On Not Taking it Personally When our Kids Fail

Historically, I have struggled when the young people in my care make poor choices. I have tended to take their decisions personally, and to see those moments as a failure on my part, thinking that their choices reflect badly on me.

As a parent, this has caused me to turn inward on myself, ruminating on how I am failing my kids and students, because, obviously, if I weren’t, they would be perfect little saints.

Even writing that sentence, I have to smile. Because removed from the heat of the moment, I can see how silly it is to think that. But in the moment itself, that is exactly the kind of thinking I have tended to engage in. If my children or students choose poorly, then, to me, that means I am somehow failing as a parent or teacher.

However, in doing this, I make my place in the grand scheme of things distorted, larger than life, out of proportion. As if me doing everything right (an impossible task) will somehow result in the people in my care doing everything right as well.


When I set myself back down in my proper place amongst the bigger picture, and zoom out even a little bit, I can gain a better perspective.

For example, it isn’t God’s fault that we choose to sin. It isn’t a bad reflection on God, and it doesn’t mean that God is anything less than a good, good Father to us.

In fact, our ability to choose is a reflection of His goodness to us.

Those opportunities to choose—even if we choose wrongly, are chances to learn and carve away those parts of ourselves that are not yet fully conformed to love. It allows us to choose love in the first place. We need to see the difference between where we are now and where we have the potential to be so we know how to orient ourselves moving forward. Our failures are a beautiful opportunity to learn and to move closer to Him.

The same applies to me and my relationships with my children and students. As a person entrusted with young people both in my home and in my classroom, I am learning to view these opportunities as a gift. When they make poor choices, I can get a good look at areas where my children and students have an opportunity to grow in character and holiness. And I have the honor of helping to guide them on that path.

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Our failures are a beautiful opportunity to learn and to move closer to Him. #catholicmom

Those moments have, in some ways, very little to do with me at all, other than the fact that they are opportunities for me to step up in my role as one who guides young people, and to help them turn back to love. To grow their virtue muscles. To help them see the difference between who they are today and who they can be, and to spur them forward. To encourage them. To help light the way.

When I view things like that, I put myself in my proper place. I put their choices in their proper place. And I can even rejoice at this thing called Free Will, and the opportunity it offers us to be sanctified throughout our lives so, when the time comes, we will be ready to meet God, Love itself, with arms wide open.

And so, in the end, it isn’t a poor reflection on me when the youth in my care make the wrong choice. In fact, it is an honor to be present, and to be ever at the ready to help.


Note: This article originally appeared on Catholic Mom

Learning to be Present

I’ve had a presence problem for a long time. Even before the strange and troubling events of this past year, I’ve been very good at being distracted. At spending a lot of my attention listening to the running commentary inside my head.

I need to do this. I didn’t do that. What if this happens. What if this big risk I’m taking fails. What if I fail as a parent. My house is a mess. How is there possibly a mountain of laundry already. Why can’t the kids put anything away. Will I ever stop doing the dishes. I am always doing the dishes. Did someone just sniffle? Did we catch something at church because that’s the only place we’ve been going. What’s for dinner when do I need to put dinner in I think I need chocolate oh no the kids ate all my chocolate.

Exhausing, right?! Maybe you can relate, maybe you can’t, but I felt like my brain was on one constant speed-like I was driving with the windows down on the highway all the time.

I’m a planner by nature. I like to mitigate risks and maximize efficiency. It’s taken me five months, but I finally finished reading a book that has actualy helped me to slow down, make room for all my worries and feelings, and be more present in the moment. It helped a lot when my debut was launching, and has helped even more in the day-to-day life since!

The book is called The Happiness Trap, and you can purchase it here:

I love how the book is written in a linear, easy to follow and understand format. It has exercises you can do throughout. And I was able to take it in bite-sized pieces over time, which helps when you are juggling many things and balancing many plates.

There are three areas where I’ve found it’s been most helpful:

1- The running commentary in my head. I’m doing a better job at making room and accepting uncomfortable feelings. This leaves me more space to be present in the moment with my kids. To catch Zelie in a playful mood and play a silly game by the stairs. To color with Mary. To notice the concentration on August’s as he learns to draw his favorite super hero from a tutorial. To catch how Felicity’s hair falls over her cheek as she’s mixing batter for cookies. My commentary is still there, and still loud often, but I’m noticing more moments in my life and am less distracted.

2- I learned that avoiding bad feelings at all costs isn’t actually a healthy goal. A lot of self-help books seem super focused on being positive and eliminating bad feelings. This book did the opposite. It made sense for me to learn to accept that life will come with negative thoughts and feelings, but that I don’t have to place judgment on them, or even try to avoid them. I can accept them for what they are- negative thoughts. They don’t have to have any more value or worth than any of the other thoughts inside my head. Their existence doesn’t make them true or not true. And I can make decisions that align with my values no matter what my thoughts are thinking.

3- Creating a life I value. As I read the book, I realized I had done some important things to create a life that aligns with my deep values already. I was willing to take on a lot of discomfort to make it through four pregnanacies, and also to pursue the scary unknown of writing a book. But I honed in more on the specific things that I deeply value, and have worked on aligning more decisions with those vs. making decisions by default or because of fear. One of the big consequences of that has been that I’ve reduced my presence on social media. I still have a FB page for this website and for being an author. But I deactivated my personal account. So far, that’s been a healthy choice for me.

Precious Little Moments.

If you find yourself listening to the running commentary in your own mind, struggling with negative thoughts or worries or fears, if you are feeling like your life is somehow a mismatch for the things you feel are truly important, this might be a good resource to check out! I have a long way to go, and this is something that’s a life-long process, but it’s definitely helped this constantly-thinking momma, and I think it could be helpful to others too!


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The First Day I Chose to Go to Mass

This December marks the five year anniversary of the first time I ever went to Mass by choice.

I had been to Catholic Masses before…as a baby, for my own baptism and that of my brother. I had been to funeral Masses. A few weddings. I had begrudgingly and awkwardly joined JP’s very devout family at Mass when we visited them so as not to cause ripples.

But there was something very different about the first time I decided I wanted to go to Mass, the first time I chose it for myself.

The Pre-Conditions

First of all, the conditions to led me, a once anti-Catholic evangelical, to seek out a Catholic Mass in the first place.

I had gone from a very fervent young Christian, to a disillusioned young adult inside the walls of various Protestant churches over a number of years. I was struggling to reshape the faith of my childhood into something with the depth required for my adult experiences. My own journey of faith began as a strong believer when I was a child and teen, but transitioned to a life as a near-agnostic in my early 20’s. That shift called into serious question the Protestant doctrine of “Once Saved Always Saved” because my own experience proved that one can start out with true belief but deny it later on. Our foray through a variety of denominations brought me to doubt individual interpretation of Scriptiure- if it’s that clear, why do all these churches disagree on issues both big and small? I grew weary of the hyper-emotional structure of worship, and the expectation that I developed equating a good church service with feeling emotionally fulfilled.

To top it off, no one could tell me what the early Church looked like, just as I was beginning to suspect that the Americanized version of Protestant Christianity wasn’t it. I wasn’t sure if what I was looking for even existed, and if it didn’t, I didn’t think I could remain in good conscience a sola-scriptura, once-saved-always-saved, American Protestant for much longer. Or, if this was all that Christianity was, I didn’t know if I would remain a Christian at all.

Cue me, sitting on my sofa, realizing that among these and many other things, I was possibly starting to think like…gulp…a Catholic. I hungered for a connection to the history of my faith. I wanted something deeper than an emotionally-driven experience could offer. I wanted sound theological depth.

I didn’t really know how to bring this up to JP because I had persuaded him away from actively practicing his Catholic faith early in our marriage. But I sprung the question on him one snowy night in downtown Racine while we were out at dinner. I asked, simply: “Do you want to go to Mass?” Shocked, JP shared with me that he had been praying for our unity in private, and had himself felt like he was being led back to the Catholic Church.

We got home from dinner and I sent a message to one of my friends, who I suspected might be Catholic:

The Mass Itself

Two days later, on December 6th, JP and I led our (then) two children through the doors of St. Lucy Parish in Racine, Wisconsin for the 10:30 Mass. Even though I had been to Masses here and there, I didn’t really know what to expect, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to do throughout the different components. But, on that Sunday, my experience in a Catholic church that early Sunday in December was markedly different from any Mass I had been to before.

I had chosen to be there. And, at last, my heart was open to what I might find.

I don’t remember a ton of specifics, other than the distinct feeling that if what I was looking for existed anywhere at all, it likely existed here. The very Church I had sometimes ignored and other times argued against, certain that it was filled with irrelivant, extranneous, anti-Biblical teachings, now might just be my only chance to remain in the Christian faith.

I do remember that there were many families with young children sitting altogether in the pews, which impacted me because at the church we went to a the time, we sent our kids to Sunday School in different rooms. I remember that there wasn’t any sense at all that this service was designed to cater to me, another marked contrast to the hip coffee-house, welcoming committees of the Protestant churches we had recently attended. The music was traditional. The components themselves were somewhat foreign, and yet oddly familiar too. I caught in them some echoes of the fragments that Protestant churches have held onto- Scripture readings, an act of contritian, Communion. But here, inside the Catholic Mass, they weren’t fragments of some lost, greater whole. I remember trying to piece together how it was I grew to be so anti-Catholic in the first place, when it was clear I knew so little about it.

The Aftermath

My friend met us after Mass and, after expressing my continued interest, she helped us get connected with RCIA at St. Lucy’s. We enrolled immediately. Inside the walls of that little RCIA room, I asked every question my heart had been wrestling through, knownig that I had to leave everything on the table. Based on what I had seen in multiple Christian churches over nearly 30 years, if the answers couldn’t be found in the Catholic Church, then they probably couldn’t be answered by anyone, and the Christian faith was a sham. One week later, we attended my last church service at the Protestant Church we had been a part of. I have many friends who love Jesus who remain Evangelical, but I could no longer look at it the same way as I once had.

And the rest, as they say, is history. That early December night, where the snow fell like wisps of cotton outside the restaurant window, when I asked JP if he wanted to go to Mass, was less than four months away from the day I’d stand in front of a full Cathedral in St. Paul Minnesota. Easter Vigil, 2016, when I was confirmed into the Catholic Church.

Protestant churches do a really good job of making new guests feel welcome. They greet you, connect you with a small group, offer you donuts and coffee. They give you great concert-quality music and an inspiring message. My first intentional visit to a Catholic Mass didn’t contain any of those things to the same extent I had been used to before. But I didn’t need any of that to be drawn in to the Catholic Church, at least not once my heart was open to it. The Mass drew me in, not with bells and whistles and trends and the promise of friendship with other people like me. It drew me in with beauty, and history, and, above all, rock-solid Truth.


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Lorelei on The Christian Circle Podcast: Raising Children in the Catholic Faith

I (Lorelei) had the pleasure of being interviewed for The Christian Circle Podcast on Raising Children in the Catholic Faith. It was lovely speaking with the host, Pamela Fernandes on the subject.

I hope to get the chance to visit again! Click here to take a listen, as well as to read a bit about behind the scenes. We hope you enjoy. 🙂


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Strong But Not Superhuman

The Swells and Crests of Life

We had a period of time this fall into early winter where things were relatively calm. I remember thinking to myself during that time, Remember to appreciate this. Be thankful for this.

Because I’ve been around at least long enough to know that life comes in seasons, in swells and crests, and that something would come to stir up our temporarily calm seas.

Mary was in the hospital for two nights just before Christmas, and RSV spread through the rest of the family for most of Christmas break.

Then, in January we caught our breath.

In February, we lost my aunt to suicide, and we are still recovering from that loss. The pain continues to come in waves. There are good days, and there are difficult days. The air leaves my chest and my stomach sinks every time I go in the basement and see a pile of boxes there. All her stuff. Filled with clothes and baking supplies and art that I have no idea what to do with and no clue if or when or how I will be ready to see it, to touch it, to use it again.

Coming to terms with the pain she felt, our own powerlessness to do anything to change it, and the hope that my prayers can help her still all make for a complicated mix of emotions. I can’t control when the grief hits. And when it does, it isn’t always convenient.

And it just seems like right now there is an abundance of regular but personal and professional business that make finding balance more tricky than it is at other times. I’ve wanted to have time to write more on the blog, but it’s been difficult to find the words to say amidst all the sadness.

I’m struggling with knowing the best direction to take my novel, and in discerning if it’s time to let it rest for a bit and start something new. It’s tough for me to leave a thing unfinished, in any area of life. And it’s also tough for me when there is no clear end point. I can’t say for certain when it will be ‘done.’

We are making some positive, needed, good changes, like moving to a bigger home to account for the growing number of people in our family. I’ve started being asked to speak even in different states, which is super cool and exciting.

Managing Self-Care

But compartmentalizing is tricky for me. It’s tough for me to keep everything in it’s own separate baskets in my mind and things tend to spill over. Today, I wrote an outline for myself to make sure I’m managing my self-care. Blocking time to write, to read, to exercise, to sleep. To make sure I respect the rhythm of my own body and the way God has made me. I recharge my batteries by having time alone. By writing. By reading. And by prayer. If I don’t make it a priority, then I can go too long without making it happen, get caught up in the current, and I start to feel anxious.It was good to take time to actually write out those priorities.  And it’s amazing what a quiet hour by myself can do for my peace of mind and ability to be present for my family.

The long and short of it is, I need to remember to give myself a break! I can’t be All The Things All The Time to All The People. I can’t read an article while Mary is crawling on my lap. I can, however, set aside time specifically for Mary crawling on my lap and other kid related endeavors, and also set aside different time to read that article.

I am strong, but I am not a superhero. And I think consistently trying to do more than one thing well at one time is a way to drain this momma fast.

If I need some time to grieve, I need to take some time to grieve. Not grieve AND feed the kids dinner. Not grieve AND coach a teacher. I need to open up time to just let myself grieve, at least at some point during that day. And respect it. Likewise, I can’t write a super cool blog post AND interact with my kids (with any level of patience). I can work on house hunting/building stuff, but not at the same time as I pack my lunch.

It sounds so simple, but it is something I try and do so often! Not only am I going to do this one thing, but I’m going to do more than most other normal people and try and do more than one thing at the same time and then take pride in the fact that I am able to be so productive and efficient!

But at the end of the day, I just make myself tired.

So this is a good, recurring lesson for me. We won’t ever be able to finish All The Things when all is said and done. And learning to let myself take a slower pace, or set something aside for a while will only help maintain some much-needed balance. During the times when the seas are calm, but also when they are rougher too.


What helps you keep balance when things get busy? Have you had seasons of your life where you learned new ways to keep a healthy perspective?

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On Taking Risks and Doing Scary Things

It’s been a bit quiet over here at This Catholic Family for the past week. And there’s good reason for it.

I’ve been working on something… a project on the side for some time now. And I recently reached a point where I was nearer the first finish line (more on that in a moment) than ever before.

Readers of this blog may have surmised that writing is something I enjoy. And it’s true. I love writing so much. It’s my favorite. Since Mary was born, I’ve been enjoying writing on this blog and contributing to other publications. Some of which you’ve seen, and others which are in the works. When I’m writing I feel like I am entirely myself. It’s always been that way. I still have stories and journals from my childhood. It’s part of who I was made to be.

And many moons ago, while I was a Creative Writing major at UW Milwaukee, I wrote a short story. It was an interesting short story, and it stuck with me over the following years. I dabbled with the idea of continuing the story onward, thinking there might be more to tell. I wrote snippets here and there, but it was all kind of random and non-cohesive.

Then I sat with about 25,000 words of a partial novel during the five years between when Felicity was a baby and Mary were born. I went back to work. Things were busy. But, this January, at the encouragement of my husband, I decided I was going to finish.

Fast forward to working on this blog, and also working on the novel in any moment I could spare. Evenings/weekend hours at Starbucks. Naptimes and quiet moments throughout the day. Literally anywhere and anytime I could.

It was terrifying. Still is. What if I put all that work in and the whole thing ends up being utter hogwash? What if I’m like the writer version of those people who audition for American Idol and think they are really good at singing but are actually tone deaf? It takes a lot more time to write a novel than it does to write a blog post, and you put so much of yourself into this massive work that the fear of it being awful is almost enough to make you stop.

But I just told that voice to quiet itself down as I sat in a chair or on a couch and wrote the next scene. Then the next one. And, before I knew it, I could see the finish line. I could count on one hand how many scenes I had left to write. So I hunkered down over the past couple weeks and got the first draft finished.

Yes, I have written a novel. It is a solid 99,000 words. Speculative Fiction. Elements of Magical Realism. Upmarket appeal.

The reason I said I’ve reached the first finish line is because I’m about to be knee deep in revisions. I think I have a pretty good idea of what needs tweaking, and will be spending the next three weeks or so gutting and cutting, and refining and shaping. Then, once I’ve done my absolute best, it’s off to a handful of Beta Readers, who I hope will give me additional feedback.

The next step is to start querying literary agents. Which is a whole ‘nother big situation that requires research and work.

So, while it feels like I’ve accomplished something kind of big, there is still a long way to go. But I love this story. I love the people I’ve had in my head for so long, and that what happens to them is finally out on paper. I’m going to give myself a solid year querying agents, and, if I need to at that point, will pursue self-publishing. Because I think this is a story that is worth being told.

If you’ve enjoyed this blog, or anything else I have written, stay tuned. I’ll still be writing actively on This Catholic Family, but will also be launching a professional website for writing-related things in the coming months.

I hope I continue to have the courage to do scary things in my life. And I hope you do too.


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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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On Being Misunderstood

Has there ever been a time in your life when your actions have been misunderstood… or, worse yet, you have been misunderstood? When someone took a piece of something you had done, or a piece of who you are, and then turned that bit of truth, or added to it, or took away from it, or scrutinized it so severely that the context got lost? So much so that what that person ended up with was not an accurate representation of you or your actions at all?

I am sure many of us have been there, at some point.

It happened to me personally this week, regarding my Catholic faith. And it was in a situation where I was unable to say anything back at all. Because the person misunderstanding me was in a video on YouTube.

A friend of mine was sent a video by someone she knows. A video sent to her because some people in her life are concerned she is spending so much time with a Catholic. Because some people in her life are concerned she has attended Mass with us a few times.

The person in the video was a scholar who studied theology from the Reformed (Calvinist perspective). He was being interviewed by a couple of people on the problems with Roman Catholicism.

Truth be told, by now I have heard most of the arguments that Reformed theologians have about my faith. But when we were converting, none of it made any sense, as I had never before come fully into contact with the Reformed perspective’s wrath against the Catholic Church. And it’s still never fun to hear.

In the video (which I cannot recommend at all, and thus will not be linking to,) the scholar said Catholics and Christians have a different gospel (this is the Reformed perspective, not all Protestants believe that). He strongly implied that Catholics believe Priests to be some sort of deity. He said Catholics had no means of experiencing true Shalom (peace). He implied transubstantiation was not believed by the majority of Early Church Fathers. He misconstrued the relationship between Scripture and Church Authority. He said the Catholic Church was incapable of reforming. I could go on…

When I started watching the video, I was chuckling. When I finished, I was unbelievably sad. Because when misunderstanding and half-truths are being spread about something important to you, it hurts.

This video reminds me why some people from the Reformed church we left to become Catholic, no longer continued a friendship with us. And it reminds me why Pastors from that church sat in our living room and told us we were not, and never had been, Christian.

If that surprises anyone reading this, I understand. It was a very jarring experience to go through. If you are reading this and that is your perspective, I hope this helps you understand what that experience was like, and also challenges you as to where you choose to receive information about things you disagree with.

It’s a lot easier to joke about the number of conditions a Catholic would have to meet to receive salvation on a YouTube video, sitting next to people that agree with you than it is to look another human being in the eye and do the same.

It’s a lot easier to propagate stereotypes and misconceptions than it is to share a meal with someone, and get to know them and their faith personally.

Because I bet if anti-Catholics did that, even if they never experienced an inkling of desire themselves to become Catholic, that Catholics and the Catholic faith in general would become a lot less scary and mysterious. And who knows, maybe they would make some new friends.


I will say the Reformed (Calvinist) view of Catholicism, the view that says true Roman Catholics are not Christian, is in the minority among Protestant Christians. People in the Calvinist tradition don’t even think it appropriate to serve alongside Catholics in ecumenical ministry. Now, just because something is a minority, doesn’t make it untrue. But, the fact that among Protestant Christians, Calvinists stand apart as very anti-Catholic, while other Protestant groups and Catholics view each other as brothers and sisters in Christ at least is something worth mentioning.

But, my main point is this.

If I wanted to accurately learn and understand democracy, would it make sense for me to interview an anarchist about the democratic system? Would someone anti-government be a good and reputable source of information to accurately understand government?

If I wanted to learn about and understand the history of minorities in America, would it make sense for me to interview a white supremacist? Would someone with extreme prejudices against a group of people be a good and reputable source of information about the history of the people they are prejudice against?

If I wanted to learn about the Pro-Life movement in America, it’s motivations, history, strategy, and practical implications, would it make sense for my primary source of information to be someone adamantly Pro-Choice? Would they be likely to give an accurate representation of those that believe life begins at conception?

I hope we could agree in all of those cases that the answer would be an emphatic No!

It follows, then, if you have only learned about the Catholic Church from anti-Catholic sources, is that likely to be a a good and reputable source of information about the Catholic Church?

I hope our answer again is, unequivocally, no.

I know this based on logic. I know this based on the misunderstandings I have experienced in this regard. But I also know this based on my own faith experience.

The man in the video said Catholics cannot have Shalom. And, I admit, he rattled mine a bit for a couple of days. But, the reason I lost my peace wasn’t because I’m Catholic. I have never been at more peace in my life than I am now living out my Christianity through my Catholic faith. I lost my peace for a bit because I was reacting to being grossly misunderstood.

I realize I didn’t have to give that man the power. I think it all stems back to my desire to be liked, which I recently wrote about in detail, because it reminds me that people I have cared about stopped being friends with us for some of the reasons the man in the video stated. And I also think part of it was a just reaction to a legitimate concern. There is a difference between communicating our faith with each other, in the hope to help bridge gaps, and spending one’s time defaming another faith, with the intent to increase divisions. There is something beneficial to understanding each other better. There is something terribly dangerous about spreading half truths.

My friend sent me the link to that video because she wanted to know, from a Catholic perspective, if the things he said were accurate. And, even though it was difficult to watch, I’m so glad she did. She went to the source and she valued our friendship, and she wants to know me and my faith because she cares about me as a friend. This is all good stuff.

And it feels a lot better to get my thoughts out in some capacity, even if I can’t respond directly to the man in the video. I’m ready to move on.

Because, at some point, as another good friend of mine often says, we need to meet at the cross, and work together to get out and be the hands and feet of Jesus to a hurting world. And I am so happy to do so with my many Christian friends of various faith backgrounds who are willing to serve alongside me. Because we can accomplish more together. Because we are the Body of Christ on this earth. And because we have much work to do.




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Why I Accept the Authority of the Catholic Church

One of the big concerns I had as a non-Catholic was that Catholics don’t believe in Sola Scriptura, or Bible Alone theology. Catholics accept the Authority of the Catholic Church on interpretation of the Bible, and to discern other Truths important to the faith though Tradition and the Magisterium.

I now view the Authority of the Church as the lens through with I view Scripture. And making sure that lens contains Truth is very important indeed. Which is why I don’t place my trust in myself. Because I don’t have to, and, I suggest, was never meant to in the first place.

What is Essential?

When I was Protestant, I enjoyed the idea that: “In the essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things love.” And now, as a Catholic, I still appreciate the sentiment. However, at some point during my conversion journey, I started asking these questions: Who decides what is essential? What gives them the authority to do so? Who decides what isn’t essential? What if we think something is a non-essential, that actually is an essential?

Case in point. There are some churches that believe infant baptism is essential. Others that believe adult or “believers” baptism is essential. Still others that don’t believe baptism is essential at all. Who is right? How can we be sure?

Most people, when they are talking about essentials, in essence, mean the Gospel. Which, is pretty much agreed upon by everyone. But, we can’t even agree on the implications of this essential. Some believe in Once Saved Always Saved… that you can’t lose salvation once you convert. Others believe that you have free will and could genuinely convert, but then choose to genuinely reject God at a later point in life. Again, who is right and how do we know?

I started thinking that all this hubbub about essentials and non-essentials goes against our common understanding that Absolute Truth is important. Is some Truth worth more than others? Did God allow any part of Scripture to be written where he was like… “meh, this part isn’t that important?” And, if its all important… why are we so keen on tiering the value of different Truths? And, how do we know we are weighting them correctly?

A Simple Message

I’ve also heard it said many times that people over complicate things when it comes to the Gospel. That it’s a really simple message, and is easy to understand.

In many ways I still agree with this. The Gospel, for example, was explained to me as a young girl. I understood it, and was able to accept it with my childlike, yet still very valid, faith.

But, as simple as the Gospel message is on the surface, I think it is also important to remember that we are talking about a God who is infinite. That compared to God, our minds work like babies. And that though, yes, many aspects of the Gospel and also the Bible as a whole can be understood by most with relative ease, the Bible is actually not a ‘simple’ book.

And what I mean by that is, yes, we can get a lot out of the Bible through personal study. And as Christians we should be in personal study, frequently. But, like any great book ever written, what you can garner from a surface-level understanding and what you can garner as you peel back the many layers are two different things.

And the Bible has many, many complex and beautiful layers.

And how do we ensure we are understanding those layers as they were meant to be understood? Herein begins my exploration of the problems involved in not having an authority.

Peeling Back the Layers

A few examples:

If we do not understand Jewish culture and practices, we could possibly misunderstand some things in Scripture. Specifically… we can read about the Last Supper in the Gospels, and have a decent, basic sense of what went on that night. However, we miss out on the deeper meaning of what Jesus was doing if we do not understand Judaism, as Jesus’ actions in the Last Supper were ripe with meaning for his disciples… who were all Jews. They would have understood Jesus’ actions and words in a much deeper way, simply because they understood the culture they were living in. It was a given for them. For us, 2,000 years removed from the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day… we are in danger of missing a lot.

If we do not understand the literary forms used in the Bible, we could misinterpret things. What was meant to be historical, what was meant to be allegorical, what is poetry, what is parable, what is symbol, what is fact? If we don’t understand the original language, and the specific meaning of the words Jesus chose… then we could be interpreting things wrong. John 6, and the Bread of Life Discourse is a prime example of this. Catholics use John 6 to substantiate our belief in the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Those who don’t subscribe to this belief, might argue that Jesus wasn’t being literal. That he was using symbolism. But, when you look back at the original language, and the reaction the people who heard Jesus speak had to what he was saying… it is very hard not to understand that Jesus meant what he said. Literally. We are reading the Bible in English, and sometimes imperfectly translated from the original languages. And therefore, if we don’t understand Greek and Hebrew… we, on our own, might be interpreting things incorrectly. (And which English translation are we to use anyway?!)

The same applies if we don’t understand the politics and history of the times in which books of the Bible were written. So many times books of the Bible relate to the historical context of the times. They mean certain things for certain people at a certain time in history. We can learn from and apply the purposes of many of these things to our world and life today, but we cannot assume that context is irrelevant. Again, we can lose meaning, or conclude meaning incorrectly if we are going at this on our own.

This was a difficult pill for me to swallow. Looking back, I think I didn’t want to believe that I couldn’t figure out the whole Bible on my own. Or that it wasn’t okay for me just to pick a theologian I liked and trust their interpretation. I had grown up believing that it was simple, and that I didn’t need an authority. Initially, realizing that I was wrong was difficult.

The Fallacy of Individual Interpretation

Most Christian people I speak with would agree that God has a specific intention and purpose for every word that he has, through human beings guided by the Holy Spirit, written in Scripture. That there is Absolute Truth. Yes, either God intended “This is my body” to be literal, or figurative. Not “either or” and definitely not both.

So, how do we know who has it right?

I believe I am paraphrasing a famous theologian and Catholic convert Dr. Scott Hahn when I say that I believe God is loving. And that a loving God wouldn’t leave us with an inerrant Bible, but only broken means to interpret it.

Most Christian, non-Catholic people that I speak with also firmly believe that the Holy Spirit guides Christians to interpret Scripture correctly.

But… with our general assent that God did, in fact, have a meaning in mind for what he allowed in the Bible, and the absolute fact that there are over 30,000 Christian denominations worldwide… we can only conclude one of two things.

1- That the Holy Spirit actually isn’t guiding us all to individually interpret things correctly… because this Christian believes in Calvinism, and this Christian believes in Arminianism. Because this Christian believes in believers baptism, and this Christian believes in infant baptism. Because this Christian believes in ordaining women, and this Christian does not. Because, because… If the Holy Spirit is genuinely guiding all those who are genuinely seeking him through their own personal interpretation of things… why are so many Christians coming to so many different conclusions? If this is the case, God gave us a Bible, and didn’t give us any way to know for certain what he meant! That doesn’t sound very loving to me.

2- The other option is Jesus never intended for us as individuals to carry the weight of correct interpretation on our shoulders at all. This would be the Catholic perspective. Catholics don’t believe that Jesus left us only a Bible. Which, he actually, definitely didn’t do, because the New Testament wasn’t even a thing for quite a while after Jesus’ life on earth. No, he didn’t leave us just a Bible. We believe he left us a Church. And that Church has been granted the discernment of the Holy Spirit through the ages, to correctly interpret the Bible.

Here’s Why

1 Timothy 3:15 states: “This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth.” Here’s a good article on the matter, but in essence, historically, prior to very recent Christian history, no one believed we should interpret the Bible individually. It was accepted and believed that Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would guide The Church to discern truth. The Church he himself established.

I don’t really think it’s that much a stretch for this to make sense. Christians believe that the Bible is inerrant. That God used dozens of authors, over hundreds and hundreds of years to give us an infallible book. God also gave the Church the Holy Spirit, with dozens of Popes over hundreds and hundreds of years to help the Church interpret that book infallibly.

John 16:13 says that when the Holy Spirit would come, He would guide us into all truth. Not just truth on the essentials (whatever those are determined to be), not just some of the truth, but all of it. He planned, from the very start, to give us a means to interpret Truth accurately.

We All Assent To Authority

Regardless if someone is Catholic or Protestant now, everyone assents to the authority of the Catholic Church on some issues.

For example… the Trinity is never mentioned in the Bible. Not once. But, interestingly enough, I was at a small group at my old Protestant church prior to my conversion, and the leader not only admitted that the Trinity isn’t in the Bible, but he acknowledged that we’ve trusted the Church to correctly form that doctrine for us. Now, I don’t think he was meaning to specifically reference the Catholic Church… but at the time the doctrine of the Trinity was formalized…. there was no Protestant Church. It was just Catholics everywhere. So, for all of us Christians that believe in the Trinity, we are assenting to the authority of the Catholic Church on that matter.

We also trust the authority of the Catholic Church with the Creeds of our faith. And we trust the Catholic Church to determine the Canon of Scripture (though Luther did have a few books removed during the Reformation… which in itself is another post).

At what point did God decide that submitting to the authority of the Church He established was no longer the way to do things, and that it was now up to the individual Christian to discern for him or herself what was true? I argue that He didn’t.

I honestly believe, based on the issues that Luther contended with at the time of the Reformation, and given the landscape of Christianity today- Luther would be Catholic. The issues he contended with aren’t issues anymore. He was right- the Church did need reforming at the time. And it did, most certainly, reform. And through it all, sound interpretation of our faith has been preserved. Even in times when there has been a corrupt Pope, or a heresy popping up, nothing doctrinally has been altered to the detriment of Truth. The bad Pope’s didn’t change things. The heresies were called out for what they were and snuffed out. Just like with the writing of the Bible, God is using fallible people to help preserve Infallible Truth.


The long and short of this post is to explain some of the reasoning behind why I accept the Authority of the Catholic Church.

I still read my Bible. Every day (much thanks to Lent for helping me solidify this discipline). But, when something comes up that I’m not sure about, I know where to go. There was just this sort of rabbit hole for me when I was Protestant that became very concerning. I was seeing people even within my own Church have different opinions on different issues in Scripture. How were they to know who was right? They may have taken their concern to the Pastor… well how were they to know the Pastor was interpreting things correctly? The Pastor might refer to a commentary or expository writing on that particular issue… but how were they to know that the author of that writing was interpreting things correctly? And on and on it goes… I’ve come to the conclusion that without a Pope, through whom the Holy Spirit works to protect Church teaching in matters of faith and morals, everyone is kind of their own. And that based on Scripture, that isn’t what Jesus was setting us up to be.

That’s why, ultimately, I saw no other way forward than to accept the Authority of the Catholic Church. Because I believe there is Biblical evidence that Jesus established a Church, and that He promised the Holy Spirit would preserve that Church in all Truth. And because I believe God keeps his promises.

– Lorelei

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JP’s Corner: On Cultivating Curiosity

Today I was pondering something that I’ve pondered for a while: how to teach people things that have made such a deep and meaningful impact in my life. I’m referring primarily to the journey back to Catholicism Lorelei and I somewhat recently made that she has so beautifully expounded on over many posts, but specifically in “On Hating the Catholic Church.” As I say to people, I fell in love with Jesus in the Protestant Church and found him in his fullest in Catholicism.

So what did I do after finding Jesus in his fullest? Obviously, for those who know me well, I kept this to myself and never mentioned it unless asked. Ha! Actually, what I really did was I started talking people’s ears off.

Theology finally made sense to me. After seven years of post-graduate scientific study where I learned more than I ever imagined possible about cells and molecules, I finally could rest assured that God not only exists but that he gave us a Church with a logically consistent set of doctrines and a logically consistent theology. It’s hard to describe how exciting this was, and still is, to me. I am a man of logic by profession. I make a living by logic. Nature works a certain way, therefore if I know what nature does in such and such a situation, I can make a prediction about a particular aspect I don’t yet know about and, granting nature will behave the same way again, I can learn something new about God’s creation. Logic. It’s the name of my game, as it is many other people’s too, not just biomedical scientists.

So, having gone through a few years of what didn’t quite feel like logically consistent theology, I routinely struggled with not being able to fully share my faith. I didn’t really even fully have a faith… that is until it finally made sense. And when it made sense, and when I realized that Jesus is to be found in his fullest possible form at the alter at each Catholic Mass, I first went straight to the alter to meet him there, and then I went about telling everyone I possibly could that they could find him there too! And everyone I told immediately followed me right to the alter the very next daily Mass we could find!

Actually…..No again. Why? Wasn’t my enthusiasm infectious? It seemed like people wanted to hear what I had to say. It seemed like they genuinely liked being around me to see this new-found enthusiasm. And I simply assumed all they needed to share in my enthusiasm was my explanation of what made me so enthusiastic to begin with.

And that is where the pondering starts. Why don’t people respond to my explanations of what is so exciting to me with the same excitement I have?

“People don’t care about answers to questions they are not asking.” I don’t know who to attribute this quote to specifically, except to say I’ve heard it from multiple sources in the Catholic Church. It makes sense. It makes sense in my life, and I’m sure in yours too. You ever listen to NPR and wonder how this stuff could be interesting to anyone? Who wants to know about this? Why would I spend an hour of my life learning about that? … But then comes a time in your life, if you’re like me, when you started to get curious about things and all of a sudden NPR is your favorite radio station! What changed? Not the information, but the simple fact that I got curious.

Today I realize that my job as an evangelist and as a father is not primarily to provide the answers but to learn how to teach people to want to learn, to cultivate curiosity. Then, and only then – when people finally really want to know “JP, why do you love the Catholic faith so much, and do you think I could find Jesus there too?” – then the answer I give might cause the effect it did in me.

The funny part about this is that immediately after I came to this conclusion today – as I was driving in slow moving Chicago traffic – I pulled up next to a bus with an advertisement on the side marketing the exact thing I was thinking! If it didn’t say this exactly, it certainly intimated it: “Cultivate Curiosity.” And then it showed a picture of a student.

You see, cultivating curiosity is far more beneficial than ramming facts and knowledge into people’s brains. Parents, let us cultivate curiosity in our children. Don’t fear, they have what it takes to learn how to learn. But the deep seeded burning flame to want to learn, that is a harder thing to instill. Let us start now.

Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, let us continue to cultivate our own curiosity. I encourage all of us to humble ourselves and admit that there is far more to learn about God and our relationship with Him than we can hope to learn in a life-time. Disagree? Can the created being be greater than the creator?

Let us cultivate our own curiosity so that there is never a dull day in our lives. Seriously, I firmly believe there is nothing boring in our life. If you are at a point where that is true, I encourage you to learn about something new. Start to see how it’s all connected. There is crazy stuff to learn about the thread of material in your carpet. Have you asked why it is there in the first place? Have you asked why doesn’t it vanish into thin air? Have you asked what holds it together?

When I started to learn the science behind the answers to these questions – which include atomic and even subatomic physics – I immediately began to appreciate how vast God is. And when I started to appreciate how vast God is, I then started to appreciate how RADICAL it is that HE, the one whom the universe is not big enough to contain, confined himself to becoming a human being!

And just like each one of us, He started his humanity as a single fertilized egg, made up of a quantifiable set of proteins, nucleic acid, metabolites, etc.

Cultivate curiosity.

And when you finally ask yourself why I love Catholicism so much, please ask me! I’m happy to answer.


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