Yesterday, in Part I, I shared how I became Catholic in my heart during a Holy Mass with Pope Benedict XVI. Today’s story is less exotic. It happened about a year before I visited Rome and it happened in Fort Worth, Texas.
I was a newly minted Anglican clergyman and I sensed that I should be doing something active and visible for Christ in the local community. I began praying with other Anglicans in front of Planned Parenthood once a week. Having been previously Reformed, “social action” and anything that smacked of the “social Gospel” was mocked and condemned both by my friends and myself. In fact, my RUF leader in college told us that preaching against things like abortion from the pulpit was an abuse since the pulpit was solely for “Gospel preaching” not “political issues.” I thought that this sounded a bit off, but I did not question it.
Now that I was praying in front of an abortion clinic with a collar around my neck, I began to see that Christianity is much more than preaching, reading “solid” books, and debating doctrine. Teenage girls were crying. Men were dropping off girlfriends for their dirty deed. It was terrible, and yet somehow I knew that Christ was working through those present in a special way.
Here’s the kicker. On each day that we went to pray before Planned Parenthood, there were always many, many Catholics and usually at least one Catholic priest. They were kneeling in the gravel and praying. After a few months of observing this, one begins to ask himself: “Why are these Catholics here humiliating themselves and praying for people who mock them? Where are the Lutherans? Where are the Baptists? Where are the Reformed?” The denominations weren’t there. That’s not to say that they are not pro-life. However, it demonstrates that in this case, Catholicism is somehow more socially aware.
As I got to know these Catholics and their priests, I learned that they were not flimsy “social justice only” types. They went to Mass daily. They prayed. They defended the Creeds and Councils. They even studied Sacred Scripture. It was a balance that is rarely achieved in the realm of Protestantism.
I’m not saying that this one event “made me Catholic,” but it opened my eyes to authentic Christianity. The combination of theological rigor and corporal acts of mercy was something that I found very attractive and it certainly lead to my conversion.
My conclusion now is that Catholic liturgy naturally makes one socially aware. This would be a longer post for another time.