Let Me Break This Down for You…

Let’s get you caught up, shall we?

A few weeks back, I imported all my work from my deleted blog over to this blog so you’d have some idea of what I was talking about with this “Catholic Conversion” stuff.

Although, jumping from blog to blog didn’t provide much of an adequate segue about the why and how and when of the conversion and how it resulted in a reversion.

So, let me break this down for you piece by piece without going into too much mind-numbing detail so as to lose your interest.

Let’s see here… It all started when I started working as a teacher at a Catholic school.

The people at the new Catholic school were very, very nice. They welcomed me, they helped me, they answered all my stupid questions… they were very kind and thoughtful and Mormon-like. (What? Like we don’t already know the Mormons are the nicest people on the planet? What, like we’re going to pretend they’re not? Puh-lease.) Basically, they treated me like their new Protestant pet.

giphy lilo

THEN, I started going to Mass… and became mesmerized by the smells, the bells, the chants, the kneeling, the robes, the high arched ceilings, the statues, the stained glass, and the shockingly shiny metal ware they used for communion.

ooh

This is church like I’ve never seen it before…

And then my mom died… and they were all…

“Let me offer this Mass for you.”

“Here’s some homemade bread.”

“Are you okay?”

“Do you need to talk?”

“Can we pray for you and your family?”

And I was all…

aw shucks

You like me! You really like me!

And so, I put on my rose-colored glasses and started to question some things about my church background.

Things like…

Why do we need coffee at church?

Why do we build churches like malls and shopping centers instead of places of worship?

Why do we have to entertain the faithful with rock bands and light shows and fog machines?

Why are we always talking about what God can do for us and what we can get out of a relationship with Him instead of how we can better serve Him and further His kingdom?

So… I started to ask some questions. And I started to study. And I started to meet with a priest. And I prayed and I dug and read books and read all the really hard questions until finally, I was all…

“Yup. This is it. Christ’s one true church. Let’s do this.”

So, outwardly I was all…

YES

But inwardly I was all…

hold on

Marian devotions? Praying to the saints? Purgatory? Doing penance to shave time off of purgatory? Annulments? Transubstantiation? Wait a minute…

But I couldn’t actually say that. I mean… I had people to please. I had people to impress. I had people to answer to! I work at a Catholic School, peeps!

But then, I figured, “Meh! I’m never going to have to deal with any of that stuff anyway… No church is perfect. Let’s do this. I got this.”

Annnnnd… apparently, that was really the wrong, wrong answer.

I guess, coming from my church background, I just thought, if you change churches, you can always change back… it’s not that big of a deal. A Christ follower is a Christ follower is a Christ follower. God is present in all His churches.

But that’s not quite how it works in the Catholic Church. Once you become Catholic… you can’t just… go back. If you receive the teachings of the Catholic Church as true, and believe them to be true, you can’t just… change your mind. You can’t go back. Once you’re Catholic you’re locked in…

forever

So… IF I do decide that maybe I don’t agree with all the Catholic teachings, maybe I’m not “Catholic” after all… and IF I decide to go to another church…

I’m destined for…

Well…

Hell.

Because I’ve rejected the teachings of Christ’s true church. And apparently I don’t want to have anything to do with Him… or them. So, therefore…

Hell it is.

But… I have difficulty with this teaching. Because I’m not rejecting Christ. I’m not rejecting His teachings. Everything I do, I do to honor and glorify Him. It’s just that some teachings of the church are what I take issue with. Because I can’t quite believe that the teachings of the Catholic Church are indisputable and infallible… because it’s still a church run by man… and man can be incorrect… even if they do claim that every teaching they put forth has been ordained by God… how can one be sure? Man is fallible. We get things wrong all the time. I just can’t believe that Martin Luther was wrong about everything. I can’t believe that Christ was as unmerciful and unmovable as some Church teachings suggest. I can’t believe that all the Catholic Church’s teachings are 100% correct.

So… because of this… because I’ve already agreed to be Catholic, and now I’m backtracking…

I’m now destined for Hell.

Which is…

You know…

Icky.

A few months back, I had a conversation with Jack about this very thing. Jack is just about the most practical human being on the planet. Nothing ruffles his feathers. He’s methodical and sensible and reasonable and calm and decisive… and he does what he does and if someone doesn’t like it… OH WELL. (I seriously want to be this man when I grow up.) So, we were talking about the fact that if I decided not to be Catholic, I would be going to Hell, supposedly.  And I was trying to explain that I knew, deep down, that I wouldn’t be going to Hell just because I decided not to be Catholic, but what truly bothered me was that there would be other Catholics out there who would think I was going to Hell because I decided not to be Catholic. And that’s what truly bothered me about this whole “Catholic – To Be or Not To Be” Conundrum.

And because he is Jack, he was all, “But who cares? You know where your spiritual walk is. Why are you bothered by what other people think?”

And I was all, “Because they THINK I’m going to HELL. That’s a pretty big deal! How does it not bother you that all these Catholics might think you’re going to Hell because you’re not a Catholic?!”

And he laughed and said, “Because it isn’t true! They can think what they want to think, but they’re wrong. So, why should I care?”

The confidence of this man is truly mind-boggling. I have never, ever, had that kind of confidence in my life. I have never been 100% confident of anything ever. You know how much anxiety that creates inside of a person?! To never feel confident and secure about anything? I mean, I know what I believe and what I think, and I can be maybe 95% certain about it… but I’m never 100%. Maybe it’s due to years of being brain-washed as a youngest sibling. I could think something, but more often than not, my older siblings would disprove what I thought and I’d be all, “Ohhhhh…” because I was young and stupid. I could never trust myself 100%. There was always that chance I could be wrong. And so, here I am, at 35 years old, bright-eyed and bushy tailed and uncertain about EVERYTHING I HAVE EVER BELIEVED IN MY LIFE BECAUSE… CHANCES ARE… SOMEONE ELSE IS USUALLY MORE RIGHT THAN ME… SO MAYBE I AM GOING TO HELL.

I might love God, I might follow Christ’s teachings in my life… but I’m still… going to Hell.

You guys… being me is truly exhausting. You have no idea.

So, what do you think? Am I wrong? Am I right? Do I just need to calm down and grow in confidence?

That’s not even what this blog post was supposed to be about… I just got a little distracted. Sorry peeps. Let me know your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

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A Christ Follower

Being the nerd that I am, most weekends, I spend a decent portion of my time watching documentaries. Sure, I could watch any old thriller or comedy… but I’d much rather learn something… anything… if I’m going to stare at a TV screen for a couple of hours.

This weekend, it was learning all about eating disorders in “THIN” and the process of a proper Amish shunning in “The Amish: Shunned”. It was during the latter that I heard the following quote:

“For the Amish, Jesus alone is not enough. Working, trying your best, following the rules and traditions of the forefathers. You do it all just right hopefully, you’ll make it into heaven. To me, all the good works, and traditions, and rules, and regulations covered up the simple, easy play of salvation…. Are we going to follow man or are we going to follow the scriptures?”  –The Amish: Shunned

This quote, oddly enough, describes much of my experience within the Catholic Church. The church would claim that they too, believe that faith alone in Jesus Christ is what is necessary for salvation… BUT… it is the good works that aid us in our journey toward heaven. To counter that, the Protestants claim that the good works are a direct result of faith in in Jesus. So, to simply things… Catholics believe that good works aid in our salvation. Protestants believe that salvation aids in our good works.

That was something I struggled with entering the Catholic Church. Yes, I believed in the teachings of Jesus. Yes, I wanted to serve and honor God in all I did. Yes, I had faith and a relationship with my Lord. BUT, it was my baptism that first sanctified me, and it was the works that I did that further sanctified me and fully prepared me to be accepted into heaven.

IF I went to church every Sunday. IF I received the Eucharist worthily. IF I went to confession once a month. IF I did corporal works of mercy. IF I prayed daily. IF I asked for the intercession of the saints. IF I observed all Holy Days and Feast Days. IF I kept up with the daily scripture readings of the church. IF I tithed and fasted and lived well and kept a good witness… THEN, I would at least be accepted into purgatory to be further sanctified and perfected until eventually I would earn my heavenly merit badge and be accepted to be with Christ for all eternity.

It was a long year and a half of walking on egg shells. I couldn’t miss Mass. I couldn’t miss confession. I couldn’t forget to say grace. I couldn’t refuse to learn more about the saints. I couldn’t not know my catechism front to back. I couldn’t read a non-Catholic Bible. I couldn’t listen to Christian music, (but rather, it was best to listen to Catholic pod casts.) I couldn’t forget my Holy Days of Obligation. I couldn’t go to another church. I couldn’t receive communion anywhere else. I couldn’t not appreciate or embrace suffering. I couldn’t not silently judge and pray for the salvation of my non-Catholic brothers and sisters. I couldn’t not perform to my full ability. Anything less would mean not offering all of myself to Jesus. Anything less would be one further step away from purgatory. Not even heaven, but purgatory.

Looking back, I can’t believe how tied up in knots I was. Every day… trying to prove my worthiness. Every day… worrying that if I were to die that day would Jesus still want me? Worrying that I hadn’t done enough to merit His grace and mercy and love. I needed to earn it. I needed to trust the teachings of the Church, follow the rules, and hope for the best. That’s all any of us could ever do.

Admittedly, I feel like a good portion of churches all around the world have begun to rely too heavily on the grace of Jesus Christ – as though it’s a Get Out of Jail Free Card. We can do what we like, forget about God, and somehow His grace will see us through. Yes, His grace is a gift – it’s not something that can be earned – but we’re still expected to live rightly.

I think some Catholics fail to understand that Protestants don’t view salvation as a “One and Done” deal. I haven’t met a single Protestant who believes that. We still believe we have to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling… but we don’t believe that we can earn brownie points just by doing the right thing. We don’t think we can shave time off our sentence in purgatory simply by praying for the dead. We don’t think “work” of any kind will ever make us more worthy. Because our righteousness is as filthy rags. There’s nothing we can do to deserve His grace. It’s a gift. A true gift. No matter how much time I spend in church praying, no matter how much I give to the poor, no matter how consistent I am with confession and communion and charitable works… I still won’t deserve it. I’ll still be unworthy. And God knows that. That’s why He sent His son to die on the cross as reparation for our sins. So, why are so many of us working so hard to EARN it?

I look at my time in the Catholic church and sometimes I wonder, “What was I thinking?” and yet other times I think, “Meh… you know what? They’re right about that.” There are things I vehemently disagree with within the Catholic church and things I downright love. Thus the struggle. This “breaking” so to speak with the Catholic Church wasn’t a sudden, overnight epiphany. I didn’t wake up one morning and realize, “Huh. Maybe I’m not Catholic after all.” It’s been months of praying and seeking and reading… and I still don’t know all the answers. All I know is that I want to throw these expectations of what a Catholic is and what a Protestant is right out the window. All I want to be is a Christ follower. What’s so wrong with that?

Little by little by little

Just when you think you’re good.

Just when you think you’re happy and healthy and on the road to recovery.

Just when you think your past is behind you…

It comes screaming back to smack you in the face and beat you over the head with the fact that you’re a failure, a loser, and broken beyond repair.

There’s no coming back from that past.

There’s no hope.

You screwed the pooch and now you must deal with the consequences.

It’s just swell.

I haven’t felt this way in a long time. A long, LOOOOOOONG time. But, lately, it’s been creeping back. Little by little by little.

A Facebook post here, a text there, a homily… a letter… a lecture over coffee.

“Annie, you’re broken. Your life is in tatters. And there’s no coming back from that. But it’ll be okay. You have your cat and Jesus. That’s all you’ll ever need.”

I knew I never should have fessed up about my divorced status to my Catholic coworkers.

I knew I shouldn’t have become Catholic.

I knew somewhere, deep down, everyone was secretly judging me for the ass hat’s mistakes.

It all started when I told my priest friend I was divorced.

So, he told me to get an annulment.

Then, I became Catholic.

I became a divorced Catholic going through an annulment.

Life was fine. I mean… it was weird… and kind of lonely… but fine. I was doing what my priest friend wanted me to do. I was staying on the straight and narrow. Mass every week, confession every month, service projects when I could, keeping the whole “divorce” things under wrap and staying away from online dating sites…

Until…

Until I got asked out.

But a fellow divorcee.

A non-Catholic divorcee.

“What the heck!” I thought. “I’ll get a free dinner, we’ll compare tragic marriage stories, and I’ll make a good friend.”

So, I went.

And I fell head over heels, madly in love with this divorced non-Catholic dad.

You’d think this would be a good thing, a happy thing, a cause for celebration.

Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no, no, no.

Not in the Catholic church, it’s not.

In the Catholic church it’s a reason to call you on the carpet and beat you over the head with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“Don’t you know dating as a divorcee without an annulment is ADULTERY? Why are you committing adultery? Why do you hate Jesus?”

Don’t get me wrong, I was strong enough in my Christian faith to know this wasn’t true, but… my priest friend saw things differently.

And so it began…

A scolding over coffee: “Are you lonely? I know it wasn’t a mistake for you to become Catholic. Why can’t you wait until your annulment is final and find a good single Catholic man?”

A flurry of frantic test messages: “Jesus tells us He hates divorce. You are still married to the ass-hat. You are committing adultery. Why are you doing this?”

A not-so-subtle homily: “We should praise and encourage these faithful Catholics who are choosing to embrace a chaste, single lifestyle – separated yet still married to their spouses! This is their cross to bear in the face of divorce – and they bear it well!”

A biting Facebook post not directed at anyone, but the message was clear : “How dare you “faithful” Catholics praise and “like” the new relationship of a divorced Catholic! You are encouraging adultery and mocking God!”

Little…

By Little…

By Little.

And I would shrug it off and laugh and say, “I know where I stand with God my Father. I know I’m in His will. I know this relationship is a blessing from Him.”

And yet… the little nagging voice…

What if.

What if the priest IS right?

What if you ARE committing adultery?

What if God IS just as disgusted and disappointed as the priest is? How dare you commit this sin against a God you claim to love?!

You’re divorced. You’re broken. And now you’re going to add a multitude of sin on top of it?! What is the matter with you?! How stupid are you?! Sure, God still loves you, but you made your bed. The ass hat left you. Now you deal with the consequences. Live like he’s your husband and don’t move forward until the Church gives explicit permission for you to do so! He’s not going to bless you moving forward! He’s only going to bless you in your sorry state of robotic obedience to the church! But He’s certainly not going to bless a new relationship! Who authorized this?! Certainly not God… and most definitely not the church!

Little…

By little…

By little.

Until you’re so convinced that you’re wrong and so beaten down… that it just becomes easier to throw the blessing under the bus, and go back to your sorry situation of blind obedience. Being in their good graces is better than having them think you’re destined for Hell. And being the champion people-please I know I am… I’m sometimes willing to give up the blessing in exchange for their approval. The fact that I would take heartbreak and devastation over having a priest think ill of me shows the depth of that people-pleasing addiction.

I wish I had never joined the church. I wish I had never gotten asked out. I wish, I wish, I wish. Life is easier when you live in stagnation instead of fear of failure and regret.

 

 

 

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

rec·on·cile
ˈrekənˌsīl/
verb
verb: reconcile; 3rd person present: reconciles; past tense: reconciled; past participle: reconciled; gerund or present participle: reconciling
  1. restore friendly relations between.
    “she wanted to be reconciled with her father”
    synonyms: settle one’s differences, make (one’s) peace, make up

Confession and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is probably one of the biggest concerns and most confusing things about the Catholic faith for a non-Catholic.

Non-Catholics object to the Sacrament of Reconciliation because…

  1. Confession to a priest is entirely unnecessary since one can go directly to Jesus for forgiveness of sins.
  2.  It take’s away the authority of Jesus as mediator between God and man, and gives that authority to a mere human being.

Well, first of all, let’s just clarify that YES, a person CAN and SHOULD go directly to Jesus for forgiveness of their sins. Once a person is made aware of sin in their life, they should bring it before the Lord.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  ~Hebrews 4:16

Here’s the thing: Catholics don’t discount the need for going to Jesus for forgiveness of our sins.

 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  ~1 John 1:9

If the person confessing their sins does it with a truly contrite heart, and genuinely desires to be reconciled to God – not out of fear but for true love of God – then his sins will be forgiven. (But this is the difference between perfect and imperfect contrition… which you can read more about here.)

“The Catholic Church teaches that only God can forgive our sins. But Jesus willed that the Church should be his instrument of forgiveness on earth.”

~The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults

Now when I was  first studying all this stuff to figure out if I actually wanted to become Catholic, my first response to that last statement was something akin to this.

psh please

Psh. Please. Sounds like another excuse for the Catholic Church to make up their own rules and expectations.

However, the more I read and prayed about these things, the more I could no longer explain away that one scripture verse that had always bothered me as a Protestant.

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”  ~John 20:23

I was usually able to explain this verse away by saying that Jesus was merely reinforcing the importance of forgiveness… Maybe we play a role in whether or not other’s sins are forgiven them because if we don’t forgive other people, how can they forgive themselves and receive the full healing that comes with forgiveness? You know, like, “How many times should we forgive someone?”

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.  ~Matthew 18:21-22

But even that explanation didn’t measure up, because when you read John 20:23 IN CONTEXT, Jesus is speaking ONLY to His disciples… in the upper room… with the doors locked… when He breathed His Holy Spirit upon them. This wasn’t a parable Jesus told to the multitudes during His public ministry. This was a direct command given to His disciples AFTER His death and resurrection as He was establishing His church here on earth. As He was commissioning His disciples to continue the ministry.  “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

Now, I suppose we could interpret these verses to mean that Jesus gave this authority to all His children. But, if that was the case, then why didn’t He speak this to all His followers during His public ministry? Why only to His disciples? And if the Catholic Church teaches that all the popes in history are direct successors of the Apostle Peter, the first Pope, to whom Jesus had given the keys of the Kingdom… and that all bishops and priests are part of that apostolic succession… doesn’t it make sense that maybe, just maybe, Jesus was speaking directly to His apostles with the intention of establishing this authority with those of the apostolic succession?

(On a side note, I LOVE the logic of Catholic teachings. I no longer feel like I’m trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Suddenly, so many scriptures that didn’t make sense to me before suddenly make perfect sense in light of Catholic teaching.)

Now I realize that I did say that it is Jesus who forgives our sins… and that we should go directly to Jesus in confessing our sins. I don’t necessarily need a priest to be forgiven. When I go to confession, I go believing that those venial sins have already been forgiven. Which leaves you all wondering…

“SO WHY ARE YOU GOING TO CONFESSION?! Why are you telling another human being all your failings, short-comings and mistakes? Are you insane?! Do you enjoy feeling humiliated?!”

As a wise priest once told me, Catholic teachings aren’t always “either-or”. Instead they’re “both-and”.  It’s not, “Either I go to Jesus for forgiveness of my sins OR I go talk to a priest.” Instead it’s, “I go to Jesus for forgiveness of my sins AND talk to a priest.”

When I was working towards becoming Catholic, I was told that I needed to make a full confession before I could receive communion and be confirmed. As in, I needed to make a full confession. As in, I needed to confess every sin I could think of for the last thirty plus years.

I thought that was was insane. I told the priest that my relationship with the Lord was such that I had been consistent from a very young age about bringing my sins to the Lord. I had been taught that confession and forgiveness of sins was paramount in my relationship with the Lord. If I then had to dig up past sins that had already been laid to rest at the feet of Jesus, it felt as if I was discounting Jesus’ ability to forgive my sins outside of the confessional. Thankfully, the priest didn’t dismiss my feelings about this, but rather suggested that yes, even though those sins had been forgiven, it may also bring about additional healing to speak them aloud in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I walked out of that meeting supremely irritated. Part of me was thinking of jumping ship and putting this whole “becoming Catholic” thing to rest. But I couldn’t. I really, really wanted to become Catholic, so I figured I would just “play the game” and “jump through their hoops” even thought I thought it was ridiculous.

But then a funny thing happened. I started examining my conscience in preparation for my first confession, and I was able to take a really hard look at myself, my actions, my behaviors, and my choices. I recognized the areas in which I struggled, the areas that still needed work, the situations that still required forgiveness from me… so that when I made my first full confession… I walked out of that meeting one hundred pounds lighter. I realize how cliched that sounds, but it was truly like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. The priest (acting in the person of Christ) had given me some excellent advice, insight, and counsel. He had given me a penance (Ah, yes. Penance. That’s another blog post for another time.) that would help me grow closer to the Lord, and I had a renewed strength and resolution to “sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.”

And ever since then, I have genuinely LOVED going to confession. No, it’s not always comfortable or easy. But the comfort, insight, counsel, and peace I receive after going, is worth it’s weight in gold.

And you know the really funny part?

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.  ~James 5:16

One of my favorite scripture verses suddenly made that much more sense.

 

 

 

 

Once Saved, Always Saved

Back when I was preparing to enter the Catholic Church, I had a discussion with the priest I was working with about the “Once Saved, Always Saved” teaching. He wanted to clarify with me that the Catholic Church does not agree with this teaching, but rather the Church teaches that yes, your salvation can be lost. It’s not a “one and done” kind of deal.

I remember being completely bewildered by this conversation and I may or may not have been sitting there with this exact expression on my face:

what

Dude… what are you talking about?

Because seriously… what was he talking about?!

So, I clarified…  “No. No, no, no. We don’t believe that. You guys believe that with your big emphasis on baptism, but we? We do not believe that… or teach it… I honestly don’t think I’ve met a non-Catholic who believes that.”

Which meant it was probably his turn to be all…

huh

Um… I think you have your denominations mixed up there, kiddo.

(Turns out I did have my denominations mixed up, but allow me to explain.)

Here’s the funny thing… A good chunk of what I was taught growing up in a Christian home was surprisingly in sync with Catholic Church teachings. So, once I got my facts straight about what the Catholic Church actually taught, it was not that great of a leap to become Catholic… because apparently, I was already half-Catholic to begin with.

Anyway, I think we were both really surprised that we were totally on the same page regarding the “Once Saved, Always Saved” debate. It was a total non-issue for me, because of course we can lose our salvation. We make a choice every day whether or not to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church, or if we’re going to turn away from Him, His love and His ultimate good for us.

“So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”  -Philippians 2:12

I mean it’s right there, peeps. So, I kind of chalked up the confusion in the conversation to the fact that it must be the Calvinists and Presbyterians that taught “Once Saved, Always Saved” – but at least the rest of us were on the same page…

Ahem.

Fast forward to a year later and I come across a blog post talking about this very thing. Maybe I’m naive, but I was surprised that there are a whole slew of individuals, groups, and denominations out there who believe and teach “Once Saved, Always Saved”. I’m not even kidding you, you guys… prior to studying the Catholic faith, I totally thought it was the Catholic Church that taught “Once Saved, Always Saved” and it was the Protestants who rejected that idea.

But no! I had to completely reverse that assumption… because it was totally and completely off-base. THIS is why we need to ask the questions, do the research, study the writings and COMPLETE OUR HOMEWORK before we go off on these cockamamie tangents asserting false assumptions about what another group believes! Keep the lines of communication open, people! Protestants don’t know what the Catholic Church teaches, Catholics don’t know what Protestants believe (although, in their defense, who can keep track with a new denomination popping up every ten minutes… but that’s another blog post for another time…). We need to discuss and study and dig instead of making broad assertions and assumptions based on what we’ve heard. I’m guilty of it, you’re guilty of it, we’re all guilty of it.

(Anyway… where was I going with that? Good grief, woman… your brain has too many tabs open…)

I guess I just think it’s fascinating. We can be much more effective witnesses of our faith if we’ll actually do the homework required to figure out what we believe, why we believe it, and what someone else believes before we rush headlong into telling them why they’re wrong. And you might just be surprised to discover that what you thought you knew, isn’t true at all.

And in case you’re curious… this is what the Catholic Church has to say about the “Once Saved, Always Saved” debate. (Can I get an “Amen”?)

In the case of John 10:28, Jesus says that no one will be able to take us away from God. The language is similar to Paul’s in Romans 8:39 when he says that nothing in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Both of these passages address the same fact that no one is capable of removing you from the grace of God. No one is capable of nullifying your salvation. It would be like saying that no one is capable of pulling you out of a car driving at eighty miles per hour. This does not mean that you are incapable of opening the door and jumping out. In the same way, John 10:28 does not mean that we are incapable of severing our relationship with God. Read on in John, and you’ll see why.

Five chapters later in John’s Gospel, Christ tells the apostles at the Last Supper to remain in his love. He adds that if we keep his commandments we will remain in his love. But he who does not remain in his love is “cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (John 15:6). Now, if salvation were a done deal, why would Jesus feel the need to tell anyone to remain in his love? It would be like locking a person in a closet and telling them to remain there. If they are unable to leave, it is senseless to ask them to remain.

Jesus told his disciples to remain in his love because just as we enter freely into a relationship with Christ, we are free to leave him. Scripture is overflowing with examples of this. In Romans 11:22, Paul says, “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off.” In Galatians 5:4, Paul says, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” This verse implies that they were united with Christ and in grace before they fell. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul again warns the Christians against being overconfident: “I pummel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” This is not the language of “once saved always saved.”

 

 

Confession

Ha! See what I did there? I lured ya’ll in thinking this post would be about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when, in fact, it’s not. That’ll be a post for another time. But for right now… I have a confession to make.

Sometimes… I’m not really sure I’m supposed to be an elementary school teacher. A teacher, yes. An elementary school teacher? Well, let’s just say that I occasionally have my doubts.

Take today for instance. I was in my classroom unpacking, repacking, hanging up, taking down, rearranging, changing, and giving the place a complete overhaul in preparation for the upcoming school year. I enjoy doing it. I really do. It’s probably one of the best parts of being a teacher – figuring out what’s going to capture a kiddo’s eye and attention, deciding how best to tap into their potential just by figuring out a layout that’s conducive to learning, determining how to make the space warm, welcoming and intriguing at the same time.

So, there I was, combing through a never-ending pile of posters, when I came across a “Word of the Week” hanging chart. And I thought, “Hm… I guess I could use that for vocabulary words…” and I set it aside. Then, I came across a gigantic cross I had made a few years back to help the kiddos keep track of how they were growing in virtue as a class. And that’s when I had my “Eureka!” moment.

I looked over at my “Scripture Verse of the Week” poster and tore it down. No. This whole “delving into the scriptures” thing I’d been wanting to do was getting a complete overhaul. Our “Word of the Week” was going to come from the Word of God. I would highlight a vocabulary word from scripture every week, and tie it into a reading that they could look up and find in their Bibles and then memorize. So, not only would we be learning vocabulary words, we would be getting familiar with our Bibles, and learning how to decipher what exactly the scripture was telling us. THEN, using the gigantic cross, we would look for ways in which others were exemplifying the vocabulary word and begin to fill in the cross with those examples of virtue. So, for instance, the word we’re starting with is “Strive”. So, I copied down Matthew 6:33, (“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”), and opened the Bible to that page where I highlighted the passage. This will be the scripture verse they memorize. Then, during their first week of school, the kiddos will look for ways in which their classmates are “striving” for righteousness, and we’ll fill in the cross with these examples.

I got so stinking excited, I couldn’t go home until I finished this new project. I was so excited, I may have been tingling all over. I was so excited that I may have been blathering on about it to anyone who would listen to me.

And that’s when it hit me. Nothing in the realm of teaching gets me this excited unless it’s about teaching the faith. It doesn’t matter what subject we’re talking about… math, science, social studies, literature… nothing gets me as excited as the Christian faith. Put me in the middle of a staff meeting where we discuss how to implement more rigorous standards and I hit the snooze button. Put me in the middle of a staff meeting where we discuss changing our religion curriculum, or implementing active participation at Mass and I am WIDE awake and completely unable to shut up.

I’ve seen how people look at me when I start talking about teaching the faith. Usually there’s a moment of recognition and this realization of, “Wow. She’s really passionate about this…”, but it quickly fades into slight confusion and boredom because they don’t share that same passion. But other times, when you find someone as passionate about this stuff as you are, you see the moment of recognition morph into the same joyful giddiness that’s written all over your face and it turns into the BEST CONVERSATION EVER.

That’s where I get tripped up. My passion for the faith is way bigger than my passion for teaching. I actually said to my sister tonight (in jest, but maybe there was a teeny, tiny, minuscule part of me that kinda, sorta meant it…), “I really don’t care if they know their multiplication facts or can spell as long as they know how much Jesus loves them and wants a relationship with them.” And then I instantly felt guilty because no elementary school teacher should say something like that! I mean… OF COURSE I want them to learn their multiplication facts and have a decent mastery of spelling but… I just really, REALLY want them to learn about the Christian faith.

You guys… I haven’t told many people this… but before I went back to school to get my teaching license, I was this close to going back to school for a degree in theology and possibly going to seminary. But the thought of being a pastor made me laugh, (and now that I’m a Catholic, it’s just that much more funny). To be honest, I’m crazy jealous of the job that pastors and youth ministers and religious education directors and missionaries have. I mean, they get to talk about and teach about and learn about Jesus ALL DAY LONG. Does it GET any better than that?! That’s like, my dream job, peeps. And if I wasn’t up to my eye balls in so much student loan debt that I have no possible means of paying off, you can bet your sweet bippy I’d be heading back to school for a theology degree.

*sigh*

But alas, that is not in the cards… for now. Maybe when I’m ninety. For now, I’ll continue being a good steward of the faith in the classroom, and wait eagerly for those religion lessons to come around every week, and discuss with the kiddos with as much passion and zeal as is containable the aspects of the faith throughout the school day. I guess that will just be the cherry on top of an otherwise awesome job.

The Rest of the Story

Bloggity Peeps…

I added another page to this here blog.

And my reasons for this are two-fold.

  1. I get a lot of questions about why and how I became Catholic.
  2. This journey to becoming Catholic has been so incredible, that I can’t stand not sharing the whole story. Because I’ve never told anyone the whole story. And in order to see the big picture of my faith journey, I need to be able to share the whole story.

So, I’ll be updating this page from time to time with additional snippets of information about my journey to the Catholic church. Which should be kind of fun and interesting… especially for me. Because I’ve never written out the whole story in chronological order… and to see how the Lord has worked this amazing story… and taken scraps of my life and woven them together into this fascinating tapestry of a faith journey… well, it should be a lot of fun to see how it all comes together.