*Disclaimer: Where I refer to protestants in this post is strictly related to the experiences I had growing up in a Nazarene and then in a Southern Baptist church. I fully know that they are not all alike.
Recently, I had a conversation with a trusted group of friends that have been there for me in my continued conversion to Catholicism. We were talking about my background, being raised protestant, and a few things stood out to me that I hadn’t thought of from that angle before, “that angle” being how a cradle Catholic would see a protestant Christian formation.
One of the questions was what authority the protestant churches looked to. I didn’t have an answer, but I think I didn’t have an answer because really the only authority they ever used was the bible. The problem with that is that it is up to each denomination or worse, each individual pastor to determine the meaning of the passages in bible. In my experience (at least not that I can remember), I was never introduced to scripture through the lens of its actual context, place in time, or its meaning in the original language it was written in. Don’t take that lightly, it makes a difference, sometimes a big difference.
This particular group of friends is very much into liturgy, I would say, more than your common cradle Catholic. They get that a Mass is different than a church service, but I think a lot of people don’t get that. In a church service growing up there was some good teaching, some good praying, and some great music, but it just isn’t the same as a Catholic Mass. Obviously, the biggest reason is the Eucharist. Actually, because the Mass Liturgy is actually two liturgies, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, in a church service at other churches, it really is just the Liturgy of the Word part that you get.
Something else that seemed to catch their attention was things that I had to “unpack”. For example, I grew up believing that Mary was a virgin when she conceived the Son of God. But I was taught that Mary wasn’t always a virgin and that Jesus had brothers and probably sisters. When you have never thought about it any other way, it may be odd or even interesting to hear what others are taught.
And there are a lot of other things, a lot.
Have you ever heard this or some variation of this? “Being Catholic is basically the same as any other Christian” or “Catholics basically believe what Protestants believe”.
I have to admit, when I was brought into the Catholic Church, I said those sorts of things. At the time, it was enough for me on such a basic level to believe that what I had learned growing up was what the Catholic Church taught.
Boy was I wrong. And if you believe that the Catholic Church only teaches what any Protestant church teaches, you are wrong.
The Catholic Church is so much more. It is depth, fullness, truth, tradition and authority, and it is so much more. And part of the blessing of the Church is that there is so much that you can continue to grow and learn forever and never learn it all. Thank God!