The Catholic Mass…Revealed!

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I love this video.

I may end up in the RCC after all.

Beaux


Video on Roman Catholicism

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The Episcopal Church

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A fun video explaining the Episcopal Church. Check it out!


Being without a proper Gnostic Church to attend, I’ve given heavy consideration over the past few years about joining the Catholic Church or the Episcopal Church. I’ve even attended Mass a few times with Tyler at the Episcopal Church and enjoyed it.

Beaux


To Pray or Not to Pray: The Mother of God and Saints

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Having an evangelical Protestant upbringing and living in a largely evangelical area, the notion of prayers addressing anyone but God the Father (no, seriously) are often regarded with distrust, suspicion, and outright condemnation.

I honestly was confused when I first found myself inside of the evangelical world about the Holy Trinity, and eventually the formula presented was, “Pray IN the Spirit, THROUGH the Son, TO the Father.” Okay, that was nice and all, but I don’t think it’s necessarily THE ONLY way to pray.

Someone asked me recently about what I thought concerning prayers addressing the Blessed Virgin Mary, and I think here I can express my thoughts completely.

My ultimate feelings are that, with regards to spirituality in general, any kind of prayer, practice, or devotion that draws one closer to God is a good thing. However, this must be done within reason. Allow me to try to explain.

If, for instance, a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary were to completely eclipse devotion to God, then the devotion would be defeating the original purpose. The point of being devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary is by virtue of her being the Mother of God.

Prayers to the Saints are a little more foreign to me but nonetheless have an archetypal resonance.

Also, the experience of addressing the Saints is a bit different as well- one naturally doesn’t regard them as being God Himself, and yet in a way, because of Theosis, they are somehow related to God. It’s all very subtle and complicated on the psychological level but makes sense according to the intuition.

Some day, I’ll start creating charts and put them on here to explain things when I can conceived of suitable chart.

Beaux


Common Misconceptions about Catholicism

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Growing up, I was provided with innumerable misunderstandings of Catholicism. Whether they were outright fabricated, misconceptions, or something in between, I’m not totally sure, but here I’ll address a few of the things I’ve heard over the years.

#1. Catholics believe you must have faith and works to attain salvation.

TRUE, but there’s a reason for this: the Holy Scriptures support it.

James 2:14-26

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe; and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

The point is, it’s strange how the Sola Scriptura-ists are so adamant about believing the Bible, knowing what the Bible says, and then slamming Catholics as being oh-so-unbiblical, and then someone such as myself can pull out said verses and point out that the Catholic Tradition is actually more rooted in the Bible in this case.

So basically, the Catholics don’t say anything more than the fact that one’s Faith should be reflected in one’s Works to help people; it’s a pretty simple concept.

Could be worse…the Gnostics say that it is by direct experience of God and not by faith OR works that we experience salvation. Personally, I think all three are important, but that’s for another blog.

Next!

#2. Catholics “pray to Mary.”

This is a statement that never made a lot of sense to me. I was told Catholics prayed to Mary, and that you were only supposed to pray to God. But the concept of what they meant by “pray to Mary” seemed to be ill-defined; when people said this, they meant it almost in the context of, “Catholics pray to Mary and exclusively to Mary because they feel unworthy to pray to God.”

That would be FALSE.

But what IS true are that prayers for intercession are offered to the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as to the Saints, and sometimes even Angels. However, the majority of prayers, and by majority, I mean VAST majority, are directed to God.

#3 Catholics are all hell-fire and brimstone, stodgy, and fuddy-duddy.

This was my own misperception that happened early on, but in my experience, largely FALSE; every Catholic I’ve personally known has been rather amicable, and they’ve also been the people who were vegetarians, eco-friendly, in bands, funny, and not afraid of alcohol.

Even many of the Catholics I’ve talked to online have been great; the only scary Catholics I’ve seen are in certain forums online, and even then most of them are open to having a dialogue or educating people. The frightening, condemning ones are definitely in the minority, at least within the English-speaking world, or I haven’t run into them very often.

Okay, well, that’s enough for now.

Beaux


Working Towards a Definition of “Catholic” and Some Observations

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Within certain traditions, notably that of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, there is huge debate on the meaning of the word “Catholic” and the means by which one can identify specifically as Catholic.

With no doubt, there are a number of people in the Anglican Communion which identify as “Anglo-Catholic,” and the official position of the Communion is that it is both “Catholic and Protestant,” or more appropriately, “Catholic and Reformed.”

But within the Anglican Communion, there is a wide spectrum of worship styles: the High Church, which is no less than a Mass and Catholic, and Low Church, which is rather evangelical and would identify with being Protestant, and the Broad Church, which incorporates elements of both.

The actual word “Catholic” means “universal” and refers to the Christian Church as a whole. In the common language, people use it to mean “a member of the Roman Catholic Church.”

Initially, during the 1500s and the Protestant Reformation, the term “Protestant” referred to someone who was anti-papal; this came because of the continued abuses of the papacy in the Roman Catholic Church in those days. These days, however, “Protestant” has come to mean more so “anti-Catholic.”

If we should suggest that the Episcopal Church is anti-papal, in the sense that Anglicans as a whole do not recognize the Bishop of Rome/Pope as the absolute pontiff or having authority over their church but rather as a Bishop of special honor and recognition among other equal bishops, we might rightly use the term “Protestant.”

However, if we should suggest that the Episcopal Church retains the historical episcopate, that is, the Apostolic Succession, that the Church retains the Sacraments of old, that the Church celebrates the Holy Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Christian Faith, that the Church relies on the councils of the Church in the past and on the writings of the Church Fathers as well as on the Nicene and Apostle’s Creed as the sufficient summary of the Faith, then we might rightly deem them, unabashedly, to be Catholic.

The Episcopal Church under this situation cannot be deemed “Roman Catholic,” but certainly “Anglo-Catholic” or “English Catholic” may suffice.

On another note, it is oft-quoted that Henry the VIII “founded” the Church of England.

The Church of England was founded, strangely enough, in the 600s. Henry the VIII, in his political debacle with the Pope, declared that he, not the Pope, was the head of the Church of England. Thereto in addition, we must also consider that the concept of the Pope having primacy above and beyond other Bishops was a doctrine defined later in Christianity, around the year 1000 or so. It is, in fact, this very doctrine that contributed to the Eastern Orthodox Church breaking with the Roman Catholic Church. As I understand it, the concept of the Pope never did completely become accepted in England.

Many Anglicans also subscribe to what is known as the “Branch Theory.” The Branch Theory entails that the Original Church is comprised of three denominations- the Anglicans, the Roman Catholics, and the Eastern Orthodox.

When religious debates begin on online forums, many snide Roman Catholics will claim that the Anglican Holy Orders are simply invalid. The Anglican Holy Orders are, however, recognized by the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the Anglicans issued a statement back as to why their Orders are valid.

One thing to also consider is that there are, believe it or not, Independent Catholic Churches. That’s right, Catholic Churches that are not Roman Catholic, Anglican, or Eastern Orthodox. This is part of a movement known as the Independent Sacramental Movement. The Ecclesia Gnostica and other Gnostic Churches recognize the validity of the Holy Orders of the Church of England, and therefore it is the Roman Catholic Church’s ancient prejudice and political agenda that is invalid, not the Anglican Holy Orders.

Just some more thoughts.

Beaux


Heirs to the Tradition that is Christianity I

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Many people do not necessarily understand why I even bother with Christianity, in any form, at this point in my life or in the progression of humanity. I established this blog in part for the sake of explaining, in as much length and grandeur and detail as I might deem appropriate, precisely why I would continue to bother with Christianity.

The problem is that the projection of Christianity is often one of conservatism and fanaticism. Christianity is claimed most loudly and boldly by, for want of better terms, the stupid and the hateful.

The people who attempt to deal with these things by holding varying theological opinions or, God forbid, actually doing research and inner spiritual work are quickly labeled as “progressive” and “liberal” and demonized as attempting to destroy the Gospel and as Satan’s henchmen.

Another form of Christianity we often see is a watered-down, semi-therpeutic variety that screams about the transformative power of Jesus but offers none of said transformation; people so often give the spiel about how Jesus Christ can heal you and offer it and offer it and offer it, and so rarely does it ever happen.

Salvation, too, has been watered down from an actual ontological alteration of the human being on all levels (body, soul, and spirit) into a new creature, a process which is lengthy and devastating in many regards, to simply being a mental event in which you shift gears and start using the secret password of “Jesus is Lord.”

I, for one, do not buy into the notion of the so-called “getting saved” or “salvation experience” that is marketed by evangelical Protestantism; it’s the equivalent of putting a band-aid on cancer and saying someone has been truly transformed. This is, however, a blog for another day.

Christianity does not belong exclusively to people who are ultra-conservative, hateful, dogmatic, and rigid; it is a system, a religion, a faith, a revelation of God to mankind as a whole. There is a nucleus to it, an essence, a core of Love, yes; there are sustaining aspects, manifestations and references back to the essence that is the Love of Christ, which take many forms; there are traditions and scriptures that refer to the essence that is the Love of Christ and through which Christ speaks to all mankind.

Christianity is not solely understood through a literalistic, immediate reading of the Scriptures, which is a point that, incidentally, both fundamentalists and atheists alike often miss.

Fundamentalists and those who believe in Biblical inerrancy on all matters scientific, social, and otherwise, will insist that if God wanted us to know something, He would spell it out, and that is that, never considering that maybe what God has told us is something that is quite powerful, perhaps too powerful for an ordinary and easily corruptible person to be given, as they could cause harm.

Likewise, fundamentalists are often people who want things spelled out for them, like dogmatists. Dogmatists differ from fundamentalists in that they may not accept Biblical inerrancy, but they accept Church Authoritarianism and Pronouncement as the absolute authority on all matters. Either way, both groups are likely to argue and throw around the word “liberal” as though it were a slur. These are the sort of people who, in reality, are so very confused and doubtful of their own faith and understanding of religion that they scream with fury at anyone who dares question it.

Provided, it is far more comfortable in reality to have something spelled out for you, so you know where the boundaries are, you know what rules to follow, and you don’t get in trouble. However, that’s not really how God and His Reality work, so…be wary.

Atheists, (and by atheists, I mean more the Modern Evangelical Atheists, not your garden-variety doesn’t-really-care type atheist) also ask stupid questions, such as, “What else could it mean but the surface meaning?” These are the sort of people who look around, and not seeing a man on a throne, declare there is no God, no meaning to life, that they can do whatever they want, that we live in an irrational universe but use rational means to understand the universe, think that if you are at all interested in religion that you’re a complete, ignorant nitwit…you get the picture.

But getting back to my blog: we are all the heirs of the Tradition of Christianity; it does not belong solely to one denomination or another or one theological persuasion or another.

It is the duty of people of any culture to carry on the customs of that culture, and the religious rites of a culture, in so far as they are not hurting anyone, by practicing those religious rites.

One thing we must remember is that the Tradition of Christianity has produced immensely valuable tools for spiritual journey. Somehow, whether by intuition or by other means, I can perceive these so-called “tools” in Christianity very well. Having been raised in a Christian context and having had a familiarity with the symbolism from an early age, I can easily relate to them in a way that I cannot with other religions. That doesn’t mean I find the traditions of other religions any less alluring, but they are less immediately connected to me, my culture, and my own psychic heritage, if you will.

In many cases, it is difficult to separate the spiritual current running through a religion and the cultural context in which the religion evolved. There are many, many cultural artifacts which are written into the Bible, into Tradition, hold-overs from a different era that are not Divine Mandates but rather world views as those people understood the universe according to their science and culture at the time.

Yet these are the very things that so many people become so nit-picky over! The leftover garbage that happens to be the incidentals and not the meaning of the story suddenly become deified and elevated to the level of Holiness, and frankly, if you will forgive my harshness, enough of us have smelled the bullshit long enough.

On track again: I cannot know if any of my ancestors were ever Buddhists or Hindus. I can know with some certainty that many of my ancestors in the last 2000 years were Roman Catholic, and with greater certainty that some of my ancestors within the last 500 years were Anglican.

Thus I can reason that my own ancestors at some point worshiped in a soaring church buildings and knelt at the altar to take the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, and somehow, feeling that connection with them and with Europe is important to me.

As I write this blog, it is late, and I’m tired, so I’ll have to return to the theme at a later time.

Beaux


How Oddly “Conservative” of Me!

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Under most circumstances, I don’t like to have all kinds of labels attached to me. For many years, I understood labels as being nasty constrictions on the True Soul which underlies all things, and that to label ourselves was to become “attached” to something in the world, to some aspect of our transient selves.

Laying aside the Buddhist dogma and focusing on things from a practical angle is also an option.

The reality is, practically speaking, that we must necessarily identify ourselves to others in some way if we are to live in the world. This same rule does not apply equally to a monk living in a monastery among other monks.

But I am not a monk. Have I considered it? Sure. But I am not a monk, and I cannot live my life as one.

Perhaps the middle road of labels should be taken as well- accept labels when they are useful, as in social situations, but do not sit around and twiddle your thumbs thinking about the label when you are not socially engaged. Labels are simply reference points of convenience; use them as such.

The preface being said, I’ll get to my point- under normal circumstances, someone might label me as being “progressive” or “liberal.” This holds especially true in south Alabama.

I found myself on the other side of the spectrum concerning a recent situation (early 2009) that happened in, of all places, the Episcopal Church. A woman Priest by the name of Ann Holmes Redding claimed to be both a Christian and a Muslim.

They defrocked her.

(Wait for it.)

AS THEY VERY WELL SHOULD HAVE!!!

There you are, the “conservative” statement that I was planning to make the whole time.

Whereas I feel that a person can identify with the Beauty, Truth, and Holiness of a given religious tradition that is not one’s own, and in many cases, one can adopt certain practices from that tradition and its culture that are congruent with one’s own, I think that it is also intellectually dishonest for someone who is a representative of a particular tradition and not merely a lay practitioner to try to represent multiple traditions.

The situation of the layman varies from this. Depending on the religious tradition, a layman may be able to practice more than one religious tradition. Layman represent the tradition, but not in the same way that the Priesthood does.

True, I think that the core of religious traditions are the same- the internal essence remains the same across most of them, the Holiness, Love, and Bliss that are God.

But think of it this way: Alabama elects Jane Doe to be our Senator, so she goes to the US Congress to represent Alabama.

Not Georgia.

Not Florida.

Not California

ALABAMA.

Now, some might argue that the political situation differs from the religious one, but the point I’m making is that this Priest came from a specific religious “territory” but was attempting to hypothetically represent two different religious “territories,” which in this case are separated by a wide gulf of theological opinions and commentary.

Another situation that is similar but offers a solution is the Kevin Thew Forrester, an Episcopal Bishop who has a decade-long history of practicing Zen Buddhist meditation. Having reading his statement on the matter, the difference is that Forrester was led full-circle to the mystics and contemplatives of the Christian Tradition; in essence, he took a method, found it in his own tradition, and went on his merry way. The so-called “lay ordination” he received merely means that the Buddhists recognize that he’s trying to alleviate suffering in the world, and what could be more Christ-like?

The difference is remarkable, as well- the Zen meditation isn’t exclusively owned by Buddhists, and that particular practice is not incompatible with Christianity, as meditation is a huge part of the Christian Tradition (unbeknownst to many Christians themselves who would argue otherwise.)

This is not about “my God is bigger than your God” or “my religion is better than your religion,” in case you’re wondering. Rather, it is a matter of integrity and consistency; it is a matter of the preservation of certain traditions that we already represent and finding fulfillment in our being representatives of that tradition without having to take on the traditions of others as well.

There. I’ve said my piece.


Memoirs of My Religion II

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Increasingly I found myself dissatisfied with Christianity and the exclusivist attitude that it had. For a long time, and I’m not sure exactly how long, I had this dire sense of unease growing inside of my that something about the way we approached the religion, something that was very, very important, was being overlooked.

In time, this urgency grew inside of me, and the smug attitude of Christians and the superiority complex mixed with the needless victim complex began to overwhelm and disgust me.

The original theological break with Christianity began one day when I sat in my 8th grade class and asked my Bible teacher a question.

“What happens to all the people of another religion, say, the Buddhists, who haven’t heard the Gospel or haven’t had a chance to hear the Gospel?”

Her response?

Said with a smile on her face: “They go to Hell.”

I argued, “But that isn’t fair; they have no chance, they don’t know about Jesus!”

To this she said, “God is not a FAIR God, God is a JUST God, so he gives them what they deserve. If Buddha had begun praying and said, ‘Hello, I know there’s a God out there,’ God would have revealed Himself to him.”

This was the first time I openly and blatantly disagreed with the teacher on the matter, the first time I had challenged Christian doctrine and teaching in any sort of way and began to search for myself the reality on the matter.

Until this time, I had begrudgingly accepted that this was simply the way that it was, but no more; that statement by my Bible teacher created the first true break that existed inside of me with Christianity.

Now, it is here, and everyone can see it as exactly how it happened.

Being trapped in an evangelical worldview, I had to search through the Scriptures desperately to try to understand salvation for people who would otherwise be considered so-called “unbelievers.” (We’ll address the presuppositions of worldviews in a later blog.)

This led me to read 1 John, which speaks of God’s love for us and essentially states that whoever had known Love has known God.

My theological perspective shifted to the notion that if someone has loved, experienced loved, and loved another person, then they have indeed experienced salvation, because otherwise, they would be unable to love.

Another influencing factor at this time, though not quite as large, was that my interest in Japan had essentially begun around this time. Japan’s religious affiliation is mostly in two religions- Shinto and Buddhism. The concept that the Japanese people as a whole, with their vivid culture and language, were somehow destined for an eternity in Hell did not set well with me.

At age 15, I began branching out. With access to the internet, I was able to read more and learn more about religion, Bible, and God.

A former friend recommended me to a few different sites, including web pages that spoke about astrotheology (the concept that our religions are ultimate based off of worship of the stars and planets; this is oversimplified but with suffice for now) along with sites on comparative religion, which show how the names of various deities and entities that have been worshiped in all ancient cultures etymologically overlap.

In addition, we ourselves argued; he was an atheist, I was a devout evangelical Christian. I suppose in this matter, he ended up winning out. Still, he was neurotic and disturbed in his own right, and I was an impressionable teenager looking for guidance from someone who did not assume the evangelical Christian worldview.

One such theological breakthrough came when I was told that miracles have happened in other religions. If miracles and accounts of healing can happen in other religions, it was, by my own reasoning, none other than the Holy Spirit who caused such miracles to happen; thus, if the Holy Spirit was able to act and function accordingly in other religions, then were they really wrong?

Naturally the first argument that someone would bring up is that these miracles happened by means of demons; yet the same accusation is made of Jesus according to the Scriptures, in which the Pharisees accuse Him of casting out devils in the name of the prince of devils.

Jesus’s response? A house divided against itself cannot stand.

For a while, I adopted the position that Jesus was another mere mythological figure and never actually existed. In time, this perspective has been amended, and I understand that the there is both a historical Christ and a mythological Christ.

My interests turned mainly to Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Eastern religions. So, too, did I take interest in Wicca and Neo-Paganism. A new conflict arose in the midst of these, but we’ll get to that in a future blog.

I was unaware of exactly how cult-like the behavior of evangelical Christians were until I tested the waters for myself and saw the backlash. Suddenly in church I was questioning things, pointing out parallels in other religions, and one day, while going over the lesson of “Other Religions and How They’re All Wrong,” I had enough when the Sunday school teacher said, “Every other religion except Christianity a cult.”

That did it for me! I was outraged, furious, that such a narrow-minded, ego-centric accusation would be thrust on other religions by a person who was acting as cult-like as any cultist.

When I expressed my opinions and pointed out parallels in terms of prophecies that exist in other religions written down way before Christianity, I was told to shut up, and that if I was going to go that church, I had to believe what that church believed.

…and every other religion except that one is a cult?!

Please.

That’s sufficient for the moment. Happy reading, and don’t worry about getting too passionate in reading my blogs; I get passionate writing these! We’ll continue with the happy memoirs in the next series of blogs. And please remember, this is just skimming over the top of things.

Beaux


Memoirs of My Religion I

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For the first five years of my life, I was raised Southern Baptist. The peculiarities of Baptist theology were not necessarily present at this time in my young mind; that is, the differences between Baptist theology and older Christian philosophies and positions did not stand out.

The theological view on things that I had was rather infantile. The basic idea is that if you were good, you would go to heaven, and if you were bad, you would go to hell. God, Jesus, and the Devil all existed, along with some mentioning of angels and less often, demons. Jesus was the Son of God, and that was about the extent of it.

The order of events at church wasn’t too intense. We went to the children’s Sunday school, then we went to Children’s Church, where we did some kind of craft and had juice and cookies.

At around age 5, we stopped going to church. That was actually quite fine with me- I had a Nintendo, and that meant more free time for me to play it.

Around age 6, the so-called Bible Story Ladies started coming to my Elementary School. This is where we were told stories about God and then we were compelled to ask Jesus into our heart, if we hadn’t already done so.

Think about that: at the age of 6, I was asking Jesus into my heart to save me from the eternal damnation that these women were telling me about.

I felt that believing in God was enough at this point, and that was what we were taught. I certainly didn’t believe that one had to attend church; that was inconsequential.

Around age 10, I started going to another church with some family members. This was an Assembly of God, a highly Pentecostal, fire-and-brimstone, fundamentalist, literalistic Christian church. The worship service was highly informal, and I never really cared for it.

My interests lay in studying the Bible and learning about theology. Always inquisitive (like my grandfather), always wanting to learn the abstractions of things, I asked questions, some of them a lot more challenging than the people at the church seemed to be used to. Thus, I often received answers, though many times they were not fulfilling and didn’t actually answer my question.

Bear in mind: this was before the days of the internet as we know it today. The kind of information on theology, etymology, liturgy, mysticism, and so forth that we have today was largely inaccessible in those days unless you had access to a good library, and being in a small town, that wasn’t going to happen.

One of the earliest and biggest intellectual hurdles I had when with Christianity was the doctrine (dogma?) of the Holy Trinity: for those of you who are not familiar with this particular central tenet of Christianity, the Holy Trinity entails that God exists as ONE GOD in THREE PERSONS: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. That is, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all ONE GOD but exist in THREE PERSONS. They are each consubstantial with one another but are not the same person.

I wrestled with this idea for years, because it was introduced to me later on, probably after I started going to church.

The image that had been presented to me as a child was much closer to the Jehovah’s Witness theology, believe it or not, and I’ve had other people say the same thing: God was our heavenly Father, Jesus was the Son of God (but not God Himself), and the Holy Spirit was the active presence of God’s Spirit on Earth. Not difficult.

Oh, but no. Suddenly that was not the case.

So one day when I innocently asked the question of why Jesus prayed to Himself in the Garden of Gethsamene, I was told, “He didn’t…He prayed to the Father.” I challenged this at some point because I was told that He and the Father were the same Person.

This is when a new bit of theology was thrown at me: I had already become comfortable with the illogical doctrine of the Trinity, only to suddenly be told that God the Father is still GOD, and that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are like Gods, but not God Himself because of how in tune with the Father they are.

Good…grief.

Also around this time, the local school took a trip to Washington, D.C., where one of our stops was the National Cathedral. I remember being completely in awe of the blue window with the rock from the moon in it, as well as seeing the nuns and the entire High Church set up. I swore for a long time that this was a Catholic church but came to realize it later on that it was an Episcopal/Anglican church.

The mistake came because I thought when we inquired about the pillows on the back of the pews that the nun told us that there was a lot of kneeling in Catholicism, but she had actually said, “There’s a lot of kneeling in Anglicanism.” Now I get it.

But most of all, I was curious about the altar- why was it behind railing? What was the altar used for? Was it merely a symbol? I don’t recall anyone ever answering the question at that time. I do remember I bought something called the Comic Book Bible from the store. I also remember going into the side chapels and how rude the nuns were- except our tour guide nun, who was quite friendly and helpful.

At age 12, I started attending Emmanuel Christian School, a highly evangelical private school in the local area. It was here that I learned huge chunks of evangelical theology and essentially became a fanatical, brain-washed, fundamentalist Christian myself.

I managed to drive most of the people around me crazy with my insane rantings and fanatical positions on Christianity. What few people realized was that my own compassion drove me to be crazy- I was deathly afraid that my family members and friends would not accept Jesus and consequently would burn in Hell. It wasn’t about me being right- it was about me making sure people that I loved didn’t go to Hell for all eternity.

Catholics, of course, were frowned upon. The only thing I can remember really hearing of them was that they “Pray to Mary,” and that we’re only supposedly to actually pray to God. These words had some kind of strange, Puritanical influence that I sensed even at an early age.

My mother also defended Catholics as much as she made the above statement; she said that she couldn’t believe that someone who was faithful and went to Mass everyday would end up in Hell, that it just didn’t make any sense, and I agreed.

One of my friends at church had a Catholic friend who said that they didn’t pray to Mary, and we told my Sunday school teacher that. She simply, “Well, all of them but your friend do.”

I think I misunderstood what they were implying when they said these things: I understood them to mean that there were prayers addressed to Mary, but never did I understand it to mean they exclusively addressed Mary, which is what they were actually saying.

In 7th Grade or so, I learned about the Catholic Sacraments in my Christian school. Naturally, we were taught how the Good and Noble Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli liberated the Holy Bible from those nasty Catholics and freed the Gospel for all people from their clutches. But at the same time, the Sacraments caught my attention.

Specifically, the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist- that the Bread and Wine become the actual Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, caught my attention. Something snapped in my head at that age, and something pushed inside of me to want to become Catholic.

At my podunk, backwoods church, I was ridiculed for saying this. I remember one person saying that the Catholics let you do anything- “You can get drunk, whatever. You saved!”

Ignorance is not pretty.

My mom’s advice? “You can’t just go become Catholic- you have to go to confirmation classes and such.”

I really wish I had pushed the issue at the time, but I didn’t.

Things changed heavily for me around age 14-15, and we’ll get into that in the next entry: there’s a lot of ground to cover.

Beaux