So if you gathered from my last post or not, my freshman year was filled with a lot of spiritual, emotional, and mental turmoil. I mean to throw everything I’ve talked about on top a typical freshman year was logistically stupid. I realize and acknowledge that now. My dad even warned me not to get too caught up in my inquiries until I’d adjusted to the transition into college.
But…I couldn’t help it. From a very young age I have been known to find a subject (however significant or insignificant it may be) and entrench myself in it. In sixth grade, my mom compared it to a dog who locks their jaw once they bite into something. Choosing my battles and choosing when to fight them is a foreign concept to me.
But amidst all the craziness, I have experienced a feeling of homecoming and belonging like never before. And all of it is so interconnected, I struggle to put into words my experience so that you can understand it. Maybe it’s just one of those things. But I have to try.
First. The Mass. I have tried to explain this to friends before and the best phrase I have come up with is: spiritually logistical. I know, probably doesn’t make that much sense, but hear me out. From earlier posts, you’ll know that I was discontented with my typical, nondenominational service. Why? For 20 minutes we’d sing contemporary worship songs (which I’d had my falling out with,) and then the pastor would preach/teach for the last 40 or so (I had an amazing pastor, and the fact that I was hearing the same things over again was entirely out of his control.) This was typical everywhere I went. However the Mass, on the other hand, is about the same length (an hour,) and is much more complex. For a complete picture of the liturgy of the Mass, I’m sure it’s easy to google. But for now, I will say that the entire point of it is not instruction, like the former, but rather a communion of believers uniting as Christ’s body. To this end, it will always satisfy. I should probably go into more detail, but I think I should dedicate another post to that. In all, I will always redeem the hour I spend at a Catholic mass, whereas that will not always be the case at my old church. Indeed, at least in a logistical sense, I could accomplish my old kind of Sunday with iTunes and a podcast at home or in my car.
Second. Unity. It has always been a concern of mine that Christianity is so split up. To put it bluntly, a father of one family is a good father, a father of hundreds of families is a scoundrel. I think the fact we are so divided mocks our testimony of the ONE true God. God is not just the Judge, just the Healer, just the Friend, just the Wise One; He is all of these and so much more, and I believe his unified character should be modeled in a unified character in Christianity. I see this best embodied in the Catholic church, which has a high regard of the intellectual, experiential, spiritual, formalized, and personal aspects that I see singled out in other denominations. Saying the Creed in unison with my parish and praying the Lord’s Prayer while holding the hands of the strangers next to me, knowing the whole time that a billion others are doing the same across the world. These things. This is unity I have never before experienced. This is the first time I have ever really felt connected to Christians as a part of the body. The irony is that I rarely know more than 10 people in a parish, if that; whereas at my old church I would know probably more than 100. But I no longer have to church hop. My church has “campuses” everywhere. All of them the same (of course with their own cultural vibe determined by who attends.) I will never have to spend time researching a church’s doctrinal statement (if they even have one) to be sure I’m in the right place, or find a pastor who isn’t boring. These things are set for me and do away with the chaos resulting from so many denominations.
Third. Continuity. THE RIGHT CHURCH IS NOT THE ONE WE MAKE, IT’S THE ONE GOD MAKES!! I’m not used to liturgy, it’s not how I grew up, but a church is not the right church if it follows everything Andrew wants. In one way, I see liturgy as being a little restricting and at sometimes boring; in another, I see it as beautiful and unifying. The truth is not a machination of our fantasies, but rather the reality we must align with. Sure it’d be nice to have great contemporary worship songs written in entire theological accuracy that everyone can participate in and focus on good words of praise instead of catchy riffs, but sadly that usually isn’t the case. So I put aside my classic American consumerism and obsession with novelty, and settled for the traditional, but tried and true, way of doing things. Peter Kreeft, the author of my favorite book whom I late found out transistioned to Catholicism in college like myself, tells a story in his testimony that he was in a lecture about disproving Catholicism and he asked his teacher that if he and his Catholic friend were to travel back in time to the first century, which of them would feel more at home. Of course his professor said the Protestant would, but after reading the Apostolic Fathers, Athanasius, and Augustine, Kreeft determined that they were most definitely Catholic. Luckily, I got to read these books for one of my college courses in my freshman year and came to the same concluision he did.
(Yes, I’m going over 1000 this time.)
Fourth. The Eucharist. Communion always meant something special to me before my transition, definitely much more than just a symbol. Indeed, one of the things I was looking for in a church when I went to college was one that had communion weekly. It was sure depressing when I had to refrain until Easter. But oh man, there MUST be something spiritual about the Eucharist. To be honest, I haven’t studied the systematic theological workings behind transubstantiation, but I still get butterflies every time I approach the Body and the Blood. I’ll definitely write more about this later, but for now know that this minute of my week I look forward to more than anything else.
These things have sustained me through this year and continue to assure me of my decision.
Since my confirmation, my security in being “different” than most of my world has only grown, even though I still encounter the hate and ostracizing that goes along with it. This past summer I served again on a Younglife Summer Staff, and they were the first people that I really felt fully accepted that my Christianity as a Catholic was valid. Being built up by these friends is part of the reason I have the courage to write these things today.
But I’m still obsessed with this beautiful thing called Catholicism, and very much still have my teeth clenched shut on it. I actually chose Dominic as my confirmation name, because St. Dominic was the founder of the Order of Preachers and also since he was named because his mother had a dream of a hound from God during her pregnancy. Dominic is short for Dominicanis which those who know Latin will know it means “Hound of the Lord.”
This concludes my story, and I will turn to writing more about actual topics. I would love to hear from you, my reader, what you’d like to hear about. Anything from, “Hey what’s up with the ‘extra’ books?” to “What’s the point of confession?” is fair game. Even if you have a stereotype of Catholics, let me know. You’re probably partially right, but there is usually more to it.
Thank you for reading!