Home > Christianity, Religion > Figuring Out My Faith

Figuring Out My Faith

This post will probably be a stream-of-conscious rambling and full of typos because I’m typing this on my phone. Bear with me. I hope this is short because I haven’t adjusted to the size of the iPhone 6 so my fingers keep slipping. (Not plus size; just regular size.)

Anyway, for the past 2 weeks I’ve been attending a local Roman Catholic Church. In a lot of ways, it feels like a homecoming and in other ways it’s changed. I still remember the sign of the cross, many of the congregational responses (although some have changed and one deleted), and when to sit, stand, and kneel (for the most part). I enjoy the 20-minute homily (mainly for the brevity), the availability of hymnals, and the fact that I can (again, for the most part) enter and exit the church unnoticed.

But there’s so much I disagree with now that I’ve been away from Roman Catholicism. After having been Protestant for as many years as I was Catholic, the following are my gripes:

  • Transubstantiation. This is a big one for me. I don’t believe that the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus. I believe they are symbols that represent his body and blood.
  • The Catholic Church being considered the “true” church. I get the sense (from this Sunday’s homily) that anyone outside of the Catholic Church is “outside the fold.” I don’t know if that means lack of salvation but I bristle when I think that there’s only one “true church,” ie, denomination.
  • Mary. I’ve been hearing from Catholics lately that Mary is not worshipped but merely revered as the mother of God. Unless the position on Mary has changed within the past 16 years (and I don’t think so), I’m pretty sure Mary is worshipped to be almost if not practically on par with Jesus’ holiness. My entire schooling was in Catholic institutions and I firmly believe that Mary is held to a higher standard than a saint like, oh, John, Paul, Ringo, or George. (Whoops. Well, I got 2 out of 4.)
  • Kneeling before statues. I’m no longer comfortable with this. I’ve read through Genesis and Exodus a few times enough to know that God doesn’t seem to be a fan of “idols” or bowing down before man-made images.

I guess those are a few of the things that hold me back from Catholicism. (Although I must admit, it really pissed me off on Sunday to see how many people accepted the host and then bypassed the cup [er, chalice as they call it now]. Partake in the Eucharist in its entirety or don’t partake at all. Yes, I’ll admit: It’s gross to drink from the same cup as other people [backwash and all that] but if it’s holy, then it’s purified, right?)

Like I said before, I’ve been Protestant about as long as I was Catholic. (I was essentially a Protestant for 2 years while finishing up high school.) I gravitate toward Protestant beliefs. Much of it makes sense to me. I think Martin Luther (of the Reformation) was a badass. I’ve enjoyed the emphasis on worshipping Jesus alone. It was refreshing to hear a different perspective on salvation: grace by faith alone. (Catholics believe in grace plus good works—something I now battle with based on my interpretation of passages from the Book of James.) I’ve learned so much more about the Bible, especially the Old Testament, in Protestant churches.

But I’ve become disenchanted with many Protestant churches. In an effort to try to shift away from Catholic traditions, some have abandoned liturgies from their services. Sure, the service tends to be somewhat structured, but it lacks that liturgical feel that the Catholic Church provides.

Call me old fashioned, but I am dismayed at the growing trend of using PowerPoints (or nothing at all) for worship music. I’ve never understood how anyone is supposed to know or be able to sing any of these new worship songs without sheet music. Unless you listen to Christian music religiously, which I suppose is the assumption, there’s no way to know the music being sung in church. In the Catholic Church, a cantor sings the chorus for the entire church then encourages everyone to sing the chorus with him or her, thus introducing the melody. The cantor usually sings the verses alone when the song is not in the hymnal.

Then there’s my biggest beef with Protestants: the hour-long sermons. Perhaps in the days of Jonathan Edwards when he preached “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” people were much more attentive and receptive to a lengthy sermon. These days, we in America have short attention spans. Long sermons bore us to tears even if you are an entertaining, charismatic speaker. There’s only so long you can hold your audience’s attention before it drops off. (Speaking of that, kudos to you if you’ve made it this far. And yes, I’m still typing on my phone. Ow.)

Protestant (excluding non-denominational churches) tend to be on the smaller side (unlike 200+ people in a Catholic Church) providing the opportunity for it to become a place where “everybody knows your name.” I’m at a point in my life where I want to be invisible. I want to go to church, worship God, and then leave with minimal to no interruption. I go to the Catholic Church in the same community where I worked at a local library so running into my former coworkers occasionally is to be expected. But for the most part, the church is so big, I can dodge them if needed.

Regarding childcare, Protestants win over Catholics in my estimation. Protestants usually have a nursery or some form or childcare or Sunday School for young children. Catholics tend to deal with their screaming babies during Mass. Some Catholic Churches have partitioned a room in the back of the church with speakers and a glass panel to accommodate people with special needs, such as moms with babies, the elderly, and the physically handicapped. But it’s hard for many Catholic Churches to retrofit this.

I guess that’s my 2 cents on my faith. I’m stuck in limbo. I probably won’t return to the Catholic Church as a member (technically I’m still a member of a church on Long Island, NY) but I don’t know if I can handle one more 7-11 praise song at a Protestant church. (Sing 7 words 11 times.) I recognize no church is perfect, but at this point, which church’s shortcomings am I able to tolerate?

We’ll see.

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  1. Shrugmuffin
    April 28, 2015 at 1:00 AM

    Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

    There is no confusion, salvation is by grace through faith. Good works are merely the fruit believers bear through the power of the holy spirit.

    1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

    As for tolerating shortcomings, you obviously have the wrong idea of what church is intended for. Church doesn’t exist simply to please you, it is meant to bring glory to God, it’s a place of worship, repentance, and fellowship. If you have doctrinal conflicts that’s one thing, but you shouldn’t treat church attendance like going out to see a movie, complaining when you’re not entertained… going into God’s house as if he hasn’t already done enough for you. Understand the depth of your sin and you’ll maybe start to comprehend the holiness of God.

    Revelations 4:8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”

    I’m thinking if angels don’t have a problem singing praises to God over and over, neither should you.

  2. SR
    April 28, 2015 at 9:01 PM

    Very good thought provoking post. I am a convert to the Catholic Church, and these are the questions I had to ask myself. As far as me, I do not know how I ever lived without it.

    Transubstantiation: Jesus said He was truly in the Bread and Wine. In fact He promised He was, so I had to ask myself, “Did Jesus lie?” Of course He did not, so I know He is there. He also let those who did not believe this, “Go in their disbelief.” Jesus did not call them back and say, “Oh no you misunderstood Me. I only meant it as a symbol.” Did He? If He had meant it any differently, He would have called the disbelievers back and explained it to them. In fact He asked Peter, “Are you going to leave me too?”

    The Catholic Church being the “true Church.” If indeed it was not, then God had in mind that anyone could see the Bible as they chose, or worship Him as they chose. Every denomination of the Protestant Church has a different belief system, that is why so many of them broke off from the original. You have to go back to the OT, and see there is a way God wanted to be worshipped, how people were to behave in Church, and how they were to believe. God did not change, man changed Him. This is why Jesus instituted the Eucharist, as this was the beginning of the Catholic Church, this was foreshadowed with Moses and Aaron. The Bible is a total repeat of itself if one can piece it together from Genesis to Revelations. You cannot have a thousand or more different beliefs when it comes to God. God always had His way of doing things and still does. I recommend a book “A Father Who Keeps His Promises” by Scott Hahn, and Biblical Reasons for the Catholic Faith.

    Mary: Mary is the one who called me to the Catholic Church, and I knew not one single thing about her. I did not know anything about the Catholic Church for that matter. I fought God for over a year. I have never worshipped her, nor put her on the same level as Jesus, nor anyone that I know has done this. I do however love her with all of my heart, as I am sure her Son does. She is the vessel God used to bring Himself in the flesh. So God must love her with all of His heart. Her prayers have helped me immensely in life. She was very hard for me at first, now I do not know how I ever lived without her intercession.

    Kneeling before statues and God not liking it. Hmmm…seemed like those in the OT bowed before snakes images at God’s command. Lot venerated two angels. Joseph’s brothers bowed before him. Joshua bowed and venerated an angel. Saul bowed before Samuel. Nathan bowed before David. God also commanded the making of golden cherubim. Solomon’s temple had statues and images of cherubim, oxen, and lions. The altar was made of refined gold with golden cherubim. So to believe that God is due the highest of honor, does that mean man is due no honor at all?

    God honored man. He called David, “A man after His own heart.” Moses He said, “There would never be another prophet like Him.” Job was His “good and faithful servant.” God said to “Honor your Father and Mother.” We set aside Veterans Day to honor those who fought and died for this country. No one thinks anything of this and we have statues everywhere in the United States. All of this is okay as long as it does not come out of the Catholic Church.

    There is a big difference in an “idol” and honoring someone for who they were/are and what they do/did. An idol is worshipped. A statue of a veteran is just that, honoring. I have seen thousands go up and kiss those statues remembering a loved one. I have pictures of my grandbabies that I kiss every time I dust them. Does that make them an idol to me? Do you have what-knots in your home, as no graven image is to be made of anything, under the sea, the earth, in the heavens etc…. I know a lot of Protestants who have pictures of Jesus in their homes, and angel statues. They think nothing of it. When you point these things out to them, then they realize it is the same with Catholics and our statues.

    Worshipping God is not about us and what we want. It is about God and what He wants. I wish you the very best from the bottom of my heart. Please read those books so you have a clearer understanding of what it is you are wanting to believe. God Bless, SR

  3. June 10, 2015 at 11:18 PM

    *sigh* this is a path I walked for so many years. And I appreciate your seeking the truth. I too spent much of my time in a Protestant Church. They claimed to be non-denominational but they clearly had Baptist roots. From then until I obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ in 2011, I didn’t know what it meant to be a Christian. No one ever sat me down and taught me how to be a disciple of Christ, much less how to become a disciple in the first place. For 15 or so years, with each church I joined myself to, I got more and more confused by their traditions. Although each one claimed to follow Christ they all believed something different. Thank God for my mom! Someone sat her down and taught her the truth years ago, with an open bible; no hearsay. I’m so grateful that she didn’t give up one me.

    You said “I bristle when I think that there’s only one “true church,” ie, denomination”. I tell you that you are not alone! There are over 3000+ denominations in this world and that is inclusive of Catholicism. But there is only ONE Christ. And it is in Him, in Christ, that we have redemption and obtain inheritance in the family of God (Ephesians 1:3-11). Later in this letter Paul reminds us that there is only one God, one Lord, one Spirit, one Faith, etc. (Ephesians 4:4-5). He also says that there is one body… One body.

    Later in Ephesians 1, Paul says that God put all things under Christ’s feet and gave Him to be head over all things to {the} church… which is {His} body (verse 22-23). One Christ… One body… One church…

    So which one is the right one? I will tell you that it is not a denomination! In order to have a denomination one must “divide”. To denominate is to set apart, designate or to “appoint someone to a specified position”. Many in the church at Corinth appointed several teachers to high positions (informally) by boasting “I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:12). Paul then asks a crucial question in verse 13: Is Christ divided?

    So to have a denomination there has to be division or disagreement about something, which is why there are so many denominations. But how when there’s only one faith?

    One Christ… One body… One church… Paul says in verse 10, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

    Perfectly united… Jesus prayed for unity in John chapter 17. He prayed for unity so that the world may believe that God sent him (verse 21). Jesus also said that there is one church (Matthew 16:18), that there is one flock (John 10:16), one shepherd (John 10:16), one way (John 14:6), one truth (John 8:32)… One Christ… One Body… One Church…

    I pray that you will consider the above. And I promise you that the answers you seek are in the inspired scriptures… not I, but it is God who promises 🙂

    Your journey is your own. But if you would like to dig a bit deeper, I found this online study helpful: http://www.gospelway.com/church/unique_church.php

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