Good Catholics Make Good Adventists

A Former Nun Tells How to Witness to Catholics. . .

-a former Nun

GOD'S TRUE PEOPLE are found within every church. They try as best they can to be as pleasing as possible to their heavenly Father, and many of them firmly believe that the church to which they be long is the true church founded by Jesus.

A good Catholic, of course, can certainly be among the people of God. He believes that his church is the original church founded by Christ, subsisting throughout the ages, and that it will last until the end of time, as Jesus promised it would when He said, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28:20).

Approaching a Catholic is a very delicate and risky endeavor. It is necessary to address him in such a manner that there is not the least suspicion aroused in him of a threat. He must be able to trust, to feel confident that his privacy, his freedom, especially in the area of his religious faith, is respected and secure from any at tack.

The best way to influence a good Catholic is by being a very good Adventist. This means being as genuine a Christian as possible. If a Catholic can see in an Adventist the beautiful character of Jesus, this perception can arouse his interest in the other's religious beliefs and life better than can any argument on doctrines or beliefs. A sincere Catholic yearns for holiness of life and for Christlikeness. When he sees that someone is holy even though he is not a member of the Catholic Church, it could start him thinking and questioning as he has never done before.

Psychological Aspect

It would be well to have a comprehension of the psychological make-up of a Catholic so that one can be understanding and sympathetic in his associations with him. The more one knows of what a Catholic believes, what proceeds from this belief, and how a Catholic feels and acts, the better one can win his friendship and confidence and be able to help him. The situation is much like that of a physician when he undertakes to cure his patient. He first obtains a knowledge of the condition and all of the circumstances affecting it. In this way the doctor prudently advises and pre scribes. The confidence and trust aroused in the patient make him amenable, cooperative, and compliant.

Catholics are taught that Christ founded the church upon Peter, whom He made His vicar when He said, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). Several other scriptures support the Catholic dogma that the church speaks in Christ's name and binds with His authority:

"And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:19).

"He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep" (John 21:17).

Because of this belief that Jesus made Peter the visible head of the church, the Catholic is convinced that the successor of Peter, each duly elected pope, is invested with the authority Christ gave to Peter and is, just as surely, the head of the church during his pontificate.

This authority is inherent in the office of "Vicar of Christ" and not in the person. Therefore, when the Pope speaks ex cathedra, that is "from the chair," meaning as the head of the church, he is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is protected by the same Person of the Godhead from making statements of error. This is what is known as the doctrine of infallibility. Thus, a Catholic accepts without doubt or question what the church defines and teaches, trusting it to be what God is willing to reveal for him.

This confidence and abandonment to the church extends also to a person's attitude toward the priests. Whatever a bishop or pastor decides and advises becomes the guide for one's choice be tween alternatives. Therefore, most Catholics simply abandon themselves to the teachings and regulations of the church, and find peace of conscience in the thought that they are borne safely in the ark of Peter, secure in truth.

Protecting Wall

This kind of mentality builds a wall around a Catholic which, while protecting from attack, also isolates him from other ideas and development. Therefore it is difficult and risky to attempt to penetrate this wall; but with prayer, love, truth, and tact, one can make an endeavor. It can be shown that Scripture has been interpreted to fit a preconceived idea as if theologians, influenced by pagan and worldly wisdom, had already made up their minds as to what they wanted to be true, then took texts and portions of Holy Scripture and used these to support their theories.

For instance, if the words of the text: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church" had been interpreted correctly it would have been clearly seen that by the "rock" Jesus meant Himself. Peter had just acknowledged this truth in his answer to Christ's question, "But whom say ye that I am?" when he responded, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus, rejoicing in the gift of faith Peter received from the Father, added, "and upon this rock (this fact that I am the Son of the living God) I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:15-18; see also 1 Peter 2:6-8).

The church requires of her members that they attend the "holy sacrifice of the mass" on Sundays and "holy days of obligation" under the penalty of committing a mortal sin, unless one is in circumstances that would make his attendance impossible. A good Catholic, however, does not go to mass just because he is obliged to do so on certain days; rather he is present at the "sacrifice of the altar" on any day, sometimes every day, because he loves the mass. To him the mass is the remembrance of the great sacrifice of Calvary, a re-presentation to the Father of the act of atonement. He sees the mass as a liturgical act that renders to God adoration and thanksgiving. It petitions for pardon and for God's benefits and blessings all through Jesus, the High Priest.

The mass developed as a prolongation of the Jewish rite of sacrifice. The words of Jesus at the Last Supper, "This is my body which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19), became the foundation, they insist, for a rite of sacrifice. There fore the Roman Catholic Church organized a ceremony of worship similar to that of the Jewish rite. The sacrifice of the Old Testament was a prefiguration of what was to come of the real sacrifice of the Son of God for the redemption of the world.

The Catholic Church has taken Christ's commission, repeated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:26, to perform a simple remembrance of love, humility, thanksgiving, and worship, and has made of it an elaborate and ostentatious ceremony. Especially was this so in the solemn high masses of previous years wherein heavy, ornate vestments were worn and cande labra, incense, and formulas were used, accompanied by the music of the great composers. These pompous and solemn masses are quite appealing and stirring to the emotional nature. One who was unable to afford the cost of ad mission to a concert or opera or drama, could find in the mass a true artistic enjoyment, besides a religious experience.

Sacramental System

The sacramental system is most precious to Catholics, who regard these acts as having been instituted by Christ Himself for the reception of grace and the deepening of union with Him. These sacraments consist of a series of religious acts whereby one par takes of the merits of Christ and receives the graces (righteousness) God bestows in response.

Confessing to a duly authorized priest and receiving God's forgiveness through that priest is called the sacrament of penance. It is, therefore, the sacrament in which sins committed after baptism are forgiven.

The first sacrament is baptism, whereby one is cleansed of original sin (alienation from God), be comes a child of God, and is given the right to heaven. This does not mean once justified, al ways justified. No. If one commits a mortal sin against God after baptism, and does not repent of it before death, then that one can not enter heaven. On the other hand, if one is repentant, then he can express his guilt, his sorrow, and his intention never to sin again in confession.

There are five other sacraments or religious acts by which Jesus enters more deeply into relation ship with a soul. These are: Holy eucharist (communion); confirmation, wherein the bishop lays his hands upon the head of the recipient, invokes the Holy Spirit to come and dwell within and be come the soul's guide and inspiration; holy orders the sacrament that consecrates a man as a priest of Jesus Christ; matrimony, in which Christ joins a man and a woman in an indissoluble union of love; and the final sacrament that of extreme unction, which prepares a person to die. At this time, if the person is conscious, he confesses his sins and ex presses his sorrow for ever having offended God. The priest, as he administers this sacrament, anoints the different human senses with oil, praying God to forgive those sins committed by the dying person's eyes, ears, brain, hands, et cetera. This ceremony brings quiet and peace to the believer and enables him to die with a loving, surrendered disposition, pre pared to face his Creator at the moment (as he believes) that his soul leaves his body.

Some of these sacramental acts are authentic, having been instituted by Christ while He was on earth. However, they have been systemitized by the church and claimed exclusively by her. This is an error. These acts are fundamental to the Christian life and they are to be performed in all Christendom in the exact manner Jesus directed and as described in Holy Scripture.

Therefore, while the sacramental system of the Catholic Church is quite organized and centralized in her rites and liturgy, the reality inherent in this system is independent of any form and readily available to sincere souls every where.

Communion of Saints

Another deeply imbedded attitude of Catholics is their belief that the souls of holy people who have died are with God in heaven and are making intercession be fore God for those on earth whom they love or who implore their assistance. Catholics do not believe that the "saints" in themselves have power of assistance, but be cause they are so close to God they can have greater influence with God and intercede for their loved ones or clients. This dogma is called "the communion of saints."

In honor of these saints certain days are set aside as feast days days of joy and festivity. Different nations have their particular saints, as for instance: Ireland and St. Patrick, France and St. Joan of Arc, Italy and St. Francis of Assisi. Special masses, decorations, celebrations, accompany these occasions, stimulating the emotions, rejoicing the human spirit. The recurrence of seasons renews an ever-revolving cycle of feasts, celebrations, and joy that make life pleasant, and memories dear. I know from personal experience that to abandon these customs and events that wind around one's heart is a critical and painful operation. The Catholic faith has so much that is appealing and nourishing to the emotional side of human nature.

My Experience

It has been said that good Catholics become the best Adventists. This is probably because of the good Catholic's adherence to what he believes to be true. He is seeking truth, and through the working of the Spirit of Truth within him he is attuned to truth from wherever it comes. When, in God's providence, a new awareness of truth came to me I was alert to its meaning. Anyone dealing with a Catholic with the intention to convert him must wait and watch. He must not go ahead of God's leading. He must gently, patiently await that moment when doubt enters the Catholic's mind. When doubts came to me they were accompanied by a sincere desire to pursue truth no matter what the cost.

At this point a very painful process lies ahead. I had to be helped to fully understand the great cosmic controversy that is the real is sue. Once I saw that the core problem is Satan's deep jealousy of Christ and what Satan is doing to thwart goodness, then I was able to accept the possibility that my church had been deceived. After Christ's ascension into heaven His church began its period of development and Satan began his work of corruption. In the early stages it was not so apparent that error was being incorporated into the truths of the gospel. By a small compromise here, one there, the bride of Christ was becoming unfaithful until now she is as John saw her (Rev. 17:4) "arrayed in purple and scarlet . . . having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication."

As I studied and learned the truth about my church, I came to realize that the "holy mother church" is not the pure and beautiful woman, the loving mother in whose care and protection I could continue to abandon myself with security. I felt an agony of disillusionment as though I had been betrayed by a parent.

Grievously wounded and saddened by the realization of his church's apostasy, a good Catholic, no matter how much he has loved his church, loving God more, will forsake his church with its errors and pursue truth. Though there are many beliefs and customs a Catholic holds dear, he will abandon them when he learns that they are not founded on the Rock, Christ, but on the rock, Peter. He will set about to rebuild his whole psychological being.

Becoming a child spiritually, he will abandon himself completely to the Father, praying to be taught anew. I found that the former Catholic's "growing pains" can sometimes be severe, as more and more of what I believed in was removed. Nevertheless, a good Catholic is athirst for God and for truth. When once he learns to replace tradition with Biblical truth he will find peace.

As I grew in possession of truth I came to realize that what I now have is what I always hungered for. Really, I lost nothing, but only gained gained joy in this present life and a stronger hope for eternal life. No longer am I depending on my own merits and good works but on the promises of God.

Sharing our message with Catholics is really not difficult once there is a break made in the wall surrounding their faith. When a real doubt concerning his position is raised there is nothing else a good, intelligent Catholic can do but to resolve it. At this point he steps onto the road that leads to truth.

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-a former Nun

July 1975

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