Struggling to see from both perspectives; Protestant attending Mass occasionally

I’m new on the forums. Yesterday I checked out some threads on interfaith relationships and felt I needed to ask some of my own questions.

I’m a Protestant, have been since I was introduced to the church as a child, and have gone to the same church for over ten years (Assembly of God). I have been baptized and, though young adulthood is a trying time, I consider myself to be of good faith.

I’m currently in a relationship with a devout Catholic. It has brought an interesting set of problems, through which I am trying to work. I’ve spent hours praying that God take a look at my heart, open it up and help me to understand how my significant other’s faith is not as different from mine as I seem to believe.

I’ve attended a handful of Masses this year, and for the most part, have enjoyed them. I had trouble with the first Mass I went to (I suffer from moderate anxiety), and continue to have anxiety about Communion (I was JUST explained what to do in order to receive a blessing instead). The motions and ritualistic aspect of it is still very foreign, but I’m learning and it becomes easier every time.

My second Mass was the most thought-provoking; I was very nervous, and a song lyric in particular stood out to me: open hands. One cannot receive any kind of experience from anything, nor gain perspective and understanding, without an open mind, open heart, and open hands. About then is when I started crying in the middle of service. :stuck_out_tongue:

I continue to feel a foreboding when I walk into Mass, however…I almost feel like I’m being judged for my difference in faith, and that my significant other is being judged for me. I really don’t like that…at all. I’m trying to understand how Catholicism works and I really am trying to get rid of my prejudices and stereotypes about the Catholic church…it has been a process.

I wonder if anyone else has had experiences similar to what I’m doing. Have any Protestants (who do NOT intend to convert) attended Mass to gain perspective? How did you respond to how different the service was?

I want to be as respectful of my boyfriend’s expression of faith as he is of mine.

God bless you, Kara.

Rest assured, no one is “judging” you. They may be trying to “noodle out” just what your story is, if they’re really paying any attention that isn’t just in your mind.

I’m absolutely sure, though, that if they knew why you were there, the nearly unanimous reaction would be for them to treat you warmly and say a silent prayer that the Holy Spirit would send you peace & discernment. I know I said such a prayer as I read your post! :thumbsup:

This is a great place to ask questions. So ask!

As a lifelong Catholic, I can’t respond effectively to a lot of your post, but I can to this part:

I understand that feeling of exclusion, and I want you to know that if that is what you’re feeling, I am very sorry. While it is certainly not a part of the Catholic faith to look down on non-Catholics, this sometimes happens regardless–Catholics are still human with all the faults–like rudeness and an exclusionary mindset–that entails. I hope you will shrug off any hostility–perceived or real–and participate in the Mass comfortably in the knowledge that Christ welcomes you and desires you to be with him, even if some of his follower’s are less charitable. Furthermore, if you feel any consternation about going up to get a blessing, bear in mind that it is totally optional. Many Catholics (though, perhaps, not enough), myself included, often stay in the pews during communion because our souls are not free of mortal sin. If you are more comfortable that way, you can stay back and privately meditate.

If you have not, I encourage you to read some of these articles ( catholic.com/for-other-christians ) if you have any questions about Catholicism. God bless you and may he guide you and your boyfriend in your relationship.

I was in your position once. I remember feeling the strangeness of everything going on around me at mass. In your post you said you want understand where your faith and that of your friend intersect. Might I suggest you focus on the words of the creed the next time you are at mass? See what you agree with, what you might disagree with, and what might confuse you. That helped me.

My wife, raised non-denominational, was in the same boat as you when we started dating. I was in the process of coming back to the Catholic Churchat the time, so we were both learning together, which I think helped her. Now we have been married for about 10 months now and she is planning on converting to the Catholic Faith.

This guy might help you, the link is Dr. Hahn’s conversion story but it addresses his Protestant viewpoints when going to mass.

youtube.com/watch?v=FrQN8LHYg5g

The biggest difference and why Catholics in general don’t consider Protestant worship services the same as Catholic mass is because of the Eucharist, we sincerely believe that we are receiving the body, blood soul and divinity of Jesus at mass. Catholics read the Book of Revelation very differently than Protestants do, Holy Communion is not symbolic for us. Ghandi once said if I believed that the Eucharist was God like Catholics, do my face would be on the floor.

I hope you don’t get anxiety any more - just think about Jesus and ask him to help you through the mass. If it makes you feel better I have gone into Protestant churches and genuflected and everyone was like what are you doing.

Hang in there and I will keep you in my prayers!

Thank you for your lovely post. I read it with interest.:slight_smile:

It’s quite natural to feel anxiety when encountering the celebration of Christ that’s different from our own way of worship. And, yes, young adulthood is a trying time. I’m witness to my own daughter’s struggles.

While in Mass, remember to breathe and simply enjoy the experience with no expectations. I can assure you that no one is judging you or your significant other.

In your prayers to God about the differences between your faith and the faith of your significant other, what have you learned that would be comfortable for you to share with us?

You mentioned being a member of the Assembly of God. Is that the same as Assemblies of God?

As a Catholic, I have felt ill at ease in other churches. However, I am an enthusiastic supporter of Joel Osteen, who is a non-denominational charismatic evangelist, as I am of Hillsong, whose church is Pentecostal and affiliated with the Assemblies of God. Hillsong is located in Australia. Their music is utterly spectacular, and hearing it causes me to feel immediate rapture.

Kara, you are very blessed to be as open as you are! It’s not easy to participate in another religions worship, although I am a cradle Catholic, I’ve been to a fair share of different services, including LDS. I remember feeling judged too, but I believe most of what I felt as judgement was really just curiosity, and my own self-consciousness at not knowing what to do and expect. Continue to pray with an open heart and don’t be afraid to ask questions if something doesn’t make sense, the Holy Spirit will lead you.

I attended mass to gain perspective when I was in my late teens and early twenties. My dad, who was a Lutheran pastor, encouraged it. I also attended other protestant services for the same reason, including accepting an invitation to a service at a Church of the Nazarene, which was quite the experience for a young cradle Lutheran, I promise. :stuck_out_tongue:

Otherwise, I would encourage you to continue to do so.

Jon

One option you might look into is attending RCIA. This is a class for people who are interesting in becoming Catholic or learning about what the Church teaches. This would probably give you more insight into what the Church teaching are and how the Church came to them then simply attending Mass. On the other hand, it’s a pretty big time committment, so you might save that effort in case you and your boyfriend become engaged.

I think you are wise to find out what your boyfirend’s beliefs are, especially if you are discerning a future with him.

I completely understand where you are coming from. I occasionally attend Mass with my Hubby’s parents. My hubby is a current non-practicing catholic. I have found over the years (We have been married for 19) that after the first few times it gets better. People move on to the next person that they haven’t seen before. But it’s going to be similar in any “new” congregation you attend.

Keep trying to sort it all out… I am also in the process of doing so and am learning a lot on this site.

God Bless!

Thank you for your response =) I’ve found it easier and easier to focus on God’s message with each Mass I attend. The music, too. My boyfriend somehow convinced me to sing in the choir every time I go…and that’s fun too, I suppose. ^.^

By Assembly of God, I do mean we are a part of the Assemblies of God faction, and to the best of my knowledge, we are Pentecostal. We do a lot of Hillsong and Chris Tomlin type music for worship. Probably why I was so anxious for my first Mass…hehe. =)

I’ve had at-length discussions with my significant other about our faith; we’ve come to the conclusion that we’re both children of God, want fulfilling relationship with Him, and that’s what it boils down to. He was thrilled when I asked to come to Mass with his family, and even moreso when I explained my reasoning (he thought I was doing it to make him happy.) He also attends my church from time to time, and enjoys himself, for which I am glad. He’d never been to any non-Catholic services before then.

God is very present in our relationship; we often pray together and remind each other that God has plans for both of our lives, and not to lose sight of that. As far as I can see, we have the same values and desire for a real relationship with Christ. For now, that’s what’s important.

Hi Kara, Are you a reader? One of the other posters suggested RCIA which is a great suggestion, but if you’re struggling with the time commitment right now, I have a copy of a small book by Dr. Edward Sri called “A biblical walk through Mass”. It explains fairly well what each of the elements mean and their roots in the bible. Things like, why we sit and when we stand, etc.

If it is something you’d be interested in reading, just in my message box thing (I don’t know how to do that) and I’ll drop it in the mail for you. God Bless you on your faith journey.

I am not certain Kara is looking to convert while I sincerely believe everyone’s intentions are good I just don’t want her to be turned off from reaching out to Catholics on here knowing that if she asks a question she is going to get responses suggesting she convert or materials for conversion. We should always leave conversion to the Holy Spirit. I know I have asked Baptist friends about something and next thing I knew I was getting the whole Catholic Track on why I should leave the Church. I’m like guys I’m not asking because I want to leave The Catholic Church, I just didn’t understand why you think John 6 was symbolic and I have never asked them anything since.

Hi, KaraGordon,

Great news! I’m very glad to hear it! Everything will take care of itself, I’m sure of it!

Maybe you can have your significant other sing along with you when you play Hillsong music?

Incidentally, can you recommend a book I might read about your faith?

God Bless!

I guess I can see your point. But I can assure you that I didn’t interpret your postings as pressuring the OP into conversion.

Let me be the first to sincerely apologize if my suggestion seemed to be a call for forced conversion. Far from its intention, it was simply meant as a no-strings-attached offer. Perhaps that is a disappearing concept in these days.

Don’t worry, I understood where you were coming from and I thank you for your advice. =)

Thank you everyone for the kind words and advice. I don’t think I’ll be attending any kind of classes anytime soon; my boyfriend’s entire family is of the Catholic church and I’ve been becoming more and more comfortable with asking about things I’m not too familiar with. I think I’ll also be asking more on here as more comes up…there’s a lot to learn.

:shrug: :confused:

One big hurdle some evangelical Christians have in comprehending Catholicism is the whole idea of sacraments. If (not assuming, but if) you are coming from a faith background in which faith and Grace are assumed to be entirely internal, spiritual realities, the catholic idea of sacraments can seem to be bewildering and possibility even superstitious.

As catholics, we understand God to have made us a union of body and soul. Similarly, we understand that He gives us opportunities for Grace that manifest in both the physical and spiritual realms. When catholics receive communion, we believe that we are accepting an invitation from Christ to receive Grace in a form present both physically and spiritually. The Host, somehow, some way IS the body and blood of Jesus and we become centrally linked with all believers in all places and all times with Christ offering himself on the cross in atonement for our sins.

I like SciFi stories and like to think of the Eucharist as little different than a vast network of stargates linking us to Christ both physically and spiritually.

Other sacraments are similarly fonts of Grace always available, the free gift of God to His people. Grace overflowing and plentiful.

Hi KaraGordon. Can you say any more about your experience of being at mass? Did people look at you oddly, or something like that?

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