Wednesday, January 01, 2014
Did They Ever Know The Faith?
Being a person who works in retail with the public, you meet all kinds of people. Some, who are regular customers even become good friends/ Some are just people you see every day.
Inevitably, among the people you meet, something or another will lead to a talk about faith, and I am not shy about telling folks I am a convert to Catholicism. Some see all Christians as brothers in Christ, and some see Catholics and Protestants in a state of constant opposition as to what is the truth. (To those I say, Jesus Christ is the Truth, and that is all the Truth any of us should be concerning ourselves with.)
Some Protestants are taken aback, when I suggest that they visit a Catholic Church, and find out for themselves if what they have been told by their pastors, neighbors or friends about the Catholic Church is factual. Many, if not most, act as if I had suggested they walk barefoot across a bed of hot coals.
I have heard several ideas of what Catholics believe, where I have had to restrain myself from smirking, if not laughing out loud. For instance, one man, in all seriousness and with sincerity, asked me if I belonged to the branch of Catholics that believes in Jesus Christ, or to the branch of Catholics that doesn't.
So, I try to explain things, and hopefully help them to better understand.
Then on occasion, I come across, someone who will boldly proclaim to me (as well as to others whom I know) that they are an "ex-Catholic" who found a church that believes in the Bible, and where they also found Jesus Christ as their "personal Lord and Savior" at some denomination or another, and then proceed to tell me what is "wrong" with the Catholic Church.
Every time one of the ex-Catholics starts telling me what is "wrong" with the Church, I consistently find that there is not something "wrong" with the Church, but there is something wrong with their understanding of what the Church is, and what she teaches.
One of these is, that they don't “need to confess my sins to a man” but that they confess to Jesus through prayer, and receive forgiveness from Him.
I tell them that Catholics also ask for forgiveness in prayer, and that when we go to confession, we are confessing to Jesus through the priest who is physically before us in Christ's place. Christ hears our confession through the priest, and when the priest gives us absolution, he is following the teaching of Christ from Holy Scripture: "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained." -- John 20,23.
They will usually follow this with, we just don't need to confess to men. I then tell them that since their church follows the Bible so closely, then they confess their sins to each other? I'll get a strange look usually and I quote James 5,16:"Confess therefore your sins one to another: and pray one for another, that you may be saved. For the continual prayer of a just man availeth much."
The worst one I have ever heard though, was where a self described ex-Catholic told a friend of mine that he stopped being Catholic because “Catholics believe that the Pope is Jesus Christ on earth”. I couldn't keep quiet, and told him no, he had it wrong. Catholics believe that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, he is the visible head of Christ's Church on earth, who acts for and in the place of Christ.
Any way, the thing I keep seeing again and again, seems to answer my question, i.e., “did they ever know the faith?” It is all too apparent that these people were just nominal Catholic's and never understood, nor ever bothered to try to learn about the Church and it's teaching.
I don't want to sound as all knowing, or as “another knows it all convert”, but I am thinking, shouldn't catechesis be a continual, ongoing part of our faith? Not just in the parish, where this should be happening, but, also ideally in the home, and within the community of the faithful as well.
Teaching the faith is like growing a garden. We don't plant the seeds, and then think the job is finished, complete. We plant the seeds, and then we water, fertilize, hoe, weed, and prune, so that we have a garden that grows, becomes stronger, and is fruitful.
After all, we are all called to share the faith, and we all can learn something new as revealed to us by the Holy Spirit as we mature in our faith, and help others to mature in theirs.