Sunday, December 7, 2008

My Journey Back-Part 2

It is not easy to find happiness and wholeness in this world of ours. And I searched all over until I found a peace that really does pass all understanding. Now, I will pick up where I left off on my journey back to my Catholic faith. I had tried the New Age philosophies. But, my sensibilities were jarred too much. I knew I needed Christ. Christ for me is the center. But, since I left the Catholic Church and since I married outside the church, and to a divorced woman, I figured that any return to the Roman Catholic Church was out of the question. This was especially true since the woman I married had converted to Catholicism with her first husband, and after her divorce she refused to get an annulment. She found that idea to be hypocritical. I just went along for the ride on that issue because I just wanted to be married (not a good reason for marriage!).

I became a Lutheran first, because I figured that Luther was a Catholic in the beginning, so I must be in good company. It was about that time that I thought I might want to go into the ministry. A Lutheran pastor offered to help me prepare for the step toward ordained ministry. I practiced Lutheran liturgical functions and I even gave a sermon or two, which now seem so ridiculous.

After three years in that church, the pastor became a charismatic/pentecostal in a sudden conversion. He insisted that God wanted him to begin a new church that got away from the Lutheran and Catholic ritualism and returned to basics. I was so impressionable at that time that I agreed to join this pastor. I put aside the idea of seminary and helped this pastor start his new church. It sounded like such a good idea, but there is a problem when pastors have no one above them to oversee there actions! Needless to say, this pastor became very authoritarian and began to interpret the Bible according to his understanding. Naturally, he felt that God had given him special powers to interpret the Bible. I became very skeptical and ran quickly from that church!

I was hurt by that experience and I felt betrayed by my own ability to discern spiritual matters. At the same time I wanted to serve God. I wanted to find a home where I could find a way to learn more about God and reach out to others. I found a rather liberal denomination that I figured would accept someone like me. I was a former Catholic who wanted to be a pastor. This liberal denomination accepted me and allowed me to go to seminary. This became both a blessing and a curse for me.

I was warned when I began seminary that the object there was to first tear down all you believe, then provide you with new ideas, then finally you were to rebuild a new theology. In the process I was taught how wrong the Catholic Church had been over the years. I was taught how the Catholic Church refused to change with the times and it became a dinosaur and irrelevant in today's world.

Here is the important part! Here is where my Catholic faith re-awakened inside me. I became a Protestant pastor, yes. I felt out of place, however. Something inside me was unsettled. I was successful in my pastorate. My congregation was very supportive of my ministry, but I was not happy at all. From the first day I began as a Protestant pastor, I knew what I was missing. It was the Eucharist. The Eucharist as it is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church is the centerpiece of the faith. I needed the very presence of Jesus Christ within me. Jesus was not available to me in the symbolic communion I was performing. I was now about twenty-five years away from the Catholic Church and I felt sad, alone and hopeless.

In the meantime my marriage had been falling apart. If I was on a ship at sea without a rudder. In my poor understanding of the Catholic Church I didn't think that I could ever return. I thought I was doomed to go through the motions of a pastor in a religion that held no close relationship to God for me. I would often drive past the local Catholic church in the town I worked in and wish I could just come home! I would go to meetings with nuns and priests, but I was afraid to approach them with my thoughts of returning. For the longest time I was like the young boy looking through the window at the candy in the candy store.

In my next installment I will explain the sudden and dramatic events that brought me back to the Catholic Church. I hope this story can bless you and help you in your journey, whether you are returning to the Church, thinking about it, or know someone who may be considering a return.

May God Bless You!

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