Thursday, December 14, 2006

Are we Done? (Kevin)

So, we have read a lot, prayed, gone to mass, attended RCIA, and are no longer technically considering Catholicism...we are joining! We are excited. I am overwhelmed by the amount of writings of the Church over the years and have loved diving into them over the past few months. It is no exaggeration to say that I have read more in the last three months than in any three months in my life. I have also listened to many tape/cd series' on various topics from conversions to the Eucharist.

I have started to read the Bible more than ever and it reads very differently with what I know now. I can't explain it except to say that it all just fits better. Verses fit better within chapters, which fit better within books, which fit better within the whole theme of the Bible.

I have also begun to have a peculiar devotion to Mary. She is such a great example of a Christian. I see how Catholic doctrine on Mary leads us to Christ, not away from him. I see how honoring the Saints does the same thing.

I have also developed my own theory of what keeps people away from the Catholic Church (I have had some help from many writers and speakers as indicated above). I think the main thing that keeps people away from the Catholic Church is their opinion of her authority. If one can get past the fear of the religious authority of the Church, the tough doctrines really begin to fall away. It is a lot like learning to trust a person except that person is really thousands of people who built the Church on Peter, the Rock and the first Pope. It is very freeing to know that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus and "the gates of hades will not overcome it." I can rest well in that!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Why the Mass? (Kevin)

I have recently been researching the early Church and it is fascinating. There is so much to learn and so many people to learn from. I can hardly read one book at a time. I am routinely tempted (successfully) to pause my reading to research a footnote or an author. Sometimes I worry that I will read 75% of thousands of books and 100% of none, but this is how I work!

Teri and I recently had an argument during which she stated (rather accurately) that when we havean issue with what we are learning about the Catholic Church, I head right to my newly found historical resources and look there instead of discussing it with her. I see both folly and wisdom in my reaction. I am driven almost 100% by the need for facts, clear judgement, and decisiveness. Sometimes I don't get that in a discussion, but I almost always do when I am reading history and the Fathers of the Church. The folly is that I neglect to acknowledge the enourmous value there is in hashing through issues with my intelligent, sensitive, and intuitive wife. I am basically missing out on half of the value of the research of these issues and building a Robinson Crusoe story of my own. Anyway, I will try to stop!

What, you ask, does this have to do with the Mass? Well, nothing; you are so intelligent! I felt like I needed to say the above before I got into my Mass post. Here you go...

The biggest immediate change in moving from Protestantism to Catholicism is the Sunday Service. The Catholic Mass is about as different to a typical Protestant service as could be. Why in the world does the Catholic Church insist on hosting a service that is so foreign to the average Christian and not conducive to easy recruitment of non-Christians (and Christians)? The answer is simple, but not shallow: because recruitment is not the purpose of the Mass! What, you ask, is the purpose? First, let me say that you ask such good questions! The purpose of the Mass is to remember Jesus. To remember what he has done for us. To remember what it has been like for the last 2000 years in the Catholic Church. The way the Mass is celebrated has remained consistent since the early Church. Refer to The First Apology of Justin Martyr, written around 150 AD where the following description of the Mass is written:

"And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead."

See for the entire apology.

What do Saint Martyr tell us? First, we read the Holy Scripture. Second, we are exhorted (the homily). Third, we pray. Fourth, we receive the Eucharist. Fifth, we give our offering. The celebration of the Mass has been consistent since the Apostles walked the earth.

The attraction of the Mass is obvious once one understands what is happening and for how long it has been happening. In the Mass, the Church is offering back to God the only thing that has ever been pleasing to him - Jesus, the once for all sacrifice. We acknowledge the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist because this is what Jesus taught and what the Apostles passed on to their successors. We long for partaking the Eucharist because, in this, we take on the flesh and blood of Jesus and partake of "true food and true drink."

So, in conclusion, the question should really not be "Why the Mass", but rather be "Why anything else besides the Mass?" What else offers what the Mass offers?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Saints Day (Teri)

Wednesday nights have been my night out lately, and tonight I went to Mass since it is a "Holy Day of Obligation" (frankly, I think that's a funny term). I wish Kevin could have been with me, since he's been wanting to see inside the "old building" at our church and tonight's service was held there. It is humble and holy and historical.

For the record, this entry is more of a personal journal entry that probably won't contribute to anyone's understanding of my Catholic journey, but it will confirm that I need Jesus - and I'm so glad I know him. Praise be to God, if ya wanna get all official sounding.

We are in a parish that is a large part Mexican. Tonight's service was bilingual. I delight in that, to some extent. I really feel bummed when I sit in an all-white, all middle-class congregation. It seems lacking. The few times I've been in more diverse congregations, it presents a bit of a foreshadowing of Revelation 7:9, "After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands." Tonight was diverse. I can't remember the last time I sat in a bilingual service. (Okay, I can - but I was in Guatemala - one expects it.) In addition, there were very young children and people so old they could barely walk. Furthermore, the economic diversity was astounding. There was a white-haired distinguished-looking gent in front of me who was wearing a watch that may have cost more than my car. Immediately to my left was a woman who more resembled my image of a homeless person. In the back I saw a Mexican woman draped in black lace. Lord forgive me but she looked like an extra in the opening scene of the movie "Tombstone". I'm such a sheltered white girly-girl, I swear. And the whole experience was convicting. 'Specially for this chica who still struggles with putting on appearances and being good to get to Jesus. Can you believe, ladies and gentlemen, that the woman seated next to me smelled like smoke? You can't be a Christian and smoke, for crying out loud! And if you insist on such a nasty addiction, at least hide that you do it so that you can appear to be holy for the sake of the goody-goody former Baptist sitting in the pew next to you on All Saints Day! I know I'm being a little hard on myself, but for good reason. We all gather together to worship the Lord of heaven and earth and etc. - smokers and Mexicans and judgmental white girls. And I'm betting he's still glorified - even by those who smell like smoke.

Done. I'm glad I went. I'm glad the woman next to me came, too.

Now... in honor of the day, in honor of All Saints --- a hymn I LOVE. If I hum the music to myself I can conjure up a memory of singing it at InterVarsity's Urbana Missions Conference. And I can hear 17,000 voices and the amazing worship team and all the powerful, powerful music. And then, more than ever since, I really believed they could hear us.

For all the Saints

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

I have tears in my eyes when I sing the Alleluias. Because they're beautiful. And because of that memory of singing in the company of so many others- dead and alive, I daresay.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What a wonderful meeting... (Teri)

I love the time I had with Father David today. We talked for an hour and a half, and I swear it wasn't just me doing the talking!!!

He helped me with each of my questions and concerns, as well as the "big picture" stuff behind them - and the fears, misgivings, and confused thinking.

Surely there are five pages worth of thoughts I could share, but it all comes down to this: I am ready to become a Catholic.

In some ways, I am sad that one of the first things to take care of is my previous marriage. But at the same time, I'm glad the church wants to deal with it, know about it, and move ahead. I do, too.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Meeting with the Priest (Teri)

Tomorrow is the big day. I have a meeting with Father David to talk about some questions I have. We brought them up in RCIA and they recommended we meet with the head honcho, so that's the plan. Kevin was originally going to come along but now he can't get away from work, so it's going to be just me.

Here's a copy of the outline of things I want to bring up:

1) My divorce & annulment concerns – discuss personal situation & specific questions
2) Bigger picture – seeking understanding of the church in this process (help me overcome my picture of the “big scary church” – where is the balance between grace and truth in the annulment process?)
3) Can a divorced/remarried person who isn’t granted an annulment and is therefore not “eligible” to take the Eucharist EVER get restored? If so, how? Will they die not taking the Eucharist?
4) Same question with abortion – only thing I’ve come across so far that results in excommunication. Is there any process for restoration?
5) If there's time, and I don't feel like a nutjob by this point, ask for comment on “community” in the Catholic church. Is it limited to Mass? Specific desire to meet other moms of young children. Or, does he have other involvement recommendations?

It's a little bit sorta sad to me that the divorce question is the topic for my first meeting with a/my Priest. And I am asking the abortion question because it's so woman-centered, so BIG, and so yucky. And I know people (even one Catholic) who have had abortions. I guess I'm wondering how they would have an active, forgiven, grace-understanding participation in the Catholic Church.

In other news, I finished reading Tiber at the end of last week. Sigh of relief. That was an intense book - so much material and so many footnotes. Kevin reads on in the area of church history, but I am opting for something different. I just finished a novel based on the book of Hosea and the theme of God's extravagant love for us. It was much-needed. (Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers)

Get this timing - just finished reading all the scriptural, historical, and traditional support for the Eucharist in Tiber and took my little self to Bible Study at our old church today where the text was John 6. One passage in that chapter is Jesus talking all about eating flesh and drinking blood. We skimmed right over it, which was a bit of a bummer.

As we talked, I was hearing all these good one-liners from the other members of the Bible Study regarding faith in Jesus and for some reason I sat there copying them down into my study notes. Let's just say that as simple as they are, they spoke to me today, and in light of my recent learning. I'll end with them:

"What would that LOOK like?" (referring to watching the fish and loaves multiply)

"The disciples got to be part of the miracle." (they seated the people and later gathered the leftovers)

"Believe and then we can see."

"It's a daily thing."

"If it's easy, it wouldn't take faith."

"Jesus is in the history books." -yes he is, and you have no idea!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Funny connections (Teri)

Way back over a year ago when I went to RCIA to parallel my mom's learning, there were a few people investigating the church along with me. When you get further into the program, if you decide you do want to become Catholic you get a "sponsor", a confirmed Catholic who attends RCIA with you and is support for you. Well, one of the sponsors there last year was this guy, Rob. I noticed him because he reminded me of Kevin - mainly that he always wore polos, jeans and the same big ol' work boots that Kevin wears. As time went on, I found out he and his wife were expecting their fourth child and he did work very similar to Kevin's.

A couple months after I stopped going to RCIA, I met Karen at a MOPS Christmas party. I was really interested in some of the things she shared about her life travels and attitudes about friendships, etc. Over the next few months, I tried to get to know her better. It was challenging since I still had a less-than-a-year-old baby and she gave birth right around then. We did manage to run a 5K together in Yucaipa in May - and in the 45 minutes we walked together before the race, I heard more really cool stuff about her life.

Not until weeks later did I find out she was Catholic and was going overseas with Catholic Relief Services almost immediately. I got her e-mail address to keep in touch, and she shared her blog address so I could read about her adventures, which I have been enjoying. (She and her family are in Banda Aceh, in Indonesia trying to help rebuild after the tsunami.) Occasionally, she shares pictures, and it was fun to see the faces of her children and husband - I'd only ever met her baby girl.

This past Sunday at RCIA, one of the leaders happened to mention that Kevin and I remind her of Rob, who she indicated I'd have known from RCIA the last time and his wife Karen who are now in Indonesia. In case I'm not doing a good enough job of explaining this - that meant that the Rob I knew and the Karen I knew are married!!! THAT Rob and THAT Karen! Holy cow! I seriously spent the better part of the rest of the day turning that around and around in my brain. I have significant (to me) memories and thoughts about both of them, and now to think they're the ones I've been reading about in Indonesia! I can't believe it! So weird. I e-mailed Karen to tell her and she wrote back (from vacation in Australia - sign me up for CRS!) saying my e-mail gave her chills! Cool, huh?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Some time at the bookstore (Teri)

I had some introvert time at Barnes & Noble this afternoon. It was fantastic. First I got some Starbucks and sat at a table to read Tiber - just delving into the Eucharist section. Other than the fact that there were three college students studying chemistry at the table right next to mine - it was a pleasant and productive time.

When the coffee was gone, I surrendered my table to one of the circling buzzards - it was a rainy day and this is a popular Starbucks/Barnes & Noble - so there were LOTS of people there anxious to take my seat and stare out at the wet parking lot. I retreated back to the religion section where I spent the next two-plus hours scanning titles, reading dust jackets, and making mental notes.

To begin with, I just wanted a survey of what religious titles B & N carries. But it wasn't long before my mission was to find some title, any title having to do with women and Catholicism. Perhaps something obvious, like "Women in the Catholic Church" - that would have been perfect. Now that I think of it, I haven't searched this topic in the Catechism and that might be good to do. I know the Pope can't be a woman, but what place other than "having babies" (as Kristi joked) do women have?

I found a book on Mother Angelica who started the Catholic cable channel. PLENTY on Mother Teresa, of course. But not much else. As I scanned, it was interesting to see other available titles at this trusty mainstream bookstore: nearly every title of C.S. Lewis; Biblical history and geography; lots of the early guys - tons of Augustine; embarrassing numbers of "Idiot's Guides";
and then all the current popular preachers - TD Jakes, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen; plenty of Billy Graham and endless titles by Women of Faith speakers. Glad to see the I Kissed Dating Goodbye author Joshua Harris has branched out and written a few more books. I half expected to see our buddy Jason Illian's new sex book featured but I think it's still too new.

By the end of two long rows of books, I was holding two titles in my lap: 365 Mary, and another about celebrations in a Catholic home. The celebrations book looked interesting and practical, but wouldn't tell me much about women, so I left with 365 Mary. Honestly, it's not going to tell me too much about women in the church either, but maybe it'll shed a little light on the "big-kahun-ette" of the Church. Might as well start at the top and learn what I can about her in a simple way then I'll make a future stop at a Catholic bookstore to see what I can find with more complexity. All this is is "A Daily Guide to Mary's Wisdom & Comfort" - can't beat that. We'll see what I can get out of it. If I really needed deep reading I would have grabbed an Augustine book - but with Kevin's last book order we have plenty of quality writing to absorb for now.

Woodeene Koenig-Bricker is the author of 365 Mary, and her introduction describes the evolution her perception of Mary went through as she tried to write this book. She says, "I've discovered a woman whose life can inspire my own and a mother whose love is so expansive it transcends time and space." Looking forward to seeing this for myself.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Dear Catholics (Kevin)

I read Teri's latest blog entry and was reminded of how much I appreciate her and love having her as my partner in this and all things. I too want to renew my passion on this journey and enjoy it. Now on to the topic of this entry.

I am convinced that the Catholic Church has the fullness of the Gospel. I have been embarassed of church for such a long time and felt guilty because I mistakenly equated this to embarassment of Jesus. Now that I see the "inner workings" of the Catholic Church I am drawn to their midst and long to share in all the sacraments with them.

I am in the middle of listening to a CD series by Ken Hensley entitled Luther and I was struck by something he said. This is what I want Catholics to know...

Mr. Hensley briefly described his conversion story and recalled that he also longed to be part of the Catholic Church and then, after he had joined, he met many people within the Catholic Church who wished the Catholic Church was more Protestant. He was baffled. I have to admit that I am baffled too. Maybe it takes former protestants to remind some Catholics what a treasure they have in their Church and history. When I am confirmed, I will take every opportunity to remind fellow-Catholics that they have the fullness of the Gospel and there is no substitute. Sure, it is feasible that Catholic Churches can be more Protestant, but what would they gain? I say emphatically, nothing! The world does not need another Protestant church! The world needs the Roman Catholic Church to stand firm in her history, tradition, and teaching.

We are "Considering Catholicism" not to see how similar she is to Protestantism, but to discover her true identity without needless comparison. If we go on and are confirmed, we will join because of the differences, not in spite of them. We will embrace the teaching, the 2,000 years of tradition, the Magisterium, the theology, etc.

To all you Catholics out there: (1) Stay Catholic! (2) Learn what the Church teaches and, in so doing, (re)discover her for yourself.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Thankful for Friends (Teri)

I got a great e-mail from Vicki today, and totally heard myself in her words. It was therapeutic to write back to her. I recognized that I'm feeling really rather defensive in my exploration of the church's teaching and for what? -no one is attacking!

So, a few resolves as of tonight:
1) I will continue to read Tiber, ready to absorb the learning on the Eucharist.
2) I will meanwhile also pick up a "fun read" - something removed from this topic of church and theology and history and conflict and change - to give me a "break".
3) I will continue to enjoy the other resources Kevin has been sharing. Tonight we heard a speaker's "Primer for Protestants". Good information.
4) I will continue to pray daily about these things, but no longer with a defensive/fearful air. (I gotta calm down a bit and enjoy this journey!)
5) I will no longer lament the decision to stop our old church when we did. We need to be in the Catholic church right now - observing and learning and worshiping God.

So I'm thankful for Vicki for sharing from her heart and being honest with her questions. They are SO similar to mine. And for Kristi who continues to field all my questions, even the most quirky. And for Karen who called tonight and listened and related and enlightened me so much. I was keenly interested to hear specific ways that their (the Earlys) conversion to the Catholic church has blessed their family and deepened their relationships with Jesus. Juleah is co-journeying. Rich and Mark are praying and reassuring. Kevin's my true partner, solid and patient and so freakin' smart. Mom is listening and relating as well. I can't believe how cool God set this all up.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Definitions & Differences I'm Dealing With (Teri)

The Roman Catholic Church has seven sacraments, the Protestant has two. And they regard them differently. Had to look up sacrament.

The catechism (1084) defines sacrament as instituted by Christ to communicate his grace. They are perceptible signs (words and actions) accessible to our human nature. By the action of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit they make present efficaciously the grace that they signify.

Steve Ray in Crossing the Tiber (p. 27) says that according to St. Augustine a sacrament is a "visible form of invisible grace". Ray also quotes his instructor from the time he and his wife were entering the church and his definition sounds right out of the catechism. Ray ends his footnote saying that in sacraments, you experience the Spirit working in and through matter.

Then I looked it up in my handy-dandy IVP Bible Dictionary. The editor(s) acknowledge that we owe our definition of the word to St. Augustine. The dictionary's definition was easily 5 times as long as the catechism's. Some highlights: the elements have no power; it is their faithful use that matters. And, regarding the extra sacraments of the RCC there is "no scriptural warrant for giving the other so-called sacramental rites the same status as Baptism and the Lord's Supper."

More stuff swimming around in my brain. I guess for the record, I'll list the 7 sacraments according to the RCC:
Anointing of the Sick
Holy Orders

Wanna really jar your brain? There are also sacramentals - just to give you more to figure out. "These are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy." - Catechism, 1667 Examples: blessings of people, food, objects and places - and I think crossing yourself as Catholics do is a sacramental. There are more, I don't know 'em.

This stuff, to me, is on one hand, really cool. I like the idea that these things exist and I can believe that they would/could bring you closer to God in some ways. On the other hand (and there is lately ALWAYS another hand in my sorting) they would/could get in the way of your relationship with God. Not to mention that I'm just not sure I believe in them. I want to spend more time in prayer, more reading time, and more time in Mass. My fear? That this questioning might go on forever with no suitable answers for my wandering mind and I'll never be able to make a decision. That just sucks.

I think that if I could get myself alone on an island with whatever is in my brain right now, but NO books, NO scripture, NO e-mail or phone connection, and NO bugging influence of the church we just left behind (our local church specifically, not the Protestant church as a whole) - I might personally be drawn to the RCC and it's teachings. I believe my existing relationship with Jesus would be enhanced, not compromised. But I'm not on that island. I'm stuck here still in that river made dangerous by all the debris floating by. And what if the island isn't the escape I first pictured, but my relationship with Jesus - and the river of junk is the Catholic church? The Protestant me says that's exactly the true analogy here. The Catholic me says, well, eventually you'd want to build a church on the island, right?

Finally, I was reading along in the baptism section of Tiber and looking up scripture references in my NIV Study Bible (non-Catholic, obviously) and came across a study note denouncing the Catholic interpretation of that particular verse. Bother. I'm frustrated by this. The Bibles are getting in on the fight. Duh, I guess they're the center of it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Ups & Downs & Baptism (Teri)

I'm tired. Whether discussing our church change, or any of the other changes in our lives right now, it all just amounts to I'm tired.

Honestly, I wouldn't mind a personality transplant right now. I'd like a "keep it simple" attitude. Just get me catechized or decide against it and go my merry way back into a Protestant church and on with life. But no. More reading, more listening, more discussing.

I'm in the baptism section of reading in Tiber, and it is lengthy. Lots to read and think about and look up in the Bible. I just don't feel smart enough to make this decision. I think I've said it before, and I mean it. These scholars make great arguments, both the Catholic and the Protestant. And I have a strong Protestant bias that's effecting everything. Kevin reads it and sees black and white truth, I think. I read and I get angry. I read the scripture references and I can see both interpretations of certain passages. So how the heck am I going to make up my mind? And why in the middle of all this do I keep finding it hard to believe God cares?

If the day comes that I become a Catholic, my children will be baptized. So here's what it comes down to for me right now, tonight. I want to rejoice in that decision. And, almost more importantly, I want to understand it well enough to explain it to my most Protestant friend - and I want to embrace it, gosh-darn it!

Monday, October 02, 2006

In less than a week...

...we'll attend Mass with a little more serious intent. I said in my previous post that I expected God to simplify things, and that has happened. For better or worse, we declared on Saturday that Sunday would be our last service at our non-denominational church. It was a tough, emotional day for me for more than one reason, but now I'm feeling very free and am excited to go to Mass.

"Quitting" our church has necessitated some conversations with people about our intentions and that has been a mini-ordeal. I feel awkward and nervous from the get-go but so far the responses are all nearly identical and rather unrevolutionary. The questions and concerns of the three people from our church that I have told all revolve around Mary, "dead saints", and confessing to a Priest. Oh, and infant baptism. If I were still my old Protestant self, I'm pretty sure those are some of the very things I'd bring up, so I get it. But that doesn't make the exchange any more interesting or challenging. I might be bored if not for the crazy emotional response going on within during the talking.

Two e-mails got my attention yesterday. The first was from Vicki just an hour or so before we left for church. In it, she attached a paper written by an InterVarsity staff guy entitled "Evangelization in a Catholic Context: Collaborating to Advance the Gospel". It was his response to a conference where they explored that topic as excellently as InterVarsity always explores topics. It made me, for the million-zillionth time, proud to be and have been associated with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. It also made me extra-keenly aware of the big diff between Catholicism and Protestantism. This is no small thing if folks have to write response papers on conferences regarding it. Sooooooooo... shortly after when I found myself feeling the weight of this decision for our family - it was affirming to know it's not just me - this is big.

The second e-mail was from Canada Karen (this is not her official title, perhaps I just like that I know someone in Canada). It appeared in my inbox just before ten o'clock last night, and I only saw it through my tears because I was turning off the computer to go upstairs to bed. To cry. To let a hard day be over. She shared some of the details of her and Mark's conversion and the ramifications in the church they were part of. Hard things. I am thankful for the blessing of having some strong Christian Catholic women and men in our lives. This would be a much more difficult road to travel alone. I should also say I'm just as grateful for the strong Christian Protestant women and men in our lives who know us well enough not to worry right now that we've gone off the deep-end.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Here's what I wish: (Teri)

I wish this blog were as intellectual as I'd like to be. Each post would address one specific point of doctrine and include my response and some thoroughly-researched information illuminating the issue. Then all who read it would stand in a nice neat row lining the path between my current location and my confirmation day and applaud my decision. Loudly. Perhaps even cheer. Confetti-throwing would not be too over-the-top for my ego, or lack thereof.

Alas, although I'm a smart woman, my thoughts and emotions are all over the place when it comes to considering Catholicism. (I really would make a great famous columnist. It would already be established that people like to read what goes on in my brain, and I'd have an editor in my employ to do all the nasty organizing.) So on with the considerations...

After a visit with Rich and Kristi, and lots of conversations about everything from family planning to the mysteries of the church - we have arrived home with plenty of homework. Rich and Kristi have given us tapes, CDs, videos, and other papers. Some kind folks at St. Francis have given us more CDs. We have ordered books and a tape or two ourselves. We're up to our eyeballs in resources. I'm still making my way through Tiber and that leads to lots of scripture reference and catechism checking. I'd really like to just go to Mass some more, but that has gotten complicated and I am waiting on God to simplify it for us. I have no doubt he will. Then, imagine that we become Catholic. It sounds good to me. So what's with the confetti-throwing stuff?

In addition to wanting to work through some questions about Mary, especially, and the Saints and so forth - I also have to work through just being Teri and making big life-changing decisions. In describing this to Magan, I used my beliefs about birth and it worked in my brain so I'm going to do it again here.

When I got pregnant, I absorbed LOTS of information on birth. This included reading numerous books, watching videos, attending births (yes, while pregnant - egad!), and interviewing basically every woman I came in contact with including my OB at the time. My research led me to decide on home birth. It went FABULOUSLY. I loved my birth. So, baby in hand, what does a well-researched gal like me expect to do next? Well, I expect that just EVERYONE I ever come in contact with for the rest of my life will choose home birth. Guess what? I think of all the friends I have who are child-bearing age, ONE decided to give birth at home as a result in part of her contact with me. ONE. Out of fifty-three million. (I have a lot of friends!) WHAT THE HECK? I don't get it. You find a great way to do something, you have proof it works, why don't more people choose to do it that way, too? All these women-friends keep pushing out babies and I still sit here puzzled about their methods. Time goes on and I'm learning that some just don't care how the baby gets out. Others do their own research and (gasp!) come up with different methods. As I struggle to understand these women, and our friendships, and the ins and outs of my own decision, I realize that it's okay to birth differently. However, I still relate better to the woman who makes informed choices about her birth than to the woman who worships her doctor and isn't even sure where her own birth canal is.

WHAT does this have to do with this church decision?

Well, here we've done all this research and discovered all this priceless stuff about the Catholic church. And I'm not getting the sense that everyone is going to want to join along with us. And WHY NOT??? The answers are as varied as they were with the birth decision. But with this, it seems a bit more dangerous to be relative. So I'm discouraged. Why? Do I just want everyone to join the party? Am I so weak that I really do need everyone to agree with everything I do? I don't know. I think I'm just afraid to be wrong. With the birth decision, there was the possibility that all could go awry and my baby could die. Or I could. With this decision, I suppose I fear the possibility that all this stuff is just baloney and I'm going awry and I might die. Plus, since the Protestant to Catholic conversion is a noticeable one (people are going to pick up on it when I start hanging crucifixes and crossing myself in prayer just like they noticed that I never packed a bag for the hospital to give birth) I have to figure out where I fit in among all my brothers and sisters both Catholic and non-.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

In Memory of Tony

Tonight I want to thank God for Tony's life.
It has been one year today since his death, and he is remembered with love by Mom, me, James, and all his family and friends.
It's difficult to revisit the events of a year ago. It's painful to miss him so much. But I'm so glad he was my step-father, and I take the difficulty and pain along with the joyful and loving memories.

Tony, I know you're proud of this search we've been a part of. I'm grateful to God for all he did in your last days, especially - but also just for making you you.

Thank you, God, for Tony's life - that's the purpose of this post as I said at the beginning.

And, to end with, a note to my step-father now in heaven: I believe you were right about your church. (And I use that wording "you were right" intentionally --- and humbly --- in light of numerous conversations about the wide variety of things I got to be right about.)

I love you. We miss you. Can't wait to see you again.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Maybe a few things...(Teri)

Uh-oh. I respectfully disagree with my husband. He asks "What is left to think about?" and answers, "Nothing."

Apparently he hasn't had a look inside my brain. In the world according to Teri, when is there EVER nothing left to think about?

But I get what he's saying. For Kevin and I, the Catholic church is offering exactly what we've been looking for in a church for years (not just the last month)... YEARS! And there are flaws, and issues, but for us - it's the best we've found. Hands down. I'm ready to sign up for RCIA, and perhaps have wonderful plans for Easter --- but none of this assured talk means that I'm done thinking, researching, and analyzing. Yes, I get what Kevin meant. And I even appreciate it. Further, I'm thankful for him in my life - he keeps me from spinning out of control in my thought life almost daily. But I'm still thinking. Kevin will be, too. And his might be more productive because he'll be thinking about the new stuff. And I'm still having a bit of a hard time letting go of the old.

For example, we left that class last night saying we were ready to start attending Mass. We're more than ready to quit going to our current non-denominational church. But this conversion is more difficult if I have to explain it to my circle of friends at our current church. Our upcoming out-of-state move would make the church change so much more convenient. But if we leave our church sooner, I'm sad. I'm sad for our son who is finally opening up in Sunday School. If I'm honest with myself, I have to consider two truths:

1) This isn't really about my son. I am scared to death of telling these folks I'm converting to Catholicism. I'm afraid they won't believe I'm a Christian or that I follow Jesus. I want to avoid having uncomfortable conversations and rocking any boats. It has occurred to me that boat-rocking and honest conversation might be good for me, but I'd rather avoid.

2) Our son has grown over the past two years. His age and exposure to a variety of things have both contributed to his "opening up" in his church classes. So we won't really be taking him away from something irreplaceable, it's just sentimental to me. Read that. It's more about me. I'm admitting it, 'kay?

Convenience aside, I really want to go to Mass. Really. So stay tuned to see what happens.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What is Left? (Kevin)

Teri noticed an announcement in the Mass program this past Sunday that announced a "Mass Class" for all interested. We thought it would be good to learn more about the Church from a source other than the written word so we went. Well, it was great. The organization of mass is inspired by and filled with scripture. There is a marriage between the old testament and the new testament and remembrance of teaching that has been taught for centuries. One of the readings was written in the 3rd century. THE 3RD CENTURY. What a spectacular history and lineage there is in the Catholic Church.

So, now we are left with one question...what is left?

What is left to question?

What is left to do?

What is left to research?

What is left to think about?

I want to answer emphatically, "Nothing."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

After The First Try (Kevin)

So, we attended Mass for the first time since our research into the Catholic Church this morning. It was a great experience. Contrary to what some may think or expect, there was nothing in the service that I could take exception to. In fact, the reverence given to the Bible was much greater than any reverence I have seen given in any Protestant church I have attended.

Bottom line is that we liked it and we will be going again with friends next Sunday.

The First Try (Kevin)

Today, Bethanie is still a bit sick so we have decided to make our first trip to Mass since this all began. I don't know what to expect. We have only been to the Catholic Church for weddings, funerals, and Christmas Eve once. This comes at a time when both Teri and I have been researching the "other side" of the issue. We have been reading the CRI essays and considering some of the more heated topics of discussion (or should I say dissention?). I keep coming back to the fact that there are undoubtedly issues within the Church, but, thus far, all Protestantism has provided is identification of these issues without a corresponding solution.

For example, Protestants do not believe the Pope is an authority and, therefore, should not be listened to. However, no sufficient response to this problem is provided. There is no consistent authority in Protestantism. Of course, they cite the Bible as their lone authority, but the differing interpretations of portions of the Bible have led to the numerous denominations, sub-denominations, and non-denominations - not unity. Make no mistake, I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and should be read, studied, and followed, but I believe there should be a corresponding body (the Church) to go along with the Bible. To paraphrase Steve Ray, the Bible and the Church are not set up in a false dichotomy of "either/or." Rather the Church and the Bible are set up in a "both/and" relationship. We need (and were given by God) both the Church and the Bible with the Church flowing from the Bible.

I look forward to attending Mass and seeing for myself what "goes on there" for the first time since I have begun to seriously research the Catholic Church with fairness.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Both sides (Teri)

My brother converted to Mormonism a while back, and I told him I was surprised that he didn't research more before he made his decision. I thought he would have investigated information against LDS theology in order to make a more informed decision. But, ah, the complications of a faith question.

Ever since Kevin started reading and sharing from Crossing the Tiber, as we've considered conversion, I have been thinking, "We really better read what the 'other side' says about some of this stuff." In some ways, we already know because we've been on the "other side" the entire time we've been followers of Jesus. But I want more in-depth consideration of, say, what exactly we're talking about when we discuss "sola fide".

Voila!--- today I finally found some "good" stuff (as in---not hostile, and not "the-Pope-is-the-anti-Christ") detailing problems with Catholic theology. I began to read some of the information on this particular website and have listed it over to the left under "Links". It's from the Christian Research Institute. I respect CRI and if I could get my brain around some of the crucial issues, I'd be in a good place. Truth be told, Kevin set up the "Links" section of this new little blog of ours. Because not only can I not grasp the topic of justification, I also cannot grasp how to edit our blog very well - ARGH! I do NOT need two things in one day to make me feel dumb.

Since we are providing a link to CRI's site, we're also including a link to Steve Ray's --"Defenders of the Catholic Faith". As Rich said, he looks just a little bit like Indiana Jones in his photo. He's the author of Tiber, and he's got a brain on 'im. For kicks the other night, I looked up what he had to say about purgatory and it was the first time I wasn't impressed - I think I already blogged about that. But everything else I've read of his has been helpful. Not the least of which would be this oh-so talked-about Tiber.

After today's reading of CRI stuff, I'm discouraged. I'm an impressionable gal, I guess - and I have two really smart groups of people on both sides making convincing arguments. I believe both. So what makes the decision? The Mormons would tell me to wait for a burning in my bosom, but that proves faulty just a little too often. If the decision is purely "feeling" I'm going to convert - then about five years from now, I might just switch again and become an Orthodox Jew. Then, if the feeling changes, perhaps I'll try a little agnosticism. Okay, I'm getting snotty. Let's see if I can list the major stuff my overloaded brain took away from today's reading:

1) Catholic theology bites itself in the butt. It's emphasis on sacraments and tradition ends up overshadowing it's otherwise right-on theology and tremendous history. This provides the answer to my question of the last two weeks: "Why so much nominalism?" Because certainly this butt-biting leads to many of its members having a hard time getting to know Jesus, pure and simple.

2) I read the best definition and explanation for a cult EVER! And the Catholic church is not a cult. I now know, though, more about who considers it so and why.

3) The Vatican II decision, or whatever it's called, about who gets to go to heaven is freaking me out a little. I need to really read up on this one. It was outlined in the CRI article I read today, but I need more. Background: Julie attended a seminar led by a nun in a hospital and gathered from some of what the nun said that the Catholic church no longer believes Jesus is the only way. Hm. Totally contrary to all we've been reading, but Julie brought it up and I asked Kristi about it last night. She said her understanding of the church's position is that they acknowledge what they know from scripture about Jesus and salvation, but also that God's grace is bigger than we understand. He can save who he chooses to save. No argument. Dandy. But this decision outlined by Protestant CRI makes it sound MUCH more ---what's the word?---well, can't think of it, but freakin' scary!

Perhaps tomorrow I'll take a break from the reading and do some listening to God. Not sure I'd dare blog the outcome of that, but ya never know.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Too much information (Teri)

Last night we watched "Luther", the movie about Martin Luther and what his thinking and actions brought about way back in the 1500s. Nothing like a picture of all those years of history to mess up my brain. I finished watching with lots of thoughts that I agreed with him - that scripture should be the foundation of truth, not a pope - not a bunch of men. I also felt bummed about all the corruption in the church. I find myself thinking we have two choices: 1) Join this church run by humans with way more history and therefore way more skeletons in the closet or 2) Join a newer, shinier, church run by humans just waiting to pile up the skeletons in the closet.

Right now (like, as I sit here typing) Kevin is reading Crossing the Tiber and there are lots of references to the Ante-Nicene books. So, I looked 'em up on Amazon - tidy little set of 12 books for $300. if ordered new. Further down the screen I noticed a book for sale claiming to show certain New Testament passages which refute the Ante-Nicene stuff. Ugh!!!

AND, just for a little more blibber-blabber - I asked Kevin a question about purgatory today and he gave me some background but then referred me to Steve Ray's website to read his article on purgatory. So I read it. In my understanding, it sounds like hooey. Sure, fine, it doesn't hurt anything to think there might be this time of preparation before appearing before God - but it doesn't hurt anything to think there might not be. I thought our preparation to meet God was Jesus. Plain and simple. I'm starting to think that if I want to be plain and simple about the gospel, the Catholic Church might not be for me.

At this point, here's what it all comes down to for Kevin and me (in my words):

Kevin: "The Catholic Church is it. Jesus started a church and here it is. I see evidence. This stuff makes sense. Logic, logic, logic."
Teri: "The Catholic Church sure has been around a long time. Hard to argue with thousands and thousands of years. Plus there is much that appeals to me. Longing for tradition here, longing to belong to something bigger than we've found in the past. I like the symbols. I like the ceremony. Emotion, emotion, emotion."

I just have to do some more wading. I'm standing here in a river that's moving pretty fast and is dang deep. And floating by are books and movies and websites and lists of sacraments and conversations and testimonies and RCIA and concerns for my children and countless words to look up and history I never concerned myself with before. Funny thing, as I'm picturing my little river here - where do you think Jesus is in the whole thing? Duh, obviously walking on the water! Where else would he be?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Jumbled thoughts (Teri)

One thing I need to do is get "out" all the different thoughts I'm having that make me wonder or doubt so I can deal with each of them individually rather than in a big jumble, which gets confusing and gets me nowhere.
One big thing on my mind is that I perceive the Catholic church to be so "watered down", and so full of "nominal" believers (to use a word describing believers in India that I think applies here) that even if I join for great theological reasons, my kids don't stand a chance to become real followers of Jesus.
Right off, my fear annoys me, because when I hear other mothers make it sound like their childrens' salvation is all dependent on what they do or don't do as moms - I think they're ridiculous. The Holy Spirit is the key player here, I believe. But surely my decision(s) - and particularly something so huge as a conversion to Catholicism play some part. So what difference would it make? I'm getting a picture of the depth of the doctrine and the "rightness" of the theology - but what about the week-to-week stuff?
A friend of ours visited night before last for dinner, and - crazy as this is - has become really "disenchanted" (her word) with the churches she has been a part of over the past 5 or 6 years. We started talking about Catholicism and last night she called me. She talked to a Catholic co-worker yesterday and ended up "touring" the Catholic church building close to her home with her co-worker. They met the deacon's wife and she answered some of their questions (like, what are those 3 oils up front near the altar?) and gave her information on RCIA. Well, she can't think of a reason not to, and enjoyed listening to the Scott Hahn CD we loaned her - so she's thinking of diving right in and getting to ask all her questions. Right off, she wondered if children in the church get to grow up hearing the stories of Jonah and Moses and so forth. Good question. What exactly IS the emphasis on scripture? And do Catholics believe in a literal interpretation? See?--- the questions come pouring once I start writing.
Last note - I started Crossing the Tiber today, so I'm looking forward to that - it will be a careful read - especially with the miles of footnotes he includes. My, my, my.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Where it began (Kevin)

Teri is an excellent "detail" person and I applaud her effort in the original post. I will fill in my part excluding the time from my birth to when we got the book from Rich and Kristi.

I am not sure what specifically interested me about the book (Crossing the Tiber), but I began reading it upon our arrival home from Las Vegas. It hit me at a time when I had been researching the theology of Calvin because I was leaning toward our family joining a Calvinist church. I had recently become disillusioned with the churches we were considering for our impending move to Texas. In fact, I had nearly given up hope that we would be able to find a church. Anyway, back to the story...

I began reading the book and was amazed at the Catholic Church's solid doctrine based on the Bible and the apostles' teaching. As my reading continued, I concluded that my research of and interest in the Catholic Church was not a simple task of addressing issues and checking them off my list of concerns. Rather, it was a search into the history of the Catholic Church to confirm it was founded by Jesus. Nothing else mattered if the Church had remained true to Jesus and the "founding fathers."

More later as it develops.

Where it began (Teri)

I was raised by a Methodist mom and an Evangelical dad. We attended church pretty regularly, and I have memories of Sunday School and so forth. But when my parents divorced in 1978-ish, the church-going came to an end. From junior-high on, I went by myself. I tried Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, even went to a Mormon dance or two. I "settled" by high school on a non-denominational church because it had the coolest youth group, guitar music in the worship service, and that's where all my friends went.

It was during college that my faith and relationship with Jesus were cemented. God worked in my life through the ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship first as a student then as staff.

I met Kevin through InterVarsity. He had a Baptist background, and we were married in his hometown church. In eight years of marriage and in the midst of five moves, we've attended an American Baptist church, a Presbyterian, a Conservative Baptist, and two non-denominational churches.

My step-father, Tony, had a devout Catholic background, but hadn't attended as long as I'd known him. Then about two years ago he got more serious about "going back". My mom had always said if he went back she'd go with him. They started attending at Eastertime, 2005. This was the first I heard about RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults): a class just for them to learn (or re-learn) about God and the Church. Well, curious me thought it would be fascinating to learn what they were learning, even if we were in different states, so I called up our local Catholic church and got connected with Sister so-and-so who gave me the day and time for the RCIA meetings and told me I'd be welcome. I worried that Kevin would think I was cuckoo, but he was supportive and so I started going.

RCIA was interesting. I learned a lot and it was fun to talk about with Kevin, but especially with Tony. Since my "classes" started before theirs, I enjoyed giving him pop-quizzes to see how much he remembered.

My biggest impression of that time was how quickly all my stereotypes --- some of them quite negative --- fell away. I was surprised that these people talked about the same Jesus and appeared to really love and worship him. And they never said anything that I could argue with. Admittedly, I was disappointed when one of the sponsors had a difficult time finding the book of Acts when he agreed to read a passage, but I kept observing.

From discussions with my Presbyterian-Pastor's-Wife close friend, it seemed in some ways simply that different churches emphasize different aspects of faith, but that doesn't make them wrong. Perhaps my non-denominational church emphasizes scripture more than anything. And a Pentecostal church might emphasize the Holy Spirit. And the Catholic Church might emphasize tradition. But, news to me, those emphases don't mean the other aspects of faith are unimportant --- not at all. The whole sola-scriptura- Bible-only - thing will come up later.

Unexpectedly, Tony died just a week or two after he and my mom started their RCIA. She continued to go, and I was able to travel to witness her confirmation at this past Easter Vigil. It was a special time, and I couldn't deny how meaningful it all seemed. How "deep", I guess. But that was it.

Through my time in RCIA, I asked questions of Tony, but sometimes also of our friends Rich and Kristi. They are Catholic, and we know them from college. It was helpful to have their current perspective, and that they are our peers.

A month ago, we attended an InterVarsity reunion that Rich and Kristi coordinated. While there, Rich mentioned a book he had told me about during my time in RCIA written by a man with a Baptist background who converted to Catholicism. Honestly, I have a basketful of books I'm looking forward to reading, and I couldn't understand Rich's persistence here, but I had no reason to tell him not to loan it to me. When he came to say goodbye before we left the reunion weekend, he forgot it (so had I). We said goodbye and then I hopped in the shower. He remembered the book, and returned with it. Kevin answered the door and took it. Later, on the road, he told me Rich dropped a book off and what was the story? I told him and thought now there was pressure to read it since he went out of his way to deliver it - I'd add it to the basket.

Once home, it never made it to the basket. Kevin started reading it. This is especially noteable because Kevin rarely reads books. And I had finally talked him into reading a book on Calvinism which he had finished just days before. Now he has picked up this book and suddenly he's exclaiming about the interesting scriptural truths he's learning. Bigtime. And calling Rich to ask more questions, and referencing scripture and joining message boards where he can ask more questions. Wow.

Rich and Kristi ordered some tapes and a CD for us and they arrived last week. We already listened to one. It is the testimony of a Presbyterian pastor who converts to Catholicism. Rich had mentioned how good it was ages ago but my thought was, "For every convert to Catholicism, there must be 9 million out of it." I meet people in every church who are former Catholics. So what gives? I have a few theories, but I'll end with a Fulton Sheen quote I heard on the testimony CD: “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church— which is, of course, quite a different thing.”

Hate is a stronger word than I could use to explain my feelings about the Catholic church. I'd use "confusion", "disinterest", "stereotype", "arrogance", "judgement" and, in capital letters, "MISCONCEPTION". It might be fun to read this blog as those things continue to change.