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How Are You Handling Differences in Faith?

First Reading:  Zechariah 8:1-8

This word of the LORD of hosts came: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am intensely jealous for Zion, stirred to jealous wrath for her. Thus says the LORD: I will return to Zion, and I will dwell within Jerusalem; Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts, the holy mountain. Thus says the LORD of hosts: Old men and old women, each with staff in hand because of old age, shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem. The city shall be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets. Thus says the LORD of hosts: Even if this should seem impossible in the eyes of the remnant of this people, shall it in those days be impossible in my eyes also, says the LORD of hosts? Thus says the LORD of hosts: Lo, I will rescue my people from the land of the rising sun, and from the land of the setting sun. I will bring them back to dwell within Jerusalem. They shall be my people, and I will be their God, with faithfulness and justice.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 102:16-18, 19-21, 29 AND 22-23

The Lord will build up Zion again, and appear in all his glory. The nations shall revere your name, O LORD, and all the kings of the earth your glory, When the LORD has rebuilt Zion and appeared in his glory; When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute, and not despised their prayer. Let this be written for the generation to come, and let his future creatures praise the LORD: “The LORD looked down from his holy height, from heaven he beheld the earth, To hear the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doomed to die. The children of your servants shall abide, and their posterity shall continue in your presence.
That the name of the LORD may be declared in Zion; and his praise, in Jerusalem, When the peoples gather together, and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.

Gospel:  Luke 9:46-50

An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest.  Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” Then John said in reply,  “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name  and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.”Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

ESV

SEPT28_2015

My oldest sister was recently married to her boyfriend of almost twenty years. We witnessed a private ceremony out at our family’s country spot, including her immediate family and his and a handful of their close friends. The presider over the ceremony was a Lutheran minister. A female minister. My heart rejoiced when my sister shared her dear friend would be presiding. A woman of God! How wonderful.

But a tiny sliver of my heart took pause. Our five year old wannabe priest has never seen a woman wearing a collar. He’s pretty keen on all this liturgical business (hosts daily mass in his closet, which is a monastery, and a convent for the three year old) and although he’s well aware of other Christians, we usually discuss them in terms of how our faiths differ.

Driving by the huge stone church that looms on the way to our church, I always note, “There’s a Protestant church. They don’t believe Jesus is present in the Eucharist, the Pope is the head of the church, or that Mary had Jesus as a miracle baby.” The kids duly repeat this to themselves and each other and any obliging ear in a ten mile radius. I also slip in, “They’re our brothers and sisters in the faith, though.”

But does that last line really sink in? That we have so much in common with all Christians? That we pray for the union of all Christians daily? That whoever is not against you is for you?

It really sank in for me, watching this lovely and holy woman witness my sister and her spouse’s vows. She and I have so much in common. My children had a chance to see and hear and discuss up close and personal how a woman of faith is our sister-in-faith, and how even though we do have doctrinal differences and differing traditions, relatively speaking, those differences pale comparatively.

Now when we drive past the huge stone church I note, “There’s another Christian church. We share lots of beliefs with them. A few things are different about Holy Communion and the Pope and Mama Mary. But they are still our brothers and sisters in faith.”

Are you harboring and harping on differences in your heart with someone in your life, with some group in your life? Can you find common ground while still respecting your differences? How is Jesus talking to you today in this Gospel?

photo by Corynne Olivia

Nell O’Leary is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom to three lovelies. She and her husband live in the great city of Saint Paul. You can find out more about her here.

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32 Comments

  • Reply
    Rebecca
    September 28, 2015 at 7:02 am

    As a Protestant, I so appreciate this post. I love BIS and am so glad that in our shared faith, more unites than divides.

    • Reply
      Blessed is She
      September 28, 2015 at 10:25 am

      So glad you’re here, sister! //Nell

    • Reply
      Sarah
      September 28, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      As a Protestant, this post actually had a reverse effect on me. I felt a bit unwelcome in this community for the first time since I joined. I appreciated in the end that it was acknowledged that we all share more in our faith than not, but it still made me feel a bit like an outsider. I guess I always think of us as Christians and never have given as much thought about us vs. them within the Christian community. I have enjoyed being a part of BIS so that I can learn more about Catholic faith, but never pass judgment on how it differs from the way that I practice my own Presbyterian religion.
      Still a fan and still plan on reading my daily devotions, but wanted to share my impression.

      • Reply
        Blessed is She
        September 28, 2015 at 8:13 pm

        I very much appreciate hearing your perspective, Sarah, and certainly did not intend for any of our Christian sisters to feel excluded based on sharing my experience. For me as a cradle Catholic, I was raised learning about what made Catholics and Protestants (and all denominations thereof) different but felt I didn’t learn as much about what we shared in common (aside from the obvious). We hope to raise our kids both strong in their Catholic faith and with an awareness and respect for Protestant denominations as well! //Nell

  • Reply
    Nat
    September 28, 2015 at 8:15 am

    This post really spoke to me. I’ve been in a relationship with an amazing man for a year now. Both 21 years old and trying to find our way in life, we have discussed religion several times. Him being baptist (and not baptized) And myself being raised strictly catholic, we have found ourselves having several tearful conversations about our future and how we can make this work. Yesterday we encountered one of these conversations after he came to mass with me and stated how he didn’t get anything from the homily and feels left out at communion and does not want to go back to a Catholic Church. I’m finding myself under immense stress trying to figure out what I want for my future religion wise; am I doing this to please my parents, or to enrich my relationship with God? My boyfriend is amazing and inspires me to be a better person- religion is our only boundary. If anyone has advice for me or us, please comment. I’m finding resources for my situation rather difficult to find.

    • Reply
      Blessed is She
      September 28, 2015 at 10:27 am

      That’s really hard, sister. What have you come to after praying about it? Maybe make a regular holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament and just ask Jesus to speak to your heart. Maybe also google around for any Catholic bloggers who write about this? You’ll be in my prayers. //Nell

    • Reply
      Gina
      September 29, 2015 at 6:04 am

      I don’t have experience that is similar to yours, Nat, but I agree with Nell. Also, if you and your boyfriend start from a place in conversation where you *do* agree, I’m sure that will help immensely. If each of you are willing to pray about it, and pray together about it, I’m sure that the Holy Spirit will guide your hearts.
      Scott Hahn is a man with a powerful conversion story, maybe reading one of his books as a couple might help open the discussion between you and your boyfriend.

    • Reply
      Kathryn
      September 29, 2015 at 6:14 am

      Nat, I was the Protestant and my husband (then boyfriend) the staunch Catholic when we were dating. The thing I found most helpful was two-fold: 1) write down a list of the things we shared in common, the things we agreed upon and 2) meet with a loving, well-formed priest that helped us work through my reservations about the church. I think it’s important to start at a place where you see your common ground and then build from there. I don’t think my husband’s end game was to convert me, but rather to build a relationship built on Christ. Our commonality brought us together and our desire to grow in faith led me to convert. But, it was a process. Hang in there!

    • Reply
      Blessed is She
      September 29, 2015 at 7:58 am

      Nat, I was in a very similar situation when I was 20. I had dated a young man for three years who was a very strong Baptist while I was Catholic. I feel like we constantly took a step forward and then a few back when it came to religion. He was as adamant about his faith as I was mine. While we started to agree on the surface on some issues, there were deep-seated beliefs that if we were honest would never change. I spoke with numerous priests and did a lot of soul searching. In the end, we split up, and I’m now married to a man who is now Catholic (wasn’t growing up), and if we didn’t share our faith, I don’t know how we would weather some of life’s storms. Is it impossible to marry a non-Catholic and make it? Absolutely not. But, a shared faith makes some things easier (even when it might not seem like it now). If you want to email about anything, you can reach me at [email protected] – praying for you // Britt

  • Reply
    Kristin
    September 28, 2015 at 8:51 am

    I am not a Catholic, and I appreciated your message! I was a little confused where you said that Protestants don’t believe that “Mary had Jesus as a miracle baby.” As a Christian, I can certainly say that we definitely believe Mary had Jesus as a miracle baby! Absolutely, 100%. We do have differences in how we believe Mary is or is not an active part of believers lives, but we certainly believe she was a virgin and conceived and gave birth to Jesus miraculously. 🙂

    • Reply
      Blessed is She
      September 28, 2015 at 10:25 am

      Sorry, Kristin! I didn’t think my Protestant sisters believed she was a *perpetual* virgin, as in, even after having Jesus she was still a virgin, during birth, after birth, etc. It was my understanding many protestants do not believe in the doctrine (Anglicans and some Lutherans aside)? Forgive me if I’m wrong! //Nell

      • Reply
        Lauren Lowry
        September 28, 2015 at 11:16 am

        As a concert from the Luthreran faith, I can comment that 1. Lutherans (at least those raised in the Missouri Synod as I was) believe that the Eucharist is the true body and blood and 2. That we believe in Mary having been a virgin mother to Jesus, her miracle baby. Honestly, I’m not sure I was ever taught whether or not she continued to be a virgin perpetually in the Lutheran faith. We didn’t spend as much time getting to know Mary as I have after conversion! 🙂

        • Reply
          Blessed is She
          September 28, 2015 at 8:18 pm

          Lauren, thank you for sharing! I apologize that my sweeping statements to my little ones didn’t include the true presence nuance for Lutherans (some) and Anglicans. It’s my understanding that aside from portions of those denominations, most others do not believe in the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity during and after having Jesus. How wonderful you have a chance to get to know more about Our Lady in your conversion! //Nell

    • Reply
      Blessed is She
      September 28, 2015 at 8:25 pm

      I’m so glad my message spoke to you–and so sorry I wasn’t more clear in my discussion of Mary’s perpetual virginity. It was my understanding that some Lutherans and Anglicans also believed she remained a virgin throughout giving birth, and thereafter, but most Protestants didn’t. Apologies for my overstatement and thank you for sharing your faith experience! //Nell

    • Reply
      Jean
      September 29, 2015 at 2:46 pm

      Also a Protestant, growing up in an evangelical Baptist church, we certainly know that Jesus birth from the Virgin Mary was miraculous. It’s definitely a pillar of the faith, and imperative to the validity of the Gospel. Not to mention fulfilling prophesy. I could be naive, but I thought all Christians believe this?

      • Reply
        Blessed is She
        September 30, 2015 at 9:33 pm

        Sorry, Jean, I wasn’t clear: we Catholics specifically believe Mary was always a virgin so even during the birth process! (hence my discussion with the kids about miracle as we’re always discussing all about babies). Thanks for sharing your perspective. I hope this makes sense! //Nell

  • Reply
    Virginia
    September 28, 2015 at 9:35 am

    I felt walloped on the head yesterday during the homily when our Deacon preached about Protestants not being the enemy. As a convert who still has a sour taste for the Protestant faith I was raised in, your devotion today was another wallop. I need to work on not holding this bitterness. I shall take your last phrasing of how you talk to your kids about Protestant churches and start saying to my kids and myself. 🙂

    • Reply
      Anonymous
      September 28, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      I am a concert, too, and sometimes find myself so vigilant for my lovely church, that I’m almost bitter about what Protestsnts believe. It’s hard to be so on fire for what you believe, while also remaining inclusive of other Christians. I think it’s just a work in progress and we just take it day by day. But it’s hard for me, too.

    • Reply
      Blessed is She
      September 28, 2015 at 8:27 pm

      I’m so glad you are feeling moved by the Spirit to release some of that. It’s HARD work to let go of our wounds and live in love with those with whom we don’t completely agree. Sending you love & prayers, sister! //Nell

  • Reply
    Ashley
    September 28, 2015 at 11:39 am

    As converts from Protestantism, my husband and I were able to initially hold onto this gentle approach. As time has gone by, however, we have learned that there is more to it than just, they’re our brothers and sisters. Some are not against us and for those, I have no reservation about embracing them. However, we also have militant protestant family members who insist on publicly, for our benefit, attacking the Catholic faith and Pope Francis. It is truly challenging when THEY don’t see you as a brother or a sister. For these militant antiCatholic preachers, we have to teach our children to be vigilant. While some protestants are truly charitable and fraternal, there are others who are vicious wolves prowling to slip Catholics up and tear them away from Christ.

    • Reply
      Blessed is She
      September 28, 2015 at 8:16 pm

      It’s such a difficult line for people who are on fire about the validity of their beliefs to accept that others may not share those beliefs without being BAD people. Tearing down other’s beliefs and holy leaders never ever wins hearts or helps, regardless of whose side is doing it. I’m sorry that you’re having to undergo that in your family and pray for peace in your family. //Nell

  • Reply
    Shannon
    September 28, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Thanks for posting! I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools until college, then began attending a Protestant church in high school. I still love the Catholic Church but feel like this is a better fit for me to walk out my faith. I’ve never heard a teaching on Mary not being a virgin either. I’m sure how it’s discussed (or how often) varies from church to church. For my church, it is a core piece of our theology!

    I have a one year old and I’ve been thinking a lot about what/how we will teach her as she grows since my faith roots are deeply Catholic but I don’t foresee my husband or daughter becoming Catholic. I do hope that I can emphasize what we have in common instead of differences, though. There are many differences but I think it grieves the heart of God when we become sides defined by our differences and not different expressions of Christ’s unified body on earth. This whole gospel-centered parenting thing is tough!

    • Reply
      Blessed is She
      September 28, 2015 at 8:15 pm

      So sorry I didn’t make that more clear–it’s my understanding Anglicans and a handful of Lutherans share our doctrine that Mary was a perpetual virgin before, during, and after having Jesus.

      It is SO hard raising our kids to both be grounded in their faith life, doctrines, and culture while appreciating that differences exist but aren’t schismatic in a love and appreciation for each other. We’re in this together, sister! Thanks for your feedback and thoughts. //Nell

  • Reply
    Laura
    September 28, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    What a timely reflection and oh so relevant post! The story of your sister being married by a female Lutheran pastor and how you changed your perspective was absolutely beautiful. With Pope Francis’ US visit and his focus on the message of inclusion rather than “them vs. us”, your thoughts resonate with mine. I too am a convert to the Catholic faith, and have really struggled with letting go of bitterness stemmed from my Protestant/Evangelical upbringing. This past week has been especially difficult, after being in DC to see the Pope and being among his/the Catholic Church’s critics (yelling at us on the streets). Not all parts of my upbringing were negative, and I do appreciate the faith tradition I was raised in… knowing that I would not be Catholic if I was not previously in the Protestant faith.

    I currently teach at a Catholic school, and have also found especially difficult to get along with some of the teachers who share a very different perspective of the faith. Sometimes, I think they are giving Catholics a bad rep. But Jesus calls us to a different way… the way of love.

    Thank you for writing this devotional. I now know what I need to do! 🙂

    • Reply
      Blessed is She
      September 28, 2015 at 8:11 pm

      The way of love can be hard! I struggle with it daily in all aspect of my relationships with others. So glad this spoke to you. //Nell

  • Reply
    MaryRuth
    September 30, 2015 at 6:26 am

    Thanks for this post! I was initially a little worried reading it but of course you brought it all around at the end. I am a covert to the faith and my parents and siblings are still Protestant. Before I converted I had a real misconception of what the differences were between our doctrine and theology because I only knew what I had been taught & much of my assumptions about Cathllic teacher were just wrong. Because of all the different Protestant denominations, and all the non-denominational churches too- it really makes it hard to tease out what Protestants individually believe or what individual churches teach. I long for a day when we can again be united in Truth under our One Lord and Savior!

    • Reply
      Blessed is She
      September 30, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      I’m so glad you weren’t still worried when you hit the end!! I, too, pray for a full union of our Christian family!

  • Reply
    Caroline
    September 30, 2015 at 6:37 am

    Hi, Nell! 🙂 I met you briefly at The Hundred conference last year. Great devotional–such a needed reminded that we’re all sisters in Christ. As a non-denominational Christian (I attend Shoreline Dallas, in Dallas :), I wanted to weigh in briefly on the Mary issue. We believe that Mary conceived Jesus miraculously as a virgin and gave birth as a virgin, but that she and Joseph had a “normal” marriage thereafter. Thanks again for sharing your heart in such an inspiring way!

    • Reply
      Blessed is She
      September 30, 2015 at 9:30 pm

      Hi friend!! Great to have you here–yes, we are all sisters! Yes, we Catholics believe she was always a virgin 🙂 I’m so glad you’re here and thank you for giving us your perspective! //Nell

  • Reply
    Margaret
    October 3, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    A beautiful post; thank you. I grew up in a Baptist church, that perhaps was unique because we believed in the virgin birth. Also, in thinking about it, I seem to have accepted from childhood the belief that the communion elements were changed into the body and blood of Christ. I can only attribute this acceptance to the influence of my pastor, whose tone and demeanor during our monthly communion implied a belief in the Transubstantiation, along with his utterance of scripture: “This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me,” and “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”

    • Reply
      Margaret
      October 3, 2015 at 3:08 pm

      I just read everyone’s comments, and thank you, Nell, for clarifying about Mary’s perpetual virginity. I think my church believed, as one other here wrote, that Mary and Joseph had children of their own after Christ’s birth. I do love Mary and hope that is the most important thing.

      • Reply
        Blessed is She
        October 4, 2015 at 7:02 pm

        That’s so lovely that your pastor had a special reverence for your communion service! And I do think love of Mary is what she loves most 🙂 //Nell

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