Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Do Catholics Try Harder?

This question has been rolling around the back of my mind for the past three months. When I started to take seriously this desire to come back to the Catholic church, I kept thinking of all the years I spent in a non-denominational church. In fact, I was a part of a rather well-known mega-church, complete with large conferences and its own selection of professionally recorded worship music.

I have many good memories of meeting fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, praying with them, serving with them, and growing with them. There were also moments of discord, which is typical for any church out there. But overall, God blessed me with some wonderful fellowship.

However, there has been a Scripture verse that has kept coming to mind. It's from the letter to the Philippians:

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for {His} good pleasure. - Phil. 2:12, 13

I remember when I "became a Christian" (and I'll explain the quotes later), I was taught that my upbringing in the Catholic church was full of "works" that were unnecessary since Jesus Christ's death and resurrection did everything for us. Our salvation, I was told, was by grace alone. Anything added to it was as though I was trying to say I could add something to Christ's perfect sacrifice.

I believed that for a very, very long time. Now, I'm not so sure. In fact, I am sensing that the verse to the Philippians was meant to tell believers that their salvation was not something to be taken for granted but something to seriously ponder each day. That all of their choices in life, their attitude, and whatever they put their hand to do is to be done with the mind of Christ.

It has struck me that my life in the Catholic church, before I went off to college and decided I needed "something more," was already set up to help me live a good Christian life. I already was a Christian. I had been baptized, confirmed, given first Communion, and kept up with my confessions. I had been given a blueprint that would help me stay on course. Perhaps I had grown numb to the saving works of the Catholic church. Or maybe it was a youthful rebellion against the religion of my childhood. At any rate, I spent a good number of years trying to relearn in another way what I had already been taught from all the years in Catholic education.

You know what I've missed the most from the Catholic church? The focus and adoration of Jesus Christ. Walk into most churches today and listen to the sermons. You'll hear anything from requests for more money to build a new fellowship center to thoughts on how spouses should treat one another. There will be some sermons devoted to the men and women of the Old Testament, and some will devote a sermon to the New Testament. But yet it's a hit-and-miss on whether you'll hear much about Jesus Christ.

The adoration of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is something that happens at every Mass.

Every. Mass.

The focus of the Mass is Jesus Christ. Not the latest building report. Not David and Bathsheba. Not even Peter and the acts of the apostles. Nope. It's pure Jesus, every time.

There is something I can't quite articulate at the moment, but I know it's there. It's a passion for focusing on Jesus Christ that translates into a much different Christian life than what I saw in the non-denom church. More reverent? Yes, that might be it. But it was more like the Catholic church seemed to be the older sibling, who already had figured out what pleased the parents the most. Meanwhile, the rest of the children were running around, demanding to be fed and entertained. There's a maturity level of the faith that exists within Catholicism that I just had not seen until now.

So, do Catholics try harder? I'd say yes and now I'm going to be one more; giving it everything I've got.


Adrienne said...

"Do Catholic's try harder" is a loaded question. Catholics should try harder. To those that much has been given, much is expected.

It's impossible to lump all people into a big pot. I know non-denoms who are waaaay better Christians than some Catholics. And most the time I think I'm a pretty crappy Catholic. We're all just flawed humans staggering around and, hopefully, trying to "get it right."

Adrienne said...

PS did you get your cards??

Mary Rose said...

Adrienne, yes, I did get the cards. Thank you, thank you!

I'm still trying to find the language at times to articulate my thoughts. You speak the truth when talking about non-Catholic Christians.

That said, there is a difference between the Mass and a regular Sunday morning church service. The focus on the Paschal Sacrifice is what I believe makes the difference.

I know this entry may seem like I'm over-generalizing, but after experiencing what I've seen in different churches, I'm more convinced than ever that Catholics have the right blueprint. Some Catholics decide to embrace that blueprint in its entirety while others neglect it. Then there are other Christians in non-Catholic churches who have pieces of it.

I've been researching what Pope Benedict said last year by asserting that the Catholic Church is the one true church. I understand what he means when he says that other churches have the truth in part but the Catholic church has the fullness of truth.

I wrestle with it, also, because I know how most non-Catholic people view such things. All I can say is, come visit a Mass and find out for yourself. :-)