Your Own Personal Jesus

There were more than a few things that I found somewhat unnerving as I began to immerse myself in Catholic practice and culture.  One of them was hearing Catholics refer to Jesus as “Our Lord”. It is perhaps a terrible thing to say but the first thing it drew to mind was the way Voldemort’s (or for those of you who have gone a little overboard in your Potter-mania, He-who-must-not-be-named) followers referred to him as “The Dark
Lord”. Then it struck me that like Voldemort’s title, this particular title was not something just anyone used. Rather, it seemed to denote a certain kinship among those who used it and I certainly did not feel like part of that group at that point. A puzzling state of affairs, to be sure.

This perplexing title caused me to consider the way we, as Protestants, referred to Jesus. More often than not, it was just that, Jesus. If a person was making a particularly spiritual
point, I suppose they would say “my Savior”. Sometimes if there was disagreement among believers over a hotly disputed issue, a person would put forth his opinion by saying, “Well, that’s not my Jesus.” Or “That’s not the Jesus I worship.” That sort of pronouncement always greatly annoyed and caused me slight discomfort; it just sounded…dissonant. It didn’t seem right that a person could assert that they alone spoke for Jesus, when what it really seemed to come down to was whose interpretation of the Bible was better.

Even though we all would agree, as Protestants, that when it comes down to the bare essentials, we all worship the same Lord, it still didn’t make sense to me that we could continue then to divide him up: My Jesus would be in favor of same-sex marriage. My Jesus would be a vigilante on the Mexican border. My Jesus would vote Libertarian.   

Over time, I began to soften to the designation of “Our Lord.” It no longer made me tense up or feel unnerved, and now that I am an “official” Catholic, I can say that I finally understand why Catholics use that term. It’s the Eucharist. Jesus comes to us in the form of Bread and Wine and by doing so, he makes himself real to all of us. “Our Lord”
is the rallying cry by which we recognize his gift to us, his Church. He is Our Lord because we, his Church, are united by the Blessed Sacrament.

I am not saying there are not disagreements among Catholics regarding various issues, but I am saying that there is a special kind of unity because we share in Communion. “The fruit of all the sacraments belongs to all the faithful. All the sacraments are sacred links
uniting the faithful with one another and binding them to Jesus Christ, and above all Baptism, the gate by which we enter into the Church. The communion of saints must be understood as the communion of the sacraments. . . . The name ‘communion’ can be applied to all of them, for they unite us to God. . . . But this name is better suited to the Eucharist than to any other, because it is primarily the Eucharist that brings this communion about.” (CCC 950).

I think one unique consequence of this rationale is that the Mass is a place for everyone. That includes children. Now, I know there is a fine line between a squeaking baby and a virtual barnyard, but I do find it very encouraging that babies and children are always present in Mass.  I think it is because it is recognized that children are included in the “our” of Christ’s Lordship. It doesn’t appear to me that the general attitude is that children are potential annoyances to someone who is attempting to commune with “their” Lord. (I’m not saying that people never encounter cranky, kid-hating people at Mass, but it doesn’t seem to be a general cultural attitude) This is one concrete area where I see that theology does really play out in every area of behavior and practice.

You may be thinking at this point that I have completely eliminated the personal aspect of a relationship with Jesus. This is pretty much the bedrock idea of Protestantism- especially for those offshoots of the Radical Reformation. Prior to finding out the truth about Catholicism, some of the words I associated with Catholics and their relationship to Jesus were: “exclusively corporate”,” impersonal”, and “mediated by a third party”. Imagine my surprise when, in my inquiring phase, I attended a Catholic Bible study with a friend
and the priest who led it constantly referred to his friendship with Jesus. I mean, this guy was continually imploring people to have a friendship (can you imagine???) with Jesus. At the time, I found it somewhat strange that his suggested path to being close to Jesus was, beside reading the Bible and praying, through attending Mass frequently and Eucharistic Adoration, but again, now it all makes sense.

Participating in the Mass has really made it come together for me. The visual picture, when the priest holds up the host and says, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper,” reminds me that he is being offered for all of us. I am not sitting in my own little pew in my own little world eating my own little cracker. I am standing and walking forward, with the rest of the people around me, to receive the Body of Christ from the hands of another and to offer my “Amen.” It is, at once, a personal and a corporate experience.

To cloister myself in my head and selfishly grab at Jesus and stuff him in my own box for my own use is, in effect, to smother him. What good is Jesus if he is only “yours” or “mine” and not “ours” as well? It may seem counter-intuitive, but in finding Christ in the Eucharist, I have never felt closer to Our Lord. He has never seemed more real, more present, more human, or more divine.

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37 Responses to Your Own Personal Jesus

  1. Brydon says:

    In my Baptist church, when we take communion we are all sitting together and eat the bread simultaneously. We’re not all in our own little worlds. We’re doing it together, in unison. We also take it seriously.

    The manner in which communion is served does not seem relevant.

    • Nikki says:

      Hey Brydon!
      I don’t mean to imply that Baptists don’t take communion seriously. Baptists do communion all kinds of ways (I’ve experienced this) and I wasn’t really speaking to the manner in which they do it. I do think the difference comes down to whether you belive in the Real Presence or not. I know a lot of people on both sides of the Tiber would say it doesn’t really matter but it does. One of my all time favorite quotes by Hilaire Belloc speaks to this: “There is no greater error in the whole range of bad history than imagining that doctrinal differences, because they are abstract and apparently remote from the practical things of life, are not therefore of intense social effect.”
      In my experience as a Baptist (and maybe I was a horribly bad Baptist- I don’t know…) I never heard people speak of Jesus as “our Lord.” Looking back on that, I think it’s seriously significant. Why the difference?

  2. Brydon says:

    Nikki,

    I do not recall hearing “our Lord” or “my Jesus.” I be paying more attention to that now.

    You indicated that the way in which Baptists take communion was a manifestation of how Baptists “stuff Jesus” in their own “box.” Baptists, under the “priesthood of all believers”, do have significantly more diversity of thought and views of Jesus than Catholics. Communion, however, is the one of the few moments when Baptists come together as one. I guess I’m just saying it’s not the best example that you could have used!

    • Nikki says:

      I would argue that Communion is the example to use. Again, I’m not talking about which “form” is better. I’m talking about the difference in belief about the nature of Communion. What one believes about the Real Presence has actual consequence for how one thinks of Jesus.

  3. Brydon says:

    You wrote, “I am not sitting in my own little pew in my own little world eating my own little cracker.” I’m saying that Baptists may be sitting in their own little pew and eating their own little cracker, but they are not in their own little world at that moment.

    As you know, Baptists believe that the Holy Spirit dwells within us. We believe Jesus is present when two or three are gathered. We just do not believe the communion cracker is Jesus in cracker form. Obviously, a Catholic would say that makes all the difference and I would like to understand why.

    • Nikki says:

      Ok, this may be a long reply so let me get back to you in a bit. I’m not blowing you off but I need to think.

    • Jason says:

      Brydon,

      Thank you SO much for dialoging with us on these very difficult issues. I have a few thoughts I’d throw into the discussion:

      When you say that Baptists believe that Jesus is “present” whenever two or three are gathered in his name, I’m assuming you are not saying that Baptists believe he’s “tangibly” present whenever that’s the case. Catholics, however, believe that Jesus is “tangibly” present in the Eucharist and that, by receiving the Eucharist at Mass, the communicant, in a “real” sense, partakes of Christ’s very Blood and Body, Soul and Divinity. And Nik and I are saying that, if that’s true, it makes all the difference in the world.

      If it’s true that Christ is truly and really present in the Eucharist celebrated in every Catholic church, that’s a big deal. Just imagine walking into a building believing that you are about to encounter Christ there in a tangible way–not just in a non-physical way because you happen to be with like-minded people. That’s at least one way I can express the difference I feel.

      One last thought on the “gathering of two or three” passage: are you suggesting that whenever two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name, it’s a church service? If so, why do Baptists on Sundays go to buildings typically referred to as churches to attend a “worship service”? Why don’t they just meet with a couple of other folks “in Jesus’s name” every so often? What’s the difference between such a gathering and a Baptist church service?

      Finally, with respect to the “little world” issue, Nik and I aren’t suggesting that’s how it necessarily feels to every Baptist. That’s just how it felt to us. And (in my opinion) there’s nothing in Baptist theology that stood in the way of our feeling that communion was yet another merely subjective thing, even though it may have been done in a crowded room. If the bread and wine are “only symbols” and the communion service is “only a memorial,” what is to prevent the individual participant from drawing whatever conclusions he wants about the significance of his participation?

    • Nikki says:

      Ok, for now I’m just going to post a few links because this is a big question you are asking and it could be answered in many ways (and has been by people far smarter than I.)
      1. Read John chapter 6
      2. this is a link to the Catechism on the Eucharist. It’s kind of long but pretty much sums up what the Church thinks about the Eucharist: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a3.htm
      3. Have you read what the Church Fathers have said about the Eucharist? Here is a link but you may want to read further at some point: http://www.catholic.com/library/Real_Presence.asp
      4.I haven’t read this book yet but I’ve read others by Mark Shea and he is the bomb so I trust that it is good: http://www.amazon.com/This-My-Body-Evangelical-Discovers/dp/0931888484/ref=pd_rhf_p_t_1

      I’m not trying to pass the buck but I’ve got to say, there just isn’t a simple short answer to your question. There is an intellectual dimension to this but also a spiritual one. Read and pray.

  4. Nikki,
    does it come down to belief about the Real Presence, or to sacramental fact? Can the sacrament of the Eucharist be independent of the sacrament of holy orders?

  5. Nikki says:

    Thomas,
    Sacramental fact, to be sure. You are totally correct. I should have stated that with more clarity. I was just thinking a bit ago about how this is such a hard concept to explain because EVERYTHING is all tied up together- including holy orders.

  6. As one listens to a Baptist and a Catholic talk (informed, articulate representatives at least), when they’re just talking and not being theologically careful, when the Baptist says “church,” a local congregation is usually meant whereas for the Catholic, “church” is primarily the whole Body, centered in the Catholic Church.
    As the Jewish comedian Lenny Bruce used to say (I think..haven’t found specific reference): The Catholic Church is the Church we mean when we say The church.
    I make this observation thinking it somewhat related to Brydon’s question, tho I’m too lazy and incompetent to explain the connection clearly. As Nikki notes, all the interconnections make explanations difficult. btw, speaking of the Eucharist: http://www.zenit.org/article-33405?l=english

  7. Brydon says:

    Regarding Jason’s comments, the spiritual is as real as the tangible. If the Holy Spirit already dwells within me, then how would participating in the Eucharist cause me to be more connected with Christ and with His church? I can see what a deeply meaningful experience it would be if transubstantiation occurs, however. Based on my Baptist “priesthood of the believer” interpretation, I do not think Jesus meant that we actually have to eat his flesh any more than he meant that he is a door or a vine. In order for me to believe in transubstantiation, I would first have to accept the authority of the Catholic Church. For me, it all boils down to authority.

    Yes. When two or three are gathered a worship service may occur. We go to buidlings “typically referred to as churches” to unite with many more fellow brothers and sisters in Christ for worship. We belong to a church in order to be connected with the Body, to combine our efforts for missions, for worship, support, and Christian education.

    Our pastor says communion is not “just a symbol.” He says although it is a symbol, it is an important, mysterious symbol that links us with the past and causes us to always remember. Of course there is nothing to prevent a member of our congregation from drawing a different conclusion.

    • Jason says:

      I sympathize with the “chicken and egg” problem it seems to me you’re having: in order to accept that the Catholic Church really is what it claims to be, it helps to first believe that it’s right about such a key doctrine as transubstantiation. If you don’t believe it’s right on that doctrine, it’s tough to accept the Church’s authority.

      On the transubstantiation/Real Presence issue itself, it seems you’re using the word “spiritual” as a synonym for “intangible.” I would agree that the Real Presence is a “spiritual” reality, but that doesn’t make it non-tangible. We are all spiritual beings, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have bodies. This leads to why I believe this is all such a big deal: to me, the Real Presence is simply an extension of the doctrine of the Incarnation. To deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (to my mind) comes very close to denying that God can take on matter. This, at least for me, was what I ultimately came to see was the real reason I’d rejected the doctrine as a Protestant, although I told myself it was based on my interpretation of Scripture. But, on just the interpretation issue, I eventually had to concede that the Catholic interpretation was at least as reasonable as the Protestant one. And I do believe now that the Catholic interpretation is more reasonable. For example, in John 6, right after Jesus talks about “eating his flesh” and “drinking his blood” a lot of his followers leave him because it’s a “hard saying.” It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Jesus at that point to have said, “Hey, guys, I was only speaking symbolically!” He didn’t say that, and there’s no comparable story to this when Jesus compares himself to a door or a vine. He also never pointed to an actual physical door or vine and said, “This is my body.”

      The message of the Eucharist is that God cares so much about us that He takes on the form of something as seemingly inconsequential as bread and wine so that His divine life can literally become part of our very lives on a day-in-day-out basis here and now. The Eucharist is the way in which we can still say that Christ is Immanuel, not just in Palestine 2,000 years ago, but also right now.

      On some of the other points you raise, I’d ask a few questions.

      What is the basis for determing that being “indwelt” by the Holy Spirit gives Christians all the grace that is available to them to live the Christian life?

      What definition of “worship” are you using?

      Does a “worship service” need a pastor? If not, why do all of these Protestant churches have paid staff called pastors?

      If the fundamental purposes of communion are to link us to the past and to remember, why didn’t Jesus just tell us to have a time set aside in our worship services to just think about Him? Why did he add in the use of bread and wine at all? And, if at the end of the day, the bread and wine used in commuion are still just ordinary bread and wine, how are they “mysterious”?

  8. Brydon says:

    Transubstantiation is not a barrier to me accepting the Catholic Church’s authority. As I’m sure you know, growing up in sola scriptura, priesthood of all believers Protestant churches makes it difficult to submit to a church’s authority. The Baptist priesthood of all believers concept is also very American. We are each sovereign. We lend power to the church only to the extent necessary. Each local Baptist church is autonomous. It’s small government conservatism!

    But, it sure would be nice to have some doctrine. In my Sunday school class a few weeks ago, three people expressed three conflicting views on salvation. Some Baptists claim that we all agree about the “big issues.” Not so.

    That’s all I have time for right now. Nikki and you are doing a great job with this blog!

    • Fr. Bryan says:

      Bryndon –

      I’ve enjoyed your comments, and I hope you’ll keep posting here. You speak of a “Baptist” priesthood of all believers. Do you include the “Baptist” qualifier beforehand because you think that this doctrine is unique among Baptists? Or because you are distinguishing the content of the Baptist’s doctrine of the priesthood of all believers with other denominations’ doctrines of the same name.

      What I’m getting at is whether or not you are aware of how this doctrine of the Priesthood of all believers is articulated by the magisterial teaching of Catholic Church.

    • I’m with you on the significance of the authority issue. I can only say, though, that it’s only since I’ve recognized the authority of the Church that I feel I’ve understood what Jesus meant when he said his yoke was easy and his burden light. I didn’t feel that way when I felt like all of doctrine was up to me.

  9. Brydon says:

    Fr. Bryan,

    I use the “Baptist” qualifier to limit my comments to what I know, the Baptist understanding of the priesthood of all believers. Given the diversity of thought among Baptists, I probably should qualify it further as “Brydon’s understanding of Brydon’s local church’s teaching on the priesthood of all believers.”

    In the context of doctrine and the interpretation of scripture, my understanding is that the priesthood of all believers grants autonomy to each individual. I am not required to accept anything said by my pastor, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, or the Baptist General Association of Virginia. My pastor’s views carry great weight with me because I respect him and he went to seminary and has a Ph.D. But, if he engages in false teaching, I have a duty to myself and to my family to reject it.

    Earlier this year our deacons had a great debate over the qualifications for becoming a deacon. Some said to be a deacon one must have had a beleiver’s baptism by full immersion. Other’s said a believer’s baptism by sprinkling was sufficient. A third camp said baptism is merely a symbol and that infant baptism was enough. Our pastor was just one voice among many in the debate. He did not possess authority to give us the answer. Ultimately it was decided to table the discussion. And, yes Jason, I realize I am helping you make your case.

    • Fr. Bryan says:

      Bryndon,

      Very interesting. Our Catholic understanding of The Royal Priesthood (The Priesthood of all believers) does not mean that we are autonomous. It means that we participate in Christ’s priesthood (there is, after-all, only one true, high priest). Through baptism we enter the royal priesthood is where we become part of Christ’s body, offering up our bodies as a living Sacrifice (Rom 12). It is when we become part of Christ’s body and members of the royal priesthood that we are no longer autonomous individuals detached from other Christians.

      The purpose of a priest is to offer sacrifice. When a baptized Christian is undergoing some kind of trial they are able (because they are a priest) to offer it to God IN and THROUGH the suffering of Christ the high priest. Thus, the struggles of the baptized Christian actually contribute to the salvation of others. They make up what was lacking in the suffering of Christ for the sake of the Church (Col 1:24). You can read more on this point in the Great document Lumen Gentium. Here are the applicable passages: http://www.ldysinger.com/@magist/1962_Vat2/03b_roy-prt_msp.htm

      I hope you find this as interesting as I do!

      Fr. Bryan

      • Brydon says:

        Fr. Bryan,

        That is very interesting. I think Baptists assign a very different meaning to “preisthood of all believers.”

        The idea of autonomy and individual religious liberty so much a part of Baptist culture that my 200-year old Baptist church does not even have a governing charter or constitution. Many members of my church take pride in the fact that we are a charterless church. This is why I wrote earlier that it is difficult for a Baptist to accept the authority of a church. The Catholic position that the Church’s teachings are equivalent to scripture is very foreign to your typical sola scriptura Baptist.

        Information on the Baptist understanding of the priesthood of all believers may be found here: http://www.baptiststart.com/print/priesthood_believers_quotes.html

  10. Brydon says:

    Here is how the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship defines “Baptist Principles.”

    Soul Freedom – We believe in the priesthood of all believers. We affirm the freedom and responsibility of every person to relate directly to God without the imposition of creed or the control of clergy or government.

    Bible Freedom – We believe in the authority of Scripture. We believe the Bible, under the Lordship of Christ, is central to the life of the individual and the church. We affirm the freedom and right of every Christian to interpret and apply scripture under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

    Church Freedom – We believe in the autonomy of every local church. We believe Baptist churches are free, under the Lordship of Christ, to determine their membership and leadership, to order their worship and work, to ordain whomever they perceive as gifted for ministry, and to participate as they deem appropriate in the larger Body of Christ.

    Religious Freedom – We believe in freedom of religion, freedom for religion, and freedom from religion. We support the separation of church and state.

    • Nikki says:

      Brydon,
      Two thoughts on that:
      1. When you look back at what the earliest Church Fathers wrote, it doesn’t sound much like what the CBF holds to- especially in the area of Soul Freedom. Ignatius of Antioch and Clement, for example, rubbed shoulders with the Apostles. In their roles as bishop, they were instrumental in stamping out heresy. If they hadn’t asserted the structure of authority and had just let people have their “freedom” to believe whatever they wanted and to follow whoever, the Church would look a lot different, if it would have even survived. When I read the Church Fathers as a Protestant, I started to question why my take on church was so different from theirs and why *I* should know better than those who walked the earth shortly after Jesus and were in close communion with the Apostles. That’s why Apostolic succession makes sense to me.
      2. There are those in the CBF who are starting to have a problem with its principles. Have you seen the whole debate with the Bapto-Catholics? http://www.abpnews.com/content/view/5708/53/
      Who’s right there?

  11. Brydon says:

    Baptist “freedom” can be a problem. Over the years, our kids have reported some strange things being taught by their Sunday school and Wednesday night teachers. At our church, the qualification for being a teacher is the willingness to volunteer. We have no way of knowing or regulating what our kids will be taught at our church. One of our Catholic friends taught faith formation to elementary school age kids. She was required to take a class to prepare her to teach the kids.
    So, I really like the idea of a church that has God-given authority to teach the truth. My problem with the Catholic church’s claim is that if the Catholic church speaks for God, it’s teachings would never change. The Church would have a history of perfection if it were an instrument of God. History indicates that the Church is an institution that is as flawed as the men who lead it.
    What is the “Church” anyway? One view of the Protestant Reformation is that it liberated the Church from the grip of corrupt leadership. Is the Church a brand name? Is it limited to the RCC? Is the RCC the Church because it firmly asserts that it is the Church and that its teachings have the authority of scripture?
    The Baptists are saying that they do not want men getting in the way of each individual’s personal relationship with Jesus. We also know that it is no excuse to blindly follow false teaching. Through the Holy Spirit, prayer, Bible study, and worship we build that relationship. We try to focus solely on Christ. And, so it all comes back to your original post on this topic!

    • Fr. Bryan says:

      Bryndon – You bring up some interesting points. I’m sure Nikki and Jason will be around to answer in greater detail, but I will just share a response to one of your questions. You ask, “What is the “Church” anyway? One view of the Protestant Reformation is that it liberated the Church from the grip of corrupt leadership. Is the Church a brand name? Is it limited to the RCC? Is the RCC the Church because it firmly asserts that it is the Church and that its teachings have the authority of scripture?”

      A lot has been written on this question over the last couple of decades. In order to truly be a Church (as we Catholics understand it) you have to have valid sacraments, and in order to have valid sacraments you have to have a valid priesthood. In order to have a valid priesthood you need apostolic succession. Apostolic succession is the doctrine that we have an unbroken line of bishops going all the way back to the apostles. If a group of believers can trace their lineage back to the apostles they can properly be called a church. Thus, the Eastern Orthodox can properly call themselves a Church. Some Anglican and Lutheran Communities can properly be called a Church because they have apostolic succession.

      Groups of Christians who do not have valid sacraments are not considered Churches in our understanding. We would call them, “Ecclesial Communities.” They participate in the body of Christ through baptism, but not perfectly incorporated into it. So to answer each question, The Church is the body of Christ. The Church is much more than a brand name. It is not necessarily limited to the RCC. And the RCC is a church because it validly celebrates the sacraments and has an unbroken line of succession back to the Apostles.

      I hope that helps to answer your questions!

    • Jason says:

      Hey, Brydon! Just thought I’d add in a few thoughts here.

      First, I highly recommend checking out what the Catechism has to say about the nature of the Church at this link, down through at least paragraph 856.

      Second, I think it’s important to draw a distinction between the perfection of the Church’s doctrine and the moral perfection of any particular Catholic (including Popes). As far as the doctrine goes, I would suggest that nothing in history indicates that the Church has ever erred in her doctrine. Her doctrine has developed over time, but no infallible teaching has ever been contradcited by a later infallible teaching. I investigated this issue at length, as I was desperately trying to think of reasons not to become Catholic. I’m happy to address any specific teachings you believe the Church has changed over time, but I’m not sure which ones you might be thinking of.

      At the same time I absolutely believe the Church’s infallible teachings have never changed or been imperfect, I also completely acknowledge that individual Catholics (including Popes) have failed over time and the Church as an institution has not handled all issues that have come up over time as well as it could have. The priest I went through RCIA with, and any Catholic I’ve encountered who has discussed these issues, would agree with this.

  12. Brydon says:

    Fr. Bryan,

    That is helpful.

    Does it matter if one is a member of a Church instead of an Ecclesial Community if salvation is available to members of both? I have been thinking the answer may be that being a member of a Church is important for two reasons (1) participation in valid sacraments; and (2) doctrine.

    If there are multiple “churches” with their own teachings, however, then the churches have the same issue that ecclesial communities have with respect to doctrine. They can’t all be correct.

    Is it really all about the sacraments?

    Can one join a Church, participate in the sacraments, but retain the Baptist notion of the preisthood of all believers? I don’t think having your cake and eating too like that is possible.

    • Nikki says:

      Brydon,
      I came across this clip the other day on http://www.almostnotcatholic.com and I think it’s relevant to the discussion: http://www.wordonfire.org/trackback/4085c8e7-f6b5-452a-9a55-d18c593db6dd/Fr–Barron-comments-on-Leaving-The-Church.aspx
      To your question about whether it’s all about the sacraments, I’d say that the sacraments are God’s way of allowing us to share in his divine life. Through the sacraments we are given grace and are strengthened to live out his call to us to be who God called us to be. From the outside, it maybe looks like it’s something arbitrary, but I’ve come to see it as something that is good for us and something that I want. It’s kind of like the way we, as loving parents, insist that our children do the things that are good for them. If they have any sense (which I know all of our darling children do) then they will continue doing those things when they grow up because they know what keeps them healthy and alive. It’s becomes less a matter of a “have to” and becomes more of a “want to”.
      And to your last question, I’d answer no. 🙂

  13. Brydon says:

    The RCC, the Eastern Orthodox Church and certain Lutheran and Anglican communities have valid sacraments because they have apostolic succession. Are they equivalent?

    Barron seems to equate leaving the Catholic Church with abandoning Christianity.

    • Jason says:

      I’ll have to defer to Fr. Bryan on what “apostolic succession” means with respect to the Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, and Anglican communities. It seemed to me, though, he was just suggesting that certain of those communities can properly be called “churches” because at least certian of their bishops can trace their succession back to the Apostles. I’m not sure what that means for the validity of their sacrmanets. I think the sections of the Catechism I referred you to in my last comment may address some of these issues.

      As to Fr. Barron’s comments, I only took him as saying that “[t]he [Catholic] Church is where we find the fullness of the life Christ wanted to give to us.” Given that, I think he was just saying that abandoning the Church is not a good thing for people. I do recognize, though, that you’re raising the legitimate question of how whatever “the Church” is relates to whatever “Christianity” is. On that score, I’m sympathetic to Hilaire Belloc’s point that there’s no indication that Christ founded something called “Christianity”–just that He founded the Church. So, I’d ask: what do you mean by “Christianity,” and who do you believe gets to determine the definition of that word? As a practical example of what I’m driving at: does Mormonism fall within “Christianity” or outside it, and how would one decide?

    • Fr. Bryan says:

      Bryndon –

      No, those Churches are not equivalent. They are all in unique situations. For starters, even if a Lutheran church or an Anglican church were to have apostolic succession they would not celebrate all seven sacraments validly because they don’t celebrate all seven sacraments. Thus, these Churches are not making use of all of the gifts that God gave the Church as Catholics and Orthodox Christians are.

      And to answer your question above, yes, it does matter which Church one belongs to because the Church that Jesus established makes use of all this grace that God gives (all the grace promised in all the sacraments). And yes, doctrine certainly is important. We should want to join a Church that makes use of the fullness of Christian teaching, which I believe is the Catholic Church.

  14. Brydon says:

    The Catholic Church recognizes that Christ uses “ecclesial communities as a means of salvation.” If the term “Christianity” is confusing, we do not have to use it. Barron seems to treat leaving the Catholic church for an ecclesial community the same as leaving the Catholic Church for Hinduism. A person can leave the Catholic Church without abandoning Christ. Barron lumped ecclesial communities in with non-Christ-following (using “Christian” would be easier) religions. Perhaps Catholics view the sin of separation as abandoning Christ?

    • Jason says:

      Based upon my experience, it seems to me the Church’s view of Catholics who leave the Church is very different from its view of folks who are in Protestant churches and have never been Catholic. The Catholics I’ve heard discuss this topic, it seems to me, view the “Catholic-who-leaves” issue as involving a “those to whom much is given, much is required” problem. Turning your back on the fullness of Truth (which is available only in the Catholic Church) is viewed as something more serious than having been born and raised a Protestant and not knowing what you’re missing. And, if Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, leaving the Church is (at least in a sense) abandoning Him. And I think the Church’s sense of the gravity of this issue is consistent with what Peter says in 2 Peter 2:20-22.

    • Fr. Bryan says:

      Bryndon –

      One of us (or both of us?) doesn’t understand what Barron is saying. I watched the video and I didn’t get the impression that he feels as though Baptists or evangelicals are in the same situation regarding their relationship with the true God as Hindus or pagans.

      If you were in a desert and somebody offered you a Gallon jug of water, a full glass of water, a glass of water that was half full, and a glass with a drop of water in it you would naturally want the Gallon jug. It would be foolish of you to pick the full glass, the glass that was half full, or the glass with the drop. However, if you were to pick the glass that was full it wouldn’t be as foolish as picking the glass that was half full. I think this analogy is closer to what Barron was saying.

      This isn’t to say that protestants are foolish. To carry out the analogy, somebody who was to pick the glass of water instead of the Gallon jug might do so because they were ignorant that the Gallon jug existed, or perhaps even thought that the Gallon jug contained poison or something that could harm them. I think that this is where most protestants find themselves. They are simply unaware that God is able to give as much grace as he is able to, and so they settle for less. Sad, yes, but not as sad as somebody who knows what the Catholic Church is, believes that it is everything it claims, and chooses something less anyway, which was what Barron seems to be talking about.

      Do you follow?

  15. Brydon says:

    Last night at church, deacon candidates were giving their testimonies. As I listened to their powerful and motional stories of how Christ has been active in thier lives, I thought about the gallon jug and the full glass.

    I respect a Catholic who maintains that the Catholic Church offers the gallon jug. After reading what Jason and Nikki have written here and witnessing other friends’ conversion journey, I have a greater appreciation and admiration for the Catholic Church.

    A Protestant may take the view that we are both holding gallon jugs. The Protestant jug is pure spring water while the Catholic jug is full of Tang. There’s nothing wrong with the Tang. It tastes great. It just has some extra ingredients and we don’t understand what all of them are. What is “xanthan gum” anyway?

    I hope that Catholics who believe Protestants are only drinking a full glass recognize the amazing power in that glass. Listening to the deacon testimonies, I thought that even if it is only a glass the work Christ has done in the lives of these Protestants is amazing. The use He has made of our local church throughout the world, from Southwest Virginia to South Africa is incredible. When you consider just the Baptists and their world wide missionary and humanitarian efforts it is clear that they have been an instrument of our Lord.

    I think that’s what bothered me a little about Barron’s video. Even if the Catholic Church is the gallon jug and the ecclesial communities are the glass, there is tremendous power in that glass. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

    • Fr. Bryan says:

      Bryndon –

      Yes, a glass of water for one dying of thirst in a dry and weary land would do wonders. I don’t think any Catholic would dispute that, or how it pertains to the analogy. This Catholic doesn’t dispute it.

      Peace,

      Fr. Bryan

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