A Protestant’s Guide to the Roman Catholic Church: Introduction

 

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As I have stated in various parts of this blog, I am interested in joining the Roman Catholic Church.

 

I have for a while now and the post where I partly go into my reasoning can be found here.

 

However, I am not going to rehash my reasoning here in this post or try to convince you that the Roman Catholic Church is the way to go (though one could probably guess my opinion on that 😉).

 

What I am going to do is, in this post and in a series of posts with the similar “Protestant’s Guide” heading, to try to explain some things that I have learned over the past few years of my heavy research into the Roman Catholic Church. I am going to attempt to do so in terms that I had grown up with coming from a heavy Protestant (various Baptist & Nazarene churches) background.

 

I feel like I have been placed such that I am in an advantageous position to sort of bridge the gap that exists between Protestants and Roman Catholics.  Ever since I have started considering the RCC (Roman Catholic Church), I have been amazed at the misconceptions that Protestants understandably but unfortunately propagate.

 

I used to be one of the people who propagated them.  I disliked the RCC because I believed that they believed in institutionalized idolatry (from Mary to the saints to the clergy), abandoned the scripture for tradition, believed that people were saved by their works, that they had “extra books” in the bible but really and truly discouraged reading it, and that they weren’t even Christians if push came to shove to just name a few things.

 

Hopefully, this handy dandy guide that I am making on here will help to clear up some of these misconceptions. Here is a list of some of the topics I hope to go over in my next few posts.

  • The Virgin Mary
  • The Communion of Saints
  • The Rosary
  • Justification: Faith vs Works, and The Five Solae
  • Indulgences
  • The “Catholic” Bible
  • Apostolic Succession
  • Historic Argument

 

 

If you happen to have a question about the Roman Catholic Church or possible misconception you would want me to do a blog post about, feel free to post it in the comments or message me on here. If you have any other comment or concern also feel free to post it in the comments or message me but I do ask that you remain civil.

 

As always, God Bless and peace out!

On Beards

“Now I know the difference between a father’s rough beard and a young man’s untried bristles.”

-Steven Chopade

 

We have all seen it (and perhaps we are it); that guy with all the face fuzz and the flannel.  Perhaps he listens to music that you haven’t or perhaps he sports spectacles that he really doesn’t need.  Then again, perhaps, he is truly an avid outdoorsman and woodsman.  Today I am not here to judge this person, be they hipster or mountain man. Today I mostly just want to focus on what is going on with his face, namely his beard.

 

“He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man;”

-William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

 

Man has been growing facial and body hair since he first started wandering this wide world of ours. He has also been trying to shave it all or partially off as soon as it got in his way.

 

 

Recently, I have decided to regrow my beard.

 

Last year, I grew it out for NoShaveNovember which some of you may not know is actually intended for cancer awareness and research and not just an excuse people use to ignore hygiene in November. Where some cancer patients lose their hair during chemo and radiation treatments, NoShaveNovember participants let their hair and facial hair grow wild in solidarity.

 

I was tempted to keep my beard after this short foray into face fuzz but I had an interview for an internship and I wasn’t confident enough with it. I didn’t feel a match for the beard.

 

 

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A beard is a serious thing. Just as a woman’s hair is her glory (1 Corinthians 11:15), a beard has long since been a sign of serious business. Just take a look at the Nazarites.  Remember Sampson from the Old Testament? He was a Nazarite (Note to self, never let girlfriend cut hair.). In addition to NoShaveNovember last year, I took the Nazarite challenge which is a modern, short-term, version of the Nazarite vow.  It was an edifying experience. I felt that it helped me to grow in manliness in a way as well as spiritually and physically.

 

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It is a good and natural thing for a man to grow a beard if he is so inclined. I am not trying to encourage anyone to do anything they don’t want to. There are plenty of reasons to not grow a beard but there are certainly some good ones here.

 

It changes the way people look at you.  For instance, it makes me look a great deal older. Assuming I grow out my beard (instead of just having a little stubble), people tend to expect more from me. The beard suggests that I am more of an adult, more responsible. It is this that I was intimidated by last year but that I embrace this year. For me to have a beard is place myself up against this higher standard.

 

This year however, I am up to the challenge.

 

On Ownership, Mastery, and Childhood

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Today I went with my parents to a local lake to get in some much needed relaxation before my father has a major medical procedure this coming week. We walked along its shoreline, took in the sunshine, chatted with the few fishermen that were out today, and eventually settled down on a nice spot on a fishing pier.   It was nice, my father got a lot out of the experience, but for me it was bittersweet.

 

You see, when I was growing up, we lived on a plot of land that 4 generations of my family had lived on at one point or another. This consisted of what was originally over 600 acres that gradually dwindled down to the 120 that I came to know and love. Over the years, it had a blacksmith shop, iron mines, farms, a mill, orchards; whatever one needed, the land would provide.

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But times and people change. For whatever the reason, as generations came and went the land was divided or sold off. By the time my sister and I came on the scene, there was only the 120 acres and that was for the most part wooded. You have probably heard of Christopher Robin and the Hundred-Acre Wood from Winnie the Pooh. Well I had my own 120 acres on which to grow up and have adventures on and boy did I!

 

I would spend all day walking the hills and never tire or grow bored.  My dogs and even my pet billy goat were known to follow me back into the woods as I left home to wander. I would make crude shelters and other structures out of fallen tree limbs, vines, and rocks I would find there. Sometimes, I would bring my tin whistle or pan pipes and my primitive, perhaps even childish music would echo through the hollows and valleys.

 

I never hunted though I was never against it so long as the person doing the hunting used the body of what they took the life of. However, I did learn to identify the plants of my forest.   I grew to know that property like the back of my hand.

 

It is hard to describe my connection to those woods without sounding like a crazy person. It was a deeply spiritual thing. I was it and it was me and it was my mother and protector. It was a safe place. No evil could survive in there. In a way, it was also my own garden of Eden, a place of eternal innocence. But just like the biblical garden of Eden, it wasn’t to last. A few years ago, my immediate family was forced to leave the ancestral land due to some tragic events that I hope I may someday be at peace with enough to be able to write about.

 

It is this connection to nature and the remembrance of the unfortunate events that made my day at the lake bittersweet.  Hopefully you will be able to see, dear reader, how empty a person in my position must feel. Like a prince in exile, I wander the earth. I can go to all the state and national parks in the country and never again have what I have lost. Even today as we walked along some of the trails that surround the lake, it was like I was missing a physical part of me because my animals weren’t there with me.

 

I doubt that I will ever have the same relationship I had with the 120 acres with any other piece of land. I feel as if I have committed some great injustice to my land, as if I was derelict in my duty to her. That land tamed me and I tamed it and as the fox so wisely said in The Little Prince,

“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed…”

 

I have thought long and hard about what I have lost and wondered how I might regain it. The only solution I could come up with was to perhaps buy some more wooded land someday but that somehow feels off. Due to the way we left, regaining the property is out of the question. It might be for the best. It felt so right at the time but perhaps it might be best that the future generations of my family don’t ever experience that kind of relationship to land. There is that saying that it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all but after going through this I wonder.

 

I also wondered if perhaps the issue wasn’t so much with the forced separation of me from that plot of land so much as my relationship to land and mindset in general. Maybe it was me. Old Tom Bombadil comes to mind again. Let’s look at what Goldberry says to Frodo when he asks about Tom’s identity.

 

“ . . . who is Tom Bombadil?”

“He is,” said Goldberry, staying her swift movements and smiling.

Frodo looked at her questioningly. “He is, as you have seen him,” she said in answer to his look. “He is the Master of wood, water, and hill.”

“Then all this strange land belongs to him?”

“No indeed!” she answered, and her smile faded. “That would indeed be a burden,” she added in a low voice, as if to herself. “The trees and the grasses and all things growing or living in the land belong each to themselves. Tom Bombadil is the Master. No one has ever caught old Tom walking in the forest, wading in the water, leaping on the hill-tops under light and shadow. He has no fear. Tom Bombadil is master.”

 

Here it is shown that for all the wonderful things that Tom is able to do, he is not the owner of the lands he inhabits. However, he is master there. Is he master of his own self then?  Does this inner mastery give someone power that transfers and is recognized by nature (Jesus calming the storming sea and various myths surrounding King Solomon come to mind.)? I am unsure. It is something worth thinking about at any case.

 

God Bless!

How I Became Interested in the Roman Catholic Church and Why I Have Not Yet Joined It

Our story begins just as another one is ending, as it often seems to be the case.

I was away from home, attending college during the summer, trying to get a leg up on my schoolwork. If I could get organic chemistry out of the way, I would graduate sooner than expected. I was doing above average, which is saying something if you’ve ever had the misfortune of taking organic chemistry with a professor that leaves to go to a conference halfway during the semester.

It was finals week and I had an entire week of review ahead of me. I got on my bicycle and began to ride to class as I had done for well over a year now. However, I would never make it to class that day.

Instead I would be struck by a hit and run driver and left to bleed out on the sidewalk.  No one stopped to help.  No one called me an ambulance.  People actually drove around my unconscious body in order to get into a parking lot (If you are wondering how I know that they did so, the parking lot was full after I regained consciousness whereas before it was empty.).

Long story short, I suffered some injuries that took over four years from which to recover.

 

What does all this have to do with the Catholic Church?

 

Well, during what seemed the longest part of this four-year period, I was able to do little aside from sit or lay in the dark and reflect. I’ll admit, I had a lot to think about after what had happened to me.

I had some fundamental questions about God and even for God should He exist. Why should that happen to me? Was I not a good and just person? Aren’t there plenty of other people who might have more deserved to be hit by car than me? What then of all of the bystanders who looked on and did nothing or even drove around me? What kind of society do we live in where such atrocities can occur while bystanders just stand there and watch? Understandably, I grew bitter and resented my fellow man and yet, it was during this, one of the darkest places in my life, that God seemed to reach out and give my life something that had been missing for years.

After I gave my anger and bitterness a time to fester, I began to wonder about bigger things.  I could have easily died and yet, I did not. Why?  I had always said that it would have taken an act of God to stop me from finishing my engineering degree. What greater thing could God have in store for me especially now that all of my life and plans were in ruins? I had lost my scholarships and my confidence in my ability of returning to school by this point.

I needed to recover and climb out of that funk that I had been flung into on that hot summer day. More than anything else I needed order and structure to both my daily activities and to everything that was going on in my mind. I thought to myself, “Who is known for their order, serenity, and purpose?” Monks! And so I got to looking and researching online. I found the divine office and began to pray that. It wasn’t like I was doing much else those days and I needed something to structure my days and keep me up and moving.

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After a few months of the divine office, I added more devotions. I quickly found myself reading the daily mass readings, and saying the Rosary and Chaplet of St Michael. I soon fell in love with all that the Catholic church had to offer.

Things finally made sense. It was like I had been looking for this all my life but had never been able to grasp it until this point.  As a priest would later tell me, I was just looking for a place where I would be fed. This was home, this was where I would be fed.

 

Why I Have Not Yet Joined the Roman Catholic Church

 

Years have passed since my personal revelation and yet I still have not gone through RCIA and joined the Catholic church. A person might ask why. This is a good question, a question I try to avoid as much as possible around people as its answer is messy.

The short answer is my family is the reason why I have not yet joined. This answer tends to baffle most people and does a great injustice to everyone involved.

Let me explain. My family, namely my parents, are against my joining. They are not for any theological reasons but because of the poor example of “bad Catholics” who don’t understand their faith or do it right. This is the kind of thing you can’t really argue against beyond saying that these are obnoxious outliers and should be ignored when thinking about the entire denomination. In any case, that is their reason.

People sometimes object and say, “But aren’t you an adult and can legally do what you please?” While this is true, it is also true that I love my parents and until I graduate from college and get a job, I am financially dependent upon them.  In short, I have to still live with them.

True, sometimes I feel like the guy who wanted to bury his father before following Christ (Matthew 8:21-22) or the guy who couldn’t get rid of his material possessions to follow Christ (Matthew 19:16-26) but at these times I tell myself that I am doing this out of love. I am trying to respect my father and my mother (Exodus 20:12) and I am still holding out hope that they might eventually see the light as I did and join too someday. Also, it is important to remember that it isn’t like I am not still following Christ. Perhaps I might be doing so more effectively as a Roman Catholic but I am still a baptized Christian.

The hope for them joining with me or at some point is real too! At the beginning of this Lenten season, a large number of friends and various family members began to ask me about the Rosary. I loved their interest and seeing that it wasn’t a fleeting thing, I decided to make them some (This was cheaper than buying such a large amount and being handmade meant more I think.). My parents even asked for one. The most miraculous thing I think was when I caught my dad saying a Hail Mary when he thought no one was watching.

If they decide to not join though, I plan on joining once I am out and on my own. This will be in one or two years from now but in the meantime, I go to mass every chance I get. In a few weeks, I should be able to start attending Eucharistic Adoration, which I am excited about.

 

That is the story behind how I became Interested in the Roman Catholic church and the my reasoning behind not joining yet.

 

As always, God Bless!

Why I am Writing this Blog, Who I am, and Why You Should Care

As I have stated in the about section of this blog, I am a twenty-something engineering student trying his best to stay on the path to becoming a better person.  I like to use the term “monk out” when I feel the need to recharge, reflect, and meditate (Luke 5:16) and I have been interested in joining the Roman Catholic Church for about four years now.  I feel that these things, although true and accurate, do not do a whole lot to explain who I am and why I am writing this blog. Why then am I writing this blog, who am I, and why should you care?

Why I am Writing this Blog

In my first post, I said that this would be part journal, part sounding board for any ideas I might have for my future endeavors.  Historically, I tend to have a lot of irons in the fire and it is easy to lose track of them or let the fire go out. This will help me to remember my various projects, self-improvement or otherwise, and recall the reasons why I decided to start those projects to begin with. This will help to keep me more accountable, forcing me to strike while the iron is hot, as well as keeping those fires hotter, longer.

Who I am

“Eh, what?” said Tom sitting up, and his eyes glinting in the gloom. “Don’t you know my name yet? That’s the only answer. Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?…”

 

How does one go about describing the self to others? Some passages from “The Fellowship of the Ring” come to mind, namely those that deal with the identity of one of the most enigmatic characters from The Lord of the Rings series, Tom Bombadil. One such quotation is presented above.

Tom asks Frodo, “Who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?” but who are we, alone, ourselves and nameless? Who are we without our masks and empty pretentions?

I like to think that at heart I am just some guy who is trying to live the good life, whatever that may mean. I am fallible, I make mistakes, but I try to learn from them and keep on moving.

Why Should You Care

Firstly, if you have managed to read this far, I applaud you.

Secondly, you might be asking yourself,  “Why should I care?” or, “What relevance does this have to me?” It could be that reading this blog might not be all that helpful to you. It might be that only a few individuals gain something from my record of failures and successes. It could be that no one does. In any case, I have already said that I am doing this mostly for my own use but that I would leave this as a testament to my journeys through life. If anyone can manage to imitate my few successes or learn from my many mistakes along the way, more power to them.

I feel that this is a good mission statement of sorts for this little blog. I want to go forth and do things. This will help me to keep track of those things as they come and go and help me to take some time to take a step back and reflect on it all, help it to have meaning in my life.

As always, God Bless!

Beginnings

There is always a great energy associated with the setting out on something new, whether that be a new project or a journey to someplace unknown.  When I was younger I always loved the magic of a blank notebook. There was so much potential so much power and yet it was so fragile. With each line, that newness would wear away; the honeymoon neared its inevitable yet blissful end.

What does this starting out mean for me? I am as of yet unsure. I just knew it was time to get moving. I was at a place in my life where there was a great deal of stagnation. Fate is a fickle mistress and does what she wills. In my hubris, I allowed myself to be put at her mercy. I paid dearly for it but I survived.

This blog then will be part journal, part sounding board for ideas I have for my future endeavors. I leave it here hopefully as a boon to any who find it and are wandering along similar paths.

 

May the Lord bless you and keep you all the days of your life.

Amen