Confession: I Still Don’t Get Sin

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 don’t know how to prepare for a “first confession”. It’s a strange thing being a candidate for the Catholic church. In RCIA, we were basically told to do it, and I did. My only experience with Catholic confession is from Hollywood. Usually set in a small dark lonely box inside a small dark church. In TV and movies usually the camera is right in the priest or confessors face. The light is right above them casting unflattering shadows. I felt like when I went in to do confession that the light would be dark or dim, but it definitely wasn’t. It was in a college administrative office, bright florescent lights. I sat on a couch facing him in his office chair with a coffee table between us. I was talking to a priest, where the last interaction I had with him was five years before trying to get a job in Campus Ministry. He had no idea who I was.

Technically, Catholics are supposed to do confession like right before they go to communion. Or is it as long as they have no mortal sin on their shoulders? I don’t know. They got to be a clean vessel for Jesus to meld with… or something like that. Though, I’ve been told that Augustine thought/said that going to mass was a cleansing enough process for the average Catholic to partake. Not to undermine the significance of confession.

I was really nervous, and I thought a lot about my sin. I realized after that, really, the priest has more to be afraid of. I mean, who knows what kind of sinning I’ve been doing, right? And he has to hear it. I didn’t want it to be fast, but I also didn’t want it to take forever. From what I remember, he didn’t want it to take forever either. Not that I felt rushed, but after a certain point, and a certain feeling of remorse, what more is there to do or say? Pray, receive forgiveness, forgive yourself, and move on?

Weirdly, I cried. I did not expect to cry. I felt light afterwards. I’d done my new Catholic duty, though I’m still not sure what the etiquette is…

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Dear Potential Confirmation Sponsors:

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.

All of the Sponsors!

I sent this message out to about 15 friends inviting them to sponsor me for confirmation:

2/24/2014 Gmail – Becoming Catholic. Being Protestant.

Paige to ALL THE SPONSORS!

Hello friends!

So, if you didn’t know, I’ve been going to RCIA this past school year (YAY! or NAY?!) and I’m in that whole getting confirmed discernment process with a bunch of BC upperclassmen. So much fun, and also kind of weird considering I’m like a “real” adult to them with a theology degree and super raised Christian and all that. Anyway, I wanted to invite YOU to be my AMAZING sponsor.

I know what you’re thinking, “Paige, I know I will be an amazing sponsor to you, teaching you all our secret catholic handshakes and things, but what about all these OTHER people on this email?” Welp, it was a weird conversation in RCIA the other day, “Can one person sponsor two people?” Yes. “Can many people sponsor one person?” Yes.

So there you have it. You may all sponsor me.

Will I, or won’t I get confirmed? Probably, I will… Will I stop attending mass? Probably not. Will I still preach/attend at the Brookline Church of Christ, or any other variety of church services? Probably yes. Will agree with everything the Catholic church teaches? Probably not. Will I post an impossible amount of Francis memes? Possibly yes. These and many more questions will soon be answered. 

So, as a sponsor, I think you have some responsibilities, like coming to some special masses, hang out with the bishop, write to the cardinal, tweet at Francis, bake me cookies etc. Generally keep me in line. Potential time of confirmation will be the Sunday AFTER Easter at the nine p.m. mass. Lots of undergrads.

All encouragements, criticisms, questions, and concerns regarding this are very welcome!

Is there anyone else i should inform and invite to the sponsor team? “Reply all” if you so desire.

Peace be with you, paige 

Mike: I thought you only had one sponsor?

Paige to Mike: traditionally yes, but it’s not a hard and fast rule… according to stm grad student guy who helps with rcia.

Kate:

Yayyyy confirmation and coming into full communion!

So I won’t be able to be there for the Mass. Is that ok? Can I still be a sponsor?

I will of course cyber support you in any way possible.

Congrats! Kate

Mom to Paige: So then you can be a “Non­denominational Catholic Protestant” like me! xoxo yo mamma Sent from my iPhone

Margaret to Paige

I love this. And you. And I am thrilled to sponsor you. I will most definitely be at the mass. And happy to tweet francis, bake you cookies, etc.

Peace be with YOU great one, margaret

“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart.” ― Dorothy Day

Cheryl to Paige:

Oh Paige! How exciting! I’m so excited to join you on this spiritual journey! You will be in my thought and prayers as you prepare!!! Did you tell the peeps at Tobar Mhuire? Fr. Mel would be sooo proud of you! haha! Man, I miss those priest!

Love you! Cheryl

Dave to Paige:

Dearest Paige, Congratulations! I am so very happy that you are perhaps going to (possibly) join the Church. Now that you’re thinking about it I can less ecumenical and capitalize Church, because that’s how all the insiders know it’s THE Church. I could’ve slipped you some chrism a long time ago (I didn’t realize your baptism was valid ­ hence the purported need for surprise baptisms, which I think Kate actually tried once, right?) although the sacrament would have been neither licit nor valid. What secret handshakes have you learned? Unless, of course, you haven’t learned any, in which case that’s silly talk. Silly Paige! Thinking the Catholic Church has secrets… But I digress.

I’d love to be a sponsor, although I have many doubts about being able to be in Boston after Easter. So that limits my potential, or perhaps even destroys it. However, I do have a few other little plans to do my part in your journey… we’ll see if I am actually organized enough to get them done. I have high hopes, given how long I’ve been planning your surprise baptism.

And with your spirit, Dave

Paige to All:

Hello Sponsors! (I assume all of you are my sponsors.)

First, I want to thank all of you for your most gracious responses (they have been lovely).

Secondly, I want to let you know of things that are coming up that you should choose to attend, live tweet, skype in, object to, photograph, video, etc etc etc etc. I am approaching “The Rite of Sending.” Where we apparently begin (Feb 23 10:15 in the Height’s Room BC) a two week walk (not literally) to the Cathedral where there is the “Rite of Election” that takes place sometime in the afternoon on Sunday March 9th. I still don’t totally get it, but you should come! (Especially Margaret.)

Lastly, it’s been a very exciting semester of RCIA thus far. We’ve talked about sex, and baptism and some other sacraments, and Bibley stuff, and it’s been canceled TWICE on account of snow (even though everyone involved lives within or less than a mile from campus). Ok, well, it’s not THAT exciting… Also, because I don’t understand all the sacraments (or any?), I bought Joseph Martos’ book to learn. Any sacramental insight would be most welcome. Also, if you are somehow scandalized or offended by these weirdo updates, or would like to be removed from my sponsorship list, please let me know.

Love, Paige

Kate to Paige

Martos is a good historical introduction to the sacraments, but I wouldn’t count on it for much beyond an introduction.

Not really sure what the Rite of Sending and Rite of Election are, since I haven’t studied the RCIA, but since I’m currently reading about the origins of Lent for my exams, here’s my thoughts.

The Rite of Election is probably a modern RCIA version of when the bishop agreed to take on the catechumens who had been “elected” for baptism during the upcoming Easter vigil. Then, beginning with Lent, they began their pre­baptismal fast and instructional series. The bishop spent a few hours each morning teaching the baptismal candidates about the scriptures, doctrinal issues, and the Creed. These weeks of instruction were interspersed with rites of exorcism and renunciation of the devil/wicked ways/the world. They were not, however, taught anything about the sacraments, except that their upcoming baptism would be a complete break with their previous life and would be eternal. Then on the Easter vigil they were baptized, anointed, and received first communion. They attended Mass every day in the week that followed, being instructed during the sermons on the mysteries which they had undergone (mystagogical sermons)­ ­these sermons explained, using scripture, what the sacraments of initiation meant.

This pattern of election, fasting, instruction and celebration of the sacraments, climaxing at the Easter vigil, was a liturgical innovation of the 4th century, necessitated by the large numbers of pagans who wanted to become Christian. Although this pattern was really only necessary for a century or two, it was incredibly popular among the already­ baptized, who prayed and fasted along with the baptismal candidates and who likewise enjoyed the catechetical and mystogogical sermons. In time, it was only babies who would be enrolled and elected, who underwent the scrutinies and exorcisms, and who were baptized at Easter; but the pattern of communal prayer, fasting, penitence, and paschal expectation endured (since it really was a very good innovation) for centuries. Over the course of the Middle Ages, the Easter Vigil became moved to a Saturday morning liturgy. It was not until the 1950s that the vigil in the evening was restored (and it became very popular). Furthermore, it wasn’t until after the reforms following Vatican II that the RCIA came into being, modeled upon this early Christian pattern, and restoring the original baptismal meaning to Lent.

So, there’s my contribution for the connection between Lent and the process you’re going through. I’d be happy to answer any questions!

LOTS OF LOVE (and maybe an upcoming Catholic Meme cheering you on), Kate

Clarissa to Paige

Yo Paige ­ I’ve sat down to write an e­mail to you twice but it time keeps getting away from me. First of all congrats on making it this far. And secondly, I’m honored that you would ask me to be one of your army of sponsors. That’s quite special. I can’t make it physically to Boston for the Mass, but thanks for the invites.

I’m not sure what you need from me from afar but I will certainly be praying for you as you prepare for the Sacraments (wait, did you take Bader’s Sacraments class with me?).

Man, this is exciting stuff.

How are things/life in Boston other wise? Let me know if you make it out to the Midwest and maybe we can rendevous in a cornfield in Illinois or Indiana.

Peace, Clarissa

Kevin to Paige

Awesome ­ yay can’t wait to go to Easter mass with u!!!!!!

Margaret to Paige

I accept these invitations and will do what I can about the sacraments… hmmm… 10:15 is MAD late. I’ll think about it, but wanted to let you know that YES i’ll be spiritually present there.

Margaret

Margaret to Paige

Also… Dorothy Day is my favorite person who talks about the Eucharist. Confirmation is slightly confusing to me. I get marriage… even though I’m not… That’s all I have for the moment…

Paige to Margaret:

Come on! We can dress in sweats and hoodies and pose like undergrads. It’s ok. You and Doug are the most likely to attend any of the crazy RCIA masses. I think I have to be there at 9:45, and we’re supposed to have some sponsor there. Could you make it on March 9th?

Dorothy Day does talk great about the Eucharist! I do enjoy her style. Kind of how I feel.

Yeah, maybe I should start by reading about confirmation, it probably is the most confusing.

I don’t even get marriage.

The only things that make sense to me are pretty much baptism and eucharist, but that’s because I’m a protestant…. I don’t know why foot­washing isn’t a sacrament…

Heart, Paige

Margaret to Paige

Aright I’ll stop being a flake. Count me in.

Chris to Paige

Hi Paige!

Congratulations!! Now I really wish we made that Inception video with you and Tom Groome.

I can honestly say that the Catholic Church will be better off with you as an official member. I’m really proud of you for making this decision and taking this journey. I’m sure it can be hard and a bit scary (the sacraments and parish­based formation often are), so I really look up to you for exploring and following how God is calling you. Your passion for the faith is something I always admired. I know we all studied theology but I often got the feeling that you were one of the few who really knows and loves Christ. And you going through RCIA is just another example of how you have challenged me to live out my faith better. So congrats.

As for being one of your sponsors, I am incredibly honored and couldn’t be happier to help. However, I don’t know if I can make it to much. I can’t make the Rite of Sending today, and I’m going to be getting back to NYC from a trip with some students on March 9th during your Rite of Election. If I’m reading your email correctly and your actual Confirmation is April 27th (the Sunday after Easter), then I should be able to make that at least. So if that means that I can’t be one of your formal sponsors, that’s fine. I will be praying for you anyway.

Well, I hope everything else is going well. I can’t wait to see and hang out with you again. Good luck with everything and let me know if there’s anything I can do.

Sincerely, Chris

Late Catholic Paperwork!

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 10

This morning, I was thinking about how I had to fill out my Catholic paper work, but I never heard back from Sr. Mary about if she was able to open it and get it in in time. Part of me was like, “Oh well, that’s okay.” But then another part of me was like, “No! I don’t want to have to do this again!” Like, if I miss my confirmation window this round, I won’t have the wherewithal to do it again.

I would be strangely sad and annoyed if I was “too late” The paperwork for the bishop looks quite strict, like, “If you don’t get this to us by the date, then you can’t become Catholic until next year.” It’s disheartening. Then in some ways, maybe it’s a nice thing, because obviously no one is like super worried for my Protestant soul.

I guess I would be pretty sad if my impending Catholicism was postponed on account of a technicality and the strictness of the Boston diocese. My parents already have tickets to come out and see the Confirmation. But it’s nerve-racking not hearing from Sr. Mary… I’m sad about it.

Other things that feel awkward about confirmation— another nine p.m. mass. It’s all undergrads.

And that is really close to my bedtime.

Super Blessed Loving Liturgy

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 27

I slept so good last night. I don’t know why. I felt peaceful. It was a weekend of ups and downs. I was up because I did all kinds of adult things like taxes and cleaning and retirement. I was down because I failed to apply to any jobs out of fear and inadequacy, and then I was up again at the god-forsaken late undergrad mass at nine p.m. with the RCIA crew.

I went to church twice yesterday, like I do, and I felt little at the Church of Christ, and I felt awesome at Mass. Now, I know, it’s not all about me, but I feel bad disliking someone’s preaching style. This one guy at Brookline, I actually like his style, it’s great style, unfortunately it feels mostly just like, style, to me. Half of what he talks about is fluffy non-sense, and then there is some sort of challenge, or questions. He repeats the story from the reading. He affirms the congregation. He rarely teaches anything new, or even teaches at all. Occasionally, something inspired comes out of his mouth, but you really need to pay attention and sift out the overly poetic language.

Now, I’ve actually wondered if I am also prone to doing the same thing. I don’t know! Am I too fluffy without enough depth and meaning and organization? Do I use too much fluffy language? Do I not get to the point fast enough? I honestly don’t know. And this frightens me. Perhaps this preacher is sitting and thinking the same thing about me.

Anyway, the whole Sunday message centered around “the kingdom of heaven (God, etc), and being called, etc etc etc. Isaiah 9:1-4, Psalm 27:1, 4-9, 1 Cor 1:10-18, Matt 4:12-23. At Brookline, I glazed over the readings. Yay call! Yay kingdom! Yay call and kingdom NOW (not later)! I felt no attachment or challenge or interest in it.

But at Mass, the first thing that the priest mentioned was how John the Baptist was always alone, but Jesus, as soon as John was arrested, went and got a posse, a community, the disciples. I don’t think I had ever thought about this before. Not only that, but the readings corresponded with the “Rite of the Catechumen.” Basically, this is a ritual in the liturgical season and the official beginning for adult preparation for baptism. Each Catechumen stands up around the Holy Water with their sponsor, and the priest says some nice prayers, and the catechumens respond, and their sponsors mark them with a cross all down their body: ears, nose, mouth, eyes, heart, head, shoulders, hands and feet. They get super blessed and then they are sent on their way.

I thought it was so cool the way it corresponded with the readings of being called. I mean, I should expect nothing less from the Catholic church. But it may not happen like that every year! I don’t even think that rite has to take place on any particular Sunday or at all.

If you must know, I did not get to partake in this Rite. I, am a mere candidate, not a catechumen. This means I have already been baptized. I don’t think it’s fair. I want to be a part of the catechumen ritual. I loved the liturgy.

I also know that lots of other churches who do confirmation (or some version), do it similarly. Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Methodists all do it. That is a very large chunk of Christianity. I think Mormons even do some sort of form of confirmation.

I wasn’t raised this way, with seasons in the church, but I do love it. It adds to a certain united energy. Where we can all feel the same things, and focus our prayer together. When liturgy is about call, we remember our call. When it’s about fasting, we fast. When it’s about the anxiety of the new in advent, we’re anxious. When it’s triduum, we’re patient. When it’s ordinary, we let it be.

It’s awesome. That’s not to say that God can’t do something immediately or outside the lectionary, but I think the structure can be good in that it keeps us humble. I don’t get to just choose to be mindful of whatever I want to be mindful of. I might have to be mindful of someone else depending on the season. If I’m not anxious during advent, I certainly can pray for those who are.

It’s a thin line between being told exactly how to do worship with God and expect the Spirit to move within that. Its very different from having “open worship” where “anything can happen” and “the Spirit” can move in whatever direction whenever.

I would take Catholics to Evangelical church, and they would always be like, “I didn’t know what to focus on” or “It seemed chaotic.” In one place, people are putting their hands up, while some people are going to the front, then others are going to the back. Different people speak on the mic. Others randomly come and grab people to pray. Some pray in the pews, some on the side. Where are you supposed to focus? Ah. The Spirit does what the Spirit wants.

But, I’ve been attending church for a long time, and even when it seems chaotic, there is a formula. The same things happen every week, and someone may claim that the Spirit is “different” every week, but this is kind of a subjective phenomenon. Instead of the readings being different, or the seasons being different, the “theme” is different. One day might be just about praise, another might be about how unworthy we are, another might be about peace or patience or confession or quiet time. Then the same things occur— singing, praying, preaching, hands up, hands down, kneeling, baptizing, communing. Don’t pretend it’s any less ritualistic.

Catholics Versus Protestants

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 17

What the Catholic church has that Protestants don’t, and the problems Catholics have that Protestants also have.

This morning in Mass I was thinking about becoming Catholic. One of my RCIA-mates was also there. And I was thinking about the idea of me “converting.” I’m always saying, “I’m not converting.” Which is true, but sitting in Mass, watching the eucharist, I had to say to myself, “Well, in checking out RCIA and considering becoming a confirmed Catholic, I am maybe saying, ‘There is something different here,’ or ‘They have something many other churches don’t have.’”

Then I wondered, “What is it?” And, “Do I really believe that?”

I don’t think that whatever this “difference” is has anything to do with being more right than all the other churches, or more saved than all the other Christians. And, I’m pretty sure most Catholics (and possibly even Catholic dogma, c.f. VII) agree.

It’s like this awareness that exists in the liturgy that space and time have no bounds. That everyone is gathered all at once, all through time and space, the “universality” of the church. When I sit in Mass, I remember all the saints, friends and family that have passed away, Protestant and Catholic, surrounding me. I think that’s cool, and not to deny that in other churches, it just seems closer to the surface in Catholic liturgy.

I actually remember the same sort of thing being taught in the Church of Christ. That is, that pretty much anywhere you go, you can find a Church of Christ, singing the same songs, preaching the same word, baptizing and having the Lord’s Supper. While at the same time, I was growing up changing and switching within the Church of Christ because they couldn’t get along in the same city. This is not a problem in the Catholic church, they actually “get along” and are more or less “universal/united” even if they don’t all agree—they agree on one thing, they are all Catholic, and that seems to be enough.

On the same note, I also love being a Protestant, and not being afraid of, offended by, annoyed with, confused by, or condemning of, the Catholic church. There are Catholic churches literally everywhere and there is Mass everyday. I can walk into a church anywhere in the world, sit, pray, go to Mass, and feel at home and with God. I can hunt down a priest and have a down to earth chat anywhere in the world.

Okay, maybe my Catholic experience here in Boston is a little bit overly-optimistic about the unity and universality of the Catholic church. But still! Just the fact that I can enter a Catholic or even just Catholic-like church and not be uncomfortable, is awesome. If only more Protestants could do that, Christianity would be a better religion.

Someone out there might be thinking, but what about the Catholics? Why don’t they come to Protestant church? They do! They are there! You just don’t notice them because they blend in so flawlessly. They were not taught that Protestants were wrong, and that they should never go to Protestant church. So, they have no fear or offence, just maybe a different taste in how church/liturgy should be.

This “universality” is really something that draws me, and no doubt, that has a lot to do with my inclusive personality. For me, universality may actually be my main draw. I considered the Seven Sacraments as a thing that is “different” in the Catholic church. But, honestly, I don’t really think I buy all those. Don’t get me wrong, I like them. They are cool. I like holy things, but they are a little off the Bible base of my Protestant upbringing, not that that is something that I’m super wedded to either.

Why am I not all about this bible business, because I’m a lady, and the Bible is used against us. So, Sola Scriptura is really difficult for me, because well, it’s impossible. Mostly because even the mere idea of Sola Scriptura is extra-Biblical. And the depth that a Scripture scholar can argue Sola Scriptura and also advocate for women in leadership, is not an easy thing for the average person to understand. It can be understood if you believe in a non-gender specific loving God, but the systematics of it— not that simple.

It is so easy for a man to advocate for Sola Scriptura. If I were a man, I probably would. The whole Bible was written by and organized by a bunch of men, and all the imagery and pronouns for God are male— awesome for all men. But if I’m a lady preaching, oh man, I am in trouble.

There are no lady preachers in the Bible (as far as I know). No ladies wrote the Bible. And ladies are more often than not told to be quiet. Sure, we have examples of women not being quiet. The Bible breaks the Bible’s rules all the time (e.g. God is love and God is also a genocidal maniac, Jews don’t marry non-Jews and all of Jesus’ lineage are a bunch of pagan/foreigners, don’t eat shrimp and well, that’s fine now). Those are just a couple stupid examples.

Then in Sola Scriptura, we use the Bible, that breaks the Bible’s rules, to defend the Bible breaking it’s own rules. Yeah, no average person is going to get that. And no average person is going to be able to explain that without not using the Bible.

Sola Scriptura is inherently defensive, and one of the things that I have appreciated about my Catholic circles is a non-defensive attitude. Oh, the irony. This is very different from the Evangelical Protestantism I know. I say “evangelical protestantism” because I know that there are plenty of non-defensive Protestant groups out there, but the Evangelicals, seem to be uber defensive.

Recently, everyone has been up in arms about Kirk Cameron’s wife talking about her Biblically Submissive Marriage. All over my facebook wall there was this defensive praise vomit over this issue of women being “submissive” in their marriages. If the word submissive wasn’t interpreted as submissive in the Bible, like for instance, if it was interpreted “respect,” “mutual understanding,” “appreciativeness,” or “considerate,” evangelical Christians wouldn’t have to defend the word, and then we would probably only use the word submissive when referring to dogs (as it should be).

The English Biblical interpretation ruined the word submissive, and is a great example of how weirdly defensive evangelicals can be. I asked a Catholic about this issue, and he gets the evangelical defensiveness, but also affirmed that Catholics do not have the same weird defensiveness over this issue (maybe over others, but this is not one). No Catholic is taught to vehemently defend tooth and nail Biblical interpretation. I like that. It is more akin to reality—we cannot understand it all.

I like that. I like that issues that made no sense to me growing up, that people fought over, are non-issues in the Catholic church! Yes, they have different issues, but those issues have far less at stake for me personally. Which is fantastic!

Except, one of the biggest issues I have, are issues regarding my gender in the churches I grew up in and in the Catholic church. It’s funny that while I consider becoming Catholic, the main issues I have with church are the same in evangelical and Catholic circles (women and homosexuality). So… There’s that. What is wrong with me?

I guess it’s just a comfort thing? Or maybe like a “if you can’t beat’em, join’em” thing? I’m not going to make any radical changes or influence in a church if I leave it. Some may disagree, but I imagine it’s why so many Catholics continue to stay. Change that is the speed of a glacier is still change.

I know that if I move to a church that is more okay with women and the gays, there are still problems in those churches, and those are problems I’m not used to, I don’t know, and I am unsure how to approach. There is a certain comfort in dealing with problems you’re used to. And there is a certain hope in knowing there are other people who are with you and work to move the glacier.

It’s kind of strange that my issues with church stay the same going from Protestant to Catholic, and the differences aren’t even exclusive, though there are serious bonuses. I mean, universality is a long ways away from Protestants. Unless all Protestants “join” the Catholic church (c.f. “if you can’t beat’em, join’em”).

Join could mean to simply attend regularly. Catholic churches meet multiple times everyday, and with that attendance, getting confirmed, trying out the sacraments, attempting to connect to your roots, yields a less afraid and less defensive Protestant. Denying Catholicism is like denying your 2000 year old ancestors ever existed and/or were always wrong, and need to be forgotten/given up on completely. No matter what, they are still a part of your Christian lineage, they are in the Christian genetic make-up, they are a gigantic part of Christianity, and still are.

Evangelical Christian, if you believe in heaven, and you believe there were real Christians before Luther, then you believe there are Catholic saints in heaven who are a part of your Christianity. Go to a Catholic church, get to know them and forgive already.

Now, as I finish this up, I think about how scary it would be to have all the conservative evangelicals join the Catholic church. It would potentially be giving them the organized/unified power they always wanted… This is terrifying. On second thought, don’t join, there are enough.

What Is Assumed If I Become 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.

January 1

It is the new year. What do I want in the new year? How was the old year?

January 4

I’m working on my sermon for a week from now on Jesus’ Baptism. Last night, I dreamed that I was asked to preach at a church of Christ and Catholic church on the same Sunday, and I didn’t want to do it on the same day because I like attending one (relaxing) and preaching at another (stress).

January 5

At church today, church of Christ, I felt distant. Awkward. I don’t know why. Probably because it’s been two weeks since I’ve attended. I chatted a little after services, and that made me feel better. I was invited to go out to eat. I said no. I already had plans to go grocery shopping. This is my usual excuse, since I walk two miles to church, then another to the farmer’s market, then two back home. This makes for an exhausting Sunday. But maybe I’ll go out with them next week?

All that to say, I was so hungry that I immediately regretted saying “No” to the social offer. I knew I needed some social time. I just didn’t want to spend money or eat pizza. Lame-o. And even in my awkwardness this morning at church of Christ, I’m also skipping Mass today because I have work to do! In all likelihood, I’ll be at Mass bright and early tomorrow morning anyway.

So here I sit, feeling lame towards the Church of Christ, and absent at Catholic Mass. One day I’m thinking “No” to the Catholic church and considering quitting RCIA, and the next day I’m back again ready to confirm. And I still am not sure why.

The sermon at Brookline today was bold. Also, a little weird, I’m not quite sure what he was going for. It was part Paul defensive, part “God thinks this” [well, Paul says God thinks this], and part anti Christ. Anti Christ meaning that he wanted to emphasize God and what God does through Christ. I can appreciate that, but it was still a little strange to me. I think he was reacting to people’s emphasis on Christ’s humanity and less on being God. He really needed to tow the line though, because at one point it almost sounded like Christ was less than God (which is heresy). I don’t think he meant that, but he never once mentioned the incarnation (Christ is God), or that usually when people talk about Christ it is synonymous with God.

I’m sorry to say, I don’t think people got what he was going for because it was overshadowed by sort of human Jesus bashing. I was just glad someone commented by saying, “As soon as someone says they know what God thinks, they’re wrong.” As in, “Dude, leave a little room for mystery.” Because the boldest thing he went for was saying what God thinks, but we do this all the time in one form or another.

While some of the meat was a little hazy (it is the toughest part of the sermon to write!), his main point was to remember what God is doing/does.

I don’t even know how he got through that sermon without mentioning the incarnation or the Trinity! Chances are, just like me, there were about 1000 things in his head and he couldn’t mention them all.

In the meantime, I’m kind of at a loss about how to structure my sermon. I think I know what I want to say in the beginning, and I think I know what my final point is, but how I get there? I don’t know.

I keep going back and forth about becoming Catholic… If ever in the future, there is an audience for my writing, I imagine they will be thinking, “Poop or get off the pot!” For whichever way their sentiments lie.

I’ve gone years with all my Catholic buddies joking about me becoming Catholic. Then when I’m nearing taking the plunge, everyone is a little nervous. When I ask Steve about it, what he usually tells me is along the lines of, “I’ve always felt like you were a part of it.” And that is that. Whether I’m confirmed or not, that is how he feels, and he is happy with that.

And I know that getting confirmed is hardly the end. I’m not going to have any less existential crises, but then again, maybe I will have less. Because at that point, I don’t have to worry. In a sense, I would be choosing the Catholic church as my “priority church.” Not that they would like win out in an argument every time, but they would be my main community, and main place I would choose to serve.

I searched in Google for “churches that are growing and shrinking” hoping to find something. It didn’t really work. I was looking for basically what churches are growing and which are shrinking, but I don’t think it really matters. I found this instead:http://www.gallup.com/poll/125999/mississippians-go-church-most-vermonters-least.aspx.

It’s the percentage of people by state that attend church. What’s more interesting is that only a little less than half of Americans attend church. This bodes well to a theory that spirituality is like a normal curve, and maybe half of those people are the church attendees and half not, and it fluctuates. I wonder what the other half of people do on Sunday. I hope they do good things. Weekends are precious. Though, it is likely that many of them are working. Looking at the numbers, it looks like the Catholic church has declined since the 1950s and Protestants have just stayed the same.

I keep saying that I am leaning more towards getting confirmed than not. Today, I thought about what it might look like to apply for a non-Catholic job and actually being Catholic. I guess it’ll be similar to applying to Catholic jobs and not being Catholic.

I thought about what people might assume of me having actually chosen, in adulthood, to become Catholic. They might assume I’m just naive and brainwashed. They might assume I did it just to get married and be with my bae spiritually. They might assume I’m a glutton for punishment, or to stroke my own ego. They might assume I did it to be in line with my parents’ Catholicism. They might assume I hate the gays and want to save all the fetuses. They might assume I was just jumping on the bandwagon with Pope Francis.

Maybe not everyone will assume that. What I want is to jump this stupid 500 year old fence between Catholics and Protestants. Is there a gate somewhere that I can walk through? I think people on both sides want this. The grass is always greener effect. It takes a lot of commitment to jump fences than stay on your own safe side. You might get trapped on the other side! Or who knows what will happen? You only know that you won’t be able to control it. What is “it”? The Spirit.

I’m five days into the new year and there is so much to do. Who needs another spiritual memoir? Those people are such narcissists. Maybe I am. I mean, I’m not writing for anyone else, just myself. Free therapy. And maybe it’ll help someone else, but first and foremost, it is mine. Maybe that’ll change. Preaching is essentially the exact opposite. While I might be preaching to myself, it’s not exactly for me… or it is, it’s just not me? I don’t know.

What Does It Mean to Fully Commit to the Catholic Church?

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.

December 11

I met with Sr. Mary who runs RCIA. Sometimes I thinks she thinks I’m crazy. But I have to give her some credit, it is very difficult to know someone with only maybe six hours of interaction spread out over six months. That’s kind of the way our situation is. I look at her and I think she is amazed, confused, and unsure of me. She knows I feel very deeply, think very deeply, but can also have a very pessimistic and silly outlook and understanding. Like maybe she thinks I think becoming Catholic is some kind of joke, not that serious, and not that big of a deal. Yes and no. I do see it as serious. I wouldn’t be writing all this if I didn’t think it was serious. I wouldn’t even be trying. I wouldn’t be thinking, waiting, or discerning.

Today, she kept asking me about what I get out of RCIA and daily Mass. It’s kind of funny, because I feel like there is this movement in “Catholic training” to experience God almost in the sense of Protestanty “personal relationship with God.” And I see that as happening in RCIA with the catechumens. Listening to God and the experience. While I emphasize the community—togetherness and the beauty of that. That’s my draw, the community, how the community speaks the word of God, and not just me sitting and listening and reading my Bible by myself.

This is beautiful to me.

Not all Protestanty evangelical churches are all about the “personal relationship with God.” There are plenty of closer to Catholic interdependence (episcopal, lutheran, i.e. those following a lectionary). And perhaps I could go to one of those, but no. Rome and I are going on six years together, and I practically feel raised here.

Sr. Mary said how it would be a shame to find out a year from now that I don’t want to be Catholic. I had not really considered this. Well, yes, I have in the form of the question, “Where else would I go?” When I run, I run to the Catholic church. But I hadn’t really considered, “In what scenario would I not go to or avoid the Catholic church?” Assuming I am confirmed….

It would hurt if something happened to my relationship, that might make me avoid the Catholic church. But I didn’t get involved because of him. He’s supportive, but I do plenty of Catholicy things he doesn’t do. It would be more hurtful if the Church made some substantial changes that I really couldn’t deal with, that would hurt more. And, let’s be real, this happens in churches all the time. They are human institutions, with human failures.

I could decide to be a minister or priest somewhere else. I don’t think I want that. There isn’t anything pulling me anywhere else. Part of me is open to work for any church. Actually, I told my mom how great it was to go to Mass after preaching—no responsibility. Maybe that’s who I am. I need a community to work and one to rest.

“Fully committing to the Catholic church.” That is the phrase Sr. Mary used. Like I’m not enough already… I’m not sure I know what she means, and I’m not sure I would agree with her, or maybe we would agree. For me…

Fully committing doesn’t mean never ever going to another church again.

Fully committing doesn’t mean working to convert all the Protestants.

Fully committing doesn’t mean never taking communion anywhere else ever again.

Fully committing doesn’t mean I’m right and they’re wrong.

Fully committing doesn’t mean all the gays are going to hell and contraception is from Satan.

Fully committing doesn’t mean that any host of Catholicy things that Catholics don’t even adhere to…….

Is it not obvious? Well, that obviously gives away the type of Catholic I’m going to be. Not the good kind, but instead, an above average kind that actually goes to Mass.

Every person I know who has gone either way, Catholic to Protestant, or Protestant to Catholic, or whatever to whatever (barring legit cults), seems to feel the same way: Free. It’s not easy to go either way. To cross the threshold of difference and otherness. Maybe transcend? Transform? Convert? To change. Whoa.

In some ways, being Protestant is much more difficult than being Catholic. And becoming Catholic is much more difficult than becoming Protestant.

In my experience, Protestants expect you to do something at church: lead, mission, communicate, hang out, go to small groups, etc etc etc. Catholics—just show up to Mass. Catholics go through a rigorous annual process to becoming Catholic (RCIA, confirmation and all that).

Protestants: You believe? You’re pretty much in. I know some groups have a confirmation process, but you still get to do and be a part of all that the church does and life without confirmation in a Protestant church.

I like both! I want both! I know that you can have both at both, but it doesn’t seem to naturally turn out that way because of historical grudges.