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Allen Domestic Church Homeschool Parenting Perspective from the Head Vocations

Courtship is not the Answer

I absolutely love the courtship approach to dating for my children, but it isn’t enough.  Courtship is the idea that young people should only enter into an exclusive relationship when they are ready to get married.  I have discussed in a previous blog post exactly what Dating with Purpose looks like, so go check it out for more details if you wish. In short, Courtship, or Dating with Purpose, establishes a set of guidelines or best practices that should be followed to avoid the near occasion for sin during dating and foster the right environment for two people with noble intentions to discern whether or not God is calling them to marry each other.

Family: Boot Camp for Healthy Relationships

healthy-familyThe building blocks for a successful marriage and family life are healthy relationships.  Indeed, the fundamental call of Christianity is to engage in healthy relationships with everyone we encounter on our journey through life.  When we are young, our relationships are immature, often characterized by extreme selfishness, also known as being childish.  If we don’t get our way, we throw a temper tantrum hoping that the person telling us “no” will be too embarrassed, too tired or too weak to stand their ground and thus give in and let us do what we want to do.  Most people grow out of this stage somewhere around age 7 or 8.  During the next few years leading up to adolescence, our goal is to teach our children, through the use of their new-found reason, to be obedient because it is the right thing to do.  We also teach them self mastery and respect for legitimate authority.  These basic skills are essential to building healthy relationships later in life as they search for their vocation (marriage or religious life).

We have a large family (nine children), so being selfish is just not a viable option for our children; we don’t have to do much to teach our children that they won’t always be able to get their own way.  There is not enough money, space or time to make everyone in our family happy.  I was raised in a much smaller family and thus it was easy for me to be selfish, and I was until I got married (and perhaps for even a few years into it).  Selfishness and marriage don’t go very well together.  Luckily God gave us children and the more children you have the less selfish you will be.  It is not impossible to teach selflessness within a small family, but you do have to make a plan and work at it, especially if you are financially blessed.

Desiring the Best for Another

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Photo by quinn.anya

Healthy relationships are not just important for your marriage, but are essential for leading a successful life.  It doesn’t matter if you like someone or not, you have to treat them with respect, even if the other person doesn’t try at all and may even be trying to take advantage of your kindness.  This is what we call being Christ like.  God loves us no matter what.  We can be mean to Him, ignore Him, hate Him or love Him, yet He will still love us and desire the best for us and treat us with respect.  We are called to do the same in the relationships we have with our brothers and sisters in the human race.  

couple arguing photo
Photo by soukeina.felicianne

We are called to be honest, truthful and have empathy for others, we are expected to do what we can to help them when they are having difficulties, and to rejoice with them when they have success.  We shouldn’t view other people’s success as threats to our own happiness.  There is plenty of success to go around for everyone.  What a world we would live in if everyone did their best to help other people achieve their full God given potential.  

Courtship is Not Enough 

So back to my main point: courtship is not sufficient to ensure a successful marriage or family life for our children; we must teach them to be good human beings first, to rejoice in the success of others, and to be confident in their own self worth as a child of God.  This may sound like a very tall order, but this is why God gave us the gift of family life.  The family is naturally designed to teach us how to have healthy relationships with other people.  

The Courtship model can be a way to help the potential spouses our children bring home encounter healthy relationships.  Unfortunately not every family seeks to raise well formed children and thus there are some who need to discover what a healthy relationship is when they are far beyond the age at which this should have been learned.  It is at this point that the whole family can be an agent of mercy to help the potential brother or sister in law to enter into a Christian way of life.  But there is nothing magical about this approach. There will be some suitors who find this way of living too odd or too difficult, but that is part of the beauty of the courtship process.  It is not up to your adult child to weed out every bad apple or redeem every lost soul; the rest of the family can help too.healthy-friendships

The goal of any dating or courtship relationship is to help your adult children find their spouse for life.  A successful marriage is much more than just good feelings and if the family is blessed with children (and perhaps lots of them) a healthy relationship between a husband and wife is even more important.  We never stop learning how to be a better person, or a better spouse or a better father or mother, family life ensures that this task of being a better Christian is a life long work in progress.  If we provide a good foundation for our children, their marriage and family will be stronger from the start and they will be better prepared to weather the storms of their family life.

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Allen Fatherhood Perspective from the Head

To Prom or Not to Prom

A few years ago around this time of year, I made an inquiry on my Facebook Status, “To Prom or not to Prom, that is the question”. I figured I might get a few responses, but after 36 comments over the course of 3 days from 21 different people, it seems there was no lack of opinions and interest in this subject. So I wrote a blog post about how we came to the decision for our oldest daughter.

The question I asked was not really fair to my friends, since I didn’t provide all the information required to really answer the question.

Based on the responses I received, it seems that there were two areas that people came from to make their recommendation, the event itself and the moral effect this event may have on my daughter and whether or not my daughter should go to a dance with a young man. In reality, both of these areas of concern were used to make our decision about whether our oldest daughter would attend the local high school prom with our neighbor’s oldest son.

A Partnership with our Daughter

I would like to begin by saying that our decision was made in partnership with our daughter, she was at the age where she had quite a bit of say in the activities in which she chose to participate, as her parents we provided guidance, and not ultimatums. Boundaries still exist and most are set by God and a few were set by us since she was still living in our home.

First of all I want to say that I am very proud of the young woman she has become and I have the utmost faith in her and her decisions. The question was never about whether or not she would attend the Prom and decide in one night to abandon her morality and rebel against us because she saw a different way of life and decided to embrace it. I certainly hoped we had done a good job of presenting Christianity and forming our children to be good Catholics. God is not some overbearing authority that says live this way or I will punish you; on the contrary, He presents us with a choice between life and death, between choosing God or choosing the world. We have hopefully taught our children that the good news proclaimed by Christ is freedom from sin and that this will lead to true happiness. We have confidence that the faith that we pledged to impart on our daughter at her baptism has been accepted by her as a young adult and that she not only embraces that faith, but also desires to bring light to those around her and share the good news of the gospel.

The Dangers of the Prom

high school prom photo
Photo by The Library of Virginia

The dance itself, while it may not cause my daughter to abandon her moral convictions, does need to be evaluated to determine if it is a good event to attend. For example, I would not attend a dance if the music being played was going to be offensive to my moral convictions. I would also not attend a dance if I could reasonably expect that the dancing would be lewd and sexually suggestive. I would also not attend a dance if those who were attending would be drinking excessively and thus acting as drunk people normally act. So there are certain events, through personal experience, that I would not attend because I would have concern for my own personal safety or my sense of decency would be insulted. I am sure each of you also can think of places or events that you would not partake in due to issues such as the ones listed above. Yes, it is a judgement call, and God made us this way, to judge whether or not something is good for us or not.

Based on personal accounts from friends who have been chaperones at this particular school’s proms in the past and based on the Prom Agreement Form, there must have been some pretty bad things happen at the Prom in the past including, use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs by participants, immodest dress, and inappropriate dancing (lap dances, bumping and grinding and any other movement that appears to simulate sexual acts), and indecent exposure and/or removal of under garments. (this was all prohibited in the school’s Prom Agreement that both parent and child were required to sign).

Dating, What is it Good For?

Our children do not do recreational dating. I know this is a very foreign idea to most people I know. It is not how I nor my wife was raised, we both dated and dated each other and got married. Today, dating is the normal way to meet your future spouse. There are some common questions/criticisms I hear when I tell people that our children will not date.

  • How will your children meet their future spouse?
  • Everyone dates, and so did you, why would you deny your child this part of normal life?
  • What, really? Why not? Thats weird.
  • When will your kids start dating?
  • Thats what you think now, you will change you mind later.
  • Dating is the only way you get to know people of the other gender.
  • Your kids will never get married.

We assure people that we do desire our children to meet members of the opposite gender, to get married (probably sooner than those who date) and have fulfilled lives despite their lack of participating in the dating game.

So why do we not wish for our children to date? The answer is that we believe that dating is not an activity that will produce the desired results while helping our children to avoid the near occasion of sin. While societal norms have strayed greatly from the moral teachings of Christ, we do hope that we have equipped our children to rise above the peer pressure that exists to the contrary.

dating photoWe believe that dating is practice for divorce. Think about it, you go out with someone for a period of time, if you are following God’s laws, you don’t get physically intimate with the other person, but most dating relationships today do involve quite a bit of physical intimacy, if not intercourse. So the couple gets emotionally involved, sometimes very involved and then at some point (since most young people date more than one person in their quest for a spouse) breakup and stop seeing each other. Feelings are hurt, friends are lost and the young people grieve or rejoice (depending on if they were dumped or were the dumper – note the common terminology used) and move on to the next person who they find attractive.

The common response to this criticism is that you need to play the field to get to know lots of different people so you can figure out what you like in someone you would like to marry. If you don’t shop around, you may not know what you are missing. This is a flawed understanding of courtship. Courtship is not living in a vacuum and not interacting with potential spouses, you do it on a regular basis. But you shop around with friends. You guard your heart and your physical intimacy so that your feelings don’t cloud your judgement. The Courtship model actually helps you to shop around more effectively. This mode of interacting with members of the opposite gender requires not only physical chastity, but also emotional chastity. Emotional chastity may be more difficult as it requires guarding your thoughts as well as your actions. But we can take solace in the words of Christ found in the Gospel that call us to observe the sixth commandment concerning adultery, but also to avoid lust in our hearts. If Jesus called us to live in this way, then the Holy Spirit will enable us to be successful.

For a more thorough explanation of our ideas on Dating, please see my two articles on this subject: Let’s Talk about Dating and How to Avoid Heartache in Dating.

 Go/No Go Decision

So we met with the young man and got to know him a little better. Even though we have been neighbors for a few years, we had not interacted with him or his family much prior to his Prom invitation. I spoke with him and shared our views on dating and emphasized that our children do not date in the traditional sense and thus if my daughter were to accompany him to Prom, that it would be as a friend. We also discussed the parameters in which he would need to agree to abide if he were to take my daughter to Prom (no after parties, no drinking, etc). I shared with him the obligation and duty I have to protect my daughters and sons from both physical and spiritual harm and my duty to protect their honor. I told him that if Rachel would go with him to Prom that he would be agreeing to take on this role for the evening. He listened attentively and agreed to do his best, and I have no reason to doubt his sincerity, so we gave our permission for our daughter to attend.

Closing Thoughts

While I felt comfortable that my daughter’s friend would keep his word, I also knew what it was like to be 18 and that sometimes it is hard to discern when a situation is making someone else uncomfortable. So I signed up to be an official chaperone at the Prom for the first two hours. I must emphasize that my being a chaperone is in no way a statement of mistrust of either my daughter or her friend. I did not spy on them while they were at the Prom, I observed the environment and did what I could to make sure that it was “family friendly” and free of the activity cited in the Prom Permission form. I sincerely hoped that my daughter would have a good time, and that it would be a positive experience for both of them (since neither has been to a Prom before). Our daughter had been to a homeschool formal before and had a great time, the coordinators of the Homeschool Formal consistently do a great job, they require dance lessons prior to the formal by all attendees, they have dance cards to ensure that no one feels left out and that everyone gets to meet people other than the person who escorted them to the formal, and most of the attendees are strong in their Christian morals. We look forward to their report and Rachel’s opinion on which formal event was better.

What are your thoughts on Prom? What have you done when faced with a similar situation?

Turns out my fears about the nature of the Prom were justified, I witnessed all the rules being broken, except for alcohol abuse (which may have occurred).  Please read my follow up article for all the sordid details.


For a great book on Christian Courtship, check out Christian Courtship in an Oversexed World

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Books Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Misty Reviews Sacraments Vocations

Movie Review: “Old Fashioned” Is a Beautiful Modern Love Story

Old Fashioned tells the story of Clay and Amber, two very flawed people who are trying romance God's way this time.
Old Fashioned tells the story of Clay and Amber, two very flawed people trying to find their beloved God’s way this time.

It’s Valentine’s Day weekend and you’re so excited to see the latest romantic movie! Should you see the much-anticipated porno so graphic the female lead doesn’t want her parents to see it? And whose male lead felt so dirty while researching his part that he had to shower before touching his wife and children?

Or do you see Old Fashioned, a new romantic film you will not only want to share with your spouse, but with your teenage children, too? And probably own and rewatch several times?

I previewed Old Fashioned about a month ago, and am recommending that every Christian–indeed, every person who still believes in true love–to see it in theaters as soon as possible. (Visit this link for theaters and tickets.) The movie tells the story of Clay Walsh (Rik Swartzwelder), a former frat boy once infamous for his reckless and sex-drenched carousing. Having now given his life to God, Clay spends his days running an antique shop in a small Midwestern town, where he notoriously shares his lofty and outdated theories on love and romance with anyone who will listen.

"Mr. Walsh, the world wants to know: 'When are you going to kiss her?'"
“Mr. Walsh, the world wants to know: ‘When are you going to kiss her?'”

Then Amber Hewson (Elizabeth Ann Roberts) drifts into town and rents the apartment above Clay’s shop. This free-spirited young woman with a restless soul finds herself surprisingly intrigued by her new landlord’s faith and noble ideas–and by him. And though Clay tries to fight his own attraction to Amber, he can’t help but be drawn to her spontaneous and passionate embrace of life.

As Clay learns, though, there’s a world of difference between avoiding sexual sin in theory…and actually living God’s glorious plan of chastity out with a beautiful, flesh-and-blood woman before you. Amber, too, must overcome her fears and old habits of relating to men. Together, Clay and Amber attempt the impossible: an “old-fashioned” and God-honoring courtship in contemporary America.

I love wholesome movies, but far too many “Christian”-themed films fall prey to sounding forced and preachy. The Christians tend to be whitewashed, too, along with their minor, often inconsequential problems. And God knows they never have existential crises of faith! The result is usually a film that preaches to the choir (and even then, not too effectively). And that is so self-consciously overbearing that it comes across as condescending and off-putting to non-Christians.

I was pleased that Old Fashioned avoided these pitfalls. While Clay can sound preachy at times when he shares his romantic wisdom with Amber and friends, you can’t help but sense that this avowed Christian is deeply flawed and trying to save himself more than anyone else. Swartzwelder brilliantly presents an honorable yet deeply lonely man, whose faith hasn’t lessened the guilt he still bears over sexually abusing women in his youth. Like so many of us, Clay yearns for love, but has to be convinced he deserves it.

Elizabeth Ann Roberts is radiant as Amber.
Elizabeth Ann Roberts is radiant as Amber.

Roberts is absolutely luminous in her role as Amber. Deeply wounded by her past relationships, Amber nonetheless has a joie de vivre and spiritual openness about her that makes her interest in Clay and his faith entirely believable. That’s one of the best things about Old Fashioned, in fact: the characters are entirely credible. No plastic, one-dimensional caricatures here. I like, too, that supporting roles are comprised mostly of likable, authentic characters who are on their own spiritual journey, just as Clay and Amber are.

Old Fashioned isn’t your typical Hollywood fare. The couple doesn’t have sex or even make out. There are no whips and chains, unless you count the sins and wounds that make Clay and Amber so convincing as people and as a couple. Love is patient, love is kind…love is Old Fashioned. Go see it while it’s in theaters–and send a message to Hollywood that true chivalry–and true love–are making a comeback!

 

 

 

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Allen Domestic Church Perspective from the Head

Dating with Purpose

What is the Goal of Dating?

Most of us have grown up with dating being a part of our lives or a part of the lives of people we know and love.  When we think of dating many may consider it to be an integral part of finding a spouse and for the most part that is what it used to be and perhaps our society has lost sight of that end goal in the past 20 years.  Today it seems that dating has evolved into a purely recreational activity with no clear goal in mind.  Maybe it could best be described as a game that two people play where they are both trying to figure out what the other person’s goals for the relationship are.  I propose that dating needs an overhaul, a redirection of sorts back to the goal that each young Christian should be aiming for, the discovery of their vocation.

What’s Wrong with Dating?

So why mess with the cultural norm of dating? It’s all fun and games, it is a necessary rite of passage, is the normal way to find your spouse and we all did it when we were young and we turned out just fine, right?  Well, I am not much for quoting studies, but currently about 50% of marriages end in divorce, and many couples today are not even opting to enter a marriage.  I have also observed that people who are in a dating relationship seem to be very happy at first, but then relationship drama sets in with ups and downs, friends gossiping, suspicion about fidelity and finally someone ends the relationship leaving the other person feeling rejected. Dating has become less of a search for marriage and more of a game played where there are winners and losers.  Too often it is more about how much you can get for yourself before getting hurt than what is best for all parties involved.  Avery Utz, a high school senior in Round Rock, TX, said the following, “I have found that relationships during high school are very trivial, unromantic and seemingly pointless, as in they have no goal. Kids just date to date, using it as a social status and not realizing the real purpose.”

What we need is a return to the original purpose of dating, therefore I am issuing a call to all parents to assist our youth in taking a more mature approach to finding their spouse.  There are few more important tasks that we can undertake as parents.  Our child is looking not only for their future spouse, but a new member of our family, and the mother or father of our grandchildren.  While many of you might be thinking that your youth may not want your help with such a personal part of their life, this is simply not true in our experience.  Our teenage son and daughters have each sought our advice and assistance in navigating the complex waters of relationships. As our children grow older, entering into the teenage years, they have a natural desire to find someone to love and someone to love them back, unfortunately our societal structures have delayed the age of marriage to much later in life, and so our teenagers need to exercise the cardinal virtue of temperance and the secular virtue of patience.

What are the Benefits of Dating with Purpose?

The benefits of Dating with Purpose is that you get to approach potentially the most important relationship of your life with honesty, clarity, respect and maturity.  Imagine if you will, a relationship built on friendship where the two people approach each other without ulterior motives.  Each person views the other with all the dignity that comes with being made in the image of God.  They approach each other not for what the other person can do for them, but for what they can do to assist each other in achieving the plan God has for their lives.  That is a very mature way to approach a relationship, and not something that is seen very often in our society, but it is sorely needed.  When most movies, TV shows, and music portray love as purely based on feelings and what the other person can do for me, a mature selfless love is needed in order to transform our society into the City of God.  It is not impossible, in fact, it is essential to our happiness and success in relationships. Even if a relationship doesn’t end up in marriage, it should help both individuals grow closer to God and to transform themselves into that image of God in which we are all made.

The first phase of any relationship is one that is purely based on a Christian friendship.  One with a guarded emotional attachment and without any sort of romantic intimacy.  This initial phase of the relationship is critical to setting a solid foundation.  I have seen too many relationships that skipped this phase and jumped straight into heavy emotional attachment and frequently physical intimacy as well.  When the romantic feelings waned for one person in the relationship, they believe that because the feeling is no longer present that this must not be the “right person” and the romance quickly ends with many hurt feelings. Marriage, the ultimate goal in dating with purpose, is a relationship based on a decision to love for better, for worse, in sickness, in health, for richer, for poorer and thus we will not always feel like we love the other person, but because our relationship is not based solely on the way we feel or what the other person can do for us, we are able to work through those dry times. Dating with purpose is practice for marriage, it is an exercise in self control and true love for another person without expecting anything in return.  On the contrary, dating without purpose is practice for divorce (many failed relationships built on selfishness and a “what have you done for me lately” attitude).

friends
Photo by Victoria Hebert

When Should a Young Person Begin Dating?

One of the traditional teachings of Christianity is to avoid the near occasion of sin.  This makes sense even at the purely secular level, if you have a tendency to fall into a particular sin, you should avoid situations or people who may make it easier for you to commit a transgression.  With this good advice in mind, we now venture into the very practical question of when is it appropriate to begin dating.  I would propose that there is no lower age limit, but once you ponder the following conditions for dating, you will likely set the age a bit higher than most people you know.  To enter into a dating relationship prior to meeting the following conditions would put one or both individuals in the near occasion of sexual sin because of a prolonged dating relationship with marriage being an option at an undetermined time in the future.  Dating with Purpose should be entered into with a realistic timeframe for determining if God is calling the two people to marry each other.  If during this discernment period one party hears God speaking very clearly that this is not the person, that should be discussed openly and honestly with the other individual and perhaps any marriage mentor couples that may be assisting you during this discernment period.

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Photo by Sunday’s Child

Discerning your Vocation

The first condition is that the young person has prayerfully discerned that they are called to the married life.  Obviously, to discern a call to the married life, one must have a firm relationship with the Lord and have a consistent life of prayer and contemplation.  I have heard it said that you should give God first dibbs.  In other words, you should offer yourself to God completely and see if indeed he is calling you to serve him with your whole being as a member of a Religious Community or as a Priest.  This really is a beautiful way to approach your vocation, there is no shame if you discern that God isn’t calling you to be a worker in the vineyard, in fact most people are not called to the consecrated life.  When we enter into this intimate dialog with the Lord, it will only serve to draw us closer to Him and equip us to be better individuals and spouses.  If you discern that God is calling you to the Married life, then you are ready for step two.

Are you Ready to Get Married

Discerning might be the easy part of this process, the next step is to take a mature look at where you are in your life and determine if you are mentally, spiritually and economically ready to get married and provide for your family.  Marriage is a life full of responsibilities, for a majority of teenagers and young adults, they have relied on someone else to provide for life’s necessities and at some point, they will need to take over that responsibility for themselves.  No one else can really judge this for them, there are many people from whom they may seek advice, but in the end this is a very personal decision.  It is beyond the scope of this article to delve into the decision tree involved in deciding if someone is ready to leave the nest and be self sufficient.

Finding the Right Person

After you have discerned that you are called to the noble vocation of marriage and you are pretty sure that you are ready to undertake this high calling in the immediate future, what now?  You must have developed a friendship with a member of the opposite sex (I did say this was Christian relationship right?), and there should be a mutual interest in discerning marriage together.  If you don’t have any friends that you would consider marrying or would consider marrying you, then don’t stress over it and double down in your prayer life and perhaps get involved in some different social activities that may help you to find the person God has picked out for you and perhaps revisit the religious life and see if you missed something in your initial discernment, when it comes to discernment, no one is perfect.  In the end, God has a perfect plan for your life, and you will find true joy and peace when you follow His plan instead of your own.

Blues Dancing
Photo by Samuel Chang

Here are a couple of quotes written by my 16 year old daughter, Victoria Hebert, and a link to a great video about true love.  I believe that our young people desire more than what the culture is offering, they long for authentic love and their hearts are restless until they find it.

“Everyone was made by love, to love and to be loved. It’s a truly beautiful God given desire. We all long for that love. It is important to seek this love in Christ before anyone else. You can never put someone, or something above your relationship with Christ. To love the way He did, is to put others before yourself, that is selfless love.”
“We as humans, all have this tendency to place our trust in others. To truly love someone, is to trust that they won’t hurt you. You should always guard your heart. No man will be worthy of your love until he puts a ring on your finger. You must die to your spouse, every day. Laying down your life for another. That crucifixion like love.”

A CRUCIFIXION TYPE LOVE

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Apologetics Conversion Ecumenism Evangelization Faith Formation Testimonials Tiffany P

Going AWOL Out of The Christian Civil War: How My Desire for Christian Unity Lead Me Home to The Catholic Church (Part 2))

In the first part of my “coming home” story, I described how my Christian life began and how, only a few years later, God began to place a burden on my heart for the lack of unity within the Christian family. If you missed the Part 1, you can read it here.

This dissatisfaction I felt with the existence of multiple Christian denominations, and the understanding that this was not what God had in mind for his family, nagged me through the months that followed high school graduation. As I mentioned in the previous post, I left behind the Baptist church I grew up in, and became a member of a non-denominational church, as I felt this was the best solution for refusing the divisions created by man. The concept of “denominations” was what I had become adamantly against, and this church did not claim a title.

At this point, the Catholic Church was the furthest thing from my mind as an option I would consider.  The only words I ever heard spoken about the Catholic Church were in a negative manner by non-Catholic friends and church leaders, who claimed that very few Catholics, save the Catholics who didn’t believe most of Church Teaching, were going to Heaven due to their lack of relationship with God, worship of Mary and the saints, the ungodly practice of keeping Jesus on the cross, and a host of other allegedly unbiblical doctrines. I had even read a book, provided to me by my non-denominational young adult group that described “facts” on “false teachings”. Amongst Hinduism and Islam was a chapter on  Roman Catholicism, which explained all the reasons why it is clearly unbiblical, a false religion created by deceptive men. If I had this book in my possession now, I am confident that I could point out all the flaws in the author’s presentation of Church Teaching and use of Scripture, but I regress.

It was at this point in my life in which God chose to introduce to me my future husband. God’s perfect timing turned out to be the August after I graduated high school. I had chosen not to date anyone unless I could see myself marrying them, in which case we would explore the possibility of marriage. As Jordan pursued me, I felt a peace about opening my heart to a courtship with him. He met every quality on my future husband “list”, with the exception of one: he was not a Baptist or a non-denominational, but Catholic.

Jordan was raised Catholic, but at the time we met he did not have a strong passion for his faith. He knew the basics of what he was taught growing up, and for the most part attended mass weekly, but this was ultimately the extent of his Catholic devotion. However, he spoke often about praying for our relationship and exhibited fruits in his life that made me confident he was growing in the Lord, “in spite” of being a Catholic. As we became serious and it became knowledge to both of us that we would one day be married, he readily attended church and weekly Bible study with me without ever involving Catholicism in our relationship. I figured that we would simply continue to go to church there and non-denominational Christianity is the faith in which we would raise our future children.

A few months later, in a stunning plot twist, Jordan began to get more and more enthusiastic about the Catholic Church. It seemed to happen overnight. One day he was at church with me, seemingly soaking in the charismatic worship and Protestant sermon, and the next he was talking about going to mass, reading Catholic apologetics books, and meeting with a priest for discussion. I was completely caught off guard by this sudden devotion, and I was scared; Jordan was my best friend and accountability partner, and I honestly felt that he was getting caught up in a deceptive religion that kept souls from experiencing freedom in Christ. I expressed my concerns with him, and he told me things that seemed completely off the wall and terrifyingly untrue: Mary is available to pray for us and intercedes for us in the same way a friend on Earth might. The Lord’s Supper in a Catholic Church is not a symbolic memorial service, but the true flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. Speaking of Jesus Christ, he founded the Catholic Church.

I challenged everything he said. I demanded Scriptures (and learned that, indeed, my belief that everything must be written in the Bible is not found in the Scriptures!). I brought up Catholic doctrines that I thought were wrong, and he was able to provide a sound explanation of each, through Scripture, through history, and through applying my understanding of God’s character and nature. But I would not be deceived. I knew what I had always been told about the Catholic Church, and I was sticking to that.

This was a very hard time in our relationship. We argued and debated about theology often and as a result, God became a touchy topic that was often avoided. Though he still came to church and Bible study with me, he adamantly refused to miss mass. One day at church he passed on participating in the Lord’s Supper, telling me it was contrary to his beliefs that Jesus was speaking literally when he said “this is my body”.  I cried the rest of the day.

Several times I considered ending the relationship, but I never felt a peace about it. I felt God speaking to me that I should wait out the storm, and one day this would no longer be a barrier between us. I took this to mean that Jordan would see the errors in the Catholic faith and leave this religion behind. I earnestly prayed day and night. I fasted and prayed. I had others in my church pray. I prayed that we would both find Truth, even if it was contrary to the way one of us was always taught.  Additionally, I took the same approach of John Henry Newman and sought to become an expert in the history of early Christianity so I could use that information to disprove the assertion that the early Christians were Catholic in belief and worship practices.

That was the beginning of the end of my days as a “non-denominational”. As John Henry Newman said at the end of his own research, “to be deep into history is to cease to be a Protestant”.

The historical facts could not be denied. The early Christian Church was not just an unstructured group of men playing songs on a guitar and talking about how much they love God, as I once thought. It was a Church with structured leadership, beginning with Peter, to whom Jesus gave the “keys to the Kingdom of Heaven”, and the authority to “bind and loose”. (Mt. 16:18,19) I learned that “keys” were a sign of authority, signifying that an office was being created; one that is bigger than the current holder, and would continue after that person died. I learned that historical writings from the earliest Christians showed that the beliefs of the first Christian Church were the beliefs still held by the Catholic Church today. I found that my passion against man-made denominations was actually a very Catholic viewpoint, as denominations were indeed created by man, a response to refusing the role of the Catholic Church as the authority of Christ.

I can still recall the night all my studies of history and re-evaluation of certain Scriptures fell into place, and I realized the answer for refusing the Christian civil war. My blood went ice cold at first, and then warm, as words of realization spoke to my spirit: Christian unity cannot be possible without a single, binding Teaching office. Private interpretation of Scripture leads to different conclusions, which leads to different churches and denominations, which creates disunity. This is why Christ gave us a Church, divinely guided by His Spirit, to preserve the Truth of God’s Word. And as history shows, that Church IS the Catholic Church.

At that moment, I ceased to be a Protestant. I did not know everything the Church taught, and some of what the Church taught I was still skeptical on (it took some time before I had enough faith to believe Christ was truly present in the Eucharist). But that didn’t matter: in choosing to come into the Catholic Church, I was saying “I don’t know everything, and there are some things I am inclined to disagree with. But if I disagree, it is not because the problem lies with the Church—it is because the problem lies with me and my private understanding of Scripture.”  The one thing I knew for certain, and the only thing that mattered, was that the Catholic Church is the only Church established by Christ and not man, and it’s in this divinely guided Church where the fullness of Truth and Christian unity lives.

It was scary to leave the only type of Christianity I had ever known. I experienced a “culture shock” of sorts, and wondered if I would ever truly feel at home in such different surroundings. Additionally, I lost a few friends who felt betrayed by my choice to become Catholic. They did not experience the same change of heart as I and still believed I was being misled. Many people thought I became Catholic simply for a boy. A friend of mine was told by a leader in her church that I allowed my love for Jordan cloud my spiritual judgment. However, I would be willing to stand before my Lord, look Him in the eye, and say with honest conviction that my decision was based solely on a realization of Truth, after a close study of Scripture and history. Jordan and I were both on paths to the Truth, and I like to say we found it together. It was because of me exposing him to an alternate Christian perspective that he began to look deeper into the Church, and it was because he challenged my beliefs that I felt the need to seek Truth.

Jordan and I began RCIA classes in September 2008, me as a baptized Christian and him as a Catholic update. On April 11, 2009, I received the sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist, entering into full Communion with the Catholic Church. In the years since, we have served as sponsors in RCIA, helping guide other people to the beautiful, Christ instituted sacraments. This is because four years ago, as an anti-Catholic evangelical Protestant, I asked God to help me reunify the Body of Christ. At that time, I didn’t know where to start, but now I do.

In order for us to worship as one, we all need to be  home. Christians of all faith communities need to return to the home Christ built for us 2000 years ago. That home is the Catholic Church.

“Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the catholic Church”

–Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D