Evangelizing the Evangelicals

Evangelical Worship

In his new book, George Weigel explicates the historical development of Evangelical Catholicism, a reform begun by Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903), developed by the renewals of the early twentieth-century, formalized by Vatican II, and authoritatively interpreted by John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and now expressed with particular aplomb by Pope Francis.

It’s a stunning account, and, for a recent convert like myself, a mark of the ability of Catholicism to retain the abiding and unchanging truths of faith while allowing new expressions—ever ancient, ever new.

As Weigel explains in a recent First Things essay, “Evangelical Catholicism is a Spirit-led development reflecting the cultural contingencies of history, like other such evolutions over the past two millennia,” of which we could identify (1) the Patristic Church, (2) the Medieval Church, and (3) the Counter-Reformation Church. Each was necessary for the demands of its time, each was in keeping with the abiding truth, and each gave way to a new form. The Patristic church, a roughly thousand-year development between the primitive and medieval Church, produced the Creeds, gave us the Fathers, and evangelized the pagans. The 500 years of medieval Catholicism gave us the Cathedrals, systematic theologies, and major religious orders before splintering. In roughly the same length of time—500 years—the Counter-Reformation—“the Church in which anyone over sixty today was raised”—“converted much of the Western Hemisphere … withstood the onslaught of the French Revolution … met the challenges of twentieth-century totalitarianism,” and much else besides.

And yet, “its time has passed.” Led by the Spirit, the Church moves to a “new evolution in … self-understanding and self-expression,” even though, of course, the way the Church expresses and lives itself out never fundamentally alters the “enduring marks” of the Church, namely, “unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity.” Despite the constancy of essentials, the new expression and life is, at times, quite dramatically different in feel and language, although nothing really changed. It is the same Church proclaiming the same Faith in the same Lord.

It also presents, I’d suggest, a genuine opportunity to reach out to evangelical Protestants, which, until Palm Sunday, I was.

“Roman fever” is a well-documented Protestant phenomenon, perhaps especially among academics and college students, prompting the common question “Why are so many evangelicals going to Rome?” A good deal of this results from the fact that reason alone is insufficient, always requiring tradition, and as evangelicals look to recover tradition they discover the Tradition. While recovering the past, they also find the sheer enormity and depth of the Catholic intellectual heritage, including its music, art, literature, and poetry, all providing a place to dwell rather than the furious scuttling about of constant reinvention.

While suspicions are not as deep as they once were, in part because of ecumenical cooperation on issues such as abortion and marriage, still many evangelicals have hesitations (to put it mildly) about Roman Catholicism, largely in four categories: (1) the status of the Bible, and how that relates to doctrines about Mary, the Saints, and Purgatory; (2) Papal infallibility (however much this repeats the previous issue); (3) justification and faith/works, and (4) the Catholic thing—statues, mumbled prayers, fish, the Rosary, Swiss Guards, noisy kids in the Mass, an odd inability to sing, and so on.

Don’t underestimate the fourth category. At the evangelical college where I teach, most students have given me a respectful berth about my conversion—everybody knew, no one was surprised, no one asked very much—but before one Honors class a student hesitantly asked if I could explain Marian doctrine, then another question was asked and another, for about an hour. The vast majority of questions related to the fourth category: “What’s the deal with Catholics and drinking?” “Why are people so inattentive during Mass?” “Bingo … what’s with that?” “Why not spontaneous prayers?” “Why are homilies so short?” and so on. Not a single question, not one, about justification, even though in a survey of concerns they would list that objection, but laregely because they know they’re supposed to, not because they really are bothered by it.

Given the history, how could that be? First, the evangelical Protestant world is a mish-mash of theologies, a good many of which are not remotely linked to the magisterial Reformers on justification, which is why there is so much discussion about it, sometimes heated, and a good many evangelicals are not overly tied to Scriptural authority anyway. Second, most people in the pews are not theologians or Church historians, and evangelicals are perhaps particularly concerned to not be bogged down by the past and so not overly worried to distinguish sola fide from sola gratia. Third, young evangelicals are decent people, and many are more concerned with care of the poor then with the finer points of sixteenth-century theological disputes. In other words, I’m proposing that while all would list the four categories of objections, the most alienating and troubling for many is the fourth—Catholicism just seems weird and foreign to the most salient aspect of evangelicalism, which is a committed, personal, meaningful relationship with Jesus. And from the perspective of a young evangelical, Catholics just don’t get this.

One of my students, to use a representative anecdote, was seriously exploring Catholicism. He was attending Mass, was in conversation with a local priest I had recommended, and was hard at work reading the Catechism and some theologians. And he loved what he was reading. Eventually, however, he went to a Presbyterian congregation because, in his words, “the people at Mass were so uninterested and it was a serious challenge to my faith.” On the one hand, this reveals a cultural difference on the point of going to services; I go to Mass, primarily, to receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Everything else is a bonus, but when I was a young evangelical, I was taught that if I didn’t have an experience of God something was wrong, and so I had to express my enthusiasm as proof of my experience. One pastor once told me to “worship hard”—meaning with visible emotion and zeal—so to help others have a similar experience. If this is your expectation, the mumbled prayers, sometimes uninspired homilies and music (oh dear, the music of some parishes! I’ll admit it delayed my own conversion) can be seen as a mark that this is dead, a religion without spirit. Of course, this misunderstands the Mass and is an imperialism of expectations, but culturally it’s a big deal.

On the other hand, it’s also why Evangelical Catholicism has such great missionary potential for drawing in younger evangelical Protestants. I had read Aquinas and Augustine and Athanasius, I had studied with the Jesuits, I had learned the ancient music, I knew the art, I encountered the saints, I was impressed with the commitment to the poor, but until I met Evangelical Catholics for whom, as Weigel puts it, friendship with Jesus Christ was the main thing, I wasn’t convinced. What Weigel describes makes sense to evangelicals, and coupled with the markers of unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity is precisely what a good many of them/us are searching for: “in friendship with Jesus Christ, we come to know the face of the merciful Father, for whoever experiences the Son’s power to forgive sins sees the merciful Father, who welcomes home the prodigals and reclothes them with the garments of integrity.”

The Great Commission continues, and as we experience the ongoing contraction of Christendom, the Oneness of the Church will be especially important. Welcoming home those who left will be an enormous task, requiring patience and charity. If I’m right, though, a good deal of this work could be accomplished if we just did what we should be doing anyway, if we just were who we should be—friends with Jesus.

A Church without Christ is not worth having, but a Christocentric Church will bring home its separated brothers and sisters; it will evangelize those who already have faith but wait for its fullness.

R. J. Snell

By

R. J. Snell is Associate Professor of Philosophy and director of the philosophy program at Eastern University where he co-directs the Agora Institute for Civic Virtue and the Common Good. He is the author (with Steve Cone) of Authentic Cosmopolitanism: Love, Sin, and Grace in the Christian University. His new book is The Perspective of Love: Natural Law in a New Mode.

  • Dick Prudlo

    There is so much here that I will deal only with the enthusiasm one finds in charismatic Catholic’s. This particular “evolution” is a curiosity and nothing more. It was brought to us by clerics less known for their love of Christ then a love for enthusiasms for all things new and different. The emotive liturgies found here and there are just outcrops of Protestant forms and once again underscore the uselessness of making something Catholic which is not.

    I ask one simple question: After the Cranmers of the 60’s did their work and we provided the world with the new look, they didn’t come….now will liturgical dances in the pews bring them in? Why leave the 2nd Street Baptist Church for the same service but with lousy homily’s?

  • Bill Guentner

    I am Catholic. My wife is an ordained Pentecostal minister. I have been to a some so-called “Spirit filled” evangelical services and found them wanting in drawing me closer to Christ. If one believes in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Bread and Wine at Mass, that should be enough to draw someone who is honestly seeking a personal relationship with Jesus; “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.” In my parish I don’t hear any “mumbled prayers”, the few statues are beautiful, the silence of the sanctuary is beautiful, but I will say the music is generally terrible. Our homilies are, indeed short, but to the point. In listening to evangelical services on TV, I find that most of the sermons con be compacted to 10-15 minutes, the rest is fluff.

  • lifeknight

    Interesting essay from a new convert! As a “cradle” Catholic with a husband who converted after we were married, I can relate to some of the questions. I do believe that it boils down to the Real Presence and how Our Lady is a vessel to bring others to Jesus. The somewhat worn out phrase “To Jesus through Mary” still bodes well for those thinking of converting. Having the Mother of God as your personal friend is a very good relationship.

    As to the less than reverent behaviors at Mass—-what can I say? Try the Traditional Latin Mass IF you can find an indult in your area. It will become a “refuge” of sorts from all the loud talking, hands waving, etc that must be endured at the casual or “charismatic” Novus Ordo “celebrations.” You will still have MANY children to contend with at the TLM and long lines for Confession. However those issues will be of some comfort as time passes in your journey—knowing that most who attend the TLM know contraception is a grave evil and not everyone is making it to Heaven. You can usually bet there will be no Obama/Biden stickers in the parking lot of a TLM.

    Caution:I have seen some wonderful Evangelicals who convert and then become schismatic because of the secularism or irreverence displayed at some Masses. Steer clear of that end of the spectrum as well. My Latin is not so great, but “en media stat virtus” (the virtue/truth is in the middle.) Correct me, please, scholars!

    • http://www.facebook.com/ryanjbrady2 Ryan J Brady

      Just because you asked, it’s “in media stat virtus.” Also, I love the TLM and it was that Mass that allowed for so many conversions of old. Usually, the environment is very encouraging, as well. However, some people seem to need the feel good modern music and hand shaking, and I’m not completely sure it is the cure all for everyone. I know a Protestant family that converted and went to an excellent TLM parish that then became SSPX schismatic. There is no one solution to keeping everyone in the Church. What’s needed above all is grace, solid preaching and prayer, it seems to me.

    • patricia m.

      There’s no need for indult anymore, in order to have a Traditional Latin Mass in your church. Pope Benedict XVI abolished that. It only needs enough people interested in it and a priest who knows how to celebrate it (and knows Latin of course). Not that many priests, unfortunately, know Latin those days…

  • Dan

    The scandal of the Catholic Church is that so many of its members are functionally Protestant. Before it can ever be effective at evangelizing non-Catholics, the Catholic Church needs to convert its own.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Maldonado/100000590334225 Daniel Maldonado

      Or do both at the same time.

      • WSquared

        Bingo. If many Catholics are functionally more Protestant than Catholic, a lot of what we use to evangelize non-Catholics will be applicable to Catholics who are more Protestant than Catholic. This is a matter not of ecumenical outreach, but facing the reality that the larger culture in which the Catholic Church in America has to operate is formed by deism and various forms of Protestantism, not Roman Catholicism.

        It is also a non-starter to attempt to attract Protestants with bad caricatures of Protestantism when what is needed to evangelize, period, is to know who we are as Catholics. Key to that is knowing Jesus; knowing that the Real Presence means something. This is part of “doing both at the same time.”

        To know what makes us different is not triumphalism, but a healthy respect for their beliefs and ours. “Meeting others where they are” is not respecting the traditions of others while treating one’s Catholic faith as everywhere and anywhere negotiable, lest “people get the wrong idea.” And perhaps even more scandalous is making a god of “tolerance,” whereby the “tolerant” Catholic who blathers on about “diversity” tolerates everything else but Catholic orthodoxy.

  • Watosh

    In the days prior to Vatican II we had a number of intellectuals convert to the Catholic faith, people like Manning and Newman who became cardinals of the Church, Evelyn Waugh, one of the greatest English writers of recent times, GK Chesterton, another gifted writer of some acclaim, the Norwegian Nobel Prize winning author, Sigrid Undset, and the Chief Rabbi of Rome who converted after WWII ended, to name a few. Recently, under the new evangelization, I am only aware of the conversion of Tony Blair and Newt Gingrich. Now we know St. Augustine was a great sinner before conversion and became a Doctor of the Church, but, well ….. I do give Dr. Snell much credit for recognizing the fact that the Catholic church is the one true Church, and he will undoubtedly be a credit to the Church. I have often wondered how the spirit of the “New Evangelization,” jibes with some highly placed prelates claiming that all protestant faiths are legitimate expressions that can lead to salvation, and that if one is a Protestant, they should try to be a good Protestant. In some places ecumenism has led to Catholic and Protestant churches exchanging giving sermons during services. In fact one Catholic prelate in charge of Ecumenism has openly stated that in the past the idea was for protestants to convert to the Catholic faith, but since Vatican II the idea is for the Protestant and Catholic churches to “converge.” Again given this environment is to Dr. Snell’s great credit to have been able to perceive the truth and his conversion is an encouragement certainly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carol-Leeda-Crawford/631144224 Carol Leeda Crawford

    Reason, Sts. Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Cyprian, Athanasius, and many more of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church convinced me through their writings (homilies) and their palatable love and reverence for the sacraments that the FULLNESS of Faith is only found in the Catholic church. I especially, love saints Athanasius, Basil, Gregory of Nyssia who successfully defended the divinity of Christ against the Arian heresy in the early to late 300s. I saw the Restless Heart movie yesterday; based on St. Augustine’s Confessions one of my favourite books. I love the book of Wisdom and Sirach, to mention only two of the books in the Old Testament missing from the Protestant bibles. There are countless saints who were persecuted and even killed by members of the Catholic church who were angered because their own sinful behaviour was being brought to light. They didn’t start their own church and like Luther deny what Christ stated very clearly in John Chapter 6 – Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” Thank God I am able to receive His precious body every day!

    St. Paul is so clear, faith without works is dead and Christ in Matthew’s gospel Chapter 7 21-23 gives a clear sentence to those who are sinning. Apostolic succession – Jesus ordained Peter head of the church he instituted the priesthood and confession. I read the Office of readings everyday for sanctification in God’s word and the Catechism as well. Mary the Mother of God – Jesus gave her to us through John at the foot of the cross. I joined the Legion of Mary to learn more about her. I discovered through their patron St. Louis Marie de Montfort, another martyr, who chose to be obedient and remained faithful to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church during controversy and eventually was poisoned by his opponents the Jansenists, that she is an intercessor to Christ, she is my advocate to her son. Recall, Christ’s first miracle at Cana and her role there. I encourage everyone to come and experience the fullness of faith in the church Christ started through his Apostles.

  • Vida

    I am a convert from atheism, my boyfriend from Prostestantism (baptist, Calvary chapel, etc). It was the liturgy in the old rite, the Extraordinary form of the Mass, or better known as the Latin Mass that finally sealed his conversion. The solemnity, the music.. It lended itself to true divine worship. In a TLM Mass one is truly able to comprehend the Holy of Holies is present. We need to be proud of our Catholic identity, and use beauty as well as truth to evangelize. However, to give some credit… I do often tell my boyfriends mother that our parish has a charismatic group, because she is Pentecostal. I do not attend myself…

    • Bob

      Agree! The message that we need to send is that when entering Mass we enter in to heaven on earth. A Latin Mass needs to be part of one of the Sunday Masses at our parishes. The incense, the Latin singing, etc. bring us closer to the divine. Evangelical Protestants (and lapsed Catholics) can at the same time be “wowed” and humbled by the beauty of the Mass if we only put greater effort in to it.

  • Alecto

    I am drawn to the beauty and reverence in Orthodoxy, I love the use of incense, the music, the connection to the past which Catholics rejected with Vatican II, all of which make me feel that Orthodox Christians place more importance on tradition and on unifying actions and worship with their beliefs, something Catholics seem to have forgotten or abandoned. They may indeed believe that Jesus is really present in communion, but their actions tell a different story. There aren’t any Latin “mumbo jumbo” or mumbled prayers at Catholic masses these days and haven’t been for quite some time. Very few Catholics pray the rosary, it’s barely mentioned and when it is the sentiment is that it is a kind of superstition practiced by “old line” Catholics or immigrants. I can’t imagine any Protestant who has attended a Catholic mass having any objection as most Catholic churches and masses physically, outwardly resemble Protestant churches and services.

    The music, the congregants, the sparse interiors (what statues…they were all ripped out in the 60s and 70s), the focus on readings not on the Eucharist, and even the casual attitudes towards what Catholics are supposed to believe is the real presence of Christ? Would Protestants viewing a modern “Catholic” mass walk away with an understanding that Catholics believe the Eucharist is the real presence of Christ given the way they treat it? I think not.

    • musicacre

      We all have to remember that when you say Catholics “have forgotten or abandoned”, certain things in the Mass, it was the renovators of Vatican II that first imposed this new Mass and all the irreverence and feel-good and bored stuff and kindergarten music that goes with it. The rest is a lack of exposure to good Liturgy after one generation, the chain is broken. The latest in our diocese is that we aren’t “ALLOWED” to kneel during most of the canon of the Mass. It is considered to being “elite” even though it was the norm just half a year ago, and people are singled out during the homily and taken to task about how uncharitable they are if they want to kneel to their God. It makes me feel very liberated when I can make it to the next city (an hour away) on some Sundays to the Extraordinary Form Latin Mass and kneel without guilt. How twisted is that? Every person, young and old, is focused during the Mass and my heart soars when the chants begin. It really is a bit of ” Heaven on earth.” As far as the rosary goes, it’s a gigantic mistake for families not to pray the rosary together…the benefits are too numerous to mention. Too bad alot of Catholics have invested their consuming interest in certain popular athletes, complete with knowing all their accomplishments and stats, yet feel stranger with a prayer of the church, our true homeland. I think the culture encourages people to feel they actually enjoy relationships with these celebrities (vicariously, through the media) instead of investigating and investing time into the “celebrities” of our church.

  • Rich

    I think its more simple than people make it out to be. The key question here is Worship. Evangelicals don’t like Catholic worship. That should not be a surprise because our worship if done properly reflects what we believe, lex orandi, lex credeni (how we pray reflects what we believe). We believe Christ is truly present, we believe the Mass is Calvary and should contain solemnity to it. . Evangelicals don’t. Thats why our worship is different and that would be probably the main stumbling block to understanding why we as Catholics do what we do. So if I am understanding correctly, the solution is to mimic protestant worship the best we can to bring back evanagelicals into the fold? Its interesting, these Traditions in the eyes of evanagelicals are what identify us as Catholics and thats what they don’t like, perhaps if one stopped being Catholic evangelicals might accept us more and maybe that is the core of the real issue here.

  • http://madamescherzo.tumblr.com/ Mme Scherzo

    I attend Mass at a church which is a blend of very traditional elements and very Groovy Ordo elements. My only beef is the music. On some occasions, we’ll sing a Latin hymn in a traditional form and then we’ll sing the closing song, which sounds like a commercial jingle. A really annoying jingle. At the end of the last Amen, I feel like saying, “Mentos! The Freshmaker!” Yes. That kind of hymnody sometimes makes me yearn for the Presbyterian choir loft.
    Having said that, at the end of the day, it is the time I spend in the nearly empty church quieting my soul in preparation for the Eucharist. I’m a very new convert, not yet familiar with everything, but I get the Eucharist’s primacy of Mass.

  • Ford Oxaal

    I took my family down to the March for Life this last January. When you see 17,000 plus young Catholics at a Mass in the Verizon center in D.C. in the dead of winter, with hundreds of seminarians, and a large number of bishops, all processing in to loud songs that are beloved by Catholic teenagers, I can tell you that the Catholic Church uses the world more than the world uses it. And this from a complete curmudgeon who prefers the Addams Family version of the Mass. (Of course I prefer the Addams Family version of dinner as well.) So there we all were, at this youth rally at the March for Life, and when Pope Benedict was mentioned by a papal representative, there was a spontaneous standing ovation of the entire crowd, mostly teenagers, and minutes long outpouring of spirit. It’s great to be Catholic — we really do have it all. Even the old curmudgeon can still learn a thing or two.

    • musicacre

      Exactly, that rousing music is perfect for outdoor events and campfires! Let’s not let the youth get confused; they need to know that the Mass is something else, set apart.

  • cestusdei

    I once had a terrible case of Rome fever. I cured it by becoming Catholic. I am much happier now.

  • patricia m.

    Funny, because most of the new converts do it so because of the Traditional Latin mass, and not because of the Charismatic Renewal Movement. By the way, I was born a Catholic and I simply abhor the CRM. In my opinion someone devised that *just* in order to attract the evangelicals who like to sing and dance in the church. Oh please, totally wrong! The Mass is a SACRIFICE, no one should be dancing and clapping the hands and making all that carnival. About music: go to a church that has decent music. We have Gregorian chant, which is magnificent, we have beautiful sacred music from the best compositors in the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. You’re just going to the wrong church!

    And I hope the church in Rome does not change just in order to cater to evangelicals. Our ways are 2000 years old.

    • HAMLET

      AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=658976755 Henry Law

    From my observations I would say that the real challenge for the Catholic church is to address atheism in the Post Modern context. Only the traditional form of the Latin Mass can do that effectively, which would explain why this is the only growth point within the Catholic church today, attracting a new generation of young people.

    Introibo ad altare Dei:
    Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam

  • enness

    Being a musician, I would compare worship to learning an instrument: if you only practice when and where you feel inspired, you may put off the tedious and mundane for a while, but you won’t advance to the point where you really have the most glorious experiences. Or, some might liken it to being married: you love your spouse, even when things are decidedly unromantic.

  • http://nzconservative.blogspot.com Lucia Maria

    I think any one who is seriously contemplating converting and is attending Mass needs to stay away from the Sunday Masses and go to the week day ones as well or instead. That way there is no music, every one who is there wants to be there since there is no obligation to go, and it’s still the Mass, but without all the noise and distraction.

  • JoFlemings

    Bravo! and welcome home Professor Snell!

  • publiusnj

    Evangelicals may rather pointedly say: “Bingo: what’s with that?” but we “Cradle Catholics” looking at Evangelical and all other forms of Protestantism, can posit equally pointed questions such as:
    “Foundation of their church by someone other than Jesus: what’s with that?” or
    “Failure to pass on charisms through the laying on of hands as Paul did to Timothy: what’s with that?” or
    “Failure to listen to the Church as Jesus commanded: what is with that?”
    In fact, the most biblically inconsistent thing about Protestantism is summed up by this admittedly irreverent question “how can anyone who claims to believe in the Bible believe in churches that were not founded in the first Century AD? and whose founders are not found within the Sola Scriptura limits insisted on by Protestants?” Clearly Christ’s Church has been around since the First Century. And there is nothing in the Bible about a breakaway monk or a divorcing King (or thousands of other Protestant church founders since) being biblically authorized to try to destroy Jesus’s Church and to replace it with their own multifarious versions of a purportedly better church.

  • tony

    Truth trumps aesthetics. That said, the music in most RC churches is inexcusably pedestrian if not insultingly atrocious. This should not be. Our Catholic choir sings chant, renaissance polyphony, and the classic hymns of the faith. The music mist be integral to the liturgy. There is no excuse for pabulum and mediocrity in the celebration of the Holy Mass.

    • patricia m.

      This should be relatively simple to fix, in my opinion. You get together with some parishioners, get a music director, etc etc, ie., improve your parish. Now, if you don’t have the patience and/or time to do it, just go to mass in another parish that suits you better. I’ve done that a thousand times. When I lived in London, for example, I’d ride the Tube for some 40 minutes just in order to go to a mass that was a million times better than my local parish. Oh and here in NYC I do the same – I ride the subway for 30 minutes in order to go to a nicer parish.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brennan.doherty.10 Brennan Doherty

    There is an excellent article by “Catholic in the Ozarks” who was an Evangelical Protestant himself before converting where he remarks that Catholic churches trying to be more “protestant” in their worship won’t attract Protestants because first, we do it worse than the Protestants and second, we jettison all the beautiful traditions and worship which would actually attract Protestants who are genuinely searching:

    http://catholicozarks.blogspot.com/2012/09/converting-protestants-secret-method.html

    I am also reminded of a few quotes from a Protestant convert on why it took him so long to convert to Catholicism even though he sensed the truth of it:

    “But in my experience, whether or not it is acknowledged, the beauty of language, music, gesture, architecture, and art play an important, often-crucial role in drawing people to the Church.

    … For two generations now, it has seemed to me, the attempt to repackage the faith in a more attractive way to a contemporary audience has been, quite obviously, self-defeating. For me, at least, the very attraction of the Church, and the best argument against the competition, was that it remained the opposite of “new.” People like me – admittedly, a reactionary – are drawn to the Church not by the scent of fashion, but instead by the promise of “Eternity.”

    They are sick, sick at heart, with the spirit of innovation. It is the very thing they are trying to escape, as they approach the divine. The secular environments from which they are escaping are rancid with the “new and improved.” They have tired of salesmanship. More than tired: they are repelled by the slick and shiny. Christ, to them, is the opposite of that.”

    http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2013/the-hold-up.html

    As a convert to Catholicism from Protestantism I can only heartily agree with the above quotes.

    And where the article quotes George Weigel as saying “And yet, “its time has passed.” Led by the Spirit, the Church moves to a “new evolution in … self-understanding and self-expression,” I really have no idea where this new “self-understanding and self-expression” has been leading us except to a place where more Catholics become superficially attracted to Protestantism because of the low state of the liturgy in most parishes, and our liturgy becomes an actual deterrent, rather than impetus, to evangelization.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Esolen/1184164082 Tony Esolen

    Welcome, RJ! I think that homeschooling Catholics and Protestants who hang around with one another are teaching one another to speak the language — and then, when you have a Catholic who says that his relationship with Jesus is the most important thing in his life, AND he reads Augustine, or can sing both When I Survey the Wondrous Cross and the Regina Coeli, the full reality is hard to beat.

    • Ford Oxaal

      We homeschool to a point, and then send them to a “non-denominational” Christian Classical school. We do lots of debating. Once, the Catholics took the side of Luther (yikes), and the Protestants took the side of Erasmus (who stirred up a lot of trouble in the first place). The Protestants won that one (thankfully). The boys are learning Catholicism inside and out, from the ground up — at the same time understanding points of division with Orthodox, Calvinists, etc. Christian friendship first, flashpoints of philosophy and theology, a close second.

  • J Scott Taylor

    Mr. Snell, if you ever get the chance, please visit Christ the King parish in Ann Arbor, MI. There are many converts in the parish, the music is heavenly (much Latin, many contemporary worship songs, and many hymns composed by gifted and Christ centered parishioners.). Fr. Ed Fride is the best preacher I have ever heard. He is always challenging, and he is very much in love with the Lord. CTK was mentioned in Sherry Weddell’s book, Forming Intentional Disciples. It is a place where this flavor of Evangelical Catholicism is alive and well, focused on Christ, and very faithful to the Magisterium. For those who have issues with the Novus Ordo, I challenge you to find issue with the heartfelt orthodox worship at Christ the King… Go for a weekend- I think you would really enjoy it.

  • The Truth

    I returned to the Church after a thirty yr. absence. Something just didn’t jive. Before I returned I did my reading and praying searching. I listened to well over thirty Protestant, Catholic, and every denomination you can think of. Read Theology of the Body Explained, the Bible, the Cathechism of the Catholic church. I left the church after a Protestant aquaintance pointed out what had made feel somewhat uneasy. She basically laughed at me and said Catholics can say what they believe but they all DO what Protestant’s believe. “Catholics” support gat “rights”, gay “marriage”, abortion “rights”, Artificial birth control, artificial contraception, embryonic stem research, and it goes on and on. It finally dawned on me there are far more protestants in the church than serious Catholics. But we use the term “liberal” Catholics. Can someone explain to me what that is? I wasn’t led to my beliefs, I searched for the truth, truth is the Church has far more enemies within than without.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joanp62 Joan Piwowar

      The Truth: unfortunately there are many Catholics in the U.S. who do not believe that the Catholic Church has the authority given it by God, so they use ABC, are pro gay marriage, abortion, etc. All this is contrary to what the Catholic Church teaches. Here in the U.S., a primarily Protestant Christian nation, Catholics do not realize just how influenced we are by Protestantism, including some priests, and that is why you have Catholics who are “more Protestant” than Catholic.

      So, the Church is full of sinners and many who are anything but Catholic. Be that as it may, the fullness of the Truth is found in the Catholic Church-Roman/Latin and Eastern Rites. We also have the Eucharist-which is Christ still on earth in the flesh as well as spiritually. In spite of the faults of her members, including myself, I wouldn’t consider leaving it for anything in the world. To whom would I go-? the Catholic Church is the Body of Christ- there is no where else to go.

      • WSquared

        Agreed.

        Thing is, whenever we think of using other people’s sins as an excuse against Catholicism and remaining in the Church we might remember that the entire Body of Christ could say the exact same thing about us.

        The Confiteor conveys this very, very clearly, since it is a Confession of one’s sins before the whole Church– Triumphant, Suffering, Militant– across time and space. Too bad many– too many– parishes pray it infrequently. At a time when so many people, including Catholics, really tend to believe that the material world and all that they can see with their eyes are the only reality, we need the Confiteor.

      • WSquared

        To anyone who would tell me or anyone else that *gasp* the Catholic Church is Full of Sinners (oh, noes!!!!): tell me something that I don’t already know, and tell me something that Jesus Christ hasn’t already told me, as is conveyed in Scripture.

        I’m not Catholic because I’m a saint; I’m Catholic because Christ can make me a saint, provided that I remain in Him.

  • Rob Malloy

    Lots of discussion here about the mood and style of the mass as it is experienced in various Catholic churches. Seems to me the best option is to provide a variety, assuming your parish has more than one mass on Sunday. Different people have different preferences, and I’ve been to enough different churches to know that any worship or mass style can be done well and tastefully, or poorly. When we look at God’s creation, even at different human beings, we see tremendous variety – so what’s wrong with worshipping God, and presenting the Eucharist in the Mass, in a variety of styles/atmospheres, etc. One size does not fit all, and there is no reason why it should have to. My parish has traditional masses that are solemn, but it also has a “Charismatic Mass” that is very expressive, with added praise after the Gloria and things of that sort, and music that is primarily contemporary Christian praise & worship. It is still very respectful, done well, and maintains the central focus on the Eucharist. If you have a passion for God and like to express it during mass, you can. If you prefer a solemn mass, you can have that too. If enough people here wanted it, I’m sure we would be open to offering a Latin mass as well – why not? We still have all our beautiful statues (thank God!) and really something for (almost) everyone. We are also blessed with priests who are all good preachers. None of our masses here come across as irreverent, sappy, or shallow. With the right leadership, it can be done.

  • Gilbert Jacobi

    I want to be as charitable as I can with Dr. Snell, and others who still may be wandering around in the deep woods of protestantism seeking that clearing where the one true Church is found. But if the whole project is made to rest upon turning Jesus into our “friend”, we may have a problem. The “fullness” of faith, that Dr. Snell implies is not yet there in the Catholic church, will not be realized by turning Jesus into our “friend”. This sounds very much like those parents who believe that they can do best by their children by descending to their level; i.e., becoming their friends. This usually proves to be of little value, when it is not outright disastrous.

    Jesus, even more than our parents, is too far above us, too advanced, to be our friend. He is, after all, God. Of course, like any good parent, He suffers us to come unto Him – when we pray directly to Him we are as little ones squirming on His lap. But we must not ask Him to descend to our level. Even as a child, He kept a certain distance, preaching to His elders, rather than cuddling with them. He told His own mother, the Blessed Virgin, that He must be about His Father’s business. The Apostles always called Him master, rabbi, lord.

    The correct and most fruitful way to approach Jesus, I believe, is as His servant. Jesus had much to say about servants and referred to that role to give some of His most pointed teaching. As for being “in friendship with Jesus Christ”, I take this to refer to the fellowship of the Church, in which Catholics are taught we become “one body” and one with the body of Christ.

    • WSquared

      Well, it depends on what you mean by “friend,” doesn’t it? One of St. Dominic Savio’s rules for sainthood is to resolve that Jesus will be your best friend.

      “He told His own mother, the Blessed Virgin, that He must be about His Father’s business.” …but came back home and was obedient to her and St. Joseph. That both Mary and Joseph “lost sight of Jesus” also means that they momentarily forgot about Who He truly was.

      Jesus is our friend, but not in the slap-happy Buddy Christ sense. He’s our best friend, precisely because He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (when we could be wallowing and dying in our sins), and not because He’ll sign off on any sort of crap we pull. He is also our best friend, because He feeds us, and He is High Priest, Lord, King, Prophet, and Judge. His love and mercy in no way obliterates justice. He needs to be all of these things in able to restore true friendship, to “make all things new again.”

      Thing is, He did condescend to our level, in order to reconcile us to Himself, but never stopped being God while doing so. The thing about being friends with Christ and being in a loving relationship with Him is that any truly loving relationship involves letting the other be truly themselves, and loving them for who they are. It is the same with Jesus, who only enables us to be truly ourselves when we let Him be truly Himself.

      I suspect this is what you really mean to say/get at.

      • Gilbert Jacobi

        WSquared,

        I thought I was a slow answerer, but I don’t think it ever took me 9 days! The attention is welcome, all the same.

        I’ll take what you say under consideration, and I understand that there are similarities between Jesus’s love for us, His feeding of us, etc., and friendship. I’m still leaning toward holding Him up as our teacher and master, though. Certainly, a more merciful master and more sympathetic teacher than any other, but those are the roles that work best for me. It may be because I automatically hear that buzz guitar riff from the 60’s song “Spirit In The Sky”, with the line “Gotta have a friend in Jesus”, that spoils the Jesus as friend image for me, but we all have our prejudices.

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