If I had a dime for every time I was invited to do a Bible Study at the non denominational church in the next town over, I would have enough money to build my own church. When I politely decline, offering reasons such as, "I go to Mass at that time", or, "I am Catholic", I am always reassured, with a most sincere and welcoming smile, "but that's okay! Lots of Catholics go!"
So let's just go ahead and file this one under my long list of holy discontent.
And please do not misunderstand.
I love my Protestant brothers and sisters!
I love their enthusiasm!
I love that they memorize Scripture!
I love how much they love Jesus!
I love how they evangelize!
I don't have a problem with their invites.
It is nice to feel wanted.
Heck, I even debated going!
I don't have a problem with non-Catholic Bible Studies.
I admire anyone who desires to grow closer to Christ.
I don't even have a problem with Catholics going to non Catholic Bible Studies.
Okay, well maybe that last one is a lie.
But not a total lie.
Because my guess is that if Catholics really knew their faith...and really knew what they were leaving...well, then...they would never leave at all, would they?
My problem is the lukewarm Catholic; the Catholic that leaves the true presence of Jesus for something brighter and more entertaining, and their fellow Catholics seated in the pews, who don't do as much as pick their heads up far enough to notice them leaving.
Or maybe we do see, but we just don't care.
Or maybe we do see, and so we shake our head and make all sorts of judgements, while they drive off in search of more of something, more of anything. Judging others is so much easier than loving others. At least for me, it is.
But does that mean we let them go? Does that mean it is okay for us to shrug our shoulders, and let them wander off, because at least they are being fed somewhere? Do we sweetly wave good bye, blow a kiss and yell "have a great time even though you just turned your back on the Eucharist!", and call it a day?
Have you ever met a lukewarm Protestant?
If so, show me.
Really. I am not kidding. I want to see.
Because I don't believe you.
And if by chance you do know a lukewarm Protestant, I'll bet I have 100 lukewarm Catholics for your one lukewarm Protestant.
Only once did another Catholic ever invite me to a Catholic Parish ministry. Just once. Okay, that is another lie. Twice. But one woman was slightly creepy. Okay, that is another lie. She was super creepy. But that is okay. Creepy people aren't just in churches. Creepy people are everywhere. In our grocery stores. At our bus stops. In our families. I am sure there are people who think I am creepy. Or just insane. Point is, creepy creeps beyond the religious. And truly, I have no problem with creepy. But I suppose it has me wondering...where are all the non creepy Catholics? And why are they not inviting fellow Catholics to join them in doing non creepy Catholic things???
My husband, who spends hours listening to Catholic Apologetics, recently called me upstairs to share what he just listened to. A listener phoned in with the question, "If you are Catholic, is it okay to participate in a non-Catholic Bible Study?" The short answer? If you are a Catholic who is completely solid in your faith, and can share the truth with others in this study who are misinformed, then absolutely, yes! However, if you are not certain, if you can not back up your beliefs...you are treading very dangerous waters. The advice if that is the case? STAY AWAY.
And so I think about the women I know; Catholic women, who have gone down the street where the evangelical church serves up hot coffee, an awesome praise and worship band, and smothers you from head to toe with so much fellowship, you can not help but feel loved and home at last. And I think about the moms I know whose children go to Protestant youth groups because they are cooler than the ones at their Catholic church, and although they wish their children were involved in their Parish, at least they are learning about Jesus. And then I think about me...the years I sat alone in the pew, looking around for someone who looked like me, avoiding that one super creepy lady, wondering, "if I suddenly stopped coming to Mass, would any of these people notice I was gone?" And I mean, honestly...how can you blame these women for leaving? How can you blame parents for sending their children elsewhere? Why would anyone want to hang out in a place they didn't feel welcome?
But here's the deal. While we aren't called to blame them, we are called to inform them. Just as the women who invite me down the street aren't afraid to tell me "all the Catholics are heading that way", we should not be any more afraid to let them know, "well, wow...isn't that a shame?"
And then tell them why.
Look, I get it. It is no secret that being Catholic today is not too popular, let alone talking about it. But ya know what? Shelly in the 8th grade was super popular, and rumor has it, she sort of slept around...so ya know, maybe popular isn't the goal here. So then, what is the goal? I don't know...how about heaven??? Eternity with Jesus??? So, what if...assuming your salvation matters to you...we took a real interest in our Catholic faith? What about then, if we all took that interest, and shared it with those around us? What about, instead of waving goodbye to our Catholic brothers and sisters, we pointed them back to the Eucharist? I know it is risky. I know it is out of our comfort zone. I know that it is a whole lot easier to complain about what is wrong with Catholicism, then to actually study Scripture, do some faith investigating, search for true answers.
But the reality is that as Catholics, we are called to do this; we are to love our neighbor so much that we must do this. It is because we love them, and want to live in heaven with them forever, that to not do this would be a tragedy.
We are called to throw open the church doors, now, more than ever. This is not so we can let our brothers and sisters back in on their own due time, but rather, we are to throw those doors open so that we can run on out...bringing the good news to the world, reaching our lost brothers and sisters, and with a fierce and burning love, lead them back home.