The heavy wooden door eases open, closing soundlessly behind me. The basilica is still empty, and so I hoped it would be. It’s 5:40 a.m., and I need to have some conversation. I bow toward the crucifix, my hand moves across my torso and head in the sign of the cross. Or what I hope is the sign of the cross. You see, I’m not actually Catholic, I’m as Protestant as they come, but my policy is: when in Rome, do as the Romans. There is a certain peace that comes with the tradition, the reverence. It makes me think of the holiness of Him who I call God. Quiet and solemn as it is, I feel a passion burning in the midst of it; it’s worship to a level that’s new to me. Simply put, worship at my home church celebrates the personal relationship between God and us, but worship here celebrates God’s authority over us. Both are real, and absolutely legitimate.
You see, I grew up thinking Protestants, specifically Non-Denominational Charismatics, had the truth, and every other denomination had maybe some of the truth, but certainly not all of it. When I moved from my small hometown to a large city after high school, and began working at the interdenominational prayer ministry that I currently work for, my mindset began to change. No church is perfect, but I don’t subscribe to the notion that most have fallen away from the truth anymore.
The one denomination I didn’t trust was the Roman Catholic Church. I thought all Catholics worship Mary and the Saints, believed the Pope to be completely infallible, and acted like Kennedys (with no apparent morals besides going to Mass). But then I had a roommate that is Catholic. I won’t go in to all I learned from him, but basically, he completely shattered all my preconceptions of the RCC. Fast forward two years, and I’m in a different house with different roommates. One of my roommates piqued my interest by telling me he was planning a trip to a monastery for the weekend. I couldn’t go that time, but said that I would like to join him next time. The next time happened several months later, and that is when I found myself in the basilica at 5:40 a.m. That trip (which where that first paragraph is from) was about six months ago, and I still talk about it.
I don’t intend on converting to Catholicism, but I’ve definitely come a long way from the ignorance I once had. I still believe that Mary and the saints were mere humans and not even close to divine. I believe that asking Mary or the saints to pray on our behalf is pointless and probably idolatry, as God loves us and wants to talk to us and has never wanted us to pray to anyone else. I believe that the wafer and wine stay a wafer and wine, and that they have no mystical properties (that being said, I believe taking communion is a holy thing that should be treated with reverence). I believe the Pope does not have the last say, but I do respect him greatly. I believe Protestants can learn much from Catholicism, and I believe Catholics can learn much from Protestants.
What I do intend to do is this: to continue to walk in the ways of God, to seek Him, and to give Him the preeminence in my life. The ways I do that have changed greatly over the years, and will probably continue to do so. Just don’t be surprised to see me in a pew looking at a crucifix every once in a while.