic ministers with church sign language, and keeping them on their toes. I began to feel as though the blessing was like an equal gift to the Eucharist, and I liked to feel as thought I was still a part of the tradition without offending anyone. I felt blessed. Then I returned to Boston, the home of my, more or less, Catholic conversion. I decided to continue being blessed at Mass, but it was an awkward awakening.

I proceed in the line with my friends to the alter. I very emphatically cross my arms over my chest as I approach the Eucharistic minister. He holds the host up to me, “The Body of Christ.” He wants to place it on my tongue. Lips pursed, mouth closed, I lean back surprised.

Then I lean in to speak to the apparently clueless Eucharistic minister, “Uh, I just want a blessing.”

Still confused, “A blessing.”

“Yes.” But what I’m thinking is, “How is this happening to me right now!?”

He makes a lazy cross motion in front of me, and I move along after holding up the line.

After returning to my seat, I write it off as a fluke, but something inside me sort of feels like I shouldn’t go up at all. Ever again. That way, my Protestant self does not disturb the perfect Catholic equilibrium that happens at every Eucharistic procession.

Nevertheless, I went for my blessing again at a different Mass! I know that the Eucharistic ministers are meticulously trained, but it happened again. I don’t know how many times this happened to me before I started aiming for the end of the pew where I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way going up to receive. Now, I’m afraid to go up at all, and I don’t know what to do about that.

Anyone else ever get this confused blessing look at Catholic Church?

Receiving Eucharist and Catholic

I went to Mass on Sunday, and I receive.

I’m referring back to my post on stealing Jesus in Mass. I remember that while I was in RCIA and more seriously considering confirmation, for the most part, I didn’t receive. And even earlier before that, I wrote about how I didn’t receive in Ireland since I was the only Protestant living with a bunch of Catholic priests.

I am the only one not receiving at these Masses, and I am quite the obedient “non-Catholic.”

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.

I’m still not entirely sure what my rationale was for all of this. Being of evangelical/pentecostaly background, I would guess my “feelings”. Admittedly and shamelessly, I still base my decisions on these, more or less, educated feelings.

Even though I’m now cleared to take Catholic communion, I feel more guilty and have so much less understanding. I have these conversations in my head, “You’re supposed to receive after confession… I should go to confession more. No one goes to confession. Augustine just thought going to mass was enough to receive…” And so on. Do I do this because I think that’s what I’m supposed to do as a Catholic? Am I empathizing with everyone? Sucking up some similar energy? Is there actually some merit in these thoughts and questions? I don’t know.

Did I expected to somehow feel more worthy or special or with some secret knowledge? Well, if I did, I do not. I feel grace-filled, unified, and consumed by mystery. Still.

“Not Catholic,” Receiving Eucharist.

[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.]

August 21

Eucharist

I went to Mass on Sunday, and I receive. I receive the Eucharist. I can’t not. I want to be a part of it. I’ve been baptized, I believe. I go to Mass. No, I haven’t had first confession, but still. In Sunday Mass, where I’m unknown, in a group of hundreds, I go with the flow of the group. I receive.

I don’t always receive, because, it can be totally awkward. Standing up there with my arms crossed over my chest. The Eucharistic minister lifting the host, and then surprisingly putting it back for a hasty blessing. Several times I’ve not even received a blessing. They just stand there like, “Why are you even in line?”

I usually don’t receive in daily Mass, I just enjoy. Bask in the presence. I meditate. I consider what it would mean to go through Confirmation. Why I may, or may not, do it. I let myself be seen there, not receiving, amongst what I assume must be the most needy and committed Catholics. In the more intimate, daily Mass settings, maybe I’m making a statement. Maybe I’m being honest with myself and everyone around me.

I’m not being dishonest on in Mass when I receive on Sunday. The experience of receiving Eucharist is very meaningful. The experience of going up to a Eucharistic minister and being blessed is meaningful. The experience of just sitting in my seat and not going anywhere, nor receiving, during Eucharist is also meaningful. Whatever you believe, do what the Spirit leads you to do.

My Catholic journey began pre-conception. My dad’s family is Catholic. However, through the entirety of my childhood, my dad was not Catholic. We would occasionally go to Mass with my extended family, and we all awkwardly stood in the pew during Eucharist time. People would be squeezing between pews by seven giant redheads, and then again as they returned to their seats. One time, when my Grandma was too weak to get up and go to the front to receive Eucharist, my brother went up, got a host, came back and gave it to her. She was pretty sure that wasn’t allowed, but took nonetheless. It was still the body of Christ, someone had to consume! All that to say, our Mass going was rare.

Besides, my mother, her five fiery children, and sometimes her husband, had other church to attend to: Wednesday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday night, Church of Christ services. Every. Week. Forever. Well, it seemed like forever sometimes. Though it seems almost silly now, especially since I’m going to Mass everyday. Church of Christ really isn’t all that different from Catholicism.

(More thoughts on this in the present here: Receiving Eucharist and Catholic.)