How attending a non-Catholic church helped strengthen my faith as a Catholic

I was torn between posting this here or under non-Catholic religions, but here goes:

I recently had the good fortune to be visiting my cousins while in their town on business. I was excited to attend their church with them, as her husband is the music minister and very talented. I was aware somewhat of what to expect, having attended a Baptist church with my sister years ago. This church however, does not list a ‘religion’, but I, in my limited knowledge, would list it as Charismatic, Pentecostal or Baptist-based. I hadn’t seen them in 7 years, and had never been to their church before.

It was such a moving experience. The music was inspiring and moving. Although there wasn’t much preaching apart from during the singing, the preachers did invoke some scriptures, and they weren’t apart from Catholic teaching on these scriptures. I will admit the altar calls were different, and I was moved by the number of people coming forward. I prayed that they truly were giving their lives to Christ, even if not in the Catholic Church. Every journey begins with a single step. I did feel that there was a little ‘dramatization’ of a few things, but it could be that it wasn’t my cup of tea at those points. Oh the joy on the faces of my cousin in the choir, her husband as a music minister, her young adult children next to me… I admit, sometimes at Mass I lose focus and become disengaged. I did that a few times at this service, but it didn’t last long. I don’t know how anyone could have sat there and not been moved, but believe it or not, a man in front of me stood like a statue. Others slept, or were bored.

How did this move me closer to Christ as a Catholic? Through God. I had attended the Sacrament of Reconciliation previously in the week, and one of the things the priest asked me was ‘Who do you want to be a slave to?’ I answered quickly, JESUS! He was telling me to break those chains to sin. Godincidentally (not coincidentally), one of the songs and themes at this Worship service was breaking free of sin, breaking these chains. I heard this at my confession in one city, at Mass in another city, and at this Protestant service in yet another city in just a few days (long week!).

As I sat there (or stood, or even somewhat knelt), I truly appreciated all the Graces and Gifts that we Catholics have been given, especially in the Sacraments. At the same time I was feeling the Joy of the Spirit, I could feel Him calling me to remember how much we are given as Catholics. How blessed we truly are… One of the songs (no idea what it was…) called out to me as well, and instead of singing one of the words, the word Eucharist came out of me…such a great reminder that we have the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of our Lord, as Catholics. I was moved often to prayers, especially the Hail Mary and the Sign of the Cross.

The service was 2 hours (!!!) but time went by quickly. I did enjoy the message and most of the service. I could see how this truly could complement our Mass, either before or after, because the sacrifice of Mass, the Body and Blood of Christ, is the EPITOME of our ‘service’, our Mass. To me, that it is the true reward of Mass, but it’s enlightened because of the other parts of Mass. Without the Liturgy of the Word, for me, the Liturgy of the Eucharist isn’t as rich. We are blessed to have it all. I can see where the excitement of this type of service combined with the more solemn (even with all our singing and praise) Mass could really feed people even more. Do I feel called to attend other churches for their services? No, not really. I’m 100% completely fulfilled by our Mass.

On the flip side, I attended Mass the evening before (no way was I missing Mass to attend a non-Catholic service); the parish was an older one, in a poor part of town. The singing struggled, and didn’t work to inspire as well. But did that take anything away from Mass? Not for me…I love to sing and praise, but there are times for each. Would I have felt empty if I hadn’t been to Mass? Definitely! Would I have felt empty if I hadn’t been to the non-Catholic service? No.

Thank you Father for being with me and showing me that the way you want me to continue to follow is through our Church, our Catholic Faith. I pray that someday all of these fellow worshipers are able to experience the fullness of the Church and the Truth.

Yes He is! Yes He is! Break these chains…

Thanks for posting this inspiring post.

I enjoyed hearing about your experience! I went to a non-denomenational church for the first 2.5 years of college because all my friends went there, and this was when I wasn’t very strong in my faith and felt lost. One Sunday I was feeling homesick and decided to give the Catholic Church another chance (the first time I went when I was a freshman, I didn’t like it for some reason) and they emptiness that I was feeling was filled. I realized that what I was missing was the Sacraments! I wasn’t able to fully grasp how much God loved me until I started going to the Catholic Church again and started receiving the Holy Sacraments again! Every since then I have gone to Mass every Sunday, even though all my friends still go to the other church. I just can’t get enough of it! :slight_smile: I am excited for you and thanks for sharing!

Sounds like a great experience! I go to a non-catholic midweek “praise service” when I have the time. It’s very moving and I appreciate the fellowship and learning. It’s not a substitute for Mass but it can be a very good add-on.

You said in a few words what I rambled on about for paragraphs! :slight_smile:

Thanks. There is more that I learned and experienced, but could easily be seen as criticism or twisted around, so I’ve left that part out and tried to keep the good stuff. :slight_smile:

Thanks to those that have read this. I wanted to share it on my blog, but it’s not quite ready for prime time yet…and my cousins read my blog, so I don’t want them to take it the wrong way; however, I had to write and share this while it was still fresh in my mind!

I can’t help but think this is a bait-thread. Why is this in the Traditional forum?

You tread thin and unknown waters. You do not know where the Holy Spirit is, save the Catholic Church. Is God working through them? I hope, but I do not know, and would never assume so, no matter what the circumstance. We should always approach other religions with great prudence and more importantly great fear; we can never assume their beliefs and practices ARE pleasing to God. That does not mean they aren’t.

Emotion and sentimentality can be a powerful thing; don’t let it lead to error, assumption, or presumption. Many martyrs in England were killed because they refused to say an Our Father with Protestants. They didn’t do this because the people would kill them if they didn’t, or because the people worshipped in English, but because they feared how grave deviations from the truth are and how grave disobedience from God and His Church is. They also knew Christians had always been forbidden to pray with unbelievers and heretics. Now, this isn’t the 1500s, teaching with regard to this is somewhat different/blurred, and modern Protestants are probably bona fide, but there is still something to be learned from this.

Although the Church has given us more latitude in certain cases (pro-life events, chiefly) we are still not supposed to worship in Protestant assemblies. I would talk to a good priest about this before going again–depending on how you participate, you may be committing a sin. Also, I’d be very careful about imbibing their message. For all the truth it contains, there is likely to be a lot of heresy, often subtle.

Do you have citations for this? When I looked it up the only thing we were not allowed to do is take communion with protestants, or participate in things directly opposed to our faith. Our priest encourages it because it helps get Catholicism out there and correct the false ideas about Catholics.

My understanding is that Catholics are not supposed to attend Protestant services without some sort of important reason (i.e., a family wedding or funeral). The reason is simple: doing so exposes you to heresy.

From the standpoint of traditional Catholicism, it was considered a sin to attend such non-Catholic worship services without a valid reason.

The nuance here is that an ecumenical service is different, because in the case of something like ecumenical Taizé in a Catholic church, the service is church-approved and heresy is avoided. But in a most Protestant services, there will inevitably be heresy since these are conducted under the authorizty of Protestant ministers.

I will try to answer you in a polite manner. Please read my previous posts, my blog and other information before accusing me of posting a ‘bait thread’. As for being in this forum, it didn’t really fit in non-Catholic religion, as it is supporting the Catholic faith. Perhaps it could go in Catholic living, but where? Thanks to my Lord Jesus Christ for keeping my fingers off the keys of the words that my less than perfect human mind wants to type.

Which commandment did I sin against? I do know I OBEYED the commandment to “Love my neighbor” and “Honor thy father and mother”. I did not ‘accept’ and will not ‘accept’ any non-Catholic teachings, even subtle ones. I have that strength in my Faith, in God’s own personal Words and revelations to me, that I belong to the Catholic Faith. I could not, and would not, go against those. I felt no urge to go down and be saved or healed. In fact, much of the service, in case you didn’t read it all, was that it was pushing me TOWARDS our Catholic faith!

Also, this was the only way I would be able to see my cousins, and by doing so, I honored my grandparents and parents by doing so.

During their service, I prayed when appropriate, but said my prayers. I told people when we met, that I was Catholic and visiting. I made the sign of the Cross when appropriate for me and my prayers. I knelt forward in prayer when so moved.

I truly believe that our God, my God, our Pope, my priest, would not dissuade me from attending a family function at another church. If others on earth wish to pass judgment on me for it, and call me a ‘thread-baiter’, that is their problem. I WILL stand up for my beliefs and our Catholic faith, here or elsewhere, even in another church.

God wanted me there that morning. I truly believe it. Perhaps my love for Christ, my obvious Catholic-ness, showed someone there that ‘hey, maybe Catholics aren’t so bad! Maybe I’ll try them out!’ And if you could, please explain to me how the messages that the Lord gave to me this week in 3 different cities, 4 different churches, and 2 different faiths, were the same…

I agree maybe it’s not for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it’s not for ‘anyone’. I prayed about it, discerned it, and went to ONE service with my family in another city, AFTER I went to Mass at a Catholic parish; I wouldn’t have attended had I not been to my own already.

I know there was a Godly reason I was at their service; I just don’t know for sure if it was for me, or someone there. I may never know. Just as it’s perhaps not for me to know, it’s not for anyone else to judge. A couple of the less charitable thoughts in the replies above are why people leave the Catholic church, or people judge Catholics so harshly.

In the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to “lead us not into temptation”. In other words, we should avoid temptation. It makes sense not to attend Protestant services because, especially over time, there could be the temptation to adhere to Protestant heresies.

Obviously, this is between you, God, and your priest. I’m not saying you did or did not fulfill these conditions by attending a Protestant service. However, no one, even father or mother, can compel us into sin. All things being equal, Catholics should not be attending Protestant services because of the danger of heresy.

Yes, I read your entire post. I attended one Protestant service since entering the Catholic church three years ago. It also pushed me towards my Catholic faith, because the Protestant service was clearly so deficient in regards to the true faith. So probably going to a Protestant wedding once in a blue moon won’t drive someone to apostasize, but it certaily wouldn’t be prudent to attend them with any degree of regularity.

You couldn’t’ve seen them before or after the service?

I presume because you posted this in the Traditional Catholicism sub-forum that you wanted some sort of traditionally Catholic view on attending Protestant services? The thing is that many Protestant are lapsed Catholics. We don’t want to encourage their heresy and apostasy by attending their services with them. There are other ways to encourage them, and show them love. I have an Anglican/Charismatic buddy that’s been coming to a weekday Mass with me for the last couple years, and I’ve never been to any of his Protestant services. We’ve attended Ecumenical Taizé together a few times.

Since Protestants use the Bible, this is not that incredible, really.

Personally, I would think it’s best to clear it with a faithful priest beforehand, just to be sure.

It would be appropriate for a priest or confessor to judge the situation though. It’s an online forum so we’re really just discussing it, and I’m trying to share with you what I’ve been told by priests. I would think t would be very tragic is someone left the Catholic church because of the uncharitableness of a few of its members.

I took out the rest of the perceived judgment on my actions, but let me focus on this thought.

Yes, we do use the same Bible. How many words, teachings, parables, etc are in it? It truly IS incredible, because this was a message that reached across all platforms, and it started in my confession last Tuesday, continued through the week; it was never a major theme, in any of the other masses, and if I hadn’t heard it first in Confession, I might not have picked up on it. And even if it was a Catholic ‘theme/message of the week’…I’m pretty sure that non-Catholic church doesn’t subscribe to or share that same ‘theme week’. Guaranteed. It had nothing to do with a holy day, feast day or anything like that.

Can you cover each teaching, each belief in the Faith or the Bible in just an hour? No? Then please explain that the ONE teaching I was given last Tuesday in my home city, crossed into 2 other cities, and 3 other churches, Protestant and Catholic? You cannot and will not remove from my heart that the Lord gave this to me in each instance.

Why are you so moved to break this down into a bad thing?

And for the record, YES, this was the only time I could have seen my cousins, as their weekend was full of church activities (and I would not ask someone to place my needs before God’s, even if they aren’t Catholic), mine was full of work. Not only that, but I have not seen them in 7 years, rarely saw them before that due to them growing up abroad, and may never see them again except at funerals in the future.

I can also assure you I was not led into temptation; are you saying that attending a service with full power and grace of God’s love is the same as getting drunk at the bar, which would be putting oneself in a near occasion, or occasion, of sin?

Honoring my parents and grandparents did not conflict with the Lord’s desires for me. If you can attend a wedding in a Protestant Church, how can it be a sin or wrong for me to visit with my family ONE TIME?

Thank you for sharing what ‘you’ve been told by priests’. Our situations may not be the same, and I’m quite sure we are two different people, even in one faith.

I would think t would be very tragic is someone left the Catholic church because of the uncharitableness of a few of its members.

It happens EVERY DAY. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it.

The difficulty is that what is a temptation for one may not be a temptation for another. Especially not when genuine spiritual benefits are possible - as almost no spiritually beneficial experience or resource is free from temptation.

In the first place a Catholic has no business attending Protestant church services even occasionally. To participate in a heretical worship service and especially a communion service can be sinful for a Catholic because such an act is an affirmation of what we believe to be untrue. To attend an ecumenical service or a wedding or baptism is allowed, but Catholics are not allowed to attend such churches for the main reason of worship. Now if there are no Catholic churches in the vicinity on a Sunday, Catholics are allowed to participate in the Liturgy of Churches whose clergy are validly ordained such as the Eastern Orthodox Churches—including the reception of the Eucharist. Although we consider them to be in schism (not in union with the Pope) with the Catholic Church, such Churches are not heretical and share our basic beliefs.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

So apparently I was wrong. Baltimore Catechism #203 and the old code of canon law #1258 backed up what I said, but apparently the new code is silent about it, and the 1993 ecumenical directory actually encourages praying with Protestants sometimes.

I could scarcely believe me eyes, but there it was.

So at these inter-faith prayer services are Catholics allowed to ask out loud for intercessory prayer from the saints and our Blessed Mother?

Some Protestant churches do follow the Revised Common Lectionary. My point was that a broken clock will be right twice a day… i.e., there’s bound to be “truth” among Protestants because they use and venerate the Bible. But that shouldn’t be used as an argument to validate them in their heresies. God can speak to anyone, anywhere, and use any method he so chooses. :slight_smile:

I don’t think I or anyone would want to remove anything that the Lord put in your heart, that’s a beautiful thing. I’m rather speaking of the principle that Catholics should not attend Protestant services unless they have a good reason to, and have discussed it with their priest.

Because you posted this in the Traditional Catholicism sub-forum. The traditional Catholic view is that it’s a sin for a Catholic to attend a church service of a heretical Protestant sect without a good reason. At any rate, a Catholic’s time would be better spent attempting to receive a plenary indulgence for a poor soul in purgatory by spending 30 minutes reading the Bible.

Like I said, it’s between you, God, and your priest whether this was a valid situation or not. If it was me, I’d just wait outside and speak to a family member between church activities.

No Protestant service can be “with full power and grace of God’s love”. They’re heretics who don’t have a valid priesthood and don’t have access to the Holy Eucharist or confession.

And I would argue that it’s much more dangerous to go to a Protestant service than go to a bar. I’ve gone to a bar with other Catholics, had a drink, and left. I don’t see what the problem is there.

But many Catholics have left the church because they began attending Protestant services and were led astray.

For me, attending a Protestant service is not really “visiting with family”, in the same way that see a movie in a theatre wouldn’t be visiting with them… yiou’re all doing something else, you’re not really spending time with each.

Think of it this way: all things being equal, it’s a mortal sin for a Catholic not to attend Mass on Sundays. What do you think Protestants do? They actively try to recruit Catholics to attend their services, and stop attending Mass. They’re spreading heresies and leading Catholics to abandon the one true faith. Me, personally, I don’t want to have anything to do with that, and I’m not ashamed to say so.

Like I mentioned, I have a Protestant buddy who attends Mass with me on a weekly basis, we pray on the phone together one-on-one, and we’ve been to ecumencial services together. I think that’s a more appropriate way to spread Catholic truth to Protestants.

It generally would be. I think it would be good to examine whether it is the charitable thing to do at the time - since I have no obligation to ask of the saints and Blessed Mother at that time, I would want to be very sure of my motives.

I would point out that most protestants, when I’ve pointed out that a Catholic is expected to attend Mass, have been understanding. It just doesn’t occur to them, because for a protestant to attend a different protestant church on sunday wouldn’t be considered a sin. Not all try to recruit Catholics away from attending Mass.

So in your experience you have observed it?

I think it would be good to examine whether it is the charitable thing to do at the time - since I have no obligation to ask of the saints and Blessed Mother at that time, I would want to be very sure of my motives.

Praying to the saints and our Blessed Mother is very much a part of my prayer life. If it’s truly an inter faith service it should be accommodating to all faiths.

I’ve very rarely observed services where multiple people are praying out loud and outside a specified format, so I can’t say too much. In most of the services I’ve been to that would have been inappropriate because it would have required hijacking the format for your own personal way of doing prayer.

That said, I’ve seen and done private prayers (e.g. prayer before meals) that included such things and weren’t an issue.

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