If you don't think Catholics are being attacked for being Catholic, just spend a little time on Social Media. There are a lot of things said that is appalling and sadly coming from many who profess Christ as Savior. It's even more saddening to find out that some of those attacking Catholics are former Catholics who often claim that reading the Bible and/or having a "Born Again" experience opened their eyes to the evil Church of Rome.
I have personally been accused of being the Son of Satan, in a cult, a fool according to scripture, one who denies Christ and having the mark of the beast just to name a few things that come to mind as I type this. However, my faith is well formed and I have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I also understand and embrace the sacraments. So I try to respond in love and share how much I love Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In my opinion, many of the former Catholics who attack Catholics and the Church fell short somehow in all 3 of these areas: The Sacraments ( 7 in the Catholic Church ), Catechesis ( Faith Formation ) and Evangelization ( Relationship with Christ ).
Do you have a relationship with Christ?
There is more to the Christian life than going through the motions: When a faithful Catholic understands and embraces the Sacraments, is fully formed through proper Catechesis and is both Evangelized and Evangelizes, it's difficult to "not have" a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I'm a convert and the more I learn about the Catholic faith the more I realize how it ALL points to Jesus Christ and the love of others. As a Catholic, my personal walk with Christ is as strong as it has ever been. Actually I dare to say, my walk with the Lord is even stronger than my protestant days.
A faithful Catholic who understands the sacraments and regularly receives the Eucharist with full knowledge of the position of the Church, sincerely receives the sacrament of Reconciliation as often as needed, knows the Catholic faith as taught by the Church, embraces and reads scripture regularly and seeks sincerely to have a relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer, adoration, obedience, etc., should not be moved by outside influences. However, it's in moments of weakness like questioning ones faith that outside influences can begin to plant seeds of doubt. That's why all faithful Catholics need to receive and understand the Sacraments especially the Eucharist ( Biblical ) which is the source and summit of the Catholic faith as well as going to reconciliation ( Biblical ) as often as needed and at minimum once per year during the Easter season. A faithful Catholic should also be fully Catechized and Evangelized.
These are the exact words from a commenter on YouTube:
"Another fact is, Catholics are going to hell along with all the Catholics who have already died." ...Well, that's a perfect example of "righteous judgment" ( often condemning one to hell ) and "speaking the truth in love" ( often hateful - not loving - not actually sharing the Gospel ).
God knows everything about all of us inside and out. He knows the heart and the intent of the commenter above. I'll leave final judgment to God and God alone.
I'm not going to use the words "righteous judgment" ( often condemning one to hell ) and "speaking the truth in love" ( often outright hateful ) in this article as some do online. I do believe that sin is sin and a life of intentional sin and rejecting Christ is the path to hell, but I don't know what one does with their last breath crying out sincerely to God if that's how one exits this life. Again, I'll leave final judgment to God. But it is my job and yours to share the Gospel.
I said all that to help clarify what "I" mean when I'm using the terms below. Obviously, I do not know where every Catholic stands on these points. I simply wanted to share some thoughts for your consideration:
7 Sacraments: From the Catechism: The Sacraments ( CCC 1210 ): "Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law. There are seven: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The seven sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life: they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian's life of faith. There is thus a certain resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life."
For my purposes, I'm referring to someone who has been Baptized ( sacrament - Father, Son, Holy Spirit ), Confirmed ( sacrament - when one who has been baptized affirms Christian belief and is admitted as a full member of the Church ), receives the Eucharist( sacrament - the source and summit of the Catholic faith ) regularly on Sunday or Saturday Vigil and goes to Reconciliation ( Confession - sacrament ) at least once per year during the Easter season ( minimum recommendation of The Church ) but hopefully more than just annually. Both Baptism and Confirmation are one time sacraments. Receiving the Eucharist is ongoing and reconciliation can vary. The only 3 sacraments that are left are Holy Orders, Marriage and the Anointing of the Sick.
Our Pastor ( Priest / Rector ) wrote back to me in an email and stated that Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist are part of "being immersed into the Life of grace, confirmed with the gifts and fruits of the Spirit for the mission of Christ, fueled by His Presence He gives us, par excellence among us in the Holy Eucharist."
As a convert, I began to desire being in full communion with the Catholic Church along my journey and receive the Holy Eucharist which the more I understood the more my soul longed for it. I believe what the Church teaches concerning the Holy Eucharist and I take my "AMEN" before receiving the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord through the Holy Eucharist very serious.
Rather than dive deeper into the 7 sacraments, I encourage you to use Catholic.com to do searches for the Sacraments including individual searches for Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Reconciliation / Confession, Holy Order, Marriage and Anointing of the Sick.
Catechized ( Faith Formation ): It's important to be well formed in the Catholic faith. Knowing the "actual" teachings of the Church based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church but also "actually" understanding what those teachings mean and fully living the teachings to the absolute best of ones understanding. Knowing and understanding the teachings of the Church includes both scripture and the Catechism as a fundamental starting point. Verbal instruction is also an important part of faith formation which is why the Church has RCIA in place for adults desiring to become Catholic.
Here's an example: The Eucharist becomes the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ through transubstantiation and we are to only receive the Eucharist in a state of grace. Furthermore, when we say "AMEN" just before receiving the Eucharist, we are saying "AMEN" to affirm that we believe everything the Catholic Church teaches. We are re-confirming that we are in full communion with the Catholic Church and we believe that we are truly receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist as taught by the Bible and interpreted as such by the Church. We are not picking and choosing teachings of the Catholic Church and saying "AMEN" falsely. Personally, I take my "AMEN" very seriously and don't want to receive the Eucharist unworthily.
I'm sure some Catholics may not realize what the "AMEN" before receiving the Eucharist truly means. They may have not have been properly catechized ( taught and/or learned ). The Catechism is available online to explore for free. It can also be bought for under $10 online and sites like Catholic.com make it fairly easy to study the faith especially for specific questions like Mary, the Pope, Purgatory, etc.
Evangelized: Having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Giving all to Christ daily. Walking with Christ daily. Seeking Christ daily.
Ones relationship with Christ is not just based on 1 hour per week on the weekend attending Mass. If I only spent 1 hour per week with my wife, I don't think that I'd be approaching my 30th wedding anniversary.
As a convert coming up on my 1 year anniversary of becoming Catholic, my 2 plus year journey at this point has helped me better understand the 3 points that I am making above as they relate to Catholics including my walk with Christ as a Catholic Christian. I want to be the best Christian that I can be. So I seek to grow through embracing the sacraments, continuing my faith formation and having a relationship with Jesus.One Catholics Story:
I have no doubt that the man that I'm referring to in the paragraph below this one loves the Lord and is trying to work through a turning point in his life. Although I don't agree with him on many points, I hope to continue to show the love of Christ and pray for him as well as other fallen away Catholics. He has been relatively easy to have back and forth with, but we definitely don't see eye to eye on a lot of points.
A 45 year old man contacted me through this website in late 2018. He came from a devout Catholic family and he was (is) also Catholic. He shared that God woke him up in the middle of the night in October 2018 and he was SAVED on a specific date. Since I'm a former evangelical, I took that what he meant in saying SAVED is as evangelicals explain the salvation experience which is often a specific date and location. For example, one might say, "I was saved on February 14th, 1995 at an altar call at First Baptist Church located in any-town USA." That's not uncommon in evangelical Christianity.
In his message to me, he pointed out all kinds of things, in his opinion, about the Catholic Church that were WRONG with the Church and even sent some offensive videos. Some of his words were offensive ( NOT cursing ). He had come to the conclusion through his Salvation experience and journey ( that was influenced by someone that I consider a radical street preacher who doesn't believe in the trinity and teaches baptism in the name of Jesus Christ ) that he didn't need any Church whether it be the Catholic Church or any other Christian Church. He had decided that reading the Bible and interpreting it for himself was sufficient enough. He just needs his Bible and Jesus: No Church!
What's interesting is that he doesn't believe in a lot of the theology of the Street Preacher that influenced his journey. He seems to have come to a point where he is his what I call his own Pope/Magisterium because he defines what the Bible is saying for himself. Sadly, I see this kind of theology way too often. It's hard to reason with anyone who has no foundation in any Church, any particular theology and determines his own theology based on his interpretation of scripture: My own father shares some of this mentality.
It seemed to me based on what this 45 year old wrote in his first email and several thereafter that he may have not fully embraced the sacraments in the sense of going through the motions but not fully understanding the sacraments. For example, it's one thing to regularly receive the Eucharist, but it's another to fully understand and embrace the Eucharist. As for confession, I don't know how often he went, but my feeling based on the email is that he must have never had a confession like I had when I came into the Church because I surely felt the presence of God as tears flowed down my cheeks. Confession with a contrite, sincere heart is a wonderful blessing. Also, based on back and forth, I could see a HUGE lack of proper faith formation ( Catechesis ). Furthermore, with the first two areas being weak, he did not have a solid relationship with Jesus Christ as a Catholic.
His story helped me understand the 3 points of this article:
I believe that he may have received the sacraments ( going through the Catholic motions - but not fully embracing the sacraments ). I don't believe he was fully Catechized ( cannot clearly articulate the TRUTH of Catholic teaching nor fully understand it ). And finally, I believe that he was NOT Evangelized ( had a relationship with Jesus Christ ). Sadly, I've experienced former Catholics online that I believe fall into these same 3 categories. However, this phenomenon is not exclusive to Catholics.
Saved as a Catholic:
Catholics talk about salvation differently than evangelicals, but that doesn't make a faithful Catholic any less saved and headed to the same heaven as someone who says, "I was saved on this date and time or I was born again on this date and time." Sadly, Catholics who lack understanding fall for a religious experience and the terminology of evangelicals when in reality they can remain Catholic and receive the sacraments, be fully catechized and be evangelized as well as evangelize others. That requires more than going through the motions.
The reality for me is that my RELATIONSHIP with Christ and love for Him is as strong as it has ever been in my Christian life. Actually, I believe that I am more faithfully serving Christ than I have ever been. My prayer life is strong ( could be stronger ). My Bible reading is strong ( could be stronger ). My faithfulness in attending Mass and embracing the sacraments is solid ( could be stronger ). There is always room to step up more.
Thankfully, during my 2+ year walk in the Catholic faith, I have met a LOT of Catholics who get it. They are not just going through the motions. They don't have to have an evangelical style salvation experience remembering a date and location because they know that they have been saved, are being saved and hope to be saved as a Catholic Christian. They know that they don't have to leave the Catholic Church to have a relationship with Christ.
If this 45 year old was fully understood the sacraments as taught by the Church and was fully catechized in understanding the "actual" Church teachings as taught by the Church, then he should have, could have, ought to have had a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus Christ. For me, I cannot see how one cannot have a relationship with Christ if they are fully embracing the sacraments as taught by the Church and fully catechized, but someone how the evangelization part can come up short and people can miss the forest for the trees.
Call To Action - Our Responsibility:
As an individual Catholic, I have the personal responsibility to be accountable for my Christian faith. I should seek to know my faith, understand my faith, live my faith and have a relationship with Jesus Christ. That's my individual personal responsibility because I am the one who answers to God for me.
I also believe that when I can talk face-to-face with someone or through this website or through other means that I have a personal responsibility to help other Catholics who may be weak in their walk with the Lord. In addition, I believe that I should foster relationships with other Catholics who are strong in their faith, so that we can all work together to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. I also believe that I should share my faith with the lost and other Christians in a loving way to help them see Christ in me through my life.
Coming from a Protestant background of 40+ years, the terminology may be different, but don't be fooled. There are plenty of Protestants going to Church on Sunday that do not fully understand their Christian faith nor have a true relationship with Jesus Christ.
As Christians, we are called to do two key things:
1) Obey the commands of God.
2) Worship God.
A Simple Closing Prayer:
"Lord Jesus, help all of us to not simply go through the motions, but to have a daily relationship with you. Amen"
If you don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ, please feel free to contact me.