This is now part 1 of 2. Check out part 2, brand new as of February 2012, here.
My brother is a Roman Catholic seminarian, and I visited him at Mount Saint Marys Seminary the last couple days to see him installed in his second-to-last office (acolyte) before hopefully being ordained a priest (in about two years). I’ve been hoping to visit John for a long time, and finally got the opportunity.
My Evangelical brothers and sisters typically misunderstand and mischaracterize the Catholic Church, its leaders and theology and practices, so I felt compelled to write this to them, an “open letter” if you will.
First off, much of what Evangelicals believe about Catholicism, what they believe and who they are, is flat out incorrect. I will not dedicate any space here to that, except to say that people don’t listen to each other all that well in the 21st century, even though it’s easier than ever, technologically, to do. We should all try harder.
So let me tell you what I found among the more than 150 seminarians I spent a couple days with.
I found men who love Jesus with a passion and wholeness that I find rare among Christians of any stripe in these days.
I found men who struggle with the same kinds of things that we all do, regular guys who are dealing with what we all deal with… with the amazing support of Christ, of their brothers, and of the church.
I found men who can chuck a frisbee way farther than I ever will be able to.
I found a place where worship is very deep, even sublime, and regular and intentional and heartfelt… and amazing, and where prayer is an intentionally regular and essential and practiced part of every day. I found that Jesus was palpably present in every room and hallway.
I ate one of the tastiest meals I’ve had in forever.
I found generosity that is inspiring.
I found a group of guys that, when it’s time to have fun… have some serious fun.
I found real intelligence, insight and wisdom being leveraged for the kingdom of Heaven. Almost any of these guys could probably lead, and lead well, in any secular company and probably make a lot of money.
I found the presence of Christ in community that I was, frankly, a little envious of.
I found a love of Christ’s body on earth that you don’t find very often anywhere.
I found that not everybody will make it, but if they don’t, it is handled with grace and love. I didn’t find any ambition, though, really.
I didn’t actually really hear anybody say anything that wasn’t uplifting and encouraging.
I met leaders and instructors who care for those under their charge with passion and charity.
I found the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit elevated and exalted and magnified in every single thing. I found some things that are not my particular practices, but even those things did nothing but lift up and exalt our Lord.
Men, what a blessing you were to me! I have news for you. Heaven will be just like this!
If these men are any indication of the kinds of people who will emerge as the priests and leaders of the Catholic Church in this new century, there are great days ahead for them, and more and more people are going to experience the Gospel in real, tangible ways.
Note: Since I wrote this, this post has become most of my internet traffic for the entire year, receiving thousands of hits. Thanks for sharing my joy in people who are passionately in love with Jesus and His Church.
But… I have received some comments (VERY few) I am not allowing to be posted here that were, in my opinion, inflammatory or negative. Sorry. It’s my blog… You’re welcome to start your own… but divisiveness among those who love and follow Jesus, especially divisiveness built on prejudice and ignorance and even past hurts, is not something I can stand any more at this stage in my life. My life’s background has included mainline and evangelical Christianity as well as Roman Catholocism (which I grew up in). I know what I speak of, and many of you that are saying the things you are saying are flat out incorrect, and I’m sorry for your hurts or feelings, but they have no place here. Blessings!