Tuesday, October 18, 2011

So, Why Catholic? part 1

“So why Catholic?” my dad asked. “Why not Episcopal?” He made it sound like it was my choice, like I was just picking out a church with a higher liturgy. There was never a moment when I decided to look for another church. And there was never a moment when I lined up all the Christian denominations and chose one. The Catholic Church called me. I just said yes.

Still, once I get past the fact that my transition was rooted in “the Spirit drew me,” there are seven legitimate reasons I’ve accepted Catholicism. I thought I could easily list them in one post, but I've decided to spread them out. Let's start with the most obvious:

1.Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This is a big one for me, but not something that’s easy to explain to Protestants. Bread and wine as symbols makes sense, and symbols are still powerful. To them, there just isn't a need to make more out of communion than that. Except that there is so, so much more. I believe in transubstantiation. It’s not something I can debate because the two reasons I believe it are emotional and subjective, but they are still true.

The first reason is at Christmas Eve service in 2008, some powerful shift happened when I took communion; I could sense that the bread was much more than a symbol. There was a gravity to this whole situation. I can’t say that the bread was transubstantiated, but I do think it was the Spirit’s first push to pay extra attention to this sacrament. It took me a few years to realize that if I believe there is more to this than bread and wine, I better do something about it.

The second occurs when I attend Mass now. Normally when I pray, I can feel my prayer going out to God. That is, I can feel my words leaving me and going to Him, but not going in any particular direction because God is everywhere. But at Mass, once the priest has consecrated the Eucharist (and not before), my prayers suddenly feel more person-to-person. They are going straight, the way words do when you are talking to a person across the room. I'm not directing my prayers differently; the difference just happens. So it’s not my intention that caused this shift, because it kinda freaked me out the first time it happened.

Just to be clear, transubstantiation isn't transformation. It is Christ, but under the appearence of bread and wine. I like to think of it as the opposite of a tree: A tree changes appearence throughout the seasons. If one didn't know better, he would think a springtime tree of branches and white buds was different than an autumn tree shrouded in big orange and red leaves. Though it looks like two different things, it's still a tree. With the Eucharist, at first it looks like bread and wine, and later it looks like bread and wine, but at some point the substance of it changed from that of bread and wine to Christ.

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