Last Friday was the feast day of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of the parish church I’ve been attending. They held a special mass followed by a free spaghetti dinner, so I took the opportunity to invite my husband and my parents to attend. As I suspected, they were lured by the free food and came!
The night ended up being a bit rough for me (my 3-year-old son Liam did not behave AT ALL and I spent most of mass in the cry room), but everyone else seemed to enjoy it. To my surprise, the next day my husband David told me that he would be okay with our family attending Catholic church together from then on, even though he still has no desire to convert.
This was a really big deal, and I have a lot of emotions about it. My family and I attend a large, modern evangelical church. I actually really love it. The people are genuine, the ministries are vibrant and Holy Spirit-led, the pastor is super smart and practical, and the music is high quality. For the past year I have been teaching Sunday school there to 3-year-olds, and have felt very connected through that.
But because I have no doubts about joining the Catholic church, I began to pull away from our Protestant church. Last weekend I taught my last Sunday school class (bittersweet). When our small group disbanded a few months ago, I didn’t search for a new one. I haven’t been reaching out to make new friends.
However, it is very important to me that I attend church with my family. My husband is committed to remaining Protestant and wants that for the kids, too. Both of us wanting to support the other, we made a plan: to attend services at 8:45 AM on Sundays at our church together, and then I would leave straightaway to make the 11:00 AM mass. That is how I figured it would go indefinitely.
So when David told me that he would be willing to attend mass regularly with me, I was surprised and also sad. I realized that I am not ready to leave our evangelical church. I would miss parts of it a lot. Even though I find more meaning and fullness in attending mass, these Protestant services also enrich my life.
I have also been taking parenting classes at church through the summer. There is a small group component, and I have been getting to know some of the couples pretty well. Last night one of them asked if we would like to join their regular small group that meets weekly. At first I was excited to be asked, but that feeling was followed by sadness because I had been telling myself to pull away from this church. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it could be a really good thing.
The divisions between Protestants and Catholics are sad. Protestants have SO many misconceptions about Catholics. Here are just a few major ones I can think of:
- Catholics worship Mary and the saints (they don’t – they honor them)
- Catholics believe the pope doesn’t sin (nope – he is human just like anyone)
- Catholics believe you must earn your way to heaven by good works (no, they believe in salvation by grace through faith, and good works are a natural outpouring of that grace in our lives)
- Catholics aren’t really Christians (actually, they are the original Christians, holding to the creeds)
I have come to realize that I am in a unique position to bridge the gap between Protestants and Catholics. Being involved in a Protestant group, as a Catholic at heart, would give me the opportunity to show that Catholics are Christians and love Jesus, and we really have more in common than not.
I know that at some point, I may get overwhelmed and want to cut back on the amount of church I attend. Or maybe I will feel called to be more involved in my Catholic parish and need to step back from involvement in evangelical groups. But for now, I am excited to make friends of all denominations and share the Catholic faith.