Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

How St. John Saved Me

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” - John 21:15

I can still remember the question, "Are y'all Catholic?" I had no idea what a Catholic was. We had recently moved to a small town in central Louisiana from a small town in east central Alabama. Needless to say there were few Catholics in that part of Alabama, but Louisiana was a different situation altogether. About three-quarters of the town I lived in was Catholic, so the question asked by a new neighbor of mine was a legitimate one. I simply said, "I don't think so." And that was that.

Until Lent rolled around. Same neighbor in the cafeteria line wanted fish, and the server in the line asked him, "Are you Catholic?" I thought, "Does that matter?" Evidently it did because when I was asked and said no, I was given a hamburger with no option for fish.

When I experienced my first Mass, I noticed a couple of similarities. First, the creed was familiar, although in the small United Methodist Church we attended, the Nicene Creed was only rarely recited. More often Apostle's Creed was recited, sans "he descended into hell" of course. And the Lord's Prayer was familiar except they didn't do the closing doxology the way we did it. Otherwise, I noticed there was a lot of movement: genuflection, making the sign of the cross, crossing the forehead, lips and chest at the gospel, and stand, sit and kneel. These Catholics really put their entire selves into worship!

But I was drawn to the Catholic liturgy. It was beautiful and solemn compared to the services of the United Methodist Church. The sermon was not the center of worship. It was more prayerful and less boring. Yet, my friends who were Catholic lamented going to Mass every Sunday and complained how boring it was. I was always shocked by this because nothing was as boring as four walls and a sermon.

Fast forward to college. I began attending a small Episcopal Church on my college campus. They had all the liturgical benefits without the "Romish" doctrines of Mary, Purgatory, etc. But there was still something that gnawed at me. Was it enough to worship like Catholics while still not being a Catholic. Oh, the Anglicans will say that they are Anglo-Catholic, but I knew deep down that this was like those people who wear the "Kiss me I'm Irish" pins on St. Patrick's Day but were really of French or German descent. So I prayed for God to lead me to truth.

And then one day as I was reading the bible, I turned to John 21 and came across the above passage. By God's grace I was able to see clearly St. Peter's place in the grand scheme of things, and to boot it was St. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, who was affirming St. Peter's role as leader of the disciples. It was obvious to me that St. John could not have meant stuff related to fishing when he quotes Jesus as asking, "Do you love me more than these?" The these had to ultimately mean "these other disciples" because Jesus then responds to St. Peter's affirmative reply, "Feed my lambs." The Catholics were right! Jesus had indeed left St. Peter in charge of the Church on earth. With this realization alone everything else fell into place, and I fully believed that the Catholic Church was indeed the Church founded by Christ on St. Peter the Apostle and to remain outside of the Church was tantamount to not being honest with myself.

And so, while I recognize God's grace leading me to the Catholic faith from a fairly early age, I credit St. John for pushing me into the Tiber River as I gazed at St. Peter's from the opposite shore. I like the view from inside much better.


Post a Comment

<< Home