Saturday, March 3, 2012

We're on the Same Team! What This Catholic Would Say to a Protestant

My husband and I had a date last night. We went to the Winter Jam, a huge concert given by various Christian artists, this year's location was the FedEx Forum. It was packed. My husband remarked that there were more people there than at the Grizzlies game he attended last week. As I sat there and watched this amazing multimedia presentation unfold throughout the night I was reminded why I love my protestant brothers and sisters so much. Every band, singer, and speaker was sincerely passionate about reaching every soul in that stadium with the gospel, and the message that God is here, God loves them, and they have a purpose in this life. They were husbands and wives, men and women, dancing and singing their hearts out all for the hope of reaching souls.

Even though some of the music was not my taste, I could still acknowledge there was true artistry there, and that a lot of work had been put into the entire performance. Why? For the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

I have been in many different circles of people. In some more recent years I have encountered catholics who sometimes see protestants as their enemies. I have also encountered protestants who entirely misunderstand catholics. Neither of which ever take the time to get to know each other. I had, perhaps, a unique upbringing. I was raised catholic by my mother who was totally committed to Jesus, his mother, and the Catholic Church. But my father is not catholic so I was surrounded by protestant groups as well. I never once considered any of these Christians, my enemies. They formed me in character, gave me a passion for worship, scripture, and were beautiful examples to me of humble service and the true joy of following Christ. I came up with a little list here, of common misconceptions I have heard on both sides.

10 Misconceptions of Protestants and Catholics

1. "Catholics worship Mary." We do NOT worship Mary. We know worship is only due to God. We honor and love her, but know she is a human being. A human being endowed with a tremendous amount of grace, but still, human. Do you give flowers to your mother? Call her at midnight and plead with her to pray for you?  Do you think when Jesus said at the cross, "Son, behold your mother." He was just taking care of some last minute death preparations? Was the Angel Gabriel just being nice when he said "Hail, full of grace"? (or in some protestant translations, "highly favored")

2. "Protestants don't listen and aren't willing to learn from us." I beg to differ. I know many protestants who are humble and very willing to listen.

3. "Catholics don't believe in having a personal relationship with Jesus." False. Let me be rightly understood, CATHOLICS LOVE JESUS! Every time we receive him at Mass we make a personal "recommittment" to him. We know he is the only one who can make us holy. We could learn something though from protestants about being more vocal with that belief.

4. "We can learn nothing from Protestants." Again, I beg to differ. Have you ever heard a protestant talk about Sacred Scripture? Have you seen their ability to evangelize? Have you ever experienced the infectious excitement and passion they have about serving God? How they use the arts to give glory to God and reach souls?

5. "Catholics don't read scripture." The first half of the mass is focused on scripture. We read from the Old Testament first, then we read a Psalm, then a reading from one of the Epistles, then we stand (out of respect) for a reading from the Gospels. THEN the priest talks about these scripture readings. Then every other part of the mass either refers to scripture or is taken from it. Do you read this much scripture in one service? Some catholics go to Mass only on Sunday but many go every day or at least several times a week, and if they don't, read the daily readings from it on their own.

6. "Protestants don't have a sense of the sacred." I have witnessed many protestants falling on their knees in worship with a profound sense of the majesty of God.

7. "Catholics worship the saints." Again, NOT worship. They are our big brothers and sisters in Christ (that 'great cloud of witnesses', Heb. 12:1) cheering us on from the other side, influencing us, inspiring us, and yes, interceding for us before the throne of God. What looks like worship is called veneration. We honor God by honoring his holy people. We ask for their prayers just like we ask our own family to pray for us on earth.

8. "Protestants are arrogant." Some of the humblest people I know, are protestants. If someone is truly steeped in scripture, and many protestants are, he or she is likely to be steeped in virtue.

9. "Catholics are not saved." Where in the Bible, exactly, does it say that anyone who does not say the sinner's prayer, is not saved? It does say you have to profess and believe he is God and savior, and be baptized all of which, we do. It also says you have to work out your salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12) Yes, I am a catholic and I just quoted scripture! Watch me do it again, faith without works is dead, James 2:14-17.

St. Paul said we are saved by faith (Martin Luther added the 'alone' part) Catholics believe we are saved by faith working through love. We can all agree we are saved by the grace of God.

10. "The Holy Spirit is not working in protestant communities." This is just silly. God is not limited to our limited hearts and minds. He works where anyone is willing and in any circumstance where there is an open heart.

It's funny, I took my children to mass yesterday but my 5 year old who is going to school right now was not with us, and even though he is a little difficult to handle in public sometimes, every time we go out it doesn't feel quite right. I miss his presence. Our family unit is lacking. That particular facet of the Image of God that our family portrays, is missing. This is how I feel about my protestant brothers and sisters. They have gifts that we catholics are missing and need so much. There are also treasures in the Catholic Church, buried deep in years of beautiful tradition that  protestants have never discovered or experienced. But the bottom line is, we were not meant to be apart, like any broken family, we have our differences, but one day I know those differences won't matter. They will melt away. Because all we will have is each other and our common ground will become the only solid ground there is.

If I could have spoken with those young men and women on stage last night I would have said "I am excited about your passion to reach these hearts! I am humbled by your humility and faith! I give glory to God for the good you are doing here!"

And that is what this catholic would say to a protestant.


  1. Having a Catholic bookstore in Nashville, which is about 7% Catholic, I completely understand and love this post. There is no us and them. We welcome, we love and we definitely feed one another. We all bring what we have to the table and there we find the exact same God who loves us all. Wonderful post! I also love the analogy about the missing piece. I feel that way quite often.

  2. I just discovered your blog from the "New Catholic Blogs" feed.

    I agree completely with the misconceptions as you have listed them. The "Catholics are not saved" one always bugs me, I don't understand how people can think that way.

  3. I clicked over from Cari's blog. Love this post! As an adult convert, I don't quite have an embedded us vs them mentality, but have definitely heard many of these things said by others (of all different denominations). Really enjoyable.

  4. I've received a few requests to open up Pay It Forward to posts from a bloggers own blog. Being open minded ... I thought I'd give it a try. Although the original idea was to share what you've seen elsewhere on the internet, I fully recognize that each time we post something on our own blogs we are also sharing Good News, great tips, wonderful prayers, fabulous photos, scrumptious recipes, hilarious humor, unbelievable books, stories of goodwill, or good things that have knocked our socks off. So let's give it a try—shall we?

    I'll leave the March linky open until March 14th. Enter your links below or on the original post. (Entered links will appear in both places.) I can't wait to see what gets posted!

  5. This is a wonderful post! I'm glad you choose to post this one. I love what you write at the end "... all we will have is each other and our common ground will become the only solid ground there is."

    *The way I was taught about praying to the Saints and Mary relates the idea to asking an earthly friend to pray for you. We don't hesitate to ask our friends and loved ones to pray for us hear on earth. Why should we not extend that to the heavens?


  6. I just wanted to point out that this post is entirely in line with Catholic teaching, especially with regards to Point #10. A quick quote from the Decree on Ecumenism:

    "...and among our separated brethren also there increases from day to day, fostered by the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the restoration of unity among all Christians."

    Brethren, unity, grace, these are not fighting words. The Church very much recognizes the Holy Spirit moving within the Protestant community, and more so, takes them to heart as something to learn from.

    A wonderful piece of apologetics, thank you.

  7. I found your blog via your husband on Facebook (I knew him in college). As a protestant (Southern Baptist) married to a lovely Catholic woman I really enjoyed this entry. She grew up Roman Catholic and now attends a Byzantine parish.

    I have been delighted to find wonderful historical religious traditions in the Catholic church and she has commented of finding the same things you point out in your entry in my tradition (even if we obviously don't agree with everything). We have had conversations similar to this many times with people and we like to think our two children are growing up with the best of both traditions "that they may all be one".

    Thank you, and God bless you.