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“Ask a Priest: What If Prayer But Not Dogma Attracts Me to Catholicism?”
Q: I was born to a mother from a strong Catholic family and a father whose parents were Missouri Synod Lutherans. I was baptized as a baby in that Lutheran church, but then my parents joined an awful “prosperity gospel” house church, and I was raised in that context. It turned me off to Christianity, and I ended up converting to Judaism. Years later I left that faith and have just seen myself as a pagan or agnostic or something since. Recently though, through doing family research and getting closer to extended family members who are Irish Catholics, and through exposure to Catholic spiritual spaces through my daughter’s participation as a student in a Catholic college, I have been feeling a connection to elements of Catholic spirituality. I am not sure what to do with that. I have a hard time believing a lot of the dogma/theology, but the contemplative and prayerful practices seem incredibly soothing to me. I am not sure what to do about it, what it means, or if this is a common thing you see. Anyway, I just thought it would be interesting to see if anyone had thoughts on this. Thanks for your time. – T.S.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It sounds as though you are receiving a great grace from God.
You are on a spiritual journey, and like a lot of journeys, it takes a while before the destination starts to appear on the horizon.
My suggestion is to follow your interest in the contemplative and prayerful practices that attract you.
Dedicate time to prayer, and the Holy Spirit can use them to bring you in the direction he wants.
For it is the Holy Spirit who enlightens and leads a soul. Prayer is an experience of God, and the most important first step is to ask the Almighty to guide you and to be aware that if certain means (like Catholic spirituality) are resonating, that might be the direction you should go.
Two book suggestions that might help with prayer are Opening to God and The Better Part.
Catholicism is deep and broad, and it has lots of treasures to attract people. Down the road, if you are more interested in the faith, you try reading other books.
Some worth a look include Surprised by Truth, by Patrick Madrid; Why We’re Catholic, by Trent Horn; Theology and Sanity and Theology for Beginners, both by Frank Sheed; and The Case for Jesus, by Brant Pitre.
You could also browse the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church online.
Above all, read the Gospels. Get to know the person of Jesus Christ better. And count on my prayers.
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AMEN. Trust IN GOD . . . and not mere mankind. The trust begins with learning the Faith in Practice.
(besides the books Father suggested, that quiet contemplative prayer can be had by going on Catholic Spiritual Retreats where priests and lay persons of knowledge speak of the Catholic faith and its practices,
Consider also attending to Daily and Sunday Mass (do not take the blessed bread until being brought into knowledge of the church and Sacramental unity, via the learning of (in child years it is called Catechism instruction aka Sunday School or religious education when in a Catholic parochial academic / religious school) In adult learning it is called RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation… the learning of the facts and then
being Baptized (though you were probably Baptized when a child in the Lutheran church) but also to
receive FIRST Holy Communion ‘with understanding’ USUALLY at the Easter Mass, and to be Confirmed
(anointed) to receive the Holy Spirit and gifts of the Spirit.
If you have a daughter attending a Catholic College, I am guessing you were married Sacramentally? ie: your wife is a Catholic? Is this the extended family you speak of? INDEED, as Father said, THE GRACE OF GOD is pulling you BACK to that narrow road UPWARD. (your wife and her family praying for you)
Don’t LOOK BACK… continue as Father said… in the prayer life ‘of the church’ / if your wife is Catholic,
and you haven’t been going to Mass with her, GO. And go daily if you can.
FOCUS on what is above and not mere ‘fallible’ (imperfect) humanity… which can be found in all faith practices Lutheran, ‘prosperity Gospel’ aka fundamentalist Christianity, and yes… Catholics, who are practicing the faith, but not all at the same level of spiritual maturity. PERFECTION takes ‘practice’ and the ‘practice’ is in the ‘taking and eating of the REAL PRESENCE of Christ in that bread… which is a spiritual understanding of ‘all things are possible with GOD and GOD is REAL and always with us’ . . . obey what He says to do: Take and Eat, this bread is my Body said he (John Chapter 6 verse 46 – 54) . . . TAKE in purity
of God’s Grace (first given at Baptism) ie: NO ‘sinning’ Monday thru Saturday . . . taking Him on Sunday.
AND THE SANCTIFICATION of the Holy Eucharistic Communion . . . will be. Maturity of Faith will grow.
PERSEVERE. My prayers for you also.