Halloween tends to get adults thinking about their childhood, and I guess the same is true for me. However, what has stood out in my mind this year is not costumes and candy, but rather the other annual October 31 celebration, the Feast (as we called it) of the Reformation. If you didn't grow up Lutheran and you missed this little piece of history, it was on All Hallow's Eve that Martin Luther posted his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenburg Church, which came to be seen as the start of the Protestant Reformation.
I was feeling kind of sad about this last night. The sadness for me comes in remembering how my Christian experience, for roughly 10 years to a greater or lesser degree, was defined in part by those I was "against", namely Catholics. I took the "protest" in Protestant (and the Luther in Lutheranism) very seriously. In my late teens I actually dressed up for my Halloween shift at Taco Bell as the scariest monster I could think of: a Catholic priest. And a very irreverent one at that. I had this secret fantasy as an ardent young Lutheran of leading an actual protest around a Catholic church during Mass on October 31, shouting out all the accusations of how and why the Catholics were doomed to perdition. Kinda reminds me of these folks.
Of course, when I finally read Luther's 95 theses I realized that he lived and died far more Catholic than I ever imagined. But that's for another post.
I still don't know whether to laugh or cry when we sing A Mighty Fortress Is Our God at Mass (which is, by the way, Luther and Lutheranism's "battle cry" hymn). I'm all for shaking hands and being friends (and granted the version we sing weeds out the political and theological anti-Catholic references), but I feel sometimes like I'm the only one there who feels the irony. Our parish even has it in its playlist of on-the-hour-chime songs!
I have by no means traded being anti-Catholic for being anti-Protestant. I owe a debt of gratitude to the Lutherans (and later the mixed-bag non-denoms) who taught me much by teaching and example. For example, my mind went to this man, who essentially saved my life when I was a teenager. I don't want to jam the story in as an aside, so that too is for another post. At adoration yesterday I was struck with the memory of a song he co-authored. It is an amazing duet, sung in the voices of Jesus and the woman healed of the hemorrhage, and it goes straight to the core of the Christian experience.
I felt and feel keenly, though, the sense of incompleteness I had when I was in Christ but outside the Catholic Church. The Church is, in certain ways, the experience of heaven on earth. We long for heaven, we are made for heaven. But the fullness remains in the future for us. Coming into the Catholic Church in some dimensions -- yes, made imperfect by the bounds of time and space and the struggle we all have with concupiscence and sin -- is, I think, as close as we can get to the ahhhh of entering heaven here on earth. The graces, the treasures, the family, the glory, all opened up to us! So, my interactions with my separated brethren certainly aren't going to be about picking apart anyone's theology (unless that's really what they'd like to sit down and do), but about focusing on the glory, and each of us maximizing our participation therein.
I was especially aware at Mass today of all in the great company of saints in heaven who were Protestants in their earthly sojourn. Surely, they pray with full heart that we will all soon learn to be one in Jesus.