Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Why I Am Catholic, XIV

In Catholicism, I love that one can dedicate his or her life to Christ, and that this radical devotion is encouraged and respected within and by the Church.


Chad Toney said...


I've always felt called to marriage and fatherhood. But I remember my evangelical friends and I in High School talking about how much they wanted to do more, to not "settle" for marriage and typical amercian life.

But theres really no other options in Evangelicalism.

Dan said...

Hmm...in the interest of a conversation, are you talking about the vocational life?

I don't believe that dedicating one's life to Christ is reserved to the domain of Catholics, is it? The number of Catholics in vocations is a slim number, but I would say that the same percentage of evangelicals are dedicated in similar ways, albeit categorically different. Missionaries come to the top of the list, in my mind, as well as pastors and the like.

I suppose the Catholic church would chaaracterize this as different, since pastors are typically married, so they are both called to be fathers and pastors, but I don't believe it can be said that they have not dedicated their lives to service and radical devotion to Christ.

Chad Toney said...

Hmm...in the interest of a conversation, are you talking about the vocational life?

Heh. That's what I assumed too.

I don't believe that dedicating one's life to Christ is reserved to the domain of Catholics, is it?

Scott can answer this as well, but I would say: of course not! But there are more options that are actively encouraged in Catholicism as to how and to what degree one dedicates one's life to the Kingdom.

Scott said...

I suppose it's how you define it, Dan, as you already intimated. After all, being married and raising a family that serves God can be radical devotion.

So I certainly have religious vocations in mind such as monks, nuns, and priests - and monks, nuns, and priests as missionaries. Primarily, in other words, for those who choose to be single in service of the Church.

I think it's beautiful that one can choose not to marry in order to serve God. The churches I have been a part of certainly say that's all right, but most people think there's something intrinsically odd about it, if not wrong.

This is especially true for women, I imagine, although I'm just using my imagination on that assertion (the majority of my assertions spring strictly from my imagination).

So, for instance, if you are single in the Catholic Church you have godly old women tugging at your sleeve about considering the priesthood. If you are single in a Protestant church, people are inviting you to their singles ministry, which is a sanctified dating club. Or unsanctified, depending on your church.

Yes, Protestants can be radically devoted to Christ and the mission of the Church. But there is something distinct in Catholicism that separates it as other - and perhaps that boils down to celibacy.

Chad Toney said...

perhaps that boils down to celibacy.

Yeah, possibly. But this is the situation I see in my head to illustrate the difference.

A young evangelical girl says to her pastor: "Hey pastor, I was wondering if you and the rest of the elders and the congregation would support me in my future ministry."

pastor: "Of course! Would you like to go to Bolivia or Mali? You and you future husband could really help spreading the gospel there!"

girl: "Well, I was kinda thinking I could just live here at the church and pray all day, every day, for the rest of my life."

pastor: "eh?"

Scott said...

lol, Chad. Yeah, there's that too.

Prayer is something of incredible value that I have found to be altogether different in Catholicism - more on that later, I suppose. In Evangelicalism for me there was always the desire to pray, the talking about praying, but not so much the doing. Catholics can fall into the same trap, of course, or lose themselves in the ritual, possibly, but I've discovered the Catholic and Orthodox prayer traditions - the prayers themselves - to be life-changing.

There are certainly prayer warriors in Protestantism, but I was not one of them.

For me, praying as an evangelical, the flesh was willing but the spirit was weak.

Part of that has to do with the vain repetition and pagan ritual that is available to me now, of course. The Jesus Prayer, the Divine Liturgy, and the Rosary (though I'm growing in this still), provide me a way to pray that I never knew about before - or either that I condemned it.

Chad Toney said...

Amen to that too Scott.

My prayer life was pretty non-existant and I excused it by talking non-stop about "just walking with the Lord" and "not needing forms and regulations, etc".


Dan said...

But Protestants can be single and have a dedicated devotion to God...Bill Gothard comes to mind, a man who consciously chose the celibate life as a sacrifice to God. Now, I'm not as big a fan as I once was about Bill Gothard, don't get me wrong, but still, he's an example that came to mind right away. And where there is one, there is always more.

Belinda L., who was single for a long, long time, is an example for me of a single woman who chose celibacy while she singularly served God in amazing and remarkable ways, first as a school teacher, and then as a children's ministry leader. She is now no longer single, but for nearly 20 years, she offered her celibacy in obedience to God, not so unlike nuns. The difference for me is that she didn't make a vow. But the obedience, and sacrifice was as Godly and beautiful in my mind as the sacrifice of nuns.

Do I find it beautiful that the Catholic church has nuns, monks and other celibate vocations? Of course. But simply because it is codified as such in the Catholic Church does not mean that similar sacrificial and celibate devotion to Christ does not exist in the Protestant church--I think it's painting with a wide brush to suggest otherwise. Is the Catholic Church categorically better than Protestantism simply because there are orders and vocations dedicated to celibate service to God? Perhaps, but in some ways, to say that is the case seems to deny the very real possibility of devout men and women who truly love God and are obedient to Him, living celibate lives dedicated to the Lord in the Protestant church.

I'm glad the Catholics have vocations that allow men and women to pray and meditate 24/7 on God. The Body needs that, and I am thankful that Catholicism has provided a way. For me, it's about the full Body, i.e., each of us has our role. For me, the Bride of Christ encompasses all of Christianity, all believers who claim Christ as Lord. Thank God the Catholics have these vocations, but for me, it doesn't elevate them, in my mind, but that's merely my opinion, and I respect that your love for the Catholic Church is greater because of it. I still contend that there are evangelicals that do the same thing, though perhaps this is veering towards silly arguments.

I would say that in some ways, stating that this is one reason you love the Catholic Church alienates the Protestants who might read your blog. It doesn't alienate me: I'm bizarro Scott, remember. :-) But I would say that stating what you did in this entry suggests to Protestant readers that you now believe that the Catholic Church is the only place where single men and women can devote their lives singularly to Christ.

To be honest, I think that might be rather offputting to the Protestant readers of your blog, rather than a way to persuade them that Catholicism is the right path. Though perhaps that's not your hope or desire for this series, which I'm enjoying, incidentally. It's food for thought...

Dan said...

Oh, and one other thing...

I sure wish you lived closer...it'd be fun to grab a beer (or two or three) together and talk into the wee hours of the morning about some of this stuff...being bizarro Scott, these are things that I think about...

alison said...


As you know, I am a follower of Christ who worships in a Protestant church and who happens to have several friends who have converted to the Catholic Church as adults. Each time I celebrated with my friend that he had found his place and did not consider that he had left my "team".

To support your goal in beautifully and rightly expressing what you find beautiful and right in the Catholic Church I would encourage you to lay aside the ways you once judged and discounted Catholic traditions. An example of this would be your joking about prayer "the vain repetition and the pagan ritual that is available to me now..."

By lay aside, I guess I am saying, acknowledge your sorrow in dismissing something that is now a precious gift. Ask for forgiveness and then let it go.

When you refer to something in a sarcastic manner it distracts me.

Keep telling us what you love. Keep showing us the beauty.

Scott said...

I cannot currently access my blog directly - so I apologize for the messiness of what's taking place here - out-of-order comments, for instance. I hope the problem will be resolved soon. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, then don't worry about it.)

Thanks for the honesty, Dan. It would be nice to grab a beer and talk theology as we were made to talk theology, rather than through the poor, poor medium of blogging.

I am trying to make this series as personal a journey as possible - what I have noticed and experienced in my short happy life as a Catholic. It is not my intention or desire to put off Protestants, in general, or my evangelical family and friends, in particular. My goal is to help others understand what I find beautiful and right in Catholicism, and to express it beautifully and rightly.

But, dammit, I wish others were less willing to be Margot Macomber.

Alison, I am sorry about my sarcasm concerning prayer. It was inappropriate and I appreciate your calling me on it.

Dan, another thing, the very fact of my Catholicism puts off most evangelicals - certainly in the circles I find myself. And while I wish it were different, it isn't.

Your examples notwithstanding, however, celibacy in Protestantism is seen as an aberration more than a gift. And maybe that's not true everywhere, but as an adult I've seen it time and again in multiple denominations. For instance, how many churches do you know who would hire a single man to be their minister?

Obviously the post struck a nerve, and while I hate to see that happen, I know that some of my posts will effect different people differently. They're not intended to offend; they are intended to relate what my experience has been. All of this must be read in the context of what it is as well - I am no longer Protestant, and there are reasons for decision.

I appreciate the conversation.

Dan said...

By no means did I find the post offensive...it just stimulated my thinking, and a desire to converse about the subject. Hope I didn't offend in the meantime...

I suppose a distinction can be drawn between celibacy and chastity. Catholics focus on the blessings of celibacy, while Protestants focus on the blessings and importance of chastity.

Dan said...

Oh...and one other thing...I'm sorry that you're surrounded by knucklehead evangelicals.