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“Ask a Priest: What If I’m Considering Catholicism but at a Crossroads?”
Q: I am scheduled to be baptized in a few months in a nondenominational church. I am a college student and have been a Protestant my whole life. I do not want to put off my baptism if at all possible. However, this last year I began researching Catholicism and Protestantism. The result of all my reading has been absolute confusion. I am no longer convinced that Protestantism is correct. And I no longer believe Catholicism is synonymous with idolatry. I admit that there seems to be merit to Catholic doctrine. I don’t know how to find clarity. I don’t feel comfortable attending a Catholic church, in part because I recently watched an interview with a Protestant where he stated that praying to Mary and the saints was a serious offense against God and could keep someone from heaven. I am not sure what I am supposed to do at this point. I am aware of a Newman Center on campus and a Catholic church near me. In many aspects I think I have a fairly decent grasp on Catholic teachings. I just don’t know whether they are right or not. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! – C.M.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It sounds as though the Holy Spirit has been working in your heart and nudging you further on your journey to seek the truth.
A quick clarification if I may: Although you have a genuine desire to be a Christian, it takes baptism to be linked ontologically – that is, in your very being – to Christianity.
If you find merit in the Catholic faith, it might be good to pursue that and to delve deeper into your research.
You will find that Catholicism has an internal coherence; all the parts fit together.
This isn’t to say that there will be some mysterious bits and there. Jesus didn’t reveal everything, after all. But what he did reveal, he revealed for our spiritual good. And it is the Catholic Church that guards and teaches what Our Lord taught and did.
As for praying to Mary and the saints: We ask Mary and the saints to intercede for us, much as someone might ask a friend to pray for a sick relative. For Mary and the saints are fully alive and capable of interceding for us.
We know that they are alive, since Scripture itself points to the endurance of souls after physical death.
Moses, who died (Deuteronomy 34:5), appeared with Jesus at the transfiguration (Matthew 7:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36). And Our Lord tells the Sadducees, “Have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Matthew 22:31-32).
Intercession itself is common throughout the Bible.
Think of the intercession of Moses for the Israelites in the desert. “Then the people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you. Pray to the LORD to take the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people” (Numbers 21:7). [italics mine]
Elsewhere the Israelites wanted Moses to intervene — in the other direction: “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we shall die” (Exodus 20:19).
Then think of the Gospels. Jesus’ first miracle, the changing of water into wine at Cana, came at the intercession of Mary his mother (John 2:1-11). If the intercession of figures such as Moses and Mary won favor with God in this world, it’s not hard to imagine that they could still intercede in heaven.
At this point you might consider attending Mass at the Newman Center (though refraining from receiving Communion). Just hearing the readings and the prayers and the homilies and being in the presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist will help you.
In the meantime try to make time for prayer each day. Feel free to speak with someone at the Newman Center or at that nearby Catholic parish.
If you feel drawn to the Church, you might consider joining an RCIA program at a parish. You might not need too much instruction if you are already familiar with Catholic teaching.
And feel free to send any further questions to Ask a Priest. Count on my prayers.
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