Thursday, April 25, 2019

Is Roman Catholicism a Cult?

You know when you're on You Tube and you click on a video, and then You Tube feeds you a whole list of videos on the right hand side that might interest you? So the other day I was googling a random Roman Catholic Mass song, and when I clicked on the You Tube link you'll never guess what caught my eye from the right hand column... 

Is Roman Catholicism a cult? - Ravi Zacharias at Texas A&M's Veritas Forum

Holy Cannoli you guys... I can't make this stuff up! I can only assume that the Holy Spirit places these things in my path so that in my own little way I can respond. The actual question a young man asked was "Is Roman Catholicism another example of how unity does not equal uniformity OR is it at it's core a derivative from true Christianity?" I will be honest, I was disappointed with Ravi's response. Actually, I was kinda "flipping tables” angry, and I may have even said a bad word.

 I don't know much about Ravi Zacharias, but I do know that he is a Christian Apologist who is held in high esteem by many. And what comes with being held in high esteem by followers of Christ? Great responsibility. Unfortunately, his answer without a doubt further perpetuates the ideology that Roman Catholics are not Christians. 

In this video, he defines a Christian as "one who confesses with his mouth and believes in his heart that Jesus Christ is Lord and has risen from the dead." He defines a cult as "anything that deviates from the historic person and work of Jesus Christ or adds to His teaching and is generally at the instruction of one individual who dictates that belief." He goes on to say that "some" Catholics are Christians because they don't subscribe to what the Catholic Church teaches, which really grinds my gears but I'll let that one slide for today.

I want to address his definition of a cult, as he's implying it's relation to the Roman Catholic Church. The problem is that the answer is so multi-faceted and too much information for a non-theologian to explain in a blog post. The quick version would be to say that the Roman Catholic church does NOT "deviate from the historic person and work of Jesus Christ" and we are NOT at the "instruction of one individual who dictates Christian belief." Everything the Roman Catholic Church teaches is based in Sacred Scripture and on Capital T Tradition. Tradition passed down from the apostles. Tradition from the same people who gave us the physical form of the Bible. It's important to remember that there were no physical Bibles in the early Church and Christ's teachings and historical events were passed down through generations by the spoken word. So, in addition to Sacred Scripture, we rely on the information that the early Church has passed down to us.

I have learned over the years not to blindly assume that Protestant beliefs are based on misinterpreted Scripture and I think it's fair to ask the same courtesy in return. We must approach each other with a spirit of gentleness and bear with one another in love. We must view the other with benevolent Good Will, aiming to learn from one another with an openness to the Holy Spirit. When we are seeking Truth, there is no reason to be afraid.

And now, to answer the question of the hour, Is Roman Catholicism a Cult

The answer is unequivocally no! Roman Catholics believe that Jesus is the Son of God, he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary. He died on the Cross for us and for our Salvation. He rose again on the third day, thus conquering death! He is the only Way and His Grace is sufficient. We do not worship the Pope, we do not worship the Saints, we do not worship Mary. You can trace all of the Roman Catholic popes through history back to St. Peter himself, but we are not “followers of the Pope” for Pete’s sake. (No pun intended haha) We are followers of Christ! This is not just "what Katie believes," this is what the Roman Catholic Church teaches and has always taught. People grossly misunderstand the Church's teaching on the pope and the ignorance is truly damaging. I invite you to listen here to learn what the Roman Catholic Church really believes about the Pope and Papal Infallibility. This video isn't meant to convert you to the Catholic way of thinking, I share so that you may better understand that Catholic teaching is based in Scripture. We can agree to disagree, but we can't claim that the other is not in the Word and/or not a Christian. Also, don't be deterred by the length of the video. I find that a great time to listen is in your car, and if you can't find time for the whole video, the first 20 min will at least give you some information on Catholic teaching.

Peace be with you!

"There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be."
Fulton J. Sheen

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Ecumenism 101

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."  
~St. Paul (Ephesians 4:2-6)

Hello everyone! I can't believe it has been 5 years since I last wrote on the blog! Since then we moved, had a baby, and changed jobs, but we still attend St. Mark Catholic Church and Port City Community Church on Sundays. Due to all the children in our immediate circle of friends, our interfaith Small Group has temporarily disbanded, but there are many play dates in it's place! It has been on my heart to write for you again, and I hope to continue to write more regularly in the future.

Ecumenism: the principle or aim of promoting unity 
among the world's Christian Churches.

In July of 2014 the world suffered a sad loss when Anglican Bishop Tony Palmer passed away in a tragic motorcycle accident. He was well known as a dear friend of Pope Francis and an advocate for unity between Christian churches. In addition to preaching that the protest is over, Bishop Palmer taught that it is "our sin that we don't allow our unity in Christ to be visible to those around us. The Cross unites, but spiritual racism divides. It is our common passion that we share that we want to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ every day, and live it in a Modern world." I am blessed to see this common passion lived true among my immediate circle of Catholic and Non-Catholic Christian friends.

What did Bishop Palmer mean by "the protest is over"? I believe he meant that many of the issues that Luther initially took with the Catholic Church are no longer relevant. In 1999, the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. We can't say that all the differences in regards to the topic of justification have been resolved, but the signing of this Declaration was a major step in history. The two denominations took a respectful step towards each other in love, working to understand the other's position and heal the pain of the past. Some people will argue that the protest isn't over. There are still other Christian churches who are "protesting" Catholics and the Catholic Church, and now many Catholics turn their noses up at our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters and treat them with disrespect and indifference. Just because this is true, doesn't make it right. How can we expect anything to change, if we ourselves do not change?  

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." ~Ghandi

I want to see a world where non-Catholic Christians and Catholic Christians treat each other and non-Christians with respect and the love of Christ. With humility and patience, bearing with one another in love. There is always a time and a place for discussions of theology and doctrine, but maybe we should get to know one another first? I propose non-Catholic Christians stop assuming Catholic teaching is not based on Scripture, and I propose Catholics stop assuming our non-Catholic Christian brethren make Scripture say whatever they want it to. Obviously there is a lot more to our differences, but my point is that we should see the benevolent goodwill in our brothers and sisters instead of assuming the worst.

"Difference of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open." ~Albus Dumbledore

Awhile back Matt's pastor, Pastor Mike Ashcraft, gave a great sermon that got me thinking. He preached a series on the book of Revelation and one particular sermon was on the letters sent the seven churches in Asia. The first letter, out of the seven, is the letter to the Church in Ephesus. The letter begins, "I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first."  (Revelation 2:2-5)  The Church in Ephesus is being praised for their solid doctrine, but are being reprimanded for their lack of love towards others.

Pastor Mike preached that "when we become intolerant of people who don't think like us, it pulls us away from our mission to be the Salt and the Light. God is calling all of us to remember and repent. Remember our own brokenness and Salvation, and repent from sinning against each other."  

It is no secret that we, as Catholics, believe the Catholic Church holds the fullness of faith, as passed down by the Apostles and through the Scriptures. Matt knows that this is what I believe, just as I know that he believes that the Catholic Church does not hold the fullness of faith and has been misguided on certain things over the years. But we can't sit around all day arguing about who's right.  "Right-ness" creates separation. There have been many conversations about the differences between the churches for over 500 years. I don't think Matt and I are suddenly going to be able to "fix" all the differences that trained theologians can't agree on. What we can do, is focus on who we are in Christ.  We can approach each other with humility, and ask the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our hearts and reveal His Truth to us. What is needed is a spirit of humility, and one of love.

The protest is over. Church leaders around the world are meeting with one another to encourage unity. Shouldn't we be following their lead?

May the peace of Christ be with you!

If you are interested in listening to a Protestant vs. Catholic dialogue on Justification, please view the links below.
Hahn vs. Bowman Part 1
Hahn vs. Bowman Part 2
Hahn vs. Bowman Part 3

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Confessions of Katie

"It is far better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you are not."  ~Unknown

For a long time, ever since social media became "a thing", I have been fearful of sharing who I am with "the world".  Who I am, meaning my political beliefs, my social beliefs, my spirituality...  I've shared hints here and there, but have always been afraid to share fully.  In light of recent events, I have become overwhelmed by the world, burdened by all the violence and evil.  That, combined with getting older, has made me realize I'm tired of hiding.  It seems silly that I'm afraid to share who I am when there are Christians dying because they refuse to renounce their faith.  I have been inspired by them to throw it all out there.  If you don't like it, then feel free to "unfriend" me, on social media or in real life.  I promise I'll try not to be too hurt by it.  ;)  

So here goes...

I am a wife!  And I don't think that submission is a bad word.  I "submit" to my husband in the biblical sense and he in turn lifts me up with more respect than before... funny how that works.  It is important to note that Biblical submission in this sense is a voluntary attitude of cooperating and allowing my husband to lead. 

I am passionately Pro-Life!  I believe that life begins at conception.  I also believe that we need to find better ways of helping women who are faced with an unexpected pregnancy.  Instead of brushing her under the carpet and "taking care of it", really helping her explore and understand her options.  Providing healing alternatives such as adoption, instead of the violence of abortion. 

I am a Feminist!  Maybe not in the way that you define the word, but I believe in women recognizing their worth, beauty, and strength.  We should embrace what makes us different from men.  We can bring life into the world!  How amazing is that?  Maybe I'm just a hippy Catholic, but I think that's pretty awesome. 

I am a follower of Jesus Christ!  Most historians and scholars agree that a man named Jesus walked the earth at the same time as the Biblical Jesus Christ.  C.S. Lewis sums it up best in his book Mere Christianity, "A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg--or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us." 

I am a Catholic Christian!  I am passionate about bringing about unity with our non-Catholic brothers and sisters.  Christian Unity doesn't mean we will all suddenly agree on matters of doctrine.  My husband and I believe that Christian Unity means looking past our differences, focusing on what we believe in common, and choosing to embrace one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.  In these crazy and violent times, where Christians are being persecuted all over the world, this is not just important, it is VITAL.

I am a Natural Family Planner!  We just wrapped up #NFPAwarenessWeek, which I honestly didn't think was a real thing, but it is.  I would encourage you to learn about your fertility.  It's science!  :) 
There are several reasons why we practice Natural Family Planning.  One, because I'm Catholic and the Catholic church asks me to.  Another very important reason is because I spend a lot of extra time and money to purchase hormone free meat, cheese, and milk for myself and my husband, and I'm not to keen on the idea of making all that effort go to waste by pumping chemicals and hormones into my system via the Birth Control Pill.  We have been practicing NFP to avoid pregnancy, with 100% success, for 14 months.  Out of respect for my husband, who didn't have to be supportive of me, I take my charting very seriously.  And it works.  My husband and I give 100% of ourselves to each other... he accepts all of me, even my fertility.    

Sooo... thanks for listening! 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Continuing to Grow

September 4, 2012.  My 32nd birthday, and the day that Matt asked me to do him the highest honor, and be his wife.  Matt agreed to being married in a church BY the beach, even though he would rather have been married ON the beach.  We compromised and he got to wear leather flip flops instead of real shoes.  (I mean, really, it's the beach!)  

During our planning, we made the decision to go to Pre-Cana through the Catholic Church, and also do pre-marital counseling through Matt's church, Port City Community Church, aka PC3.  I was very nervous about who our marriage mentors would be, and prayed that God would assign us the perfect couple for our "situation".  I was nervous I would be shunned for being Catholic.   

In keeping with God's constant faithfulness, our mentors were perfect for us.  They never once made me feel uncomfortable for being Catholic.  They were supportive, and helped us talk through our faith differences.  I'll never forget a particular meeting where we were discussing our concerns, and "Mr. Marriage Mentor" was earnestly trying to help us get to the bottom of it.  Finally he looked at Matt and asked, "Does it really bother you that she confesses her sins to Jesus through the priest?  She's still seeking Jesus' forgiveness."  

I think the most awesome moment for me, was being able to share my relationship with Our Lady, aka Mary the Mother of God.  I think she is one of the most misunderstood aspects of Catholic teaching.  I was able to share that she is our Mother, because she is Jesus' Mother, and He is our Brother.  In keeping with the commandments, Jesus honored her, and so should we.  There is a difference between honor and worship.  They had never heard that explanation before, and they didn't judge me for it.  They showed me nothing but Love.    

They gave us the permission to "place in common what we have received from our respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which we each live in fidelity to Christ."

We know that God never intended for His Church to be so divided, I think any Christian would admit to that.  The division is a result of humans being left to their own devices.  Jesus never said that the "Catholic Church" is the only way to get to Heaven.  On the same token, he doesn't ever say that the "Baptist Church" is the only way to get to Heaven.  (Insert any Christian denomination into that equation.)  He says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me."  

Please don't misunderstand me, there is always a time and a place for discussion and debate regarding doctrine.  Listening to Catholic and Protestant leaders debate has actually helped me understand both sides better.  (If you would be interested in these debates, any discussions with Dr. Scott Hahn representing the Catholic perspective would be a trustworthy resource.)

Someone once asked Mother Theresa "What has to change in the Church?"   Her response was  "You and I".  We all need to turn our hearts towards Jesus, so that we may more fully understand the way we each worship Him.  This isn't an easy task, but it is necessary.  

St. John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint:

"Christ calls all his disciples to unity. My earnest desire is to renew this call today, to propose it once more with determination, repeating what I said at the Roman Colosseum on Good Friday 1994, at the end of the meditation on the Via Crucis prepared by my Venerable Brother Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. There I stated that believers in Christ, united in following in the footsteps of the martyrs, cannot remain divided. If they wish truly and effectively to oppose the world's tendency to reduce to powerlessness the Mystery of Redemption, they must profess together the same truth about the Cross.1 The Cross! An anti-Christian outlook seeks to minimize the Cross, to empty it of its meaning, and to deny that in it man has the source of his new life. It claims that the Cross is unable to provide either vision or hope. Man, it says, is nothing but an earthly being, who must live as if God did not exist.
No one is unaware of the challenge which all this poses to believers. They cannot fail to meet this challenge. Indeed, how could they refuse to do everything possible, with God's help, to break down the walls of division and distrust, to overcome obstacles and prejudices which thwart the proclamation of the Gospel of salvation in the Cross of Jesus, the one Redeemer of man, of every individual?"

This last week, I realized that not everyone is going to come around.  There will always be people on the Catholic side and on the Protestant side who choose to focus on what separates us, rather than what brings us together.  That is unfortunate... but I am not going to let that stop me.  We must "respond with generosity and holiness to the calls and challenges of our time." ~St. John Paul II

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Learning to Love

Early January 2011, I headed to a party at a friend's house.  I opened the sliding glass door and stepped inside.  As I scanned the room, I noticed this tall, dark and handsome man at the other side, but continued in to greet my friends since "guys like that never like me anyways."  

After a short time, we ended up standing back to back in two different conversations, when Matt overheard me talking about my love for the Washington Redskins.  He turned to engage me in conversation and high five me over our shared love of the greatest team in the history of the NFL.  (What? You don't agree?)  The evening progressed with conversations of ocean life and C.S. Lewis.  He drove me home that night, and I was officially smitten.  

A few days later, he called to tell me that he was currently in the process of ending a relationship, and couldn't, in right conscience, begin dating me at that time.  DEVASTATED.  Of course this great Christian man couldn't date ME.  That was the name of the game for me at that time.  He was going on a surf trip and was planning to take the 10 days as an opportunity to do some soul searching.  I decided to pray a novena for him during that time, and had accepted that I was just praying for this man, with the very good chance that a relationship between us wouldn't happen.  (A Novena is a form of worship consisting of special prayers on nine successive days.)

Long story short, he returned from the surf trip, officially ended the other relationship (they were already taking a break), and our first date was January 29.  That February he gave me 4 dozen roses for Valentine's Day.  In March he told me he loved me, and by April, I was catching the bouquet at my sister's wedding.  

As our relationship progressed, we knew we wanted to get married... except there was just one problem.  He was Protestant and I was Catholic.  EGADS!  I became more intense about "the importance of making sure Matt knew everything he could know about the Catholic faith."  I gave him a journal in which I had written down all my favorite prayers, and why my Catholic faith was important to me.  I made him listen to Scott Hahn's conversion story on CD.  After one "argument", I grabbed my bible and started bombarding him with Scripture.  That is never a good way to communicate, but that's the thing, I didn't know how to properly communicate my beliefs.  In the past, I was always defending myself against the misconceptions so many people have about the Catholic Church.  I could never just explain, I was always defending.  

We finally realized it had to stop.  If we were going to make it, we had to have a serious conversation about our future.  Matt took the matter to the Lord in prayer, and I did what any good Catholic girl would do, I grabbed my Catechism!  (Don't worry, I prayed too.)  We sat down to have our meeting, glass of wine in hand, and I read to him straight from the catechism what the Church has to say to couples like us.  "Differences of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ."  

Wow... and there you have it.  This is how Catholic and non-Catholic Christians should be treating each other.  Focusing on what we have in common, respecting one another, and learning from each other.  The Protest is over.  It's time for a season of unity.

I fully understand that sometimes that can be easier said than done.  We had to have difficult conversations about how we would raise our children.  It was hard, and it's still hard.  You have to make compromises, and you have to really evaluate what's important.  It takes a lot of prayer and humility, but it IS possible to love your way through disagreements and differences with Christ's love.

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; 10 but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. 13 So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."  (1 Corinthians 13)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Wounds to Healing

“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” ~ Fulton J. Sheen

In 1989, my sister and I were sent to attend a private Evangelical school in our hometown in VA.  They advertise with the preface that they are a non-denominational school, but this particular school might really mean "non-denominational as long as you aren't Catholic".  I was nine years old when we made the switch and I was so excited because many of my friends already went to school there.  At that time, I didn't really think anything of the few negative experiences I had, but in hind sight, those experiences created in me a harsh, defensive nature.  

It was at this elementary school that I was told by some of my peers that I wasn't a Christian because I was Catholic.  Ouch.  As a nine year old little girl, who had asked Jesus to be the Light of her Heart just five years earlier, I didn't understand.  One day, a teacher very kindly asked me to bring my Catholic Bible to show and tell.  I 
remember feeling embarrassed, thinking "Don't y'all have your own bibles?  
Mine's pretty much the same..."  

 It was at this point in my life I remember the questions starting.  Questions like "Why do you worship Mary and the Saints?".  My mother was called names in the carpool line.  We became defensive and wounded.

Fast forward several years and I was going off to college.  I had decided to follow in my older sister's footsteps and attend the Franciscan University of Steubenville.  This was definitely where the Lord was leading me and I made a lot of great friends during my four years there.  Almost all of us are still friends today.  It was/is comfortable for all of us to share the same faith.  It's easy to be friends with others when your core 
beliefs are the same.

I look back on the years in college, and through the years leading up until this point, and I realize something.  This is something that really began to materialize in my mind after two uncomfortable exchanges between a couple of college friends and my husband Matt, back when we were dating.  We have become so comfortable with our Catholic friends and in our Catholic bubbles that we have forgotten how to love.  We have become so defensive, we're now the ones asking the questions.  "Why aren't YOU Catholic?"  
"Why don't you love Mary?!  She IS the mother of God you know."  We're sneering at non-Catholic Christians and they're sneering at us.  WHY?  

Scripture tells us in John 17:20-21,
 "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me."
 Are we "in the Lord" when we're sneering, jabbing, and publicly arguing with our Christian brothers and sisters of other faith backgrounds?  No.  

We have to learn to love each other.  In word and action. 

Thankfully, my husband Matt has been teaching me how to love my non-Catholic brothers and sisters since the day we met.  We've learned that we're not all that different.  
"We believe in God the Father.  We believe in Jesus Christ.  We believe in the Holy Spirit, and He's given us New Life!"

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Little More About Me...

Hi!  My name is Katie and I am married to a handsome guy named Matt.  

We live in Wilmington, NC with our lovable American Bulldog, Moses...  

Matt and I were married on May 11, 2013 in a small church by the ocean.  

In search of an outlet through which to share my deepest thoughts on inter-faith marriages and Christian unity, I find myself here.  My hope is that through this avenue, I can make a difference in the lives of others.  Whether you may be Catholic (like me!), non-denominational (like Matt!), Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc.  It's time that we embrace the fact that Jesus loves all of us the same and His desire is that we learn to love each other as He loves us.  (John 17:20-21)

It is my goal to share my journey-in-process, from a wounded and defensive Catholic, to a non-defensive Catholic wife of a non-Catholic Christian. This is the place where I hope to clear the air surrounding many of the misconceptions of the Catholic Church and share some of the joys and struggles of life in an inter-faith marriage.   

I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide my heart and fingertips as we embark on this adventure together!   

God's love is an ocean, may His healing waters wash over all of us, 
and may He teach us to love.