I was baptized in a Lutheran church. Shortly thereafter, my family left the Lutheran church to join a more Pentecostal/Evangelical/Charismatic church. You know, the kind of church that’s more open to the “things of the spirit” so to speak.
Shortly before her passing, my mom found herself back at the Lutheran church, having missed the tradition and the ritual she had been raised with. When I went back a few times with her, I was personally bewildered by all the tradition and ritual. Bewildered… but intrigued.
For the first time in a long time… possibly ever… I felt like I was in an actual church rather than a worship service or Bible study with like-minded Christians. Church had never felt like “church” before… at least not the way I had seen it portrayed in the media. Church was always kind of casual – they (the pastors) just did whatever the spirit led them to do – and if that meant having an entire service dedicated to praise and worship, so be it. If that meant throwing the regularly scheduled sermon out the window for a question and answer session, so be it. If that meant, ditching the whole service in favor of prayer, prophesying, and calls to salvation, so be it. That’s just how Pentecostals rolled: Be open to the Holy Spirit and buckle up for the ride – tradition and ritual and schedules be damned. Even at churches that DID follow a regularly scheduled program (which most Evangelical churches did), everything was so laid back, so casual, so… focused on excitement and personal freedom and feeling good… that each service was more like a revival than just church.
So, when I finally did experience “church” the way the vast majority of Christians around the world did, I was surprised to discover that I actually liked it. It was different… but I liked it. And honestly, deep down, it felt like there was a part of me that had actually been craving it.
When I finally was able to experience a traditional Catholic Mass, I instantly fell in love. With the ritual, the reverence, the order. There was reason and relevance behind everything they did. There was a disciplined calm in the sequence of the service. There was an inexplicable peace in following the same tradition that had been taught and practiced for centuries. I felt it. I loved it. I embraced it. Rather than feeling stifled and suffocated, there was a wonderful freeing sense of just… being. I didn’t have to guess what would happen next, or worry about why I wasn’t feeling something, or wonder if I was worshiping feverishly enough. I could just soak it all in and genuinely experience God’s presence: quietly… reverently… peacefully. And that made all the difference.
It was this experience at Mass that first ignited a curiosity about the Catholic church. There was the sense that maybe I had been missing out on something all along; a sense that maybe everything about Catholicism wasn’t so strange after all; an idea that if a church service could be that beautiful, then clearly I needed to figure out why. I mean, if the purpose is to worship the Creator of Heaven and Earth… what’s so wrong with reverence, ritual and tradition?