Loving All Things

From time to time I will receive an email from an Evangelical Christian who is attracted to the Catholic Church, but is having difficulties with some doctrine or devotion. They hold back from coming closer to the Catholic Church because they have real and genuine difficulties and doubts.

This is good. They’re being honest and taking the whole thing seriously. However, one of the problems is that the Protestant (even when he doesn’t know it) has an underlying critical attitude–especially when it comes to Catholicism. That is to say, deep down he has a belief that Protestantism can’t possibly be true. Even when he has started to be fair to Catholicism and is even attracted to it he still holds back because that deep seated prejudice is still very strong.

It’s understandable. That’s why if you are talking with non-Catholic friends or family members about the faith you have to be patient. This deep prejudice is written into the genetic code of Protestants because it is written into the genetic code of Protestantism. Protestantism is a breakaway from the Catholic Church. It’s invention was a reaction against Catholicism. It’s whole theology and worship and liturgy and ecclesiology and therefore its whole understanding of God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, the world and everything is a reaction against the Catholic world view.

Therefore real, solid and in depth conversion takes a lifetime. Converts of many years still find themselves struggling with a basic aversion and distrust to things Catholic. It happens to me. I love the Catholic faith, but when I’m presented with some new devotion or Catholic custom I am, more often than not, likely to reject it rather than accept it.

When this happens I have to remind myself of the little dictum that changed my life: It is a quote by F.D.Maurice: “A man is most often right in what he affirms and wrong in what he denies.” This is wisdom: it means that when we are denying we are usually cutting ourselves off from something which is good and useful and beautiful and true. It must be all these things or good people wouldn’t hold to it.

This quote, joined with one by the poet Thomas Traherne, will change your life. Traherne wrote, “Can a man be just unless he loves all things according to their worth?” See, love all things. ALL THINGS!. What? Yes, but ‘according to their worth’. By all means, therefore, love a Big Mac, but according to it’s worth, for next to a five course French meal the Big Mac’s worth is perhaps much less.

In college I joined the opera chorus against my first inclination. But when I thought about it I came to the conclusion that lots of decent people, people more educated and wiser and older than I seemed to like opera, so maybe my dislike of fat ladies bellowing in Italian was something I ought to get over. So with an open mind I joined the opera chorus and learned to like Puccini, who’s worth was much more than the music I had loved up to that time.

Same with religion. When confronted with something new we all need to have an open mind and open heart and realize that God has far more goodness and truth and beauty in store for us than we can ever imagine, and we should stop being so picky.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01678341854029479678 Old Bob

    Good one, Father! Thanks!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08801584133028591211 Laura R.

    Well said, Father, and very helpful. I think you've put your finger on something so basic that it's not always easy to grasp, that it is in the very DNA of Protestants and Protestantism to object to Catholicism. And I appreciate your honesty in saying that you've experienced this yourself. In my own journey I've realized that this would inevitably affect me (especially since I studied at a low-church evangelical seminary) and so have decided to go slowly in my exploration and acceptance of some aspects of Catholic life and devotion.One minor point: in the second paragraph, did you perhaps mean to say "deep down he has a belief that Catholicism can't possibly be true" rather than "deep down he has a belief that Protestantism can't possibly be true"?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12746127431922685446 JD Curtis

    I concur with Old Bob. It is indeed a "good one".Having been raised by a set of Southern Baptist/Roman Catholic parents, and getting a double whammy of religion on weekends, I am grateful for the experience of having had exposure to the 2 different denominations. Presbyterianism is a comfortable denomination for me at this point in my life in that it is sort of like "Catholic Lite" (Or Low-Fat Baptist, whichever you prefer) and I doubt that I will ever go whole hog and convert to 100% Catholicism anytime soon.But as I grow older I have developed a more keen appreciation for the Roman Catholic church, it's great thinkers, and some of it's contributions to Western Civilization. My wife and I are an interfaith couple and I appreciate the opportunity to occaisionally celebrate Mass with her in the time honored tradition of the Roman Catholic church. It's like a glimpse into my past in that I have received all the sacraments that I can so far and it's like visiting an old, cherished friend for awhile.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11740482509910163332 Gail F

    I think you mean "deep down he has a belief thatCATHOLICISM can't possibly be true"I find this true also, though I was sort of raised Catholic. My family was extremely secular and stopped going to church when I was in sixth grade. Though I am very much a Catholic, my first reaction to a lot of Catholic things is negative. Some of them I've come to love, others I just have to accept it and move on.Opera is the best!!!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16287885673401261090 Obpoet

    Methinks that fat lady is singing in German.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13883761718979175423 CJ

    I tried this with hockey and found that I liked it. Soccer . . . not so much.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09627986880884206811 flyingvic

    My heart sank when I saw the picture at the top. I braced myself for yet another diatribe about women bishops and their choice of vestments…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00098504849466846551 Arkanabar T’verrick Ilarsadin

    flyingvic: ROFL!!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00795596623546394780 PlainCatholic

    Oh aye: God is far less fastidious than we are.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00659833542780220795 Tiber Jumper

    "Converts of many years still find themselves struggling with a basic aversion and distrust to things Catholic. It happens to me."I have been in the Church 6 years now and this is finally changed for me. But My problem is now the opposite:I have an aversion and distrust of Protestantism :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00494537340737199409 Dharmashaiva

    It's true enough.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17623602461079280621 Believer

    While I agree with you DNA analogy of Protestantism's allergy to Catholicism, your comparison breaks down over loving things new. It is precisely this love of new or innovation that has brought The Episcopal Church to the place it is now–near heretical. Not all that is new is really new. It might be an old heresy in new clothes. If we taste and see that it seems good, it may, in fact, be bad–even sinful! Prudence still is a virtue.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03400254883645309815 Malvenu

    Having re-read the post i think that it should read catholicism instead of protestantism in the second paragraph.However, it got me thinking…I am one of those (former) evangelical Christians who is attracted to the Catholic Church (but not yet home). At present the errors and inconsistencies of Protestantism are abundantly obvious and back then there were niggly little things that i couldn't reconcile within Protestantism. I'm wondering if, perhaps, it wasn't a typo at all and that as protestants we are (were) all aware of the problems but to admit them would not only be to confront the horror that the Catholic Church might actually be right, but also, and worse than that, we (who as Protestants re-construct and perpetuate the Church in our own image) might have to admit that we are wrong!!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09241071334085800888 Jack

    As someone who was raised Lutheran, went Evangelical non-denom, and received into the Church two years ago, I agree with much of what you say. In fact, one thing that drew me to the Church was realizing that Protestantism was too small to contain all the variety of human life.However, might I add a small counter-point?The Church admits that she must always undergo conversion (semper reformanda).. and certainly the cultural and devotional (small 't') traditions are not infalliable and thus reformable.So might it be that sometimes when a former Protestant convert has a negative visceral reaction to some devotion or theological expression, it is the "sense of the faithful" at work? That is, might God be speaking through that person to purify His Church by bringing in the gifts and insights of the separated brethren?Examples: I cringe when someone suggests prayer to Mary in a way that makes her seem more merciful or generous than Jesus. I cringe when people speak of statues in personal pronouns, as if the saint was the statue. I cringe when someone buries a statue of St. Joseph in the yard in hopes of a home sale, or when a saint statue is plastered with dollar bills in a procession.Am I being too picky?