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.