Stranger In A Foreign Land
Like a lot of things in life, the less you know, the simpler a thing looks from the outside. I once took a group of church musicians on a field trip to hear a Beatles tribute band. I'd seen these guys before, and they did a fantastic job recreating all those great songs.
On the bus ride to the concert I passed out a one page cheat-sheet--how to listen, what to listen for, etc. After the concert one woman, an elementary school art teacher, came up to me and said, "I had NO idea that music was so well put together! Each instrument had its own part that complimented the others. It was far more intricate and structured than I could have guessed. I thought they just sort of whacked on those guitars and hoped for the best."
It's been like this with me, learning about Catholicism. Like a kid putting a penny under a piece of paper and then rubbing with a pencil, a picture of Catholic life has emerged that is far more complex, far richer than I saw from the outside. And oh, so different than popular American culture.
In fact, it's starting to feel downright, well, foreign. At least, not like the America I see around me (for better or worse). For instance, they don't believe in birth control. They either have a lot of kids or they...control themselves. That's NOT what current American culture is like. And there's no room for divorce and remarriage. Just none. From the outside, their process of annulment looked to me like the same thing as divorce, only with a different name. It's not.
I attended a mass earlier this year, first time ever. It felt like a different culture completely, one hidden within my own. I guess it was, come to think of it. This was not just different by degrees to a Protestant church service, it was in an entirely different category. And because Greg gave me my own cheat-sheet so I could follow along, I saw a very rich experience going on around me. It clearly had ancient roots, and that in itself is at odds with American culture and, frankly, Protestantism.
In short, converting from Prostestant to Catholic is a big, big change.
If you're a Protestant reading this, you owe it to yourself to dig down and understand better what's really going on.