It seems to me that Protestant Christians worship with their heads while Catholic Christians worship with their heart. I have fairly extensive exposure to both and I find that what I really want is a sort of combination of the two. I want outstanding preaching that engages my brain and challenges my behavior with a comforting sense of ritual that allows me to pray a rosary, go to confession, and light a candle when I pray about something really big in my life. The Protestants seem to have really great Bible Study’s and sermons while the Catholics have a sense of belonging and a common ritual that can free people up in the way the approach and pray to God.
Catholics have more formalized prayer formats like Lecto Dvina, Centering Prayer, The Rosary, Novena’s and even Chaplets. (What is a chaplet exactly?) The older I get the more I sometimes don’t know what to say to God in prayer. I don’t know, and can no longer pretend, that I know what “outcome” I should be praying for regarding any given event. What happens when life is hard and I can’t go to church without a winning smile and a hearty “Jesus loves you” for everyone I meet? Bad stuff happens and we suffer the loss of jobs, parents, friends, kid’s spouses, you name it, and yet we go to churches where an eternally uplifted countenance and cheerful demeanor seems to be required. Our faith has been shaken and we are a quivering mass of questions on the inside. The pain of pretending that we’re all right is more then we can bare to project to the ever vigilant greeters at a protestant church. At times like this its best to be Catholic. I can pray a rosary, or the divine office and trust the Holy Spirit to intercede for me during this prayer because he knows much better than I do exactly what I need and often times how I feel. As a Catholic my just showing up and taking part in communion and mass has great significance and I can participate and belong at Mass if my heart is broken or if I’m on top of the world.
Protestants have a much better quality of both preaching and teaching. The Eucharist is the center of the mass but the “message” is the center of a protestant service. How many times have I been blown away by protestant sermons and bible study’s and look at the growth of my walk with the Lord that has been the result of such fine teaching. How many times have I been starved for teaching and direction only to receive a rambling Catholic homily? How many times have I been to Catholic Bible Study’s only to discover that it’s about the presiding priest, deacon, cannon lawyer or nun rather then about the laity trying to make sense of it all. The presiding official tells us the “answers” and somehow the journey of finding our answers in the faith we profess is bypassed. There is the old adage that if you give a starving man a fish then he eats for a day but if you teach him to fish he eats for a lifetime. In effective Bible Study how you arrive at your position in the faith is at least as important as coming up with the “right” answer. You learn to have faith by struggling with your faith and by learning from the Christian resources you have such as the bible, the church, and fellow Christians. Protestant bible study’s expect you to apply yourself to the bible and learn while too often the Catholic Bible Study’s expect you to listen to the person giving the bible study and write down the answers.
One has the feeling that one must adopt an affected persona to go and be educated at the protestant church or surrender your curiosity at the door to attend mass. (As if my confusion were not great enough, the guy I wanted for President was a Mormon.) One church is governed by a sort of ruling elite click group while the other is governed by a monolithic high command that can be every bit as suffocating as the “in” group at a protestant church. I feel the need to pick one, catholic or protestant, but then you have the problem of which of the protestant churches are best. How would you even begin to tackle the sometimes minute, sometimes major differences between protestant denominations?
I have no idea what I’m going to do beyond trying churches of both sides here in Bucks county Pennsylvania in the hopes that I will somehow find my answer. Each weekend I will try a different church and see where that takes me. Look for continuing updates on my quest for a “Church Home”. In the mean time I suggest that one of the best teaching churches I’ve ever come across is New Hope Christian fellowship in Hawaii; Pastor Wayne Corderio presiding.