Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Call me a Catholistant

Since January, I've been working on a mammoth project discovering the finer points and gentle nuances of Catholicism and Christianity at large. Major things have changed in my life in these nine months, some due to friendly encouragement and guidance, and some changes due to my own knowledge and understanding (and often lack thereof).

I used to think of religion as this concrete form that could be grasped like scientific facts, one item after another. Things were orderly, grouped, and easy to interpret. The reality is anything but solidified. Sure, some things are easier to explain than others, but even the most definite items of Christianity have some element of mystery or question at the core. Instead of black and white easy-to-understand knowledge, I've amassed an ever-growing pile of gray.

Nine months have seen different approaches to this journey, and I think I separated them out unintentionally. The first month was probably the easiest, and the second and third months were undoubtedly the most challenging.

January: I sent out feelers, exploring what kinds of questions I might want to look into. I made my first trip to church (a Catholic one no less) since high school.

February: The season of Lent arrived, and I dedicated myself to daily in-depth study. The vocabulary of Catholicism was daunting, and it took most of the month to even make heads and tails out of some of the words.

March/April: Through Lent and Easter, a larger period of discernment. I faced friends who questioned me both about my faith and about the quest for knowledge. I heaped up the pile of knowledge even more with a thorough reading of the Catechism and other church documents.

May: The Eucharist became a focus of my study as I tried to understand how Catholics and Protestants approach the topic differently. As a non-Catholic, I can't participate in the Church's sacraments. However, now that I understand why the Church holds to that tradition, I feel less concerned about it.

June: A breather of sorts as I wound through a new relationship, let material sink in, and developed more focused questions. This break truly helped me solidify some ideas and allowed me the opportunity to begin putting my own previous beliefs into words.

Summer months: I began to feel and see the beauty in Catholic tradition as a quasi-insider. I began looking at the Protestant denominations and the larger picture of Christianity in order to understand the fundamental differences that divide people. I was able to use my newly-learned religious lexicon to compare ideas with greater understanding. I also began studying the scripture and tradition behind the Rosary. Additionally, I attended Holy Hour a few times.

Looking toward October and the rest of the year: I'll be meeting with a local deacon and possibly a priest to answer a few questions I still have and hopefully find inspiration for a few more questions to go after. This quest of mine isn't about finishing. There might be a baptism at some point (another story for another day), or I might slowly wander off to another path. I don't know. But I cherish all that I've learned, have plans to keep learning, and hope that the journey will continue to fulfill me on the long road ahead.

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