Are you Catholic or Christian? How I found Jesus in religion

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             by Sarah Fleischman

So you’ve asked me, “Are you Catholic or Christian?”

“Both,” I answer.

A lot of people don’t believe someone can be both.  Many Protestants learn about Catholics from hearing their elementary school classmates complain about going to Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) or from the little old lady down the street whose walls are plastered with pictures of her large family, Pope John Paul II, and the Virgin Mary.

When I first came to Messiah, I didn’t believe Catholics were Christians precisely because of that kind of exposure to the religion. I was very hurt and disillusioned by the Pentecostal, Protestant tradition I grew up in, and so I began to church hop with passion. In three years, I visited 35 churches.

I learned a lot about Christians. I learned that a lot of Christians are hypocrites. I’ve learned that everyone interprets the Bible differently. I’ve learned that a lot of churches want you but they don’t want to welcome you.

After visiting 35 churches, I still hadn’t found the one. Along the way, I fell in love with Jesus. I grew up going to church and going through the motions, but not really understanding. I decided the only thing I needed in life was Jesus and my NIV Life Application Study Bible.

That worked for a while. I got comfortable. No one was holding me accountable because this was my relationship with Jesus. It wasn’t anyone’s business but mine.

Religion gets such a bad reputation. A YouTube video called “Why I hate religion, but love Jesus” went viral a few months ago. I completely agreed with it…until I started researching the Catholic Church. One of my good friends here is Catholic and loves Jesus with her whole heart. I researched and asked questions during my freshman year. I could understand and defend this odd religion, but decided it was too strange for me.

I forgot about that research until my junior year, when I met another new Catholic friend during my semester at the Washington Journalism Center. The summer before, I had totally given up on God. I was done. She thought it was great that I could understand her. She started out jokingly, “Why don’t you become Catholic?” I would laugh. Never. Never would I fall into the clutches of a religion!

Gradually, I began to take it more seriously. I spent every night googling my questions: “Why are Catholics opposed to contraception?” “Why are they obsessed with Mary?” “Is praying for the intercession of the saints idolatry?” I gave myself a crash course in Catholic doctrine and apologetics. I read Catholicism for Dummies on the bus on the way to my internship.

Gradually, my disillusionment with church and the hurts which made me give up on God dissolved. I began to understand. I began to understand how the seemingly strange beliefs of this ancient church fit together to make something beautiful. I saw how things like confession and praying the rosary could help me in my walk with God.

This Easter, I was confirmed in the Catholic Church. It hasn’t been all rainbows and glitter. My family does not support my decision. Some of my closest friends are confused. People say hurtful things about the Church and the God I love so much.

They need to realize the benefit of asking questions rather than jumping to conclusions or being hasty to judge.

If you see me on campus, don’t think of me as “that brainwashed papist.” Ask me a question. I’ve learned not all things about religion are bad. I know there are some flaws in Catholicism.

I don’t want to convert you, I just want you to stop assuming. I want you to want to understand that my relationship with God is still beautiful.

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