1. Remember History – Every
Catholic Protestant should read some church history. An excellent, readable summary is Eamon Duffy’s Saints and Sinners which is a history of the papacy. The history of the church reads like the Old Testament. In other words, it is full of saints and sinners, triumphs and tragedies, horror and holiness, weakness and wickedness, strength and sanctity. It’s all there, and that’s why it is authentic and human and divine and real. The church has always been afflicted with persecution from without and corruption from within. That’s because it’s made up of human beings like you and me who are a work in progress. Take a deep breath. It’s not much different now than it always has been. That’s why we had a Reformation.
2. Remember that Catholic means “Universal” –
The Catholic Church Protestantism is not a sect. It is not a nationalistic church or an ethnic church. It is not dependent on a particular diocese that has ties to a particular empire. It is not a single minded, mono vision institution. It’s universal. It transcends time. It transcends particular cultures. It transcends particular cultural obsessions. It takes the big view and the wide perspective. This means it includes people who are not like you. They may disagree with you completely. They may be wrong….very wrong, and guess what? You might just be wrong about some stuff too. Get over it.
3. Remember that we’re family – Those people you disagree with? They’re family. You are convinced that the Bible and the
magisterium confessions support your views. Guess what, they think the Bible and the magisterium confessions support their views. You think they’re wrong? They think you’re wrong. However, they’re still your brothers and sisters. Brothers and sister fight sometimes. That’s okay, in fact it’s healthy. The Church Protestantism is not some sort of religious Ozzie and Harriet where everything is hunky dory all the time. So you disagree and fight? Big deal. Just make sure you kiss and make up before you turn off the lights. Pray for unity — spiritual not institutional.
4. Don’t Forget the Church’s Teachings – Mother Church is there to teach us. Her teaching corrects us and directs us. The church’s teachings are
the bedrock on which our views are founded are summaries of Scripture, the bedrock on which are views are founded. None of us should be Be careful about spouting our own opinions. We should simply put forward the Catholic Christian faith. However–we should also remember that the same teaching that we espouse is viewed from a different perspective by different Catholics Christians. Depending on their personality type, their education and their background they will emphasize different aspects of the church’s their communion’s teachings. They may stress family life, sexual morality and the anti abortion cause. You may stress peace and justice issues, radical discipleship and the preferential option for the poor. That’s okay. Learn to value the other perspective. That’s unfortunate. Learn to understand the spirituality of the church.
5. Allow People to Mess Up – Did a
bishop or priest pastor or assembly make a call that displeases you? Take a deep breath. You don’t have to play Savonarola. Maybe he made a mistake and maybe you don’t know how complicated his decision making process was. It’s easy to be an armchair bishop, but if you’re not a priest or bishop you have not a clue how difficult the job is. You don’t have any idea the complexities of relationships, the real life dilemmas, the pastoral decisions and impossible situations that have to be dealt with. Instead of yelling about this priest’s apostasy or that bishop’s “inflexibility” this priest being “too rigid” or that bishop being too lax, why not cut them a break? These guys have a tough job. Why not back off and pray for them a bit more? But always be on the look out for liberalism. History shows that churches often say one thing and mean another.
6. Trust God – God’s in charge. Don’t you have faith? Why all the unhappiness about the church? Could it be that the unhappiness is in you and you’re projecting it outward and blaming others? Why not pray more and realize that God is still in charge. Don’t you see how he works in the world through our human weakness? Surely that’s the whole message of salvation history. God is working his purpose out not through everything being perfect all the time, but through our tragedies and travesties, through our failures and foibles, through our sin and sorrow. This is the beauty of the faith: that he turns the cross of Christ–the worst thing that could happen into the best thing that could happen. He’s doing the same thing with
this messy institution we call the church Protestantism. In his mysterious divine providence he’s using the church to accomplish his way in the world. Things will be well. All things will be well. Trust God.
7. Remember John 3:16-17 – At heart the basic message is the only message: “God so love the world that he gave his only Son so that all who believe in him shall have everlasting life. God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” Everything else springs from that message, and if we get too caught up in
all the other stuff–even if the cause is good and righteous and our views are true and beautiful and good the variety of churches and denominations, but we forget this main message, then everything else we say and do will be skewed, our faith will be off track and our message will be meaningless.
8. Pray More – I mean really pray. Pray that God will bless the means of grace and that pastors will be faithful to God’s word.
Not only going through the actions and doing all the right devotions. I mean a heart rending, soul searching, mind bending, life changing, no holds barred, give it all you’ve got kind of prayer. Pray to know Jesus Christ and the power of his sufferings. Pray that you might be totally and utterly his. Pray that you might be made a saint before it is too late. Realize that your souls salvation and your walk with God and your love for Christ and your love for others is the one main thing. Remember that neither the gates of hell nor the acids of modernity will overcome God’s redemptive plan. Focus on that and you’ll find that all those other things you are so worried about fall into line. It’s not that they are not important, its just that they are not the most important.
9. Remember to Take a Deep Breath and Be Thankful – Do you really have to get so worked up about the problems you can do nothing about? Love God. Love your family. Love your friends. Repent of your sins. Worship God. Be happy for once. Yes the world’s in a terrible state. It always has been. Yes, we’re on the brink of disaster. The Titanic has always been about to sink. Yes,
the church Protestantism is clattering along like an old jalopy. It has been so from the beginning. Yes, there are failures, disasters, traitors and cowards in the church. Are you sure you’re not one of them? If so, smile and be wrong. There is more grace is accepting that you are wrong than in insisting that you are right. Be thankful and do something beautiful, kind and good. Instead of complaining that the world is a terrible place try in your small way to make it a better place.
Be a You Are A Saint – The only great tragedy is not to be a saint. Read the lives of the saints and learn from them. Do not just read about them, but try to emulate them. Take a great risk of faith. Go on the adventure. Work with the poor, give sacrificially and live sacrificially. Life is short and time is wasting. Don’t waste too much of it being miserable and blaming others. Get with God and Go with God and be one of his joyful warriors. Be a saint and everything else will suddenly make sense. Even though [your] conscience accuse [you], that [you] have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and [are] still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of [yours], but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to [you], the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if [you] never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if [you] had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for [you]; inasmuch as [you] embrace such benefit with a believing heart.
Makes me wonder if Father Longenecker would have left the Protestant fold if he had been so charitable with Protestant failings or understood the saving work of Christ.