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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I Believe...or, What I Learned From the Catholics

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This post is one in a series of posts about what I have learned from the different denominations and religions that have come into my life.  There may be more than one post per denomination.  To see the others, click on the "What I Learned" label.

It's always kind of puzzled me when I have heard other Christians say that Catholics are only focused on works or that in anyone's life there must be a specific moment in time when a person became a "believer" in Jesus.  Since I never had that "altar call/come to Jesus" experience, for a long time I thought that maybe something was wrong with me.  I absolutely cannot answer the question "when did you first believe?" because the answer is that I don't know.  I cannot remember a time that I didn't believe, and it only occurred to me very recently that this is likely due to my Catholic upbringing.

Each week in mass we would recite The Nicene Creed.  The second text on this page is the one I remember (it took a little time to track it down; the other versions I found just weren't quite right).

Read through it.  No, really, read through it.  What do you notice?  Is it about how people must work for their own salvation?  Is it about anything that we do?  No.  It is all about belief.  It is about belief in God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.  It is about believe in what they each did and do.  It is about belief.

This is something that I recited every single week, and before I knew how to say it myself, I heard it recited.  It was something I knew before I even knew that I knew it.  It was the teaching of belief.

There have been many times I have wondered (and continue to wonder) why I believed as I did, and times I have wondered and struggled with whether or not my beliefs were wrong, but somehow, deep down, I always held on to these deeply ingrained beliefs, even if I could not articulate them, and even if I was clinging to them only by a the thinnest fraying thread.

I'm not sure I ever, until writing this, thought about the part this creed may have played in my faith journey, but I am now fairly certain that it had something to do with it.  Even though repeating the same thing every week can become boring and rote, there is still value to it.   We do not have to be completely certain about each and every thing that we believe, and we can waver, and we can question, and we can have doubts, because God doesn't require that we have it all figured out in our brains before we decide to follow Him.  And somehow, those years of repeating those words must have given me something to hang on to, something to connect me to God when it seemed as if nothing at all made sense.

So the next time I hear that Catholics have nothing to do with belief but are all about works, I can definitely explain why that is not the case.

4 comments:

JRR said...

I never really had a come to Jesus moment either. I was raised with a set of beliefs and it never occurred to me to think otherwise. I, too, have been reciting the Nicene Creed since before I could say those words. I never really thought of it this way. Thanks!

Kelly said...

You're welcome!

Jean said...

I've had glorious conversations with a couple people in the last 5 years who became Catholic as adults. It has been fascinating to hear about the Catholic church through their perspective. In a lot of ways these conversations have strengthened my faith and understanding of God even though I am not Catholic. I've appreciated your series...there is much to learn from denominations other than our own!

Kelly said...

I bet I've had conversations with the same people ;)

I am glad you like the series. The best part is that any time I think of something that I learned, I can write about it; it doesn't have to be a series that ever ends.