I never knew much about Catholicism growing up. I wasn’t allowed to have non-Mennonite friends, and we didn’t talk about religion in public school. So I never got to know much about any other faith community, really.
When I started to get involved in Evangelicalism in high school, I learned that Catholics were legalistic and not actually really Christians at all (People would speak of “Christians and Catholics” as if they were two separate categories). It was doubtful you could get to heaven as a Catholic, and Catholicism was QUITE POSSIBLY the One World Religion talked about in Revelation. (That would make the Pope the Antichrist, of course.)
Fast forward a couple of decades and I have a huge heart for my Catholic brothers and sisters. I read more blogs written by Catholic women than any other demographic. I am constantly learning and being challenged by my Catholic friends, and feel incredibly blessed to have them in my life.
I don’t think I’ll ever become Catholic. I feel good about being an Anabaptist. I continue to embrace and affirm the tenets of Anabaptism (notably, nonviolence and nonconformity). I love my Mennonite community and can’t imagine a life apart from them.
Moreover, I’m an anarchist at heart, and I don’t think I could ever fully embrace the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
But there are a lot of things about the Catholic Church I love and admire. In particular, many of its members.
But here are just a few of my favourite things to come out of the Catholic Church.
Let’s just get this guy out of the way. Like everyone else who’s been paying attention, I’m totally smitten with the new Pope. Everything I’ve seen or read about him astonishes me. (For a great intro to the Pope, read this article).
Celebrating his 77th birthday by having breakfast with some homeless guys. Encouraging a new mom to breastfeed in public. The loving way he responds to a little boy who runs up on stage while he gives a speech. You guys: Pope Francis rocks my socks.
I love his warm, open, inviting attitude towards his fellow man, especially his fellow Christian. He seems to genuinely desire communion with fellow believers, and to see the fractured church united in love. He embraces the outsider and makes her feel welcome. He invites us all to join him in serving God and the world without pressuring us to convert (like when he invited us all to fast and pray for Syria). We are all God’s children, working together to bring the Kingdom to the Earth.
Pope Francis appears to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor – just like Jesus. I guess what I love about him is that he reminds me so much of Jesus.
I find him an inspiration and am glad to have him on our side.
Natural Family Planning
Catholics are some of the only Christians (as far as I’m aware) who have continued to think long and hard about sexuality beyond “Don’t do it until you’re married.”
I touched on this topic when I shared my story (“I wish I had known about NFP sooner”). The Evangelical church, in my personal experience, generally doesn’t equip couples adequately for sex within marriage. We’re told “Wait for marriage; and then after than, anything goes,” which I’ve found isn’t very helpful.
I was never even told, in my faith community, that you could take control of your fertility without drugs or condoms, or that contraception could pose any problems (for my bodily, marital, or spiritual health.) I learned about NFP from Catholics online, after a heartbreaking year of trying to get pregnant after quitting the Pill.
These dear Catholic friends and NFP changed my life. They changed my relationship with my husband and with my own body.
I personally find the Catholic view of sex (namely, remaining anti-contraception) the most life-affirming and life-giving view. It’s also the most pro-woman. NFP actually celebrates the female body. Female fertility isn’t a problem that needs to be managed with drugs, but rather a beautiful element in human sexuality that ought to be deeply understood and respected. NFP teaches us to pay close attention to our feminine bodies and to embrace every aspect.
The Catholic church also welcomes, values and celebrates the natural product of sexuality — namely, children. As a mother, I deeply appreciate this aspect of the Church.
Children in Mass
Again, this is an area where I think Protestants could learn a thing or two from Catholics.
I am increasingly drawn to the idea of all God’s children worshipping together, regardless of age, gender, race, marital or socioeconomic status, etc.
My God is a God of reconciliation – I believe He longs to see people of all tongues, tribes, nations, and ages in communion with one another.
Reconciliation, to me, means worshipping with people who are different from us, and who sometimes make us uncomfortable. (And who is more misunderstood and devalued in our culture than children? And who makes our lives more uncomfortable than children?) I believe reconciliation also sometimes makes worship inconvenient and messy. But I think it’s what God wants.
And I personally desire to worship with my family. I don’t care to send my two-year-old off with strangers while I commune with God. If God is to be at the center of our family, it makes sense to me that when we gather together with fellow believers to sing and pray, we do it as a family. But this doesn’t happen when children are segregated during worship (i.e. shipped off to Sunday school).
My favourite part of church, in fact, has become watching the adorable little kids dance and play at the back of the church during worship. It just warms my heart.
I’m not interested in sending my daughter off to learn about God in a classroom as if he were an abstract subject — like math or science — rather than a living Person. I love the thought of experiencing God together as a family.
We form our identities as Children of God through active participation in worship, and involvement in a community of practice. Where better to do this than in a church service together?
I applaud and appreciate the Catholic church, then, for continuing to welcome children in Mass. I’m inspired when one Catholic blogger writes of her church, “children are not just tolerated, they are welcome. And what my parish has shown me, is that my children are wanted.” (Read the whole article, btw. It’s beautiful.) I would love to see that reality extend to Protestant congregations.
I’ve recently been dipping my toes into the Liturgical Year. I think liturgy is what many of us, in this modern, secular age, are missing. It’s what I’ve been missing, anyway.
As a wandering Mennonite-Evangelical, I often yearn for rituals and traditions. I long for practices to infuse my everyday life with the Holy. I ache to feel rooted in a story that goes back to the beginning – to feel connected with fellow disciples across time and space.
I find all of this in Liturgy – in ancient prayers and festivals; in symbols and practices that have been used and shared by Christians all over the world throughout history.
I know that there are still many Liturgical churches out there besides the Catholic Church – Catholics are just the ones I’ve personally learned the most from. They’ve blessed me tremendously, and I’m constantly learning from them.
So there are my biggest reasons for loving the Catholic Church. I didn’t even get into the incredible architecture. Any other non-Catholics feel the same way?