Persons are attracted to explore the Catholic Faith for a number of reasons: 1) Some are impressed by the Liturgies that Catholics celebrate. 2) The unbroken continuity of the Catholic Church in its traditions and in its structure from the time of the Apostles leads a number of persons to explore the Catholic Faith. 3) Family members and friends who actively practice the Church’s Faith attract many.
A determination to explore the Catholic Faith and then to join the Catholic Church is one of the biggest decisions that a person can make. This is so because the Catholic Faith is a way of living which embraces all facets of a person’s life.
At the heart of the Faith that we celebrate at Mass is the greatest Good News that in the Life, Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, God offers the gift of His love and friendship to all persons. We are called each day to grow more fully into the gift of God’s friendship by the manner in which we live. The Faith of the Catholic Church has implications for all facets of our lives: for how we relate to ourselves, to others, to fear, to money, to our sexuality, to the use of leisure time, to the role of being a citizen, to the environment in which we live and to death. Through its Apostolic Teaching Office, the Catholic Church offers principles and teachings that would guide us in the moral choices that we make as our lives develop.
Let’s look at what makes the prospect of joining the Catholic Church challenging, particularly for Christians who belong to a non-Catholic faith community. The Catholic Church recognizes that there are sanctifying elements in non-Catholic faith communities. The Catholic Church recognizes as valid the Baptisms of persons who are baptized with water in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in non-Catholic Christian churches. Like Catholics, Christians of various traditions are nourished and built up in the Christian Faith by the proclamation and teachings offered in the Scriptures.
Christian faith communities differ in regard to how we believe Christ is related to the Church in an on-going way. The Catholic Faith does not put a divisive distinction between Christ and the Church as He has established this faith community. For one who practices the Catholic Faith, to be right with Christ means to be right with the Church. This conviction divides Christians.
One of the painful elements confronting a non-Catholic Christian who considers the possibility of joining the Catholic Church is that of leaving others behind spiritually, particularly members of one’s family and friends. Sad to say, a chasm exists to this day between the Catholic Church and other Christian faith communities. To join the Catholic Church means that in a real sense, one will be somewhat out of step, spiritually, with family members and friends who adhere to other faith communities. For this reason, a number of persons who are attracted by what they see in the Catholic Church may put off the inclination to join the Catholic Church.
Something that a person who is led to join the Catholic Church can come to discover is that this decision does not obliterate one’s former Christian identity, but rather deepens it. By joining the Catholic Church, my identity as one who was raised in the Lutheran tradition has been deepened and strengthened.
A number of individuals who have joined the Catholic Church have come to discover that their love and concern for persons whom they have left behind spiritually for the time being grows and deepens.
For non-Catholic Christians who have considered or who are considering joining the Catholic Church, I pray that one can see that the decision to join the Catholic Church complements and need not contradict one’s non-Catholic Christian formation and development.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Nelson Beaver – Pastor