Friday, April 6, 2012

Why I didn't Convert to Roman Catholicism

     Growing up as heathen I always felt like there was more to life. Entering into my adult years I chased after this feeling finding myself going to a different church just about every day of the week, which included the Roman Catholic church. My grandmother with whom I lived with at the time( a devout Protestant) thought there was something wrong with me and hoped I would start going to church with her. Out of respect for my grandmother I started going with her but like the rest of the churches that I was going to there was always a sense that something was missing. After about 3 years of this cycle of churching I had an experience that brought me to my knees when I visited a Greek Orthodox shrine. After this experience and from many other factors I eventually found myself attending a Ruthenian Greek Catholic church. It was there where that sense that had about something missing left. I had found my spiritual home and place where I was able to experience Jesus Christ in a special way.
     Even though Roman Catholicism was part of my journey I did not remain there. There could be many reasons for this but the most important one was that I discovered something special about Jesus Christ in the Byzantine tradition. As much as I tried I could not shake the desire to get fully involved in a Byzantine church. In my heart I knew that Jesus Christ had something special for me there. Many people may not agree but I think it's important, even if you find out your wrong, to follow your heart. You will never know what God has for you if you're not willing to take risks. In my case I had found something that my heart had been longing for and an experience of Jesus Christ that I did not have in any other church.
     In any church that you wish to "convert "to the main reason should be JESUS CHRIST. If you join a church for any other reason you miss the whole purpose of that church. Whether it's the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church these traditions exists for the world to know Jesus Christ. Churches give people the power to love God, a sense of destiny, and a mission. They do not exist to be different from other churches. As I shared briefly I came to my Byzantine Catholic church because of only 1 main reason, which was Jesus Christ. Everything that makes my tradition beautiful is dust compared to the experience of knowing the person of Jesus Christ. If a person finds themselves converting to a church for reasons besides knowing Jesus Christ they are following the spirit of this world.
     The reason why I am sharing this is mainly in response to certain polemical literature that was written by a Roman Catholic about why they didn't convert to the Eastern Orthodox church. This kind of literature is nothing new but it demonstrates attitudes that keep Christians divided. In fact we can even find this attitude in scripture: 1cor 3: 3You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? 4For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” aren't you acting just like people of the world?". The apostle Paul was astonished at how these people who witnessed the action of the Holy Spirit could find time to quarrel about who's in charge or why they follow a certain leader instead of the other. They missed the whole point of becoming a member of the Church, which is Jesus Christ .This is something that we need to keep in mind because we are not immune to falling in the same trap. If you are a member or a convert to a particular church because of flaws you find in another than you have become deceived.
     Recently, on the news I read how the Ecumenical Patriarch rebuked a certain metropolitan that called the Pope an arch-heretic. It is obvious that some of us will never get along but we need to ask ourselves what can we do to discover Jesus Christ. Will showing all the flaws of another bring about healing in my brother? Maybe we need to follow the command of Christ and work on removing our own errors before we help others. I'm sure if we are honest we will see that there are plenty of times where we have failed to live the commands of Christ and have kept people away from Him by these actions. It's time for some of us to do some serious repentance instead of writing why were not like those others.
     The reason why I am not a Roman Catholic is very simple. Its not because Roman Catholics are inferior in any way to the Byzantine tradition. Rather, I discovered Jesus Christ in a special way in my Byzantine church. I could say the same thing to why I am not Eastern Orthodox. Even though I share the same theology with the Eastern Orthodox Christians my Ruthenian Greek catholic church has given me a sense of peace that I did not have anywhere else. Jesus Christ has given me a family and a sense of mission in my church. There really is not any other answer to why I am not a convert to anything else nor should there be.





9 comments:

  1. Our patrimony is the box and ribbion and bow that the gift of faith comes in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a good one Kurt, I think ill borrow it.

      Delete
  2. Very nice and thought-provoking post. I'm in the midst of a church struggle myself -- or rather have been on & off again for several years.
    I'm definitely turned-off by polemics -- so I really liked that you emphasized that you experienced Jesus Christ in a special way, i.e. what was added to your life. You're not saying that Jesus isn't present in other churches, but that the EC was the place for you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. A rite is just a rite - at some point we must be able to move beyond that and integrate the best of what the east and west both have to offer. Being overly attached to one rite in the Church can be a dangerous place to inhabit, as I have recently found out. What would happen if God took you to a place where there was no Ruthenian Greek Catholic parish, or any type of Byzantine Catholic parish for that matter? We must ask ourselves these questions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My church is not a rite. There is nothing to move beyond when your called to serve a community that has its own history and identity. You can't use your weakness in understanding a church to judge others.You also need to ask: What would happen if God took you to a place where there was no Roman Catholic churches or any Catholic church for that matter? It's not right to think that you can just leave behind your spiritual identity or a calling to a community in the absence of a building.

      Delete
  4. I wasn't judging you. I am speaking from experience when I say it is a dangerous position to be in to be attached too strongly to either the eastern or western expression of the Catholic church. Roman or Byzantine we are all Catholic at the end of the day. My husband was strongly attached to a particular community, and rite, which he has been forced, through circumstance, to leave. It was very painful for both of us, particularly for him since he had invested an inordinate amount of time and energy into serving the parish.

    And to answer your question: if there was no Catholic church around, I would attend an Orthodox one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Any one reading your comment would arrive at no other conclusion that it was a judgment. I'm sorry about your personal circumstances. There is nothing wrong with being attached to a community of believers and it should be painful to leave your church family. Just going to any old catholic church does not replace ones identification with a spiritual family. As I am a spiritual Ruthenian my church has a history and an identity that's different than other churches. The Lord brought me into this family and I have discovered something special about him there, which is something that can't be replaced even when there might be another church that celebrates the byzantine rite, such as Melkite. You need to understand that many Byzantine Catholics would be offended at your assessment of our churches as mere rites. We are churches that are in communion with Rome. We celebrate rites and we are not a rite. Rome is one of the many of the Catholic churches that are in communion. My Ruthenian Catholic church is equal to Rome in every respect, Rome is our sister. You failed to understand what I was saying about there not being a roman catholic church. I did not want you to answer it but to show that if no Catholic or Orthodox churches were around you would still be who you are in Christ. A church Roman, Ruthenian, Melkite, Maronite, Coptic, ext.. gives a person an identity in Jesus Christ. All spirituality is not the same and Byzantine Catholics are not Roman Catholic with a different liturgy. So at the end of the day we might be Christians but we have our own spiritual heritage that God has given us.

      Delete
  5. Well, after attending an eastern rite parish now for almost a year, I finally understand what you are talking about. So much so that I intend on applying to Rome to become an eastern rite Catholic although I know they are not just mere 'rites'. I am sorry if I misunderstood you or offended you in any way.

    ReplyDelete