I am a Christian.
I am a saved Christian.
I am a Catholic.
I'm all three.
What? You don't believe me? How can a Catholic be a Christian believer, you say? I am here to tell you it's true. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. I believe He died for my sins and the sins of all humanity. I believe in his virgin birth, His death, and His resurrection. I believe He came so that all people could be saved. His blood was shed for people of every race, ethnicity, and religion.
For God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
I also believe that God does not want us to be divided. It surely grieves Jesus' heart when people, especially Christians, judge and hurt one another. On the other hand, Satan gleefully proclaims, "Yessss!" when he sees Christians divided. Whereas Jesus aims to unite us in love and forgiveness and offer salvation, Satan's mission is to divide and conquer.
I go to Mass in my Catholic church every Sunday. I find solace and peace in the traditions I've known for as long as I can remember. The Mass has not changed much since I was a child. Saying prayers, responding to the priest, following along in the Missalette (the book that guides Catholics through the readings and prayers of the Mass, including scriptures straight from the Bible), listening to the Gospel and the homily, offering and receiving peace, singing old hymns, receiving communion, and gazing at the crucifix-- all of those things, give me comfort.
My Catholic faith is a beautiful gift passed down to me through the generations. It's a part of me. Is the Catholic religion perfect? No.
What religion is?
I have quiet time every morning. When my alarm clock buzzes, I wipe the sand from my eyes and reach for my Bible and Jesus Calling devotional. Only after I've spent about forty-five minutes reading, meditating on God's Word and praying, do I swing my legs off the bed to start my day. Once a week I co-lead a non-denominational Christian prayer group I’ve been involved for over twenty years. In fact,it was through this ministry that I came to be saved. But that's another story for another day.
I have a question that's been troubling me:
Why do some Christians feel it's okay to "trash-talk" the Catholic religion?
A long time ago, while attending a Christian event, a woman was speaking about how her ex-husband had converted to Catholicism. The way she spat out the word Catholic, with such venom, made it sound like an expletive. Through the years, I've witnessed similar diatribes at Bible studies, Christian conferences, and retreats.
I've been hurt, felt inferior, unwelcome, and, yes, I have even felt discriminated against by thoughtless comments people have made. Many times, I've felt emotionally unsafe telling fellow Christians I'm Catholic. It's ironic that I don't have that fear around my Jewish or Muslim friends or co-workers.
More recently, I attended a retreat and overheard a woman say, "Upstate New York is a very dark area. There are so many Catholic churches there." That remark was ugly and painful to me. I'm sure it pleased Satan that the comment left me feeling sad, angry, and defensive. For the rest of the day, I fantasized about snappy comebacks I could have said to "set the record straight."
My rumination were so distracting that I strained to hear the loving, peaceful messages that God wanted me to receive that day.
Old doubts began to resurface. Maybe I don't belong here, among these Christian women- maybe I'm not good or holy enough. Maybe my prayers aren't eloquent enough. Maybe I'm not really saved! Maybe I can't be a Catholic and be saved. Do I need to leave the Catholic church?
And then I prayed.
"Jesus, help me let go of this, for clearly, this is not from you. Give me a gracious and forgiving heart. Give me courage. I can do all things through you, who gives me strength."
Praying helped. It helped a lot.
And then I listened. It seems God has something to say to me too.
God whispered in my ear, telling me not to judge others. Telling me to forgive, telling me to have patience. We all come from different places, have different life experiences, and come from different backgrounds for a reason. We each have our own gifts and talents.
The tapestry of our Christian faith is woven through each one of us. It's smooth and vibrant in some spots and wrinkled, worn, and faded in other places. It's all beautiful. So although I may never know the answer to the question that's troubling me, I will look at the tapestry of my faith and focus on what unites us as Christians, not what divides us.
I hope you will join me. As the priest says at the end of every Mass, "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord." I am trying. Will you try too?
Donna M. Magnotta lives in NY with her husband, Charlie, of 27 years and their two young adult daughters. She co-leads a high school/college and career prayer group and has been a part of Moms in Prayer for over20 years. She belongs to an organization called the Literary Godmothers, a multicultural, multi-generational group of female memoirists. When she's not writing or praying she enjoys cooking, baking and taking her ninety-year-old mother for walks.