When a Protestant who is considering the Catholic Church calls me for advice the conversation goes back to some recurring difficulties. So here are some commandments for converts.
- The Catholic Church is not just another denomination. It’s very different from all the Protestant churches you have ever attended. Behave as if you’re visiting a foreign country.
- Be curious, not critical.
- You’re right. There are plenty of hypocritical, heretical and lukewarm Catholics. There are a fair few Prots like that too aren’t there?
- The Catholic Church is huge. Don’t compare it to your Protestant sect. Compare it to all Protestants of every kind in every Prot organization everywhere. Did you find some loony, left wing scary Catholics? Remember the Episcopalians. If we have to answer for radical theologians and loony leftie nuns you have to answer for Kitty Schori, Mary Glasspool, the Jesus Seminar and Matthew Fox.
- I know it seems like you’re “not getting fed.” Once you’re received into the church you’ll be fed alright: Fed the Body of Christ. Be patient.
- Stop imagining that there’s a perfect church somewhere. Utopianism is an American disease. If you expect conflict and imperfection you won’t be so disappointed with the Catholic Church (or with life generally for that matter)
- The Catholic Church is in an epic battle with modernism. Don’t just complain about fuzzy feel good sermons, comfort hymns and carpeted churches. Join those of us who are working to ‘reform the reform’ and play your part.
- You wonder where the ‘fellowship’ is. That’s because a typical Catholic parish is huge and socially varied. Protestant churches tend to develop congregations from the same socio economic background. No wonder they have ‘good fellowship’. In the Catholic Church you will find your ‘fellowship’ in one of a huge number of sub groups. Once you’ve swum the Tiber, join the Women’s Club or the Knights of Columbus or the Pro Life Group or the Carmelite Prayer Group or the Third Order Franciscans.
- Yes, we do read the Bible, but we read it within the tradition and prayer of the Church. The Scriptures are woven into the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. Be prepared to see the Scriptures you love in a totally fresh and exciting way.
- Ask why you are considering the Catholic Church. If you’re just church shopping you still have a long way to go. The big question is authority. If you have come to believe that the Catholic Church really is the fullest expression of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and that the Holy Father is the God-appointed successor of Peter, Christ’s apostle on earth, then get yourself into the Catholic Church as soon as you can. Everything else will follow.
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