Categories
Addie Ink Slingers Mary

Mary, My Mother

 

Sobbing in my car, I heard myself scream, “I can’t do this!  I don’t know how to be a mother!” I was in my late twenties and expecting our first son.  At that time, I was working about twelve hours a day at a job I loved, and I couldn’t stop worrying about how my life would change after I gave birth.  I had never thought of myself as “maternal,” at least not in the stereotypical way; I never babysat as a teenager, I didn’t gush over babies the way my friends did.  For that matter, I had never even changed a diaper! My wonderful husband and I had been married for four years, and had decided it was time to start our family. But now I doubted myself…would I be a good mother?  

I felt deeply ashamed, and I was afraid to talk to any of my girlfriends about my worries.  Out of desperation, I called my trusted friend, Father Jim, who had been my pastor at a previous parish.  After listening to my concerns, he asked, “Have you talked to our Blessed Mother about this?”

Well, um…no.  I was raised “Batholic” – half Catholic and half Baptist.  I had embraced Catholicism as a teenager, but I never quite got on the Mary bandwagon.  While I connected with so many of the traditions of the Church, Marian devotion was not one of them.  It seemed a little weird to me, and perhaps even idolatrous; why should we put that much emphasis on Mary, when we could just go straight to Jesus, right?   

Later that week, I received a letter from Father Jim.  In it, he enclosed a prayer card with an image of the Visitation, an obviously pregnant Mary with her cousin Elizabeth, who was also expecting John the Baptist.  Father Jim encouraged me and asked me to consider praying the Rosary regularly.

Dutifully, I found my Rosary and started praying it every day on my half hour drive to work.  It was somewhat awkward at first, as I struggled to remember which mysteries were which, and had to read the Hail Holy Queen from a prayer card.  Within a couple of weeks, though, I settled into a routine, and prayed daily with intention and ease. I started to feel like I had a real friend in the Blessed Mother.  I began to feel her presence with me as we prayed together to her Son. I grew comfortable asking her to intercede for me to the Father. And several months later, I turned to her when I was in labor.  During those seemingly endless twenty-three hours, I frequently meditated on the mysteries of the Rosary. I knew my Heavenly Mother had been by my side during my pregnancy, and I could feel her presence during those wee hours, too.

St. John Paul the Great implored us, “Turn to Mary most holy, your heavenly Mother; pray to her with fervor, especially by means of the rosary; invoke her daily, in order to be authentic imitators of Christ in our day.”*  We further learn from the Catechism, “‘The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship…From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs…This very special devotion…differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration.'”**  Rather that detracting from Christ, true devotion to Mary always draws us closer to her Son. Our Blessed Mother was our Lord’s first and most faithful disciple; of course it would only please her to serve as a lens through which we see her Son more clearly.

If you haven’t yet embraced Marian devotion, may I gently encourage you to do so?  During this month of the Rosary, start small with just one decade, reflecting with Mary on one Gospel mystery, and gradually add in more decades.  I am not always faithful in praying the Rosary regularly, but when I do, I always find myself more at peace, and closer to Christ.

 

* “Mondays with Mary” (Tom Perna)

https://tomperna.org/2014/10/06/mondays-with-mary-pope-st-john-paul-ii-on-our-lady-of-the-rosary/

** Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 971 http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a9p6.htm

Categories
Apologetics Communion Conversion Doctrine Ecumenism Faith Formation Sacred Scripture Spiritual Growth Testimonials Tiffany P

Understanding Catholicism with Baptist Theology

The Baptist faith community where I grew up deserves most of the credit for making me into the Christian I am today. It was there that I was first introduced to God and His immense love for me, that I learned to faithfully commit myself to the study of Sacred Scripture, and it is where my relationship with God truly began and developed. While this faith community did not contain the fullness of Truth that is found in the one Church established by Christ, the majority of what they taught me was truthful and good. As such, certain truths that I was taught over and over again as a young Baptist helped me take a step further and apply those truths to the Catholic Church, enabling me to better understand her Teachings. There are three that stand out to me the most. While the majority of Baptists will disagree with these three Teachings, I have found that I could not rationally accept the things that they taught me, which I still hold to be true, and yet deny what the Catholic Church further Teaches on those matters.

Accountability Partners

As a teen in the Baptist youth group, we were always encouraged to find what they called an “accountability partner”. This would ideally be a fellow teen in the youth group who can be an encouragement to us in our day to day lives outside of church. We would intercede on each other’s behalf in prayer, and keep each other on the straight and narrow path by holding one another accountable for their actions and protecting each other from the temptation to sin. Additionally, we had “Sunday School”–small Bible study groups that met Sunday mornings before worship. Each group was lead by an adult: older and more experienced Christians who can look to as role model, bringing to them our struggles and prayer requests.

All of this was rooted in Scriptures such as Matthew 18:20, which states “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”, and many others which stress the importance of Christian community and solidarity in prayer.  When I later began my study into the Catholic Church,  I learned that not only does she agree, but she goes further to include the Christians in Heaven in this community of fellowship, encouragement, and prayer. Based on everything they taught me, I could not reject this Truth. I was always told that Catholics idolize the saints because they pray for their intercessions, and seek to model their lives after them. Yet, the same people taught me that Christian accountability and role models are crucial to our faith. Another argument they had against the Christians in Heaven is that we should not talk to the dead, but they taught me that through Christ, saved Christians experience eternal LIFE in Heaven, a place that is separate from Earth and all its limitations.  I can say with confidence that my Baptist upbringing has strengthened my devotion to communion with the saints–my heavenly accountability partners.

The Infallibility of that which is Divinely Guided

In my experience, Baptists have a strong and admirable devotion to Scripture, and it is heavily impressed upon all believers to spend daily quiet time in the Word. This is because of their (Truthful) belief that the Bible is God-inspired and and God-breathed. They taught me that although the Bible was written by flawed men of sinful nature, its words are inerrant because the Holy Spirit inspired the writing. The sins of the writers, therefore, do not negate the authority of the Scriptures. I accepted this explanation as True, and I still do.

When I first learned that the Catholic Church claimed to be the authority of Christ, divinely guided by the Holy Spirit and infallible in her Teachings on faith and morals, like most Protestants my immediate reaction was furious dissent. “There cannot be a perfect Church”, thought I, “because there are no perfect people!” But that is not what I was always taught; the Holy Spirit can and has guided imperfect men to produce something perfect and authoritative. Why then would I limit God so to say that He can only guide writers, and not an established Church? Why would the Holy Spirit be able to move God’s Word in the written form, but not also orally?

The men who lead Church throughout history and today are imperfect and have committed grave sins while in ministry. But just as the sins of St. Paul do not negate the infallibility of His letters in the New Testament, neither does the mistakes made by Catholic leaders negate the infallibility of the Church and its role as authority of Christ.

A New Creation in Christ

As I came to accept the Catholic Church as True and began my journey into full communion with her, the hardest pill for me to swallow was the belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This is understandable as I had spent my whole life believing that Christ was speaking metaphorically when He said, “This is my body”, and the Lord’s Supper was meant only to be a symbolic memorial service. It did not make sense to me how a piece of bread and cup of wine could contain all the elements of Christ after only a prayer. It still looked like bread and wine, tasted like bread and wine, and nothing about its substance visibly changed. It just didn’t make sense. I believed it to be True because I believed the Church to be divinely guided by Christ, and I acknowledged that history shows this is what Christians believed for 2,000 years, but I remained skeptical in spite of myself.

It finally clicked one day when I drew to mind my Baptist youth and all they taught me about new creations in Christ. Baptists believe that when one realizes their need for Christ and surrenders their life to Him, that in that moment they are “saved” once and for all. While this is not in accordance with Catholic doctrine, which Teaches that our Christian lives comprise of a series of ups, downs, and milestones as opposed to one, single moment, there was a part of this Baptist belief that was True and that was stressed: when one repents and turns to God, he or she becomes literally a new creation in Christ. They taught this based on 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here“. We told again and again that at the moment of repentance, the entire essence of our being is changed. “You look the same, and you smell, sound, and feel the same; you are still comprised of the same substance. But you are not the same–you have been made into something completely different!”, pastors, youth ministers, and other leaders said.

Upon remembering this, there was no longer any doubt in my mind that Christ was really present in the Eucharist, that which was once mere bread and wine. I still held to be true what I was taught by faithful, godly Baptist Christians that Christ has the ability to take one thing, keep it the same in appearance and substance while transforming it into something brand new–a literal new creation that is made of Christ.

At times I am confronted with old friends and acquaintances from the Baptist church of my youth; they are curious what lead me to the Catholic Church, which they still believe to be false or mislead in certain areas. My answer is this: I am Catholic because of Baptist theology, and all that it instilled in me.