Thursday, 22 September 2011

Why Rome?

I am musing (complete with a cup of rather tepid peppermint tea) as to why recently so many people of my acquaintance (some of them good and sincerely practising Anglicans)  are joining (or exploring joining) the Roman Catholic Church?  It's not a complaint, just a query.  One wasn't a surprise (Ordinariate was created and he was due to retire with his Pisky pension), one genuinely was (joined an ordinary bog standard RC parish but had been exploring a vocation to the priesthood and was female, so that's off the cards with Rome) and the other is slightly surprising (gay lapsed Presbyterian).
I think the last 2 puzzle me in the sense that both are consciously signing up to something that would require them (officially at any rate to deny a part of themselves that they up till now have seen a positively God given.  That genuinely baffles me.  I fully understand the attraction of getting Catholic worship where ever you go (even if it is done badly!) and not having to play "hunt the spike Shop" or "dodge the Evo" when going to Church.  Likewise, you can do the Catholic spirituality thing with Rosary, exposition et al without anyone batting an eyelid or having to find an Anglican Church that is into "that sort of thing".  But the denial of your God given self or vocation - why sign up to that?  Is it a price worth paying for something intangible I'm missing entirely?  I would genuinely be interested in feedback from anyone out there who has any ideas on "Why"?
I ask in an irenic rather polemic spirit.  Not least because this was today's little meditation from an online addicts support group I glance at.

"I will be willing to reposition myself today.  When I lock myself into protective, defensive or aggressive poses, I am making any negotiating impossible.  Being stubborn and clinging to my rigid position can be both dangerous and foolish.  I can take another look. I am willing to move and be moved."

I am very aware that I can lock myself into a defensive aggressive attitude towards others who change or move out of my comfort zone.  So I thought it worth taking a look through others experience.


  1. I'm going to take a bit of a stab at this. Please take it for what it's worth as I am a cradle Catholic who lapsed and came back.
    I was drawn to the sacramentals. I'm not kidding, either. I studied Religious Studies in college and got really good at being a relativist and I wrote a paper for a class called "Goddess Religions" about Mary. And I thought Mary was pretty cool, so I started collecting cheeky Marian items (like the Holy Toast stamp! So classic.) And then I started collecting rosaries and then candles and then... well, I'm sure all the iconoclasts out there are panicking. But! I started to PRAY the rosary too, every day, and I realized I could pray without ceasing that way. Sacramentals are little ways to remind us of God's grace in absolutely everything. We're not (formally, I'm sure some people are) superstitious in that we believe the *things* themselves give us grace, but they remind us of the grace all around us, all the time. Catholicism is very sensual, it's very tied up in our physical bodies. We can offer up our sufferings and make something that other people find uncomfortable can be an occasion of grace. I also think there's a deep sort of mysticism that happens in Catholicism that isn't found in Protestant groups (keeping in mind that my knowledge of Protestantism is very academic and not first-hand). Catholics have something very ancient that speaks to us on a primal psychological level-- tied up in cycles of life and food for example.
    There's a clear identity to being Catholic in itself, atleast still in parts of America where people have old traditions of May Crownings and Michelmas and St. Blaise and Fish fries on Friday. It, in itself, has its own culture and identity that isn't found in secular society as much, especially in this day and age
    In a lot of ways, I gave up parts of myself. I had to re-marry my husband in the eyes of the Church, I had to start thinking about voting Democrat, I had to stop being a moral relativist and take a hard look at things. I had to relinquish "control" of certain aspects of my life to come back to the faith of my childhood and my ancestors. Maybe they find the teachings freeing as I did. They say the Truth can set you free, and while I can't tell you that I think we have the market on the Truth, perhaps something in the WAY it was being taught to them touched their hearts.

  2. Thanks Paige. It's good to have the insight into the value of the sacramnetals and I can see the appeal of the clear cultural idenity that comes with Catholicism. Your point on the rhythms of Catholic spirituality connecting with the rhythms of life is very important. However I still find the denial of true self (rather than denying the selfish self) a problem. I read Harry Williams CR's autobiography when a student and it has rung true to me ever since. I'd have no problem being Catholic and voting Democrat myself - it would be more problematic for me to vote Republican with their views on social security and the death penalty.

  3. It is true that I really don't know what it would be like to give up something that I considered to be my true self. The only thing I can come close to in that context is the Church's teaching on marriage and children, because I never wanted to have children and then all of a sudden I find myself, 3 years after my wedding, standing at the altar with my husband in front of a priest vowing to him, my closest friends and family that I will be open to any and every life God sends our way. That was a really big struggle for me and still is. But no, I do not know what it would be like as a homosexual to essentially take a vow of chastity in order to enter the Church, that has to be very hard and discerned very prayerfully, I would imagine.