I am not Catholic – but my mother and my husband were both raised Catholic, so I have a deep appreciation for the Catholic church, as two of the most important people in my life have their earliest Christian roots there.
I grew up in a conservative United Methodist Church that was hit by the charismatic wave in the mid-70s. I attended Evangelical Free, Covenant and non-denominational protestant churches in college. I then ended up in a charismatic Lutheran church after college. Was married and dedicated our first child in a Southern Baptist Church, and am now a member at the charismatic Lutheran Church.
Through this somewhat ecumenical background, I have gained deep appreciation for the solid non-negotiables of the Christian faith, and have learned to not worry about many of the issues that we as humans make such a big deal about, simply because we are not smart enough to know better. If I listed some of those things, I am sure that I would start a firestorm, as some things that I see as non-negotiable, others would think trifling, and vice versa. So I will refrain from that at this time.
Our church just installed a new senior pastor this past weekend. The previous head pastor had retired, so it is nice that this was just a natural thing, not because of some scandal or other. Anyway, our new head pastor really wants us to be willing to work with other churches as a truly united body of Christ. Even as I write this I can feel my body tensing some, becoming defensive, as I have always feared being ecumenical, because of the worry that it would mean that all truths would be watered down into something that does not save any of us at all.
As one way to show unity, our pastor invited us Lutherans to attend a service with Catholics and listen to the Pope’s preacher, who is in town for a Catholic conference this week. Being a conservative Christian, I have always aprreciated the messages of the popes. I am glad that they are still “old-fashioned” in their moral stances. I thought it might be interesting to hear who the pope listens to for inspiration and encouragement. And I wanted to support our new pastor. So I gladly decided to attend.
On the way into the meeting today, I could sense my defences going up. I used to be a very open person, spiritually. But after getting mixed up with some less safe, at least in my estimation, groups in my younger years, I have learned to be a bit more discerning, not just walking into every group that calls themselves Christian and expecting everything to be theologically safe.
Well, I must say that I was more blessed than I had ever expected to be. What an amazing man of God is Rev. Cantalamessa. What makes him so amazing is his humble, simple following after Jesus. He did not try to wow us with his intellect. He did not try to rouse us with boisterous cries or guilt us into action by tugging on our emotions. He simply told us his faith journey.
He told us how God called him when he was a boy. How he had questions he had to overcome. How he had to give up control of his life, and everything he had already attained. It was beautiful to hear such a plain, simple story of God’s power working through someone when they are willing. He had not been looking for such a position. But there he is, and I thank God that he was here this morning to encourage us to move forward in courage and serve God. I pray continued blessing on him and his ministry as he teaches all of us in all denominations of the love and power of our amazing triune God.