Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sometimes, when I hear the voice of God...

(I sometimes hear the voice of God.  Did you know that?)

... I am musing about deep theological truths.

But more often, I'm simply afraid, worrying myself sick over something or other.

And so often, he says something like,
"... my rod and my staff will comfort you.  I will prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies.  I will anoint your head with oil.  Your cup will run over.  Goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Widow of Nain

Yesterday, I read this passage on the bus.

"As He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her.
When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, 'Do not weep.'"

I stared at the letters in dark red and thought about what Jesus' direction "do not weep" meant.

Do not weep.

Did the mother even hear Jesus?

If she did, did she think he was mocking her?  "Do not weep"?  She was leaving the city on her way to bury her only son. Who could say to her, "do not weep"?

Maybe she wasn't even mourning yet, still in denial.  Maybe she looked at him numbly and tried to understand what the words meant. "Do not weep."  Is someone trying to talk to me?

Maybe she raged at him inwardly.  What was wrong with him, trying to cheer her up at a time like this?  When your entire world is quaking as the storm rages inside you, "do not weep" is likely to have the opposite of the intended effect.

Did she feel that she had a right to mourn (a reasonable thought on her part), and that he should just leave her alone? "Do not weep".  Yeah, fat chance of that.

In those few seconds after Jesus looked at her, felt compassion for her, and said, "Do not weep", what went through her mind?

On what grounds could he possibly say to her, "Do not weep"?

"And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise!"

The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother."

He could say "do not weep" because he knew that he was the one about to turn her broken world into something unspeakably wonderful, about to make everything that was wrong right again.

So when everything that I hold dear seems to be crumbling, when I can't see my way clear in any direction, when I feel like the pain of a fallen world will crush my very existence, there is a small still voice that says,
"Do not despair.  Do not lose hope.  Do not fear.  Rejoice and be glad."

On what grounds can he possibly say that, when it seems like the sky itself is hostile and the floodwater will never go down?

He can say "do not weep" because he is the one who, in the end, makes all things new.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What I've Thought About This Week While Running


I usually find a topic when I run, and then muse on that issue or problem the whole time.  Sometimes it's an inner dialogue, or sometimes the whole thing takes the form of a prayer.

I've always been fascinated by the connections and symbolism that surround the crucifixion.  The more I learn about it, the more astounded I am.
Jesus was the Lamb of God, sacrificed at Passover, perfect and holy, young and meek.  His blood was smeared on the crossbeams, so that death would pass over. The lamb's bones were not broken. Then the body of the Passover lamb fed the people of God, until they would be delivered across the water to their promised inheritance. After the Passover meal, a cup of wine mixed with water was taken by tradition. The priest sacrificed the lamb at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and trumpets sounded from the temple at the same time as Jesus cried out and breathed his last, to signify that the lamb had died for the sins of the people.
This is known as the Paschal Mystery. ("Paschal" means "pertaining to Passover".)

Earlier this week, I stumbled across this video about Mary the mother of Christ, and in a similar way started to see connections and symbolism I'd never noticed. Enjoy it, and may it give you as much to ponder as it gave me.

[A couple of details only vaguely referenced in the video:
-- "Full of Grace" - In the original Greek of Luke 1:28, Gabriel said to Mary, "Rejoice, Full of Grace!  The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women."  (I get my interlinear translations here.)
A participle in the Greek vocative case, "Full of Grace" is more accurately translated as a title: "Rejoice, Full-of-Grace!"  The phrase, kecharitomene, refers to an action that occurred in the past and continues into the present. It's also translated "highly favored", which is a very similar idea in Greek, though its connotations are somewhat different today.
-- In the same passage, "Rejoice" is the word chaire, which is translated as "rejoice" generally, and "hail" when used as a greeting. This verse is where the "Hail Mary", a traditional prayer-requesting-prayer, comes from.]

Friday, October 8, 2010


I was reading the archives today on Conversion Diary, Jen Fulwiler's blog about her conversion to Christianity.  She wrote about finding a dying baby bird with her young son, and trying to explain to him what was happening.

Caught off guard, she told him that the birdie had "gone to be with Jesus." Later in her blog, she wrote a long post about what she would have wanted to say to him about it, if he had been old enough to understand.

It's an excellent post, full of deep truths.  But one sentence convicted me so much that I reread it immediately.

"As you get older, you may be tempted to see the rules that God has given us through his Word and his Church as oppressive; at some point you may feel like they are confining you because they prevent you from making yourself comfortable in this world."


Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Theological Story (or, What Is The Church?)


The second part of why I'm becoming Catholic, the theological story, is long overdue.

The difference between Catholicism and Protestantism is huge, but really everything, that entire difference, hinges on one question:

What is the Church?

The question seems simple.  It seems bizarre that the huge, obvious differences between Catholics and Protestants boil down to that one question.  The reason the differences are so big is that this question is essential and fundamental; so many other beliefs are built on the answer to this question.

I think of it like one of those cool optical illusions you encounter from time to time.  I'll explain what I mean.

The picture is like the collection of Christian beliefs, Scriptures, and doctrines. When you first encounter it, you form an idea of what it is and exactly what it says and means, much like how you first saw some animal in the picture above.

Whether you see a duck or a rabbit in the picture, another person will look at the same picture and see the other animal first.

If you've seen one animal, that is, you've believed one idea about the Christian faith your entire life, it can be difficult to comprehend why anyone else could see anything else.
But once that moment happens when suddenly the picture seems to blink and suddenly you see the other animal, you will always be able to see the new animal, too.
In the same way, once you experience the paradigm shift and really understand the other (Protestant or Catholic) perspective, you will always understand why they believe what they believe.
The point is, the picture isn't a duck or a rabbit.  It's both.  It may be one more clearly than the other. Perhaps the artist liked one animal better and really intended it to be that way, but accepted the other, also. Or maybe both were intended from the beginning.

I'm here to explain why I see a rabbit now, when I believed in the duck my entire life before this.

So the fundamental question: what is the Church?

Some things are obvious: the Church is the body of Christ.  The Church is the bride of Christ. The Church is the fellowship of believers in Christ.
But to understand Catholicism, we must understand the history of the early Church.

When the Church began, the year was around 33 A.D. The Church was a group of mostly (or all) Jews. They were Jesus' disciples:  his followers, the women, and his twelve apostles. The Gospels had not yet been written, nor had any of the Epistles. (Paul wasn't even a Christian yet.)

Between 50 and 80 A.D., the Gospels appeared one by one, with Mark as the earliest, and Matthew and Luke arriving somewhat later. (The exact date of authorship depends on what scholarly opinion you accept.)
The Epistles were written around 50 - 130 A.D.
These documents were probably widely circulated, as in 2 Timothy, Paul refers to them and expects Timothy to know what he's talking about.

The Bible as we know it today was collected and approved by the Synod of Hippo in 393.  However, the books canonized there had been accepted for at least a century or two at that time. One writer likens it to a major music school publishing a declaration that the works of Bach and Mozart are wonderful.
Yes, we know.

The pertinent question here is, what happened in the interim?

The belief that Christian faith emanates from the Scriptures has difficulty with this question.  What did Christians believe before there was the New Testament?

Common sense suggests that they learned the beliefs from the apostles and disciples, probably mostly by spoken word. As the apostles spread out, they taught those they encountered, setting up churches everywhere they went.

History can also shed some light on this question.  The Apostolic Fathers are the first generation of church leaders, those who actually knew the Twelve Apostles.
They include Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp.  Their writings date to the same era as the Epistles, and in some cases, possibly even earlier.
From their writings, we can learn a huge amount about what the first-century church actually did and believed.
  • Clement of Rome was the bishop of Rome, either the first, second, or third successor of Peter. He wrote Clement I to the Corinthian church in about A.D. 96. He was martyred at the end of the first century by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the ocean.
  • Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch. En route to Rome, he wrote seven letters that are considered authentic today. He was martyred in Rome between 98 A.D. and 117 A.D.
  • Polycarp was the second bishop of Smyrna.  He was taught by the apostle John.  He was burned at the stake and stabbed in 155 A.D. in Smyrna.  He wrote a letter to the Philippians, which is the only surviving work attributed to him.
Their writings, and other documents from that time, show a number of striking themes:
The overall picture is striking. Historically, the early Church believed the same doctrines we do. (And in many cases, they faced the same problems. Some things never change...)

One of the most important Scriptures in Catholic doctrine is Matthew 16:13-20.  This is the confession of Peter, and Jesus' assertion that the Church would be built on Peter.  Jesus gives Peter the keys to the kingdom, and the power of binding and loosing. Additionally, after his resurrection, Jesus gave the apostles the authority to forgive or retain sins in John 20, the same way that the Father gave him the authority to forgive sins (vs. 21). (Notice how this compares with Acts 5:3-6.)

The first few chapters of Acts are full of instances where someone, or a group, approaches the Church with a question or a request.  In a striking fashion, the person questions the Church or the group of apostles present, but Peter replies. (This happens in Acts 1:15, 2:14, 2:38, 3:6, 3:12, 4:8, 5:3, 5:15, 5:29, and others).

Peter is listed first in every listing of the apostles found in Scripture (Mt. 10:2-4, Mk. 3:16-19, Luke 6:13-16, Acts 1:13). (Order of names was quite significant in Greek, and signified importance or primacy.)

History tells us Peter was bishop of the church in Antioch, then bishop of the church in Rome until his death under Nero. 
The especially important historical fact is that Peter had a successor.  There was a second bishop of Rome, then a third, and so on.  The order of the first few successors varies depending on the ancient historian writing, but most agree that Linus followed Peter, Anacletus (who had several names) followed him, and Clement followed him. Tertullian reported that Peter himself ordained Clement.

By the end of the first century, Clement of Rome apparently had the authority to intervene in disputes in other churches.  In fact, a particular dispute about clergy in Corinth caused Clement to write a correction to them in about 96 A.D., with an apology for not intervening sooner (Clement 1:1). This does not mean or require that Clements' letters were inspired.  However, it does demonstrate the historical practice of the Church.

Within the next one hundred years, the bishop in Rome was recognized as an authoritative figure responsible for maintaining the Apostolic teaching, according to Irenaeus in 189 A.D.

This recognition extended to the other church leaders. The writings of Ignatius in the early 100's admonish the Christians to submit to the authority of their bishops and to be of one mind with them, as in his letter to the Ephesians. (Interestingly, his letter strongly suggests that Onesimus, from the book of Philemon, became the bishop of Ephesus.)
It should be noted that much of the New Testament was not even written at this time, much less widely circulated, and definitely not canonized or collected into a Bible. Canonization of the Scriptures did not come until the fourth century, and high literacy rates wouldn't occur for another ten centuries after that. Widespread availability of bound Bibles was still over 1500 years away.

The same theme of authority is present in the canonical Epistles, as well. Hebrews 13:17 instructs the Christians to submit to authorities who watch over their souls and will give an account of their work (which does not sound like secular authority to me). 1 Corinthians 16:15-16 tells the Corinthians to be subject to certain leaders, and to others who work for the faith.
This runs counter to our modern democratic sensibilities.  But does that matter if this was, in fact, how the early church was organized, in the days when the apostles and those who walked with Christ were still alive?

Some have even noted that the organization of the Church resembles what we know about the organization of the angels in heaven: many serve under a hierarchy of geographically-based leaders.

In summary, as I learned more about the real historical practice and beliefs of the early Church, I found that sola scriptura made less and less sense.  I realized that the belief in the supremacy of the Bible was, itself, not found in the Bible.  Themes of good Bible scholarship certainly are.  But the belief that the Bible was intended to be the only and complete source of truth is difficult to defend.

About this time, I read 1 Timothy 3:14-15, in which Paul considers his written instructions a substitute for his presence, implying that his oral teaching and example would have been better. In verse 15, he calls the Church (not the Scriptures) the "pillar and foundation of the truth".

Thus, I began to seriously consider the Catholic notion of the Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Church.

Am I so surprised?  In John 14:22-27, Jesus promises his apostles the Holy Spirit, who would remind them of what he had said. In John 16:12-15, Jesus promises that he has more to say to them, and that the Spirit would guide the apostles into all truth. This is a promise of God.

Simultaneously, I discovered that virtually all of the Catholic doctrines I had considered un-Scriptural did not counter the Bible at all. This supported well the Catholic notion of the Scriptures and the Church working together, in harmony, to protect and teach the truth.
(If you guys are interested in talking about anything specific, let me know in the comments.  I'm happy to elaborate on this more if you want.)

In addition, I have discovered Catholic teachings that are purely Scriptural, making sense of verses that had always caused me trouble, such as Matthew 19:4-6, James 5:16, 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, 1 John 5:16-17, James 5:14-15.

All together, these ideas whirled through my life like a thunder storm this summer.  I probably prayed more fervently and consistently for insight about this than about anything else in years before.

If you do not accept this, then you are a Protestant.  Love God, and live it fully in all you do.  May our God be with you and give you his peace.

However, my perspective has been forever changed. This, therefore, is my conclusion.  It is with a full and joyous heart that I continue my journey into the Catholic Church. 

Easter Vigil cannot come fast enough.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ponderings According to Sarah, on the Gospel According to Matthew

... and I felt the urge when I typed the title to reply, "Glory to you, O Lord."

(When the Gospels are read in Mass, there is some reverence and fanfare surrounding it.  We sing the Alleluia, and the deacon holds the book high.  He carries it to the podium, finds the place, and says, "A reading from the Holy Gospel according to" Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Then the congregation replies, "Glory to you, O Lord." And we use our thumbs to make a sign of the cross at the forehead, the mouth, and the chest.)

I'm reading the Gospel of Matthew right now.  My plan was to read the Catechism, then reread the New Testament, then read a book I bought about Orthodox Christianity, and then one about Church history.
I'm hoping that reading the New Testament now that I'm Catholic (in mind, if not yet confirmed) will either convince me of my wrongness in choosing to be Catholic, or give me a wonderful new perspective on the Scriptures I've always known.

So now that I've misplaced my copy of "The Catechism of the Catholic Church", I pulled out my Bible today on the bus and started in Matthew.

One of the first things I noticed was the thoroughly Jewish setting of the first couple of chapters.  The book begins with a genealogy, which was a vital piece of information about a person in Jewish culture.  I remember reading in my Church history resource that the early Church was quite Jewish in character.  Most of the earliest Christians (before they were called Christians) were Jews. 
I've read that at first, the faith was thought of as an extension of Judaism, and that the conversion of Gentiles led to some controversy about whether they had to become Jews to become Christians. Apparently, this led to the writing of several of the Epistles.
So I guess the extensive Jewish history isn't surprising.

It also struck me how humbly Jesus' first mention in the Bible appears:
vs 1: "A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham..."
vs. 16: "and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ."

Then in chapter 2, I was amazed by the use of the word "worship" to refer to Jesus many times, even this early in his life. I looked up the word in a Greek interlinear.
It really does mean "worship", and is possibly an example of the Gospel writers' belief that Jesus was God. This word was used even when Jesus was a baby, before many people knew who he was. 
(The study of whether Jesus believed he was the Son of God is interesting; I can write a bit about that if you guys are interested.)

I looked up from the page as the bus turned a corner, and was struck by how commonplace, everyday it all seems to me: bus seats, backpacks, gas stations, blinkers, people in t-shirts, people texting on the bus, going home to my roommates and our dog, drinking some tea and surfing the internet before settling down to homework. Then I realized that Jesus had his own world that seemed commonplace and everyday to him, and that his world was continuous with the one I would someday inhabit.

Then I got into chapter 3, where Jesus is baptized.  I realized with a start that perhaps Jesus' baptism and the subsequent presence of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove could prefigure our own baptism and confirmation.

Confirmation is the laying on of hands and being anointed with oil to receive the Holy Spirit that is referred to in the New Testament.  When I read about it in the Catechism and figured out what confirmation really meant, I felt tears well in my eyes, thinking that I would get to experience "the laying on of hands" that I'd read about so many times.
It's one of those Catholic things I always dismissed and never realized was in the Bible.

As I walked to my house from the bus, I got to musing about Jesus' baptism.  It all seems so real to me now, like it happened yesterday, in my kitchen or out on my driveway.  
My question is this: was Jesus baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?  If not, what did John say when he baptized Jesus?  Did he say anything?

I read an article about Jewish baptism, and according to it, "in the name of" seems to refer to a required witness, or to those who were present when it happened. This is well-supported by Scripture, as in 1 Corinthians 1:14-15:
"I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say you were baptized into my name."

And then it hit me. We are baptized in the name of THE FATHER and of THE SON and of THE HOLY SPIRIT.

 What a rich inheritance of faith we have!  How beautiful and nuanced it is!  What a tremendous, glorious blessing that I should be chosen to have this!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Three Stories (Or, What on Earth I Think I'm Doing)


Yesterday, a dear friend visited our house and cooked us dinner.  Our little group had a fantastically lovely evening, full of uproarious laughter. 

After talking with my friend, I realized that nearly every single person I've told about my decision to become Catholic has seemed quizzically curious, and asked to hear my reasons at some point.  

So I've thought some about how best to describe what my "reasons" are.  The thing is, there are really three stories surrounding my conversion.  Without any of them, I feel my decision makes little sense.
They are:
  1. The History (the vital sequence of events in my past, large and small, that led me to this point)
  2. The Theological Story (the rational, left-brain reasons I'm becoming Catholic)
  3. The Heart Story (the story of my heart's journey from its first indifferent glance to its current joyful aching for communion with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church)

In the coming days, I plan to tell each story, leading to a comprehensive whole that outlines where I stand now.  (This is, of course, dependent on my free time. My medical school interviews have begun, so I've been quite distracted.)

First, the History.

As I've explained, I was raised in a conservative Protestant denomination, the Church of Christ.  I learned that the Scriptures were God-breathed and useful for teaching, correcting, and instruction in righteousness, so that we might be thoroughly equipped. (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17)  I was taught that the Scriptures were the only way a person could truly know God, so we'd better be quite studious in this regard.  As a result, I have read the entire Bible cover-to-cover, parts of it dozens of times.  There are probably Bible verses I have read or heard read thousands of times.

The Church of Christ aims to restore New Testament Christianity.  Therefore, they have no creed but the Scriptures, as they believe the early church did.  They have no governing body.  They believe that no doctrine can be defended apart from the Scriptures, and that no such thing should be attempted.  As such, they resist strongly all "man-made doctrine" that can't be supported from the Scriptures in a way reminiscent of a mathematical proof. (Hypothesis: baptism for forgiveness of sins.  Invoke Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21... Therefore, baptism is for forgiveness of sins.  QED.)

I have come to believe that the Church of Christ (and similar groups) are the epitome of sola scriptura, its conclusion and natural end. Their view is almost perfectly that which results if the New Testament is taken alone and used to construct a coherent faith. I find this dedication and persistence so admirable, their earnestness and thoroughness with regard to the faith something each Christian would be well-served to cultivate. 
As I studied, I began to privately hold a number of beliefs that did not line up completely with traditional Church of Christ belief.  For example, I have believed in some type of transubstantiation for many years now, and I believed in the power of deceased Christians to help us through prayer.  I do not believe instrumental worship is wrong.

When I came to college, I realized that differing opinions abound in the "real world".  I found myself re-reading the familiar passages and finding completely new interpretations. For example, my first college boyfriend, an agnostic, related how he had always seen the story of the woman caught in adultery as Jesus condemning the death penalty.  I had to admit that the point made sense.  Was it the only way to read it?  No.  Could I see both of them simultaneously?  Yes...
Suddenly, I could see multiple possible interpretations for so many of the verses I had known, loved, and memorized (book, chapter, and verse). I found myself floundering on a number of points of doctrine, wondering what interpretation Jesus meant, and how much weight I should give my own conscience's opinion as (possibly) the conduit of the Holy Spirit's guidance.  If the Bible commands that I should not even eat with Christians who commit sexual sin, how do I overcome my guilt for alienating them? Should I?  Or have "times changed"?  How was I to tell the stirrings of the Holy Spirit, calling me to greater righteousness from my own opinions?  How could I be sure enough for something so important

My freshman year, I met a lovely girl named Jamie.  We met at a Church of Christ student group retreat during the first week of college, and became fast friends.  We talked about boys, family, school, our faith.  Boys.  Faith.  Over the next two years, Jamie would help me through some of my hardest times in college.  
Because we were so close, I watched her and talked with her as she began wondering about Catholicism.  We discussed and debated points of doctrine, and she always patiently explained the teaching of the Catholic church to me.  I greatly admire her ability to explain deeply theological complexities simply, with good humor, to someone who just didn't get the Catholic thing at all.  Never one to meekly ignore the tough questions, she posed me numerous questions about faith, the Bible, and orthodoxy.
I attended Mass with her a couple of times.  She gave me the best advice for visitors to Mass I have ever heard:
  1. Don't take the Eucharist.  That's sacrilege. Just stay in your seat, or go up and receive a blessing, 
  2. Don't do anything you don't know what it means, and
  3. Don't do anything you're not comfortable with.
On Easter of our freshman year, Jamie became Catholic.  Even after her conversion, she continued to learn and to share freely with me about it. When we met at her apartment to cook supper, she would always ask if I wanted to pray for us this time.  I would always decline, and she would smile, bow her head, and recite some prayer, often the Lord's Prayer, and often in Latin. 

After our sophomore year, Jamie moved away to be nearer her parents.  (She seems happy now, where she transferred.  I still miss her deeply, and often wish I could talk to her about some question or other I thought of that day.  Someday, someday.)

Fast forward nearly a year, to March of my junior year, when I began dating my boyfriend.  Boyfriend is Catholic, though he wasn't raised Catholic.  He converted when he was quite young as a pupil in Catholic elementary school.  
Boyfriend is a quite liberal Catholic and expressly does not care whether I am Catholic or Protestant.  However, his very presence in my life began resurrecting Jamie's questions, which I had mostly buried to deal with later.  
  • What is the Bible?  How did it come to be?  How did it reach its current form?
  • What does the Catholic Church think about itself?  About the Faith?  About the Pope?
  • What does very early Church history say about the doctrines and practices of the Church?
  • What does the Bible say about Peter?
  • What did Peter say about himself thereafter?
  • What does the Bible say about the Church? What does the Church say about the Bible?
Many of the people I have told about my plans have asked if I am converting for Boyfriend.  I explain about Jamie, and explain that Boyfriend is the catalyst for all this, but not the reason itself.

Honestly, he is probably part of the reason, and I don't think much of anything I can do will change that. 

However, that doesn't make the questions go away.  They're still there, and because of Boyfriend, they've all woken up and begun pounding on my door.  I still have to answer them, and the real reason I'm becoming Catholic is that the answers have completely blown my mind.  

Well, that will have to be all for tonight.  I will try my best to have the second story up within a few days.  

As always, God be with you.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Thoughts from Mass - 8/8/2010


The last two Sundays, I have attended Mass at the other Catholic church in town with my boyfriend and his friends.  The church they attend is within walking distance of the college campus, and so consists mostly of college kids.  The one I attend is mostly families, which is something I like about it.

More than that, though, I attend the other Catholic church because I felt it would be a distraction to an honest investigation of Catholicism to sit beside my boyfriend in Mass.

It is.

But I enjoy the service all the same.  It's absolutely beautiful standing beside the man I love, both of us holding our hands up with the rest of the assembly, singing the Lord's Prayer together with the Church.  I find my thoughts wandering from us to the rest of the world, who will all read the same Scriptures today, repeat the Lord's Prayer together today, proclaim the mystery* together, and receive the Eucharist together today all over the world. But more on that later.
(*proclaim the mystery of faith - all say, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.")

So, the Mass.

Today I was struck with the beautiful mystery of the Catholic faith.  There are so many connections that I'd never noted before.

For example, I'm beginning to understand Mary as sort of a first symbol of the Church.  She was the first person to ever be devoted to Christ. The Bible says she was "full of grace", which the Catholic church believes means that she was filled with God's grace even from infancy.  In all of human history, God could have chosen any woman to be the mother of Jesus, and he chose Mary.

I also cried again today during Communion.  I would like to discuss that in more detail later, so I'll leave it for now.

I also plan to write a post about my journey to Catholicism, both in terms of the actual events and in terms of the structure of my belief changes that led me to this.  But it's getting quite late here, so I'll postpone that discussion as well.

God be with you.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Rationality in Joy

One of the more notable changes of the last three or four months since I started exploring Catholicism is how excited I am for Mass. Just now, lying in bed, I thought,

"Tomorrow's Friday, so one more day of work before the weekend."

And then in pure, giddy joy, "So Sunday is almost here. Mass is on Sunday! It's almost here!"

In high school, I became more and more cynical about my home church. Convinced that none of the members really understood me, I became isolated. I felt like a stranger, an outcast in my own church.
Eventually, it got so bad that I became angry, inexplicably but powerfully. My anger seemed like a swarm of killer bees, appearing suddenly, for no clear reason, and intimidating everything else in its path. My disdain grew and grew until I was reliably testy on Sunday afternoons. Before I left for college, I kept count of how many more church services I would have to attend, marking them off one by one.

In college, I continued to attend church services, though I reduced my attendance from three services per week to two, then one. Even then I often overslept, skipped church, or left early.

I find it fascinating, then, that I'm so eager for Mass. When I leave each Sunday, a twinge of melancholy arrives that an entire week must go by before I can return. I find myself wondering on Tuesday morning how many days I have left before Mass. Sometimes I go to the Catholic church near campus during the week, to pray, reflect, and simply be in the room where the Church at other times gathers and the Lord is present.

I hate to factor my feelings into my judgement about Catholicism. After all, the allure of the novel can be powerful.

But it's hard to think rationally when I'm just so excited.

Thursday, August 5, 2010



I'm musing on becoming Catholic.


Hello.  I'm Sarah.  I am a college senior from Texas.  I have spent the last three years studying mathematics and preparing to attend medical school in Fall 2011.  My college days have all been very interesting, but the purpose of this blog is to chronicle my faith's movement towards orthodoxy.

You see, I was raised in the Church of Christ. The Church of Christ believes most fundamentally that the Bible (Genesis through Revelation, 66 books) is the literal, inspired Word of God and the complete and only foundation of all Christian faith and truth.

It has no central leadership.  Each local church is led by elders, older men selected to guide the local gathering. It has no catechism and no formal creed or statement of belief.  No belief that contradicts the Bible is considered valid, no matter who espouses it or the reasoning behind the belief.  Wikipedia's article about the Churches of Christ summarizes this belief system quite well.

My upbringing in the Churches of Christ was exemplary.  I have read the entire Bible, parts of it dozens of times. Religion was discussed frequently in my family, with a strong emphasis on using the Bible and one's reasoning to discover the one, objective truth. I have nothing but admiration for the sincerity and earnestness with which members of the Churches of Christ seek the truth as they see it.

So why am I here, musing about Catholicism?  Why have I found myself unable in good conscience to take communion? Why do I repeatedly find myself kneeling in the Catholic church in town, praying desperately?

I guess we'll find out.