Cross-posted at First Things’ Evangel blog:
As I may have mentioned earlier, I grew up with Catholics on my mother’s side and the Church of Christ on my father’s side. Not exactly a recipe for happy relations. For the record, the Catholics were more gracious about it. I found the tension painful, difficult, and unnecessary and thus tried to avoid religion as a young person.
The Hound of Heaven got to me, anyway, while at college in Tallahassee, Florida. A story for another time.
Although my parents now go to the Southern Baptist church, my mother still bears the imprint of her Catholic upbringing and relates easily on religious matters to her brothers and sisters. I went through a period at the beginning of this century where I thought I might convert to Catholicism. Yet, here I am, still evangelical and probably not changing, although my mentor Francis Beckwith has crossed the Tiber.
Though I feel pretty settled as an evangelical — and the Reformation is part of why I feel that way — I do not understand why something like the claimed appearance of Mary at Fatima would be so disturbing. We are talking about a woman who, if scripture is to be believed, bore the son of God in her womb. We embrace the thought that God does everything for a reason. And for some reason he chose her. There is something I am missing, probably something obvious. Someone on this list will tell me why I should find the purported appearance of Mary more unsettling than I do.
What is it exactly that is so objectionable about the claim that she appeared to some children? I readily admit that I am not a theologian, but am instead more of a religio-political analyst. My many Catholic relatives may be blinding me, too. I just don’t see it.
What I can tell you is that I went to Mother Angelica’s beautiful church in Hanceville, Alabama a few years ago with my aunt and uncle, both of whom fit the old description of being more Catholic than the pope. (My uncle, a good and godly man, died of an agressive brain tumor earlier this year. He was the kind of man who wrote encouraging letters to prisoners.) I sat in that place on a wooden pew and heard cloistered nuns (out of sight behind a screen) sing the most beautiful music I have ever heard in my life. Even now, I can feel the sensation of it, vibrating into my soul.
What grieved me at that time and in that place was not whatever feeling those people had about Mary, but that I could not take communion with them because they did not wish it so. Though I claimed Christ, just as they did, I was a separated brethren who could not share the sacrament.
The division of the church scandalizes me, especially in the world we live in. Part of the reason we lost as much as we did in American culture is because the Protestants worried more about “Romanism” than they did about secularism.
I wish I could see the Reformation’s end in sight, in a way that would somehow satisfy us all.