A New Catholic Reflects on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

500 Years

500 years ago some crazy business went down in the world of Christianity. And this Halloween, the 500th anniversary of that business, which we refer to as the Protestant Reformation, will be celebrated by some and mourned by others.

As someone who, just a year and a half ago, crossed the Tiber to become Catholic from a pretty solid Protestant background, all this hubbub about the 500th anniversary of the Reformation brings a lot of thoughts and feelings to the forefront for me as well.

I want to preface this article by saying that I have many amazing Christian friends who are Protestant. I love you all, and there is so much I look up to and respect about your faith. But the Reformation anniversary is hard for me, and my writing here details the reasons why my stomach sinks when I see posts celebrating what happened 500 years ago.

It’s the other side of the coin.

The Good Stuff, In Context

In some ways, I’m glad for parts of what happened. The Church did need some reforming at the time, and I believe that reform indeed occurred within the context of the Catholic Church. Some things were brought to light. Changes were made. Good changes. God changes. There is an excellent series by the Coming Home Network on the Reformation, and it touches on the components of the Catholic Church at the time that were in need of reform, along with many other social and cultural components that led Christianity to the brink of what became this massive division. It’s well worth a read.

I’m also thankful for the Catholic/Lutheran communications in recent years that are reopening the dialogue between us and paving the way for potential future reunification.

Sadness

But the rest of me feels sad about it all. About all the other repercussions. The unintended ones. The ones that are still sweeping through our world to this day.

I’m sad that so many of my Protestant brothers and sisters today are disconnected from the history of the Christian Church, with the exeption of some of the liturgical and high church denominations. There are many who can’t describe what worship looked like for the early Christians. The Protestant branch of the Christian church has, in some cases, moved so far from its roots that children being brought up in some Protestant denominations won’t even think that understanding those things is even a relevant question. We tread on dangerous ground when we forget our religion’s own Jewish beginnings, how those who lived in the time of Jesus practiced their faith, and those in the generations immediately following. When we forget the example set for us by those at our roots in the name of cultural relevance and keeping up with the times.

I’m sad that Luther is looked upon as a hero, but his very, very Catholic side is underplayed or ignored. On what authority can we say Luther had some things right, but not others? That his Protestant views were right, but his Catholic views were somehow errant leftovers from his Catholic days? The Reformation itself had absolutely nothing to do with some of his most Catholic views, including his beliefs about Mary and the True Presence (though his application of this belief became an area of division). Those things weren’t called into question until after Protestantism was born, until the church had continued to move far away from any authoritative source, eventually leaving thoughts on Mary to a few songs during advent and a statue in a nativity, and the foundational Christian belief in the Eucharist to Communion as merely a symbol.

Even John Calvin held some surprisingly, and often overlooked, Catholic views.

I’m also sad that Bible Alone Protestants don’t take issue with Luther’s interpretive addition of “alone” to the Bible when it speaks of being saved by faith. “Sola Fide” was not a thing until Luther himself made that interpretive decision and added that word. Was Christianity wrong on that until Luther came around? That’s a pretty big thing to have erroneous doctrine on for over 1,000 years if it’s true. And on what authority did Luther make the claim that all those years of Church history were wrong, but his own personal interpretation was right? I know there is a solid Biblical case for an authoritative source for interpretation, but I can’t find a strong Biblical argument that says each man is his own interpreter of scripture. God didn’t promise to preserve individual Christians in all truth- he promised to preserve the Church (John 16:13).

I’m sad that 30,000 plus denominations have split off since the Reformation and that this division was something Luther himself took issue with during his lifetime, writing:

“This one will not hear of Baptism, and that one denies the sacrament, another puts a world between this and the last day: some teach that Christ is not God, some say this, some say that: there are as many sects and creeds as there are heads. No yokel is so rude but when he has dreams and fancies, he thinks himself inspired by the Holy Ghost and must be a prophet”(citation: De Wette III, 61. quoted in O’Hare, The Facts About Luther, 208.)

I’m sad that few of my Protestant brothers and sisters think it important to seek out the answer to whether Holy Communion is a symbol or the real presence of Christ (the sacrament Luther refers to above). That belief was held firmly by Christians from the time of Jesus until after the Reformation, and is still held by Catholics today. The Bread of Life Discourse in John 6 is, I believe, a challenge for anyone who views communion as a symbol. It’s an important question. A very important one. I know, growing up Protestant, that the True Presence is a completely foreign concept to many who live their entire lives only having been taught that it’s symbollic. It’s sad to me, and again affirms the problem of a Christian denomination being so entirely cut off from the historical roots of our faith.

I’m sad that misconceptions about Catholicism abound. By the end of this month, 10,000 people will have visited This Catholic Family’s blog in 2017. A small dent, joined with the work of many, many others, hopefully can help put honest yet loving faces to this faith that doesn’t need to be so much of a mystery.

So if you have questions. I’m Lorelei. I’m very Catholic. I love to talk about it. I know my faith, and read my Bible, and worship only God, and pray to God in Jesus name, and believe I am saved by God’s Amazing and beautiful Grace alone. I also love Confession, and have Holy Water in my home, and believe in the True Presence, and pray the rosary, and believe that my decisions in this life matter and speak to the state of my soul. Do you have questions about those things? Ask them. I’m so happy to answer.

And finally, I’m sad that this year, division is going to be celebrated.

Jesus said that they may be one (John 17:21).

Not 30,000+.

One.

-Lorelei

22 thoughts on “A New Catholic Reflects on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

  1. I just love your passion and love for the Catholic faith!! ❤️❤️ You are doing God’s work through this website and in your life through and through, no doubt! Thank you for your testament and ability to help us young folk not feel so alone in a generation of people so anti-traditional Catholic. God bless! 💕

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so glad this resonates with you! Being converts gives us a unique perspective, I think, on some things, since we’ve seen it from multiple perspectives within our own faith journeys 🙂

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  2. From my own little research and church classes throughout the years, it seems there are more differences between LCMS lutheran (which I am) and ELCA lutheran than there are between Catholic and LCMS. Our church just celebrated the reformation, and I appreciate your catholic reflection and thoughts on this! What it all boils down to…what we all need…is JESUS! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you are right- I find a lot of similarities between my time in the LCMS and now as a Catholic. I appreciate you reading my post on the topic so much! Jesus does unite us all, and I’m so thankful for my Lutheran brothers and sisters.

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  3. I have two degrees from ELCA Seminaries,(Mdiv. and DMin.). I found Lutherans to be a kind and generous people, but of course this is a generalization. I too was raised in church of the Nazarene in 60’s. I always rebelled against the emphasis on judgement and fear. I went to altar calls over and over to avoid the judgement they said could come at any moment. I left the church in college and was ordained in UCC and became aware of God’s Love that even accepted sinners who loved Jesus but could not reach perfection.After 40 Years in the ministry my hunger for the fullness of faith has been met by the Catholic church in which I was confirmed upon retirement. The joy of the Sacramental and Devotional life can never be fully explained. My wife does not agree so it is difficult at times

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    1. Hi Dr. Brown! We, too, spent some time in the Lutheran Church (LCMS) and we still have great affection for the people we met and came to know along the way. I’m so happy for you that you have found that joy- I understand what you mean about it being difficult to explain (though I’m trying 😉 ). And we also the struggles of not being on the same page with your spouse as that was the first 9 years of our marriage. Thank you so much for reading and sharing part of your story.
      -Lorelei

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  4. Thank You for your response Lorelei. I attend a large Catholic church, which it feels good to say after maybe 20 years of being a Catholic in heart while still functioning as a mainline protestant pastor, I am a
    Confirmed member through God’s grace now. 600 or 700 people there today i was used to a hundred when I pastored.I am often very discouraged because I am suddenly single even a kind of Spiritual divorce because of my wives refusal to even discuss the faith to which my heart now belongs, when I go to Mass alone or once in a while with one of my few male Catholic friends. the Priest today in his Homily talked about hope in Advent and he applied it to “God’s Providential hope” He meant restore your hope in God’s ability to work things out in Advent. That thought gave me a direction for soul growth in Advent. thank you for your website of which i just heard of in the Coming Home Network news letter. i will try to watch when you are on the Journey home. Peace,David

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    1. Ah yes- Advent and hope go well together, that’s a beautiful connection. I never in a million years would have thought I’d become Catholic- my Journey Home episode will go into a lot of detail on that, and we fought about our faith a lot for a long time as I was very closed off to Catholicism. We will pray for you and your marriage, and I am so glad you are already connected to the Coming Home Network. They were a lifeline for me when things were difficult, and still now that the waters have calmed.
      Take care,

      -Lorelei

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      1. Dear Lorelei, Just watched your Journey Home appearance. Beautiful! God’s love found in the church was apparent in your description and arrivsl of your journey Home. A couple of insights, the Holy Spirit will tell the searching heart that to come whom is to be Catholic. I knew inside. Also the eucharist feeds the soul like nothing elese and the sacrament of reconcilliation drives away our fear,doubts and failures. Thx for your witness,. I too have loads of denominational experience and can speak latin and protetenat. peace, wonderful presentation,
        David

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  5. Thank you so much for watching David! Everything you said is so true! The Sacraments are such gifts for us. It’s so good to be home!

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  6. Hi Lorelei – I listened to your interview with Marcus Grodi on EWTN radio, and it was wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing your conversion story and for writing this blog to spread the one, true Faith! As a “cradle Catholic,” I fear I am among those Catholics who are accused of not reading the Bible. I have made several attempts, but never know where to start, or what to read. or in what order. Do you have any suggestions of a Catholic Bible study or how you go about reading the Bible? Any advice appreciated. Thank you and have a Blessed Advent!!

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  7. Hi Julie! Thank you so much for listening to my story! It was such a joy to share it. One thing I found interesting as a Protestant entering the Catholic Church, was how much scripture there actually is within the Mass. So even for those Catholics who haven’t had a strong history reading the Bible, there are the readings and the psalm and the Gospel, and a whole bunch of the other stuff we say in Mass is from the Scriptures- particularly around the liturgy of the Eucharist, there’s a lot from the book of Revelation in there. At the Protestant churches I came from, we had typically only one reading the whole service.

    That said, I definitely understand and respect your desire to know how to approach Scripture in your own personal life! Following the Daily Readings would be my top recommendation and a great place to start. I love how the readings for daily Mass are thematically connected between the Old and New Testament. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website has the daily readings, but then there is also a short video reflection that helps put the readings into context, which is awesome. It’s like a short homily. 🙂 http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm. Starting this way is cool because you are following along with the liturgical calendar, and seeing the Old and New Testament scriptures in context and in how they relate to each other.

    Also, it might be a good idea to check if your parish has a Formed.org account. It’s a website with many Catholic Bible Studies and other programming on it. There’s an excellent Bible Study by Brant Petrie on the Eucharist, and so many others. Those are nice because the video component and explanations by experts is so helpful in understanding the bigger picture.

    I hope that’s helpful to you! And Happy Advent! 🙂
    -Lorelei

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  8. Also the Magnificat available by subscription has morning prayer and evening prayer and the full daily Mass for each day along with much more. i have used this for several years and see others using it at Mass. The Liturgy of the Hours 4 volume , is more demanding but very valuable.especiallyin crisis times when one needs to return to the readings time and time again during the changing times of the day. A shorter version Christian Prayer is also very helpful when one needs inspiration all through the day. Having been a pastor in a mainline church and familiar with many other denominational positions on the scriptures over a 40 year period ,
    Catholics actually use scripture more than other denominations and with much more respect and reverence in my opinion. David (Dr. David Brown)retired

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dear Lorelei and JP, thank you for this lovely, encouraging blog.
    Dear Julie, as a cradle Catholic it took me 37 years to read the whole Bible. Then in 2016 I set a goal to read it in one year. If you read 4 chapters per day you will finish it within 12 months, even allowing for the odd busy day when you don’t read at all.
    I know many people do not recommend this, but I found it greatly increased my understanding and appreciation for salvation history. And my faith is stronger for it.
    Merry Christmas to all.

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  11. Actually Lutheranism, as we know it, was more a product of Melancthon than Luther. Luther himself said, and I paraphrase, “Now every farmer in his shed with a Bible is his own Pope.” Luther correspnded with his Catholic Mentor (who remained Catholic) Von Staupitz, until the latter’s death. To me, as a Student of History, the Reformation was more abour politics and personality than theology. Without the Princes Luther would be a footnote in history.

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    1. Yeah I think I know what you mean, at least to some extent, myself not being a historian 🙂 there was a pretty thorough series on the Reformation that the Coming Home Network came out with leading up to the anniversary. That was really helpful for me to put all the reformation events in their historical context. There were a lot of factors at play for sure when it happened.

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