I Don’t Know Anything about Catholics

I don’t know many Catholics. Lauren knows some; she became good friends with a few during her graduate program. But I could count on one hand the number of practicing Catholics I’ve had a conversation with. Despite being the largest Christian denomination, despite its unparalleled influence on Western culture, despite the proximity of Christ the King Catholic Church to my apartment, I really don’t know much about Catholicism.

I don’t know much about the different saints. I know close to nothing about the non-Roman, Eastern rites within the Catholic Church. I can’t tell you much about mass, days of penance, their doctrine of baptism or of purgatory. I also don’t really get how the whole “pope” thing works. He has to change his name or something? And Benedict, when he quit, did he get to keep the name? Like, I assume he had to give the hat back, but he had just filled out all the paperwork to change his name, so did he have to go back to his previous name—Bill or whatever it was? Did he have to get a new driver’s license when he stepped down? There’s just so much I don’t know about Catholicism.

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I remember reading a long time ago—near the end of high school, I think—an article about trends in young Christians attending “high church” congregations. High church, for the uninitiated, refers to denominations or specific congregations giving much attention to formality and liturgy (like Catholicism, Anglicanism, the Lutheran Church) often in resistance to modernization. According to this article, young—typically educated—Christians perceived in “low churches” (hear: Southern Baptist, Churches of Christ) a proclivity for spiritualizing and shallow worship.

Some years later when I was graduating college, I saw this same trend in my peers: a frustration with the evangelical congregations they grew up in and a longing for more formalized, more tradition-oriented church families.

This is intriguing to me for a number of reasons, but not least of which is because—again—I know next to nothing about the convictions and the history and the practices of these churches. Only yesterday I had to look up what a godfather technically does when they’re not being a mobster. But now I am forced to ask, what could possibly draw young Christians to these old, stuffy institutions? I am forced to dialogue with these branches of the faith so very different from the one I grew up in. They have a sense of mysticism to be admired, but also a rigidity and certainty that can only come from centuries of tradition. It’s hard to even recognize them as different sides of the same coin.

Anyone with only the slightest knowledge of European and American history knows that low church people and high church people have not always seen eye-to-eye, sometimes even leading to violence. But there is a lot of potential for growth when these two sides begin a conversation. There’s a lot that low church has forgotten in its time trying to distance itself from the high church branches of Christianity. For that reason, I am intrigued to see what will happen to this trend of young Christians, and see how believers handle these two disparate positions.

I hope we will not continue in ignorance, but listen. We may be listened to in return—and that would be nice—but first we might stand to learn what our youth see in those old stone chapels. 

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2 Comments

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  1. If I may recommend a couple of books to you “The Biblical Reasons for the Catholic Faith,” by John Salza “A Father Who Keeps His Promises,” by Scott Hahn (Actually anything written by Scott Hahn) You can read the Didaches which are the earliest Christian writings known to man. They came before Scripture. (You can Google that) These will help you understand it better.

    I am a convert to the Church and all I can say for me, “It has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.” I know throughout Catholic history there have been ups and there have been downs. There is not a doubt in my mind after all of my studying and research, that it will stand until the end of time.

    The traditions of it, having been passed down for over 2000 years are only one of the things which I hold so dear to my heart. When I became a Catholic, I discovered I had been missing so much, in fact that is what I told God before the conversion process even began.

    I truly enjoyed reading this post and thank you for sharing. God Bless, SR

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  2. Hey Daniel! I was able to attend a very conservative catholic service in high school up in KC with some dear friends. They are some of the most devoted/Christ-like people I know, so I was excited that my first window into the catholic church was going to be with these great people. The service, though puzzling at times for me, was enlightening and made me think of one statement: What if we saw the good in other denominations and not be afraid to call it was it is: good. There were some incredible moments of reference that I would love to incorporate into my own “low church” worship, which I love and respect deeply. Starting this conversation is exciting, and I am also intrigued as to how sitting across the “high/low” table is going to bring us all closer to the God we all are seeking to follow.

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