Thanks to all for your advice and for sharing your experiences with me.
Just FYI… this is where I am at more specifically in my spiritual journey:
Catholic beliefs I’ve always been in agreement with:
– Beliefs stated in Apostles’ Creed
– Pro Life
– Traditional marriage
– Sinful nature of man – we need a redeemer in Jesus Christ.
– Anointing of the sick
– Spiritual gifts, like speaking in tongues
Catholic beliefs I have come to believe in during last several months:
– Catholic Church has ties to earliest church fathers and apostles. Pope Francis is the latest in the line of succession to Peter.
– Pope is leader of the faithful and the Magisterium is the body who defends what is proper scriptural teaching and understanding of Christian truth.
– Confession/Reconciliation and penance. I believe we can and should confess our sins directly to God, but confessing our sins to a priest is necessary to keep us in right relationship with God and man, and provides built-in accountability.
– The Eucharist truly becoming body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ.
– Weekly obligation. I struggled with this for awhile but accept it now. I have always gone to church because I want to grow in Christ, not because I have to go. My nature is to rebel when I am forced to do something, so it took some effort to assent to this one. In the end, I attend 99% of the time anyway so I would only need to add 1% more. No big deal.
– Purgatory. This one still bothers me a little, but I assent to it. Just so long as the final destination is heaven, I can live with a slight detour to be purified as needed to enter heaven.
Continued Areas of Struggle:
– Marian dogmas: To me, Catholics run the risk of ascribing Mary divine qualities through titles like "Queen of Heaven’ and “Mother of God”. I believe she is a special and blessed woman for giving birth to Christ, but I can never venerate her to the point where I adore her like she is on a par with God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. I would have to learn where to draw the line better before I could feel comfortable praying to Mary.
– **Praying to saints and Mary **(I still go directly to God thru Christ although I have nothing against BVM or the saints. I realize they are in heaven praying for us. I find it unnecessary to pray to them in the same way I find it unnecessary to take a flight from LA to NYC and purposely choose to go through Denver and Chicago when there is a direct non-stop flight available from LA to NYC.
– When does salvation occur/Infant baptism?
My understanding is that Catholics believe in baptizing babies and believe the act of baptism removes the sins of the person/brings salvation.
I believe salvation comes from true faith and repentance in Jesus Christ and a profound spiritual awakening in which a person’s spirit is “born again”, which precedes baptism.
My view infers that the person must be of appropriate age and reason to be able to make this decision freely on their own. In other words, I can’t drag someone else into heaven who doesn’t want to go. Baptizing an infant who obviously doesn’t know what is taking place does not fit what I believe salvation is. I consider it more of a dedication of the parents to raise their child in the Christian faith.
For example, I work with a guy who was born into a Catholic family and was baptized as an infant. He is an atheist now. He doesn’t believe in God at all and thinks Christianity is a fairy tale. Does Catholic doctrine still consider him to be saved? If so, on what basis, since he has obviously forsaken the Christian faith.
That, in a nutshell is where I am at currently. I realize that my views aren’t necessarily always right, because I’ve come to realize there is a God and I’m not Him. So please help me with my struggles if you feel led to do so.