Lorelei’s Guest Appearance on the Catholic Vitamins Podcast!

Hello This Catholic Family Friends!

Lorelei was recently interviewed by the podcast Catholic Vitamins. She was able to speak with Deacon Tom and his wife Dee and share her story home to the Catholic Church. Deacon Tom and Dee are a wonderful couple, and it was a pleasure to get to know each other a bit and share about being Elated in her conversion to the Catholic faith.

Check out the link here!


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Why Are Catholic Sermons So Short?

They’re so Short!

Something that was always strange to me as a Protestant attending Mass was how short Catholic sermons are. Well, technically we call what happens when the Priest speaks after the gospel reading a homily, but homily isn’t a word seen too often outside the Catholic realm.

The priests seemed to have varying degrees of preparation in their message, and it varied from a minute to about ten minutes at most. It varied greatly in level of depth. Sometimes it was more an encouraging word than a message at all.

I thought, what’s the deal with this?

At every single non-Lutheran Protestant Church I attended, there was a sermon. And the sermon was comparatively long. 20 minutes was normal. Some could go over 30. If the sermon was good, I left church feeling challenged and uplifted. If it was just okay, I might have been disappointed.

Expositional Preaching vs. The Homily Objective

There is a big movement right now in the non-liturgical Protestant realm towards expositional preaching. Where a pastor delves deep into a passage of scripture, often going through entire books of the Bible in an extensive sermon series. The pastor delves into the historical, cultural context, along with the original language and preaches on what he or she concludes after that extensive study.

This makes sense in the Protestant world because in Protestant churches, the sermon is the pinnacle of the service. Everything, the music, the offering, the reading (if there is one before the sermon itself), builds up to the sermon. The sermon is, structurally, the main event.

The homily, on the other hand, is meant to be an application of the readings for the day.

More in-depth study of the Bible is available to Catholics, (and should be used!), in a variety of different formats. There are Bible Studies, books, and video and online resources for in-depth delving into scripture. The readings for each day are thematically connected, and resources are readily available each day from a variety of different sources that delve into the readings. It’s been amazing to learn how connected the Old Testament is to the New via utilization of these resources. Here’s a link to one.

But the Mass isn’t ever going to be a place for lengthy, expositional study of Scripture.

But why???

Simply put, in a Protestant service, everything builds up to the sermon.

But in Catholic Mass, everything builds up to something else.

The Eucharist

Christian Mass, and living the Christian faith, from the time of the earliest Christians, focused heavily on Holy Communion. Another word we use for that as Catholics is The Eucharist. The earliest Christians called it that too.

In many Protestant Churches, communion is served once a month, or twice a month in some instances, but this wasn’t always the case in the history of our faith.

As a Catholic, though we need to be in attendance on Sundays, there is actually Mass held every single day. And at every single Mass, the Eucharist is there.

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

The preparations for the Eucharist begin in concrete form after the prayers of the faithful.

Then, the liturgy of the Eucharist begins and takes us to the completion of the Mass.

Why is that important?

It’s important because Catholics, like the early Christians, believe Christ is truly present in Holy Communion. We believe we actually receive Jesus: body, blood, soul and divinity when we receive the Eucharist.

We believe this is one of the most intimate ways we can interact with our Creator while we walk on this earth. We believe there is grace there. We believe receiving the Eucharist on a regular basis helps strengthen our walk of faith, helps unite us to other Christians, and that, among other things, it helps us turn our hearts to God. We believe that just as Jesus took the form of a man, that he is with us still, in the form of bread and wine. That he instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper. That he meant what he said in John 6.

When we kneel before the Eucharist, we kneel before our Savior.


As someone who grew up in a Protestant world, the things I just wrote would have been weird and offensive.

Communion was merely a symbol in my Protestant realm. It was more casually passed out, and more casually received. I ultimately concluded that this Catholic practice was so weird to me because it was unfamiliar. But just because I had never heard of something before, didn’t mean it wasn’t true. Imagine someone living a Pagan existence in a remote location of the world. The Gospel would sound pretty strange to them at first. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

When deciding where my faith would land, I researched a lot of things extensively. Especially this. And I found only solid evidence that the earliest Christians, those closest to Jesus held that exact same belief as the Catholic Church about Holy Communion. That belief as Communion as a symbol was considered heresy. This may not be the case everywhere, but the churches we attended didn’t delve regularly into Church history. Especially not Church history on the Christian beliefs surrounding Communion.

I’ll probably dive more into this in another post, but if it was good enough for Jesus’ disciples, and their disciples after, and on and on through apostolic succession, then it was good enough for me.


So that’s why Catholic sermons, or homilies, are so short. Some are longer than others, and some Priests spend more time crafting them than others do. But Priests are really busy guys. They spend time visiting the sick, and being instruments of grace through the sacraments.

Besides, the sermon isn’t the main event. Jesus is. And, long homily or not, he meets us there, every single Mass, loving us and offering to us himself in the bread and the wine.


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Are Catholics Just Going Through The Motions?

The Protestant Worship Experience

As a Protestant, worship took on many forms. But corporate worship in the context of a church setting was typically an emotional experience.

The worship leaders, of which I was one, sang sometimes with eyes closed, hands raised, voice impassioned and face exuding feeling.


There was this connotation that in sincere worship, one felt something. We were reaching out to God in song. Sometimes we smiled, sometimes we cried, but we wore our emotions on our sleeves. Worship music was, in many cases, tied to an outward expression of feeling.

In America, this is how Protestant worship often functions. Not in all denominations, as there are several denominations that follow a more liturgical structure to the service, but in enough that it has become a common Protestant norm in many cases.

The Catholic Mass

Contrast that with the worship we see during Catholic Mass. There’s a stereotype that has become aimed at those more traditional services, but I think especially towards Catholics in regard to the sincerity of Catholic worship.


Part of this comes from the fact that the Mass is more structured. Things happen every single time in the same order. If we switched things up or changed things around or added to it or left things out, it wouldn’t be the Mass. It’s the same every time out of necessity. The Mass knows what it is. Christians have been celebrating the Mass since the beginning of our faith. It doesn’t change.

Also, in Mass, people are kneeling, sitting, and standing, saying things at the same time, and in general, we don’t look or sound too excited.

So the question becomes: If we don’t look the part, are we engaged in worship?

Gather round, my friends, whilst I tell you a story.

When I was a worship leader in the Protestant Church, particularly during the period of my life where I was questioning my faith, I looked the part. I raised my hands at the right times, I crunched my face up, I closed my eyes, I smiled. All at the right times, all designed to give the impression of impassioned worship.

Each time I did that, I hoped to draw others in to impassioned worship as well, regardless of how I was feeling. But there were times when I was singing those words and doing those things when I didn’t even think I believed in God. Or at least not a personable God as Christians know him.

And no. one. knew. it.  At that time, I was too scared to tell anyone I was having serious doubts. I was too scared to step down, even though I knew I should, because I knew I would have to answer the inevitable “why’s?” that would follow.

I was, quite literally, putting on a show. Not to bring glory to myself, but to cover the darker reality that was hiding underneath.

Today, when you see me at Mass, my face is probably, more often than not, neutral. My hands are not raised in the air unless I’m inviting the congregation to join in while singing as a cantor.

But, even though outwardly I am less emotional and more stoic, my heart is much closer to God while I worship during the Mass than it was in those months of doubt and darkness when I appeared otherwise to everyone around me.

So, Which Is It?

Is it possible that the things we recite in Mass sound so boring and our faces look so stoic because our hearts really aren’t engaged? Sure. I’m sure there are people in each Mass whose hearts are far from God. But I spent a decent amount of time looking the part in a public position in my Protestant church, and my heart was far from God too.

When I go to Mass, I still have a lot to learn. But there are many things I know and appreciate. I know when we are quoting Revelation when we sing. I know the meaning of the Creed and believe it with all my heart. I know why we kneel, sit, and stand when we do. Those postures all help put my heart in the frame of mind for prayer, for listening, and for worship.

And sometimes, quietly, and to myself, I wipe a tear from my eye during Communion as I am so moved by God’s love for humanity. You just probably won’t see it, because you’ll be in quiet contemplation and prayer yourself.

The point of this is to say worship does not necessarily have to be tied to an emotional experience. And we shouldn’t be so quick to judge those who connect with God in a different way than we do. And we can’t assume that just because a person looks a certain way, or looks like they are feeling a certain thing, that they are. And we can’t assume that just because a person looks disengaged, that he or she is.

So no, Catholics, are not just going through the motions. We worship through the liturgy. And our worship looks different than the Protestant Churches in America who express their love for God with outward feeling and passion. God cares about our hearts. Not about how high we raise our hands or how much we bounce up and down with a worship song.

I’ve found such peace in worshipping through the Mass. And I will never again trade calm sincerity for false fervor.



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Son Rise Morning Show Interview!

This Catholic Family had the privilege to participate in an interview with the Son Rise Morning Show about our recent article on Why I Pray To Saints.

It was a pleasure to be interviewed for the show, and here’s a link to the podcast. This Catholic Family’s interview takes place at 78:30.

Son Rise Morning Show Podcast


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Do Catholics Have A Different Bible?

I used to get quite squeamish when sitting in Mass with JP’s family, especially when one of the readings would come from one of the books in the Old Testament that wasn’t in the Protestant Bible. The Books of Wisdom, Sirach, and others were foreign to me.

I was uncomfortable because I was convinced those books did not belong in the Biblical Canon. But, looking back, it surprises me how I assumed the Protestant position on the Canon of the Old Testament, adamently protesting those seven books, but having absolutely no idea why I protested them. I didn’t even think it was something I needed to look into. The Catholics were clearly wrong.

Had someone asked me why I didn’t consider the seven books that make the difference between the Protestant and Catholic Bibles to belong in Scripture, I wouldn’t have been able to give a single reason. Other than to say I grew up with the Protestant Bible. I had simply no justification for my stance on the matter.


Well… all that started to change when JP and I began attending RCIA class at our local Parish.

Due to my vague understanding that the Catholic Bible was different, I brought it up during one of my first classes. If the Catholics had the wrong Bible, it would be an easy way for me to stay Protestant. And though I definitely wanted Truth, I didn’t particularly like the idea of how becoming Catholic could affect my relationships with the people at our Protestant Church. No one at the time even knew we were attending those classes. If I could quickly dismiss one of the main Catholic claims, I could go comfortably back to life as I knew it, and no one would know of my brief foray into Catholic territory.

However, this question was one of the earliest ones to be answered above and beyond to my satisfaction due to Church history and sound logic. And therefore it was one of my first major objections to the Catholic faith that turned out to be unfounded.

The Books In Question

The actual difference between the Catholic and Protestant Bible consists of seven books: Tobit, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Judith, Baruch, Sirach, and additions to Esther and Daniel.

And, in the end, it all ended up being pretty simple for me.

The Reformers decided to utilize the Hebrew version of the Old Testament when they determined Canon during the Reformation. And, simply put, the Hebrew Canon of the Old Testament, which excluded those seven books, was determined by the Jewish people approximately 100 years after Jesus walked the earth.

So the question really became… did Jewish people, over 100 years after Christ, have the Authority to correctly determine the Christian Canon? Did they have the Holy Spirit? 100 years after Christ, those who remained Jewish certainly didn’t even accept Jesus as the Messiah. So, on the issue of their authority to correctly decide Canon, I had to realize the answer was no. And if the answer is no, then the Protestant church, in utilizing that Canon, had to be the ones in error.

Jesus Used It

A better approach, I discovered, when thinking about what books belong in the Old Testament, was to figure out what Jesus used, as well as the Early Christian Church, and go from there.

It turns out, when Jesus quotes the Old Testament in Scripture, a vast majority of the time, he is quoting the Septuagint, or Greek translation. An example would be Mark 7:6-7. It also turns out that the Greek translation was very commonly used during the time of Jesus by the Jewish people.

And if Jesus is okay quoting the Septuagint, which contains those seven books… then why would I refuse to do the same?

The Early Church’s Old Testament overwhelmingly included those seven books right up until the time of the Reformation. So the idea of excluding those books in the Old Testament Canon is only as old as the Reformation itself. And if Wisdom, Maccabees, Sirach, and others don’t belong in the Bible, then Christians had it wrong for the first 3/4ths of Christianity’s existence as a religion on this earth. And that just doesn’t make sense.

Extra Books

Understanding the history of how the Canon was developed, along with the other historical evidence of what Old Testament Jesus used, as well as what the Early Church used, I found very quickly I could longer justify my previous conclusion.

It’s interesting now… before I would have described the Catholic Bible as having seven “extra” books. Now, I describe the Protestant Bible as missing Canonical texts. Understanding the solid foundation of the Catholic Canon of Scripture was one of the first of many puzzle pieces that fell into place on my journey to the Catholic Church.



Canon of the Holy Scriptures (super thorough)

Why Are Protestant and Catholic Bibles Different?

On Jesus Using the Septuagint

What Bible did Jesus Use?

Interested in More Catholic 101? Check out our Catholic 101 Page!


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5 Things A Catholic Can Do To Help A Protestant Feel Comfortable at Mass

Having a Protestant friend visit Mass may seem like a big deal, or not, depending on you and your friend. But I know, as a Protestant, there was a lot that confused me during Mass, and I often didn’t feel super comfortable. The following things all would have been helpful to me as a visitor, and I hope they are able to help others as well. Because Mass can be a rich faith-building experience for Catholics and other visiting Christians alike.

1- Explain what the Holy Water/Baptism font is and why we stick our fingers in there and cross ourselves.

Hint: It is not a bird bath. But seriously, just a simple explanation that we utilize the font to remember our own baptism, and cross ourselves, which I write more about here, as a recognition of the Trinity, will go a long way in making that particular practice less odd to a visitor.

2- Show them how to use the Missalette (and find one for them).

What we do when during Mass becomes second nature for a practicing Catholic. But, as a former Protestant, speaking from experience, I was lost for a long time when attending Mass with JP’s family. Finding a Missalette for your friend, and showing them how to use it is one of the greatest kindnesses you can do for someone visiting Mass. They can then follow along with the readings, find the songs, follow along with the prayers, and the whole order of service. They will have something to guide them so they know what is coming next, and what words they should be saying during the Creed, for example, or at other times, like the Penetential Rite.

3- Prep them on when we will be standing/kneeling ahead of time.

Just as a general rule of thumb, explain that we will be kneeling in front of the Eucharist (which you might need to explain is Holy Communion. Also see #5 of this article.) Explain we will be standing when we pray and out of respect when we hear the Gospel. And explain we sit when we are listening. My article here goes into a bit more detail about what we do when and why, but a brief overview will help a Protestant friend at least be aware of the general purpose and timing of our bodily postures during Mass.

4- Encourage them to participate! 

There are so many ways a Protestant can participate in Mass. Things just might look a bit different, so might be worth going over.

Here are a few ways Protestants can comfortably participate in a Catholic Mass:

  • The Penetential Rite. Most Protestant churches I have been to have some sort of brief moment to acknowledge our sins. The Catholic version is more extensive, but is basically the same concept.
  • Listening to the readings
  • Listening to the homily
  • The Lord’s Prayer (we all have that one!)
  • The Creed (Protestants can totally recite the Nicene or Apostles Creed. It’s all stuff we agree on. Even the part at the end that says “One holy, catholic and apostolic church.” The word ‘catholic’ there is lowercase, and is referring to all of Christianity, the Universal Church, not only Catholicism.)
  • The petitions
  • Most of the songs. There are times when we sing a song to Mary, or sing about the Eucharist in a very Transubstation-oriented way, and they may prefer to stay quiet during those times. But so many of our hymns are theologically in agreement with all of Christianity. They may find they even recognize one or two from their own faith tradition!

5- Explain the Eucharist.

Briefly share why we kneel in front of The Blessed Sacrament. Share that it is because we believe it is truly Jesus in the form of bread and wine, and kneeling is an appropriate response to being in His presence. Give your Protestant friend grace, though, if they choose not to kneel. Obviously it is the True Presence whether they acknowledge it to be or not. But they don’t know it/understand it. It may even be an entirely new concept to them, as Protestant churches view Communion as symbolic.

I remember sitting in Mass with JP’s family as a Protestant, scooting forward in the pew so I could give the person behind me room to kneel, but myself not kneeling because I just didn’t get it yet. I wasn’t trying to be irreverant to Jesus. I just honestly didn’t know He was there.

Also, explain to them about who is able to receive Communion. That it is appropriate for those who believe in the True Presence, and are in a state of grace. Invite them to come up during Communion time, and to cross their arms over the body and receive a blessing. Encourage them that no one will think they are weird for staying back, or crossing their arms. In fact, they are showing respect for our faith by not receiving irreverantly, or feigning agreement in an area where they disagree.


If we have Protestant friends/relatives visiting us in Mass, these 5 things will go a long way from them feeling like outsiders, to being able to follow along and participate as they are comfortable. I know they would have been helpful to me as a Protestant. They were things I learned over time, but I spent many an awkward Mass as I tried to put the pieces together. Protestant services, especially contemporary ones, can be quite different than Catholic Masses, and helping bridge that unfamiliarity is a great step in helping our Protestant brothers and sisters to better understand all that is mysterious to them about the Catholic faith.

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Isn’t Being Catholic Repetitive and Boring?

I’ve heard the following statements, or some variation, from friends and acquaintences over the years:

“Mass is too long.”

“Catholics always look bored.”

“You guys just do the same things over and over.”

But… is Mass really too long? Are Catholics all super bored? Is doing the same thing over and over again really that bad of a thing? Let’s find out.


If we are defining boring as not having stage lights, or Hillsongy-music worthy of youtube sharing, or mega video projectors, then, yah, okay… you have a point. But all that stuff just deals with the appearance of things. You have to be willing to go beyond the surface to understand just how exciting Mass actually is.

Case in point. No one looks at the Mona Lisa and thinks its boring because it’s just a picture of some lady. You might not totally understand it, but you know it’s something special. Likewise, you might not understand symphonies. But you probably can at least admit you don’t understand them, rather than jumping immediately to the conclusion that they are boring. Mass is kind of like that. You might not understand it, but it is anything but boring.

And, historically speaking, time has shown that all that flashy stuff in church doesn’t actually help retain people anyway. In fact, here’s a link to an article about someone who left the church after growing up in the “make Christianity relevant” movement of the past few decades. The author makes a good point that if Christians aren’t even convinced the basic truths of our faith are “not boring,” no one else is going to want in, or want to stay. She was so saturated with relevance and excitement, that once she grew out of buying into the Christian marketing package, she left, having never learned the legitimacy of Christianity’s claim to Truth. And Truth is what makes people stay. Truth is what people live their lives for.

One of the benefits (and sometimes frustrations) of Catholicism being such a big entity, is it is like a huge steamship… it turns slowly. So, it hasn’t gone through the same rapid transition that many evangelical churchs have gone through as far as how the message is packaged. And, innately, it can’t really change all that much. Mass is Mass. The structure of Mass has been the same since the beginnings of Christianity itself, and will continue to be the same until the end of time.

And, just because Mass doesn’t have mega projectors, or Hillsong-style worship, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have anything going on.

But, as with the Mona Lisa or any other great piece of art, or music, it means more if you know what you’re looking at. If a symphony puts you to sleep that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything going on worth paying attention to. On the other hand, if you know the nuances and meaning behind that symphony, you are going to appreciate its beauty so much more.

For anyone who thinks Mass is boring, feel free to start by checking out my post on 5 Cool Facts About Catholic Mass. That’s literally just the tip of the iceburg. Mass is amazing, and beautiful, and rooted in the Bible, as well as Christian and Jewish history and tradition. Each and every Mass contains a real miracle in the Eucharist. Each and every Mass is a chance to come physically in contact with our Savior through Holy Communion. There is literally, nothing boring about Mass, if you know what you’re participating in.

And, I no longer have a lot of patience for the “Catholics look bored” argument. Sure, I may not be bouncing up and down and waving my hands in the air at Mass (though I have worshipped in that way for years in other church settings, so no judment here), but that doesn’t mean I’m not worshipping. We can’t know the state of someone’s heart. And, yeah, in Mass, my face looks more serious sometimes. Sometimes I smile, too. Sometimes, Mass brings me to tears. But, mostly, I probably look serious. And mostly, I hope and I pray, my heart is engaged, regardless of the expression on my face.


I am a teacher by trade. Elementary teacher, to be precise. I think the following analogy is helpful in understanding why repetitiveness can actually be good for us.

When teaching a subject like Writer’s Workshop, at the beginning of the year I set up the structure of that part of our day. It always starts with a mini-lesson, then time for the students to practice the skill of the day with support, and then writing time where I go confer with individual students or small groups. We end by coming all back together to share. The structure is the same every. single. time.

Routines are good for us. Within that structure of Writer’s Workshop, I am making sure my students brain power doesn’t have to be wasted on thinking about what is coming next. I want the routine to become automatic for them, so they can focus their energy on the lesson I have for them for that day.

Likewise, within the structure and routine of Mass (or any church that holds to a routine for their order of service), I don’t have to think about what’s coming next. I can spend my time being prayerful, and listening to what God has for me, and I can also focus on giving worship and reverence to God, without unneccessary distractions. Except those from my troup of tiny humans, which is unavoidable at this phase of life. 🙂

The Rosary is another example of repetitiveness within Catholicism that is actually very helpful. I’ll explain more about the specific prayers in the Rosary, including the Hail Mary, in another post (and also why it isn’t weird). In short, however, the Rosary consists of 5 sets of 10 Hail Marys (each set is called a decade) along with a few other prayers. Within each decade, we focus on a specific set of mysteries within our Christian faith. For example, when we meditate on what we call the Sorrowful Mysteries, we spend a decade on each of the following: Jesus in the garden, Jesus being scourged, Jesus being crowned with thorns, Jesus carrying the cross, and the actual crucifixion. There are also many joful and light-filled mysteries, depending on which set you choose to meditate on. And when we pray a decade, saying the Hail Mary over and over again, that prayer itself becomes a sort of meditation. It helps us block out distractions from our mind, so we can stay focused on the parts of Jesus’ life we want to spend time focusing on and remembering. Another instance when being repetitive is a beautiful thing.


So… Is being Catholic repetitive? Sometimes, sure.

Is it boring? Not if you know what you’re looking at.

And, as always, anyone in any setting can go through the motions and be bored while experiencing something meant to be beautiful. If you go into Mass expecting it to be long and boring, your preconceived notion might just be right. But, if you go into Mass expecting to participate in the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, to join in with the angel’s songs, and to receive Jesus into yourself, body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist… then you are well prepared to receive the many beautiful benefits of your Catholic faith.




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Why I Believe In Purgatory

Oh my goodness. As a Protestant, Purgatory was the weirdest.

Along with the Mary stuff.

I didn’t think about Purgatory much, but when I did, I had no idea what Catholics were thinking. I thought Purgatory was some sort of bizarre waiting place, like a really long DMV line. Or a bus route that just kept going in circles over and over again. I thought it was either a place where souls somehow had to prove themselves worthy of heaven, or a place where souls waited until God thought it was time to let them in. I knew Purgatory wasn’t supposed to be enjoyable. And I just didn’t see the point.

As I began my journey towards embracing the Catholic faith, I looked into everything I could. At the time, Purgatory was one of the bigger hurdles I had to jump.

I found my original conception of Purgatory was actually, once again, a misconception. And I learned there is a lot that makes sense about believing in Purgatory.

Justification and Sanctification

I know there is quite a bit of hubbub around the definition of Justification between Protestants and Catholics. It was one of the central issues in the Reformation. It seems, however, not many people are aware that Catholics and Lutherans and Methodists, have, for a while now been in agreement on that issue. The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is a worthwhile thing to know about.

But, in short, and without going into the specifics of how justification is applied, justification means our salvation. It means heaven is our ultimate destination through Jesus’ atoning work. This article is not the place to delve into details. But, a person justified is in God’s grace.

Sanctification is the process by which we are made holy. By which the sinfulness in our life is burned away as we cooperate with God’s grace, and by which we are made into the likeness of our Heavenly Father.

Side note: I don’t buy the idea that once one is a Christian, sin is a non-issue. I’m not walking around like “oh I sin so much I’m depressed all the time,” but I am very, very aware of my tendency to sin even though I have a Christian faith. I think the Christian traditions that have moved in the direction of assuming that Christ’s work means that sin is not really something we need to worry about or think about much is concerning. I, personally, have found that every moment of every day, I have the choice to cooperate with that which God wishes to do inside of me, and be sanctified, or I can reject that work and choose to sin. I am, therefore, writing from the perspective that Sanctification is an active, not a passive, process by which we cooperate with God.


Perhaps this is a layperson’s oversimplification, but it helped me a lot to think about Purgatory as the completion of one’s sanctification.

Here are a couple examples.

1- A person who believes in Christianity from the earliest age possible. They cooperate with God’s grace in their life, and live a long life of faith. By the end of their life, God has worked in them and through them so much, that they are not selfish, or prideful, or seeking their own comfort. They have been entirely conformed to The Father. We might call this person a Saint.

2- The man on the cross next to Jesus. He had lived a life of sin and selfishness. Yet, his heart turned toward God at the last moment.

Are both of these people justified by virtue of their faith in Jesus? Yes! Are both of them sanctified to the same degree upon their death? I’d say definitely not.

And then what? What happens to the sanctification of the man on the cross next to Jesus?

I don’t think it’s possible that people are in heaven only partially sanctified. That would mean there are people in heaven still dealing with sin issues. And that just doesn’t make sense. We won’t struggle with sin in heaven.

How Are We Sanctified?

Well, first of all, God isn’t a liar. He doesn’t declare us righteous and then be like “Well, I’ve said you’re righteous, but I’m not going to actually make you righteous. I’m just going to say it and we can all pretend it’s true.” No. God does what he says, and sanctification is how we are made righteous, or holy. We can only be sanctified through God’s grace. We can’t earn it or work at it in our own power. But, we need to cooperate with that grace. God can’t just drag us kicking and screaming into holiness. We have free will. Sanctification requires we say “Yes” to the work God is doing in us. God can’t force us to be selfless. God can’t force us to be humble. We need to submit to allowing God to do that work inside us, and cooperate with Him. And God isn’t going to be cool with a prideful, sinful person in Heaven with Him.

A Comparison

It was helpful to me to compare sanctification to exercise in this regard. Exercise is good for us! And necessary for our health. But it is not easy. It requires action on our part, and, often, discomfort or pain. We can’t get healthy without exercising. And we can’t exercise effectively and still avoid discomfort.

Sanctification is, in a very real sense, painful. Because through sanctification, we are rejecting the sin in our life.

Whenever we allow God to help us turn away from sin, it hurts. Biting my tongue when I want to say something snarky hurts. Eating a proper portion size of cake when I want to stuff my face with it hurts. Turning off technology for periods of time throughout the day, denying myself that nice little dopamine high from checking Facebook, hurts. Think of any sin you struggle with, and then think of denying yourself that sin… and you quickly realize the pain in sanctification.

That’s the pain people are talking about when they talk about Purgatory. It’s painful, but not arbitrarily so. There is purpose to it, and necessity. Because Purgatory is the end of any sin’s grip on you that you struggled with during your life on Earth. Struggled with pornography? It’s burned off. Struggled with laziness? Burned. Impatience? Burned. Pride? Burned.

Sanctification is good for us, and necessary, even, before entering Heaven. And it hurts because turning away from sin hurts.

Purgatory in the Bible

1 Corinthians 3 states:

10 By the grace of God which was given to me, I laid the foundations like a trained master-builder, and someone else is building on them. Now each one must be careful how he does the building.11 For nobody can lay down any other foundation than the one which is there already, namely Jesus Christ.12 On this foundation, different people may build in gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay or straw 13 but each person’s handiwork will be shown for what it is. The Day which dawns in fire will make it clear and the fire itself will test the quality of each person’s work.14 The one whose work stands up to it will be given his wages; 15 the one whose work is burnt down will suffer the loss of it, though he himself will be saved; he will be saved as someone might expect to be saved from a fire.

JP was at a men’s Bible study one night before we became Catholic. He came home and shared with me the discussion the men had surrounding this verse. It was an odd thing for the men in the group to reconcile… this being saved through fire. I looked at him, and said: “It sounds like Purgatory.” He agreed.

I’ve since heard there is an argument that a person’s works are tested, not the person themselves. But that just doesn’t make sense to me. Works don’t exist apart from the person doing them. There is always a hand feeding the hungry person. There is always an eye looking at someone in judgment. There is always a foot going to dark places to spread the light of Jesus. Whether our works are in cooperation with God, or whether our works are sinful, there is a person attached to the work.

Also, in 2 Maccabees we also learn that Jewish people prayed for the dead. Whether or not one accepts that Maccabees belongs in the Bible, it still gives us a historical reference to know that the Jewish people, of which Jesus was one, prayed for the dead. That’s why we pray for souls in Purgatory. Just as we would pray for a friend in our Bible Study to work through a sin in their own life that they were struggling with, we pray for our fellow Christians in Purgatory that they would cooperate with God, and allow God to work through the sin they still struggle with and are holding on to as well.

C.S. Lewis and Purgatory

Now, just because C.S. Lewis believes something, doesn’t make it true. But, he is a well-respected theologian among Christians everywhere. And, he made some really good points about Purgatory.

He wrote:

Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, “It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy”? Should we not reply, “With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.” “It may hurt, you know” — “Even so, sir.”

I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life has involved it. . . .

(Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1964, 107-109)

And, in the acclaimed Mere Christianity, he writes:

“Make no mistake,” He says, “if you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect — until My Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.”

God will conform us to His likeness. He will not leave us half-sanctified. He will do what He says.

The Great Divorce is also awesome book that helps illustrate some of these concepts. A character at the very end, has the ability to enter into Heaven, but has to go through a painful transformation to get there. The book is short, and powerful. I highly recommend it.


Well, suffice it to say I’ve come a long way from believing Purgatory is some weird DMV line with no point. I see it now as the process by which God completes his sanctifying work inside of me.

Purgatory is a really beautiful and life-giving thing for our souls.

It’s the death blow to our own personal struggles with sin.

It’s the final and full cooperation with God’s offer of grace, wherein any bits of sin we’ve stubbornly held onto are burned away by His love.


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How Rocks and Keys Helped Me Understand the Pope

When JP and I were dating, I would often come across his German Grandmother, Oma, at their large Savaryn family gatherings.

She knew I wasn’t Catholic. And, on more than one occasion she tried to get me to understand the Catholic faith by telling me that Jesus told Peter “On this rock I build my church,” and that meant Catholicism was true.

I remember thinking I had no idea how building churches on rocks made someone a Pope. But, she was a very cute elderly lady, so I wasn’t about to argue with her either. I just nodded my head and smiled, while inside wondering what on earth she was talking about.

Fast Forward

Well, it turns out Oma had something with that rock thing. She didn’t explain the entirety of the Catholic thinking to me, but I have since learned “On this rock I build my Church” actually means a lot more than I ever thought it could.

And understanding the Office of the Pope through a scriptural lens was one of the most helpful ways I learned what the Papacy meant to Catholics, and why I ultimately would accept the Pope as the Head of the Church.


In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says to Peter:

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

Many smarter and more eloquent people than myself have looked into this issue in great detail. This talk by Scott Hahn is incredibly thorough and well-researched.

But, the issue at hand is what on Earth Jesus is talking about, and what does he mean by a rock?

Oma was indeed wise in knowing that this is a linchpin in establishing the case for the Papacy. During my research into the Catholic faith, I learned that the most logical explanation for what “rock” is referring to, is that Jesus is indeed calling Peter the rock. And that Jesus is saying he will build his Church on Peter. Even Martin Luther knew it. And so do many, many Christian people, on both sides of the Reformation divide.

Luther, however, did not believe that Peter’s role was meant to be passed on. But, as I learned in the following section… that isn’t the case.


In Matthew 16:19, Jesus tells Peter:

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Old Lorelei would have thought: Nice. Peter gets some keys.

Now, I know there is a lot more meaning to that verse than I ever thought possible.

An important thing to remember when reading about Jesus in the Gospels is that Jesus was Jewish. Many of the things that he did and said would have had great significance for the Jewish people living in his time. And a lot of what Jesus did was fulfill things spoken of in the Old Testament.

When Jesus tells Peter that He is giving Peter the keys of the kingdom, He is actually referencing Isaiah 22.

15 Thus says the Lord, the GOD of hosts: Up, go to that official, Shebna, master of the palace, 16 Who has hewn for himself a sepulcher on a height and carved his tomb in the rock: “What are you doing here, and what people have you here, that here you have hewn for yourself a tomb?” 17 The LORD shall hurl you down headlong, mortal man! He shall grip you firmly 18 And roll you up and toss you like a ball into an open land To perish there, you and the chariots you glory in, you disgrace to your master’s house! 19 I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station. 20 On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; 21 I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. 22 I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open. 23 I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family;

We can really see the parallels here between what Jesus told Peter, and Isaiah 22:22, especially. Jesus wasn’t just telling Peter something random about giving him keys. He was giving Peter authority.

Historically, and Biblically, as in the example from Isaiah, he who held the keys was in a position of authority. The holder of the keys would be the one in charge of the kingdom when the King was away. And that’s what Catholics believe the office of the Pope is as well. When Jesus gave Peter the Keys to the Kingdom, he was setting Peter up to take care of the Christian Church on Earth until Jesus returns.

Furthermore, the Office of the Keys is an inheritable office. That means it was meant from the beginning to be passed on, one person to another, throughout history.  Obviously Peter didn’t live long enough to see Jesus return. Jesus knew that would happen, so setting it up as an Office of the Keys ensured it would be passed down from person to person, on and on through time. And the Jewish people living in Jesus’ time would have known exactly what He was referring to.

For me, this information meant that Jesus gave Peter a special role in the Early Church. And that Peter was in a unique, inheritable position of authority. It helped me very much to understand why Catholics have a Pope, and why Peter was the first one. This information led me on the path toward accepting that as how Jesus meant the Church to function from the get-go.

Relating to Protestantism

Another thing that helped me was thinking about this from the standpoint of Protestant church structure. Everywhere I went as a Protestant, there was a head Pastor, sometimes other Pastors, and also a board of Elders. The head Pastor never just unilaterally or flippantly made decisions about the church’s statement of faith. There would always be study, and consultation, and a lot of input into those decisions. As a member of those churches, I put my trust in the discernment of the pastoral staff at the time.

Likewise, no Pope is going to just be hanging out and say, “Well, today I think I’ll change this Church teaching,” or that they are somehow magically granted wisdom in an instant. It’s not that simple. Popes who are impacting Church teachings are incredibly studious, and utilize extensive council in all their decisions. Because everything has to jive. Church teaching cannot contradict Scripture, or Tradition, or the Magisterium.

Regardless of whether one is Protestant or Catholic, we all submit to a hierarchy of some sort. It’s just a much bigger hierarchy in the Catholic Church because of how big the Church is. But I think framing it that way helped me see that I have always submitted to the authority of someone… previously, my Protestant Pastors, and, in many ways, myself. So it wasn’t really that much of a stretch for me, once I understood and believed that the Office of the Pope had serious Biblical and historical merit, to submit to the Authority of the Church, and therefore of the Pope.

Wrapping Up

I know there were a number of other issues relating to the Papacy that I needed to look into as I began my journey into the Catholic Church. Things like Papal Infallibility (no, we don’t think the Pope is perfect), and the not-so-great Popes of ages past. And I will share my journey through those things at a later time.

However, I think the understanding of Jesus’ very intentional use in calling Peter the rock on which He will build His Church, and the significance of the Office of the Keys helped me get a long way past some of my key objections.

A huge part for me was also learning to let go of my perceived right to be the “Pope” of my own faith. I always submitted to Jesus, but there was a lot that I was trying to figure out on my own about what certain things meant, and I was always viewing Scripture through the lens of someone living in our time, today, with very little knowledge of the times in which Jesus lived and the significance of what he said and who he was speaking to.

I started to question why I, a lay person Christian, was so adamant about maintaing my own right to determine the Truths of my own personal faith? In light of the evidence of the Rock and the Keys, I could no longer justify my previous stance. If Jesus set The Church up to have a leader, and that leadership was intentionally an inheritable office… then I needed to accept the Papacy as legit.

The Church with its vast and extensive history has, collectively, an amazing depth of knowledge and understanding, supported by the Holy Spirit, that has protected Truth and will continue to do so partly through the Office of the Pope. It is such solid ground to stand upon. More than I probably even know.

Further Resources

Peter and the Papacy

Was Peter The Rock?

Scott Hahn on the Papacy


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Why I Love Confession

One of the topics I get asked about most often by my Protestant friends is Confession. So here is a humble attempt to explain what the Sacrament of Confession means to me.

Let me start by saying I love Confession. Love it. It’s awesome. More on that in a moment.

And then, let me also start by explaining a bit about what Confession is not to me.

To me:

Confession is not a guilt-induced act that is forced upon me by a strict and rigid institution.

Confession is not my only means of being connected with God, nor is it my only means, in most cases, of being forgiven by God.


My history with the idea of Confession, in any form, was rather shallow. I understood that I needed to ask Jesus to forgive me of my sins to commit to Christianity, but, honestly, I was a young kid and I didn’t really think much about what “sin” meant… not listening to my parents, spreading a rumor, being selfish… all things I knew were sin, but for the most part, I, personally, felt like I was doing pretty well overall. Also, many Protestant traditions believe that once you are a Christian, your past, present and future sins are forgiven. So I didn’t feel like there was a lot of motivation to think about my sin.

Also, growing up in different Protestant Churches, most of them would have a time of private confession at some point in the church service. It’s where the pastor or whoever was leading that part of the service would have everyone take a moment and think about their sin, and then pray for and thank God for His forgiveness.

To be honest, in my experience, nearly every time that happened whoever was leading the confession didn’t even give me enough time to begin to contemplate my own sin. The pause lasted for like 5 seconds. And… 5 seconds is inadequate for a true examination of conscience. So I usually just stood quietly and looked prayerful during that time. And still, I continued on not thinking much about my own sin.

I have since found out that the community confession time in many Protestant churches harkens back to the early Christians, but it isn’t really a full representation of what early Christians practiced. It’s more of a shadow of it. Though, I think most Protestants would agree that confessing one’s sins is important in some regard, the actual practice of it in many churches today doesn’t reflect the depth and purpose and history of Confession itself, or why it is important.


This is how I have come to understand sin. I have come to understand that God is offering, every moment of my life, to come alongside me and walk with me. Everywhere. And all the time. He never will leave me. Sin is where in my heart and my actions, I block God out of my life.

In Catholic Confession, prior to going to Confession, it is most appropriate to process through an Examination of Conscience. Many are based on the ten commandments, but there are others as well, for children, married people, single people, etc. It is a really thorough way to discover where I am not allowing God fully into my life. Even just the 1st Commandment examination… I reflect upon where in my life I am not putting God first. Where am I putting something or someone else in God’s place.

One thing I’m definitely not doing is  sitting around with my head in my hands in hopelessness over how sinful I am. It’s actually really helpful for me, and I can use those reflections to allow God into more of my life.

I’ve also come to understand sin as that which wounds our soul and our relationship with our Creator. God is there, all the time, but when I turn away from Him and do my own thing, it is bad for me… left unchecked, it will contribute to my walk with God becoming unhealthy over time… sick even. Many of humanity’s own classic tales reveal what happens when someone is overcome by sin in their own life. Ebeneezer Scrooge and his greed, the Beast and his lack of charity, the Grinch and his desire for revenge.


Catholics believe that Sacraments are ways that God makes tangible (something we can see, smell, taste, touch, or hear), something that is a spiritual reality. So, for example (briefly, because this is a whole ‘nother post), marriage is a Sacrament. It’s meant to be a tangible representation of Christ’s relationship with the Church. Something we can see, and, within the marriage itself, touch, that is meant to draw our minds towards heavenly truth.

Confession, is another Sacrament.

Confession Itself

This is where it gets good. This is the stuff.

I think it is easy for many to think about confession in a church service, or praying directly to God for forgiveness. Catholics also have a time of confession communally each Mass, and Catholics also can pray directly to God for forgiveness in most cases.

I also think it’s easy for Christians to acknowledge that we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the world around us.

When I walk into the confessional, I am walking in and talking to the Priest, who is acting as the hands and feet of Jesus for me. Instead of silently admitting my sins in private or at church, or to myself alone, I get to verbally share about the areas in my life where I am struggling to let God in. I verbally ask for forgiveness.

And then I audibly hear I am forgiven.

And that is huge. God knows we are both spiritual and physical. I love that this Sacrament exists, and I can hear the truth of my forgiveness time and time again, audibly, from someone who is representing Jesus.

But that’s not all. The Priest then spends a bit of time talking to me about some of my struggles, and prescribes penance. That word is one that may cause someone who isn’t Catholic to go… Yikes! Danger! Or What is that?

Let me explain what penance is. Just as unrepentant sin can hurt our walk with God, and even make our souls sick, penance is a sort of medicine that helps me to turn back to God in the areas in which I struggle.

Example. If someone hurt me and I am struggling to forgive them fully, my penance for that might be to spend some time praying for those people. Penance is simply helping me turn back to God and let Him into more of my life, in the areas where I am blocking him out through my actions.

And I leave the Confessional full of the Holy Spirit, and so thankful for God’s redeeming work in my life. I leave with joy, and I always look forward to going. It helps keep me tuned into and focused on my Savior, and helps me be more aware to walk more closely with Him. More than ever before.

Summing Up

Here is what, to Lorelei, Confession is.

Confession is one of the many ways that I can receive God’s grace.

Confession is a tangible representation of my forgiven and restored relationship with God.

Confession is a Sacrament of healing, and of helping me walk more closely with God.

And that, is why I love Confession. 🙂

What about you? How do you relate to the Sacrament of Confession? Drop us a comment below to share your thoughts!

P.S. If you found this post interesting, and would like to read more on This Catholic Family… hit up that follow button on the top left of our page, or follow us on Facebook. We’d love to have you back again!

(Note: This post was originally published on Protestant Interrupted, where I journaled my conversion process to the Catholic Church. However, since practicing Catholics should be receiving the Eucharist at least once a year during the Easter season, and since we must be in a State of Grace to receive Holy Communion, Lent is a time when many people receive the Sacrament of Confession. Thought this would be a good time to re-share my take on this amazing Sacrament.)

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