Saturday, September 24, 2005

Oh God, come to my assistance... oh Lord, make haste to help me

I was born on October 2, 1966, which means that in a matter of days I will be 39 years old. I was baptized as an infant in a Catholic Church. I was raised Catholic, in somewhat of a nominal environment at times, but Catholic it was.

My earliest memories of Catholicism consist of being entranced by the mystery of the whole thing. And being bored too. I was a kid, what can I say :) I was an altar boy, so I got an up close and personal look at the inner workings of the Mass. If I try hard I can remember the names of the priests. Father Alexander was from the old school. He insisted on teaching all of the catechism classes. Father Barbernitz trained the altar boys and took us to the ice cream parlor. Father Bob Wenz worked with the teenagers. Each brought their own flavor to the proceedings.

When I became too old to be an altar boy, I became a lector. At the time I don’t believe St. Mary’s church had too many teenage lectors, if any. I remember one other. This occurred at the same time I was forming a faith life of my own. I became a born-again Christian as a sophomore in high school, and the Word of God took on an increasing importance to me. I brought that sense of reverence and importance, added a dash of zeal, and proclaimed the readings at Mass. Public speaking became a talent that I still pride myself on. Even now I apply the skills I was taught as a lector whenever I have the chance to speak before a group. I am more confident in public speaking than I am talking one on one.

At the same time I was lecturing at Mass, I was embarking on the journey that has made up the bulk of this blog. For a time I attended an Assembly of God church and a Catholic church simultaneously, but the flash and pizzazz of Pentecostal worship was wooing my heart. I finally decided that I had had enough; Mass was boring, even with my flair and style added to the mix, and besides, it wasn’t Biblical.

I’m not going to recap every stop on the road. You can read the archives for that. At this point in the road I have realized one thing- I’m tired of the journey. I’m ready for the destination. And I believe I am at that destination- one which I rejected several times but always stayed in the background, ready and waiting for me to return. On the verge of turning 39 I have decided on one last stop. I have returned full circle. What I thought wasn’t Biblical turned out to be exactly that- very Biblical.

I’m returning to the Roman Catholic Church.

This blog, therefore, might not even be necessary anymore. After all, I started it to map out my journey. I started it to share my experiences with God and church, and I think I have done a more than adequate job of that. But that chapter is closing now. I’m not going to offer a meandering apologetic statement to justify my move- there are sites out there that do a lot better job of that kind of thing than I could ever do.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I’m not a grand theologian, I’m not a political commentator, I’m never going to be cool as the culture might define it at any given moment in time.

I’m just a guy.

See you on the other side.

9 Comments:

Blogger Ron Hatton said...

Even though I have had to play catchup, it has been interesting to read your blog. I am a Byzantine Catholic Priest, and sort of have the best of two of the worlds in which you have journeyed - Catholic in jurisdiction and Orthodox in worship and spirituality. May God continue to guide you, and may you always be open to what He is telling you.

10:07 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Sean,
As I hope you know... being saved/born again is about accepting God's gift of Christ's death and resurection. His atonement and triumph over death for our sins. His blood payment as our kinsman redeemer (study Ruth... it's great!) BUT... it doesn't stop there. Growing in your faith means becoming like Christ.

You are right... Christianity should not be about flash and pizzaz. It's not about being Pentacostal, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Orthodox or whatever other Christian denominations there are. It's not about a worship style (hymns vs. contemporary vs latin masses). It's not about litanies, pomp and circumstances, rote readings. It's not about emotional altar calls. It's not about big long, embellishing prayers. It's not about saying the same prayer over and over and over again.

Christianity should be about becoming more like Christ. That means simply to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and body AND to love each other the way Christ loves us. That's it. Everything else (except salvation) is debatable. It seems you've had a long road worrying about the debatable stuff. As I've said to you in the past... "Stay in the Word". By that I mean... study your Bible. Don't just read it. Study it. Ask the Holy Spirit for discernment in what you read. Apply it to your life.

Churches are great for fellowshiping with other believers and I hope you have finally found one that will help you do that. But... don't get caught up in the church. As a Christian... you're to be caught up in Jesus. Period. Not Mary, not the saints, not a preacher, not fellow believers, not spiritual gifts. But Jesus. Everything else will fall in place.

I'll continue to pray for you and ask that you finally find the peace your searching for.

Steve

10:38 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Steve said:

“Churches are great for fellowshiping with other believers and I hope you have finally found one that will help you do that. But... don't get caught up in the church.”

Steve is constructing a false dilemma. It’s not a case of “accept the Church – reject Christ” or “accept Christ, reject the Church.” The Church is the work of God, the “pillar and ground of Truth,” and not a mere outlet for socialization. Only someone who has never known or who has denied the fullness of the Church can say something like that.

God becomes one of us in order to heal us so that we can be made one with Him, and this is accomplished not through a disembodied mental assent or through solitary prayer, not even through Bible study, but it is accomplished through the Church, which is the “fullness of Him who fills all things.” It is in the Church, and especially in the Eucharist, that we are made members, body and soul, of His body, being incorporated into Him, even as we incorporate Him into ourselves.

This is not to say that the Church is perfect; Christ chose the twelve and not one of them was perfect. And this is not to say that one must be on the rolls to be saved: Not everyone ostensibly within the boundaries of the Church truly belongs to her, and not everyone outside those boundaries is unknown to her. This is in God’s hands. But this is no excuse to turn our backs to the blessings that God has given us in the Church which He founded in the Apostles on the day of Pentecost.

You and I (since I’m Orthodox) may differ on where we think the fullness of the Church is found, but I say Godspeed and God bless you and your family in your return to the historic Church.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Doug,
How nice of you to so simply disregard my comments by accusing me of "constructing a false dilemma" and implying that I believe church to be a "mere outlet for socialization". No where did I state that Sean (or anyone) should reject the Church. I wholly believe in the fellowship of the followers of Christ (the church as defined by the Bible).

If you understand anything about Sean's struggle (as posted on his blog) you should understand that he seems to be caught up in finding the perfect church. The one that sings the right way and preaches the right way. Again... let me be clear... I'm not saying to reject the church. What I am saying is that the church is not one's salvation. Christ is. And that's the focus all Christians should have.

By all means, Sean should find a group of believers that he can grow with in his spirituality. But not at the expense of shifting his focus from Christ to the "Church". That would be termed idolatry. I was simply trying to make sure he understands where his focus should be.

I will not be baited into fighting about what is the correct church (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, whatever) and what authority organized relgion may or may not have. That is a discussion for another day. My comments here were simply to state that Christ is the focus and should always remain so no matter what church one attends.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Sean MacNair said...

Kind of interesting to overhear a conversation about me :)

I've been accused of constantly trying to find the perfect church. I will accept that criticism to an extent. I have had the tendency to flit around from flower to flower like a spiritual hummingbird.

But I had good intentions. I wanted to do what was biblical, which is what every Christian wants (theoretically). I just wanted to be at the church that taught what the Bible taught. How do I know that what I believe is Biblical if I don't examine what the other guy has to say? That isn't "always looking for the perfect church," that's discernment.

Steve, you said that I should stay in the Word and focus on Christ. It's not that easy. Unless we are gifted to become a hermit, we have to fellowship with other Christians. To that extent we have to focus on something that is not Christ. We have to have some criteria with which we decide to fellowship with one group of Christians and not another. I obviously can't fellowship with everyone- I have to have a place to go on Sunday. Everyone says they only focus on Christ. Everyone says they go merely by the Word of God. How best to discern? That is focusing on something that is not Christ.

In the multitude of competing choices I chose one.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Scott,
First... I hope you haven't take any umbrage in my comment about "finding the perfect church". None is intended. I just didn't know how to express in a short phrase what I felt has been your church hopping experience. By no means do I think your travels are a bad thing. In fact, I'm sure they have given you a good understanding of a variety of differing views. Most of them are probably debatable issues. Salvation is not. As long as you have that one down... I don't care where you go to church.

Second... I'm glad you have decided to pick one. Again... my opinion for your choice is a discussion for a another day. All I wanted to stress was, just because you have picked this one, don't give up your own analysis of what is being presented. A precher/priest's role is to guide (shepherd) you and help you spiritually. But by no means are they perfect either. You have obviously studied the Bible. All I'm urging is that you continue to do so. I'm not saying that every Christian needs to become a hermit to attain true spiritual enlightenment. In fact, I whole heartedly agree that fellowship with other believers is not only necessary but mandatory. Reading and studying the Scriptures for yourself to make sure that your preacher/priest is teaching Biblical principals is essential. That is the crux of my argument.

May God bless you and your family.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Sean MacNair said...

"Scott,
First... I hope you haven't take any umbrage in my comment about "finding the perfect church". None is intended."

It's actually Sean, not Scott :)

No umbrage taken. If I responded in a fiery way it's because I've heard the "perfect church" comment before, and it usually goes like this. They say there's no perfect church. I say, "OK, since there's no perfect church, I will pick... this one." And of course that person has a dozen different arguments why the one I chose shouldn't be the one.

"All I wanted to stress was, just because you have picked this one, don't give up your own analysis of what is being presented."

Trust me- you never have to worry about Sean L. MacNair failing to ask the questions that set people on edge :)

5:00 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Sean,
Sorry about the "Scott" mishap. I was talking with a Scott right before I posted that. :)

5:30 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Steve,

I hope my earlier comments weren’t too sharp. I didn’t intend to offend you and if I did, please accept my apologies.

For the record, I’ve read every heartfelt word on Sean’s blog and my heart and prayers go out for him and his family, as I’m sure yours do too. You’re right, of course, that you didn’t suggest he give up attending church altogether. I didn’t intend to suggest so. What I did intend to critique, however, was the attitude toward the Church that you exhibited. I term it ecclesiological relativism: it’s all about Christ, so it doesn’t really matter which church you go to; just keep the focus on Christ. This is implicit in your quote from my last comment.

Of course, there’s some truth to it, but only some and that’s why it’s dangerous. As Christians, if we lose our focus on Christ, we lose ourselves, we cease to truly be Christians. Everyone agrees to that much. But living life as a Christian is not as simple as that. It matters a great deal where you worship and which church you belong to. You know this too, otherwise you’d have no opinion on where anyone worships. But we’re talking about Truth here. 10,000 plus Protestant sects cannot uphold mutually exclusive doctrines on key issues from the Sacraments, to the Real Presence, to Church polity, etc. and all be equally profitable places to worship. It is inevitable that some of these churches are in grievous, soul-damaging error. And is it really right to worship and believe in ways that are so disconnected from the historical Faith and Church? Did we suddenly learn something in the 16th century that had been missing since Acts? If it is true that Christ founded a Church and not a mere philosophy to be debated by schools of exegetes, then at some point we have to ask of each congregation we “try out:” is this the Church He founded?

I’m not trying to “bait” anyone into a debate about where to find the True Church. But in the end I don’t think Sean’s problem is that he is trying to find the “perfect” church. Sean can answer for himself on that, of course. But maybe rather than trying to find the perfect church, he just wants to find Christ’s Church.

8:32 PM  

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