If you had told me that one day I’d watch the Pope arrive at the White House and then listen to a mass delivered in Spanish, I wouldn’t have believed you. I would have explained that while I’m pretty sure Catholics were kind of Christians, they weren’t like us and therefore, they didn’t have it right. After all, they drank wine and they had this thing about Mary that was different from what we were taught was true and we all know only one of us can be right and it’s always us and not them.
Then we had accepted the opportunity to be a host family to an exchange student. She was Catholic and yet she came with us to our Southern Baptist Church. We thought we were decent people, but she was truly kind in a way that out did us all. She showed me that the messages I had received from my church were incorrect. A few years later I had a chance to visit her in her country and toured some of their beautiful Catholic churches.
I just wish that Christianity didn’t pit all of us brothers and sisters of different stripes and spots against each other; but used our differences to unite us in those things that we all hold in common. There are a lot of wonderful things about Catholics I never learned when I was little, but I get the honor of finding out for myself as I get older. I think that ultimately we have a lot in common – not just our belief in Jesus, but our search for a spirituality that we can believe in and that works for us.
Ultimately, the faith tradition I grew up in would not have come to exist were it not for it’s Catholic roots. I know that much of the hostility between our different beliefs originates in the Reformation, where the state united with the church in a struggle for power. This is something worth remembering as my own faith tradition has gone through a reformation of it’s own known as the Conservative Resurgence where the conservative side has an almost too healthy amount of admiration for the reformers as they choose to emphasize Calvinism – but in the process they’ve torn apart the church.
Even my new denomination struggles with where they fall on the matter of inerrancy and other social issues. I think through it all, each of us has to find the faith that speaks most to us as we grow older. Sometimes it’s the faith that we grew up in. Sometimes it’s a faith that we’ve come to respect. Sometimes it’s the faith that we’d least expect. But for too many of us, the struggles the Church puts us through as they decide what they’ll teach often puts us at odds with what our spirits tell us to be the truth. That’s why so many become ‘done’ with the Church or are a ‘none’ who wants nothing more to do with any faith or religion. It’s frustrating to know that the point of the church isn’t to create volumes of books filled with the most correct doctrines, but men and women who are disciples, disciples who become teachers, teachers who have disciples of their own. So when people are wounded or burnt by Christianity get to the point of being done with it, I think that’s when Jesus himself weeps most.
Jesus’ own message was one that asked people to put others people first, never did he throw anybody under the bus in order to preserve doctrine or a traditional position. Like this mass – all of us are saying: “Señor, escucha nos ...” or “Lord, listen to us …” He was great at that, you know. In every interaction with the poor, the outcasts, the outsiders, and the suffering he listened to them. That is something that all of us need from our churches, whatever they are.