First Confession

Well, this girl has had her First Confession.

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Backtracking a bit. This week had been very stressful and draining, in light of the conversations JP and I have had with friends. We were spent. But I knew I needed to continue on, and I have very much desired to prepare myself for First Confession for a couple of weeks now.

So on Tuesday, I went through an Examination of Conscience I had found, and spent a couple of days wondering if I was, indeed, ready to go. Never having done this before, I wondered about how specific to get, and ended up feeling settled on the sincerity of my heart, and desire to place all I could at the feet of Jesus, in however I was able to form the words at the time.

Then, Thursday, at RCIA, our usual teacher wasn’t there, as he was meeting with high school students who were preparing for confession. So the priest was in. I felt a bit of a pang, because the week had almost gone by and I hadn’t called to schedule a time. And sure enough, our teacher popped back in about a half hour later, just as our group began a discussion of confession as a sacrament, to let us know the priest was available if any of us wanted to have our First Confession.

Seeing as I had done an examination of conscience earlier that week (God knew what was coming 🙂 ), as quickly as it was appropriate, I jumped up and got ready to head over. I had forgotten my notes from home, but they had an Examination of Conscience there I could use to help me remember. The door was open, and in I went.

Let me tell you, briefly, what my First Confession was not. It was not a guilt-ridden situation where I had to go and remember all the bad things I had done, and tell them to some old man in vestments, who then tells me to do 10 Hail Mary’s and be on my way, only to see me the next time I’ve racked up a list of sins long enough to need another confession.

My First Confession was not that. No way. Not even close. This is what I may have thought Confession would be like in my life before all of this, and it may be similar to what some of my friends think Confession is like, which is saddening to think about.

In all reality, my First Confession was beautiful. I walked in, sat down, and the Priest guided me through. It was basically like this… having the chance to talk to God and say “here are all the ways I’ve failed you through my sin,” and have God say, in audible words that he loves me and forgives me. And to even get some wise advice on how to better deal with some of my areas where I struggle. And my penance, was both simply and profoundly a way for me to redirect my mind and thinking to allow God into those situations where I struggle.

That was it. I felt God’s peace. I felt God’s presence. I still, the next day, feel like I’m part of a very spiritual situation. I feel grace. I once had a very specific and unforgettable encounter with the Holy Spirit as a child, and how I feel now reminds me much of that, only in kind of an adult version. I even woke up in the middle of the night last night, feeling like I had been a part of something that transcended the physical reality I live in. Something big goes on in that Confessional, more than I even realize, I’m sure.

In short, Confession moved me closer to Jesus. In my desire to please Him, in my acknowledgement of how amazing his grace is for me, and in my humility as I attempt to live a life worthy of the call.

I understand now, first hand, even through this one time, how the act of Confession is good for the soul. I wish my Protestant friends knew more about it… that rather than a spiritual ball and chain ritual, Confession it is incredibly freeing. Protestants can look forward to the day of judgment when God finally puts all to right as an opportunity to hear God say “I know all you’ve done, and you are forgiven.” Catholics can hear that as often as they go to Confession.

What’s Next. And now, since somehow I was actually baptized as an infant in the Catholic Church, and since I have just received my First Confession, our parish Priest allowed it up to JP and I if we wanted to start receiving the Eucharist at Mass, or to wait until Easter Vigil. I’m really excited for Confirmation and the Easter Vigil service and the celebration it will be, but if I’m being honest, I don’t really want to wait 2 months to receive Jesus in the Eucharist if I don’t have to. I want Jesus, and I want to experience the fullness of the mass. So, I think we know what will be happening this Sunday. Stay tuned :).

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Church Membership

Here’s the thing about Church Membership. We went through membership class at our last 2 Protestant churches. The only reason we left the first church was due to a move, but… just for a bit of context, one membership class was a lovely dinner over at the pastor’s house (who we still care about very much and admire as an example of living out one’s faith in all areas), and the other membership class was a few weeks for an hour (also led by very sincere people) to help us understand a statement of faith that was relatively short- could be read through in a couple of minutes.

Ok. That’s the context.

The Catholics have THIS:

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My church’s statement of faith would probably fit on a couple of pieces of paper.

Here’s another major difference between Catholics and Protestants… if it isn’t explicitly laid out in the Bible (though Protestants disagree on a lot of what is supposedly explicitly laid out in the Bible), we don’t typically touch it. Some call it “Christian Liberty.” On issues nonessential to salvation, there are some truths that God has allowed us to interpret for ourselves while we are here. That has made so much sense to me for so many years. But now, I’m thinking… there is actually a truth about all these issue we allow Christian liberty for… like either Jesus is actually present in the Eucharist or he isn’t, it’s not like the truth behind any of these things are actually ambivalent. So is the Protestant church’s stance that God has chosen to keep those things secret? Then the Catholic church’s stance would be that God has revealed the details of the Christian theology that aren’t explicitly laid out in the Bible through the Holy Spirit to the Church. And that the Holy Spirit has helped the Church have correct interpretation of those things that are in the Bible as well.

I just keep getting drawn back to the unity of theology in the Catholic church. I just don’t think I agree anymore that God intended Christianity to have so many divisions. That isn’t unity, that isn’t a united Body. In some ways it’s amazing that with all the theology they have sorted through, that the Catholic faith has stayed united at such a large scale. It seems even unlikely- were it not for the Holy Spirit… perhaps.

And, finally, I think that the unity the Catholic church experiences here might be more similar to the complete union we will have with our Savior in heaven one day. It’s better to be together than to be on our own.

I like that the membership process takes a long time. I felt like the process at our current church was too quick and simple, and casual even. We dove about a centimeter deep into theology. Church isn’t about being a cool place to hang out. The theology is important. I’m thankful to have the time and an abundance of resources to help me along the way.

 

 

 

Feeling Close to God

Catholicism more than Protestantism, to me, seems to have more of an innate sense that the physical and spiritual worlds are connected. It’s not like that isn’t believed in Protestantism… but going to a Protestant church service seems like, especially during worship, that we mortals are trying, desperately to reach out to God. And oftentimes how I as a Protestant gauged if that reaching out was successful is based on a feeling of being close to God. 

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If you’re hands aren’t raised… can the Holy Spirit still be moving?

But feelings are inconsistent, and this constant reaching, striving for and hoping for connection with the God of the Universe seems to be missing the point. Whereas it seems like in the Catholic faith everything is centered on this connection between the spiritual and the physical. In the mass and the Eucharist, God is among his people, is so close you consume him in the Eucharist itself… He is actually there, tangibly.  it isn’t this vague reaching for God to send some feeling your way to know he is near, or this hoping to connect with God during your personal quiet time… oftentimes I’ve seen this lead to people, including myself, feeling disconnected and feeling like something is lacking or they aren’t doing something right because they can’t keep the fire, the feeling of closeness, consistently. But in, Catholicism, in the focus on the communion of saints, this emphasis on togetherness in the physical and spiritual realms changes how you look at your faith walk, and what closeness to God can be and look like… You just don’t find much about that in mainstream Protestant culture in the day-to-day, or even in the structure of church services themselves. 

The re-framing that would occur in this area were we to become Catholic is appealing to me. Because closeness to God and the connection between the physical and spiritual realms is so much more than a feeling. It’s a reality that we can’t always see, but that doesn’t make it any less real. I think the Catholic church does a better job of representing that.

Sola Scriptura

I, too, have scoffed at the Catholic Church’s emphasis on Tradition as a source of divine revelation equal to the Bible.

“God gave us the Bible, we don’t need the Pope… etc.” I’ve heard it all. I’ve said it all. And these are just my first ponderings on how Sola Scriptura is actually practiced by Protestants today…

From what I’ve experienced, the reality is that few Protestants actually live Sola Scriptura out in practice. Everyone believes that God still directly communicates with us today through the Holy Spirit (excepting cessationists, I suppose.) You might easily hear a Protestant tell a fellow believer that God has given them a word to share… or a prophesy, or something someone feels led to say that is meant to be part of God’s direction in another person or one’s own life. Protestants easily believe that God speaks through the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit sometimes uses other people to speak… and there are checks and balances in place to make sure that what someone believes is a word from God isn’t contradictory to scripture.

Protestant pastors, too, will draw on interprative sources from other theologians to help them unpack scripture in a sermon. Very rarely, if ever, do they make a disclaimer that the lens they are viewing a particular passage from is “This Author’s” lens. Or, gives the congregation the caveat that all we have are these words from scripture as our authority, and that the thoughts they are expounding are actually Pastor So and So’s thoughts from this book, and that’s how we are interpeting things, but you can’t put that Pastor’s thoughts on the same level as scripture. No- they view the scripture from a certain perspective, and share their thoughts authoritatively to the congregation.

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Protestants leave room for adding to this book through prophecy and words from God to other believers…

But if we, as Protestants go there… if we go that far, it isn’t that much farther at all to say that the Catholic belief in divine revelation through the unwritten Word… the idea of “Word of God Alone” instead of “Scripture Alone” is anything different than what Protestants in practice, do as well. But on a much more informal level, and therefore perhaps at a level that is more prone to error. The “Holy Spirit” could often be cited in the Protestant church as giving 2 people 2 very completely different and clear words on the exact same topic. But that’s another entry…

P.S. This is the link to my further thinkings on the topic of Tradition and Sola Scriptura.