Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Pilgrimage Continues

For those who have managed to stick with my intermittent posts you know that I was raised as a Pentecostal, became a pastor, was briefly a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church, and then joined the Catholic Church 2 years ago. What has driven this pilgrimage to this point is the firm conviction that the Church that our Lord Jesus Christ founded is invincible and, therefore, still fully intact 2,000 years later. It is intact in its fullness, and therefore cannot be divided into thousands of denominations.

I firmly believe this Church to be the Catholic Church. However, there is a problem. I am discovering, to my chagrin, that there are a number of Catholics who do not agree with me. Rather, in the bland, vague language of Vatican II, they believe this Church that our Lord founded to "subsist in" the Catholic Church. What that phrase means has been a source of fierce debate since it was coined. In my mind it shows why so much of what happened with Vatican II and since has been more a source of confusion, rather than clarification.

To me, that phrase is an attempt to placate all parties. For traditionalists and conservatives it can mean what the Church has always proclaimed: outside of the (Catholic) Church there is no salvation. For moderates, progressives, and liberals, it can mean that truth is found in some manner in every denomination of Christianity, or even outside of Christianity altogether.

There is a popular notion among modern Catholics that Vatican II changed everything. That's not exactly true. One need only read the documents themselves to see that. The vision of Vatican II was that the Mass would continue to be done primarily in Latin with some opportunity for the vernacular language. Music would still be primarily (and ideally) Gregorian Chant with the possibility of sacred hymns accompanied by organ. This is a far cry from what one will find as the norm for Mass in most Catholic Churches in America today.

But it's not just arguing over the Mass. In fact, today, most Catholics don't even attend Mass on anything close to a regular basis. But beyond the Mass, there also used to be a sense of living a holy life that meant that we were not ashamed to stand out amidst our neighbors. If others looked at us strangely because we didn't eat meat on Friday, we dressed modestly, and we did not indulge in worldly entertainment, that was fine. We were, after all, Catholic- and that meant something.

The Lord's Day is another example of how things have changed. It used to be that even people who never went to church understood that stores would be closed on Sunday. Now, even good Catholics think nothing of doing their shopping, or any other activity, on the Lord's Day.

I didn't give up everything I hold dear, move my family from place to place, and risk the alienation of other family and friends to find, more or less, what I already had- a religion largely of my own making. This is unfortunately the case too often for most Catholics today. Rather, the Catholic Faith is intended to be a seamless garment, like the robe of our Lord. To be Catholic is to receive all that the Church teaches- and has ever taught. It is to live like a Catholic, and not just be known by the name. It is to be different. It is to be holy. It is to be like Jesus. it is to live out the Faith as it has been lived out since its inception.

So my pilgrimage continues- not in the sense that I believe there is some other church or denomination to move to. I don't. As I said, I firmly believe this Church to be the Church that Christ founded. But I do see that I must continue to be on the move in my heart. What is popularly purported to be the Catholic Faith is not always. I want the real thing. And I will stop at nothing less than that.


Joni said...

Thank you for leading us on, my dear. Truly, the journey never ends.

Gregory said...

Hey Keith!
Very probing article. Sadly, it's a common objection from Protestant friends when I try to share with them that I found the One True Church, and even more sadly, it's hard to have a good response to that objection when so often, so many Catholics just don't seem to give a rip.

So, I suppose we continue our pilgrimage, and hopefully help others to continue theirs.

God bless