Since 21 Feb I have joined the RCIA class in the Church of the Holy Cross. Never once in my life it came to my mind that I will join a catechism in the Catholic Church. Never once I thought who taught the Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide at the first place. Never once I suspected that that very familiar line, “memang Tuhan Yesus tidak hadir dalam wujud roti dan anggur, tetapi kita percaya bahwa Tuhan Yesus hadir dalam Roh” is actually a rebuttal to the Real Presence doctrine of the Church (mind you, or mind me, I began to refer to the Catholic Church as The Church). Never before I heard that Martin Luther consider the Epistle of St James and Epistle to the Hebrews as not canonical. Never before I realize or notice that the liturgy and the Bible readings in every Catholic church all over the world are the same…for me, who love orders and methods and who believe that the Spirit inspire orders, this fact is obviously not a mere trivial matter.
Now, it is not that the whole RCIA sessions are a debate over Protestantism. No, exactly no. The RCIA is similar to the catechism class I took for my confirmation in 2000. The difference is that the views and interpretations of some matters are different. And of course, for the purpose of clarity and completeness (or may be distinctiveness?), the priest needs to teach us “most of the Protestant church has different view on this matter; they think that….”. For me, the most important thing is that at the first session, the priest firmly said ,”I can show you many ways to death; but I can only show you one way to Life, which is Jesus”. At that sentence my heart gladdened, my mind relieved, and I was sure that I came to the right place.
I just want to record for myself how I decided to take the RCIA. When I decided to start a relationship with my dear friend, I let my mind and heart to joyfully hope that this would be my last journey; that this sweet and tender feeling will someday find their shelter in a sacred marriage. And so, I knew that it is possible (or to quote Holmes, “it is more than possible; it is probable“) that our future family will be a part of the Church; that our children, those persons whom I try to protect and love even before I met them, will be led to The LORD through the firm faith of the Church. Somehow I did not feel, and still not feeling it now, a deep urge to set an absolute requirement that our future family should be a Protestant family; that it should be a Christian family: yes, without any alteration; but then I recollected that I have always regarded the Church as a true church (of course, up to some months ago, I have never thought about the true church instead of a – of many – true church). Having realized the good probability that my future family will join the Church, I knew that I must learn and find for myself first, what does the Church teach? What does she tell us about our Lord? Is it true that the Church discourage a personal Bible study? (I always think this view is a bit extreme). Is it true that the Church teaches that salvation is attained by works and not received through grace and faith? Will the Church be a very different home from the one I used to know? Will I never sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” again for the rest of my life?
As I always regard myself as an apt self-learner, I turn to wikipedia and some other Catholic websites for my preliminary study. However, I soon realize that I have considered myself higher than I really am. Transubstantiation, both faith and works, justifying grace, venial, mortal,… not even to mention the Blessed Virgin or the papacy! No wonder there are PhD students in Theology! (and many of them). I quickly came to a conclusion: I want to learn; I need the authoritative persons to teach me; and the most obvious way for me is the Catechism. They must have a Catechism, I thought. After all, they are so well organised; so if my church has a Catechism, then they must have it. And so, to my delight, in November I noticed that the Church of the Holy Cross, which is located only 5 minutes walk from my apartment, will open a new RCIA class in February. I thought, considered, pondered, but I knew that I have decided to join the class at the first time I read the announcement in the parish bulletin. I casually (yet seriously) told Po, Mo, and Xaph. I know that they would consent. I am really grateful that I have this kind of family: Po and Mo are religious, but they have an open heart, clear mind, and the right focus. Xaph, knowing how I used to put so much thought on some (according to her) very small stuff- particularly those religious matters, said that I should join the RCIA as soon as I can instead of joining it when I have decided to marry.
So that is my reason to join the RCIA. Not a very noble reason, I know. In one short sentence, I join because I-have-a-Catholic-boyfriend (oh, how I disrespect this sentence! it sounds so shallow). However, that reason is soon changed. Week after week, I begin to cheerfully wait for Thursday to come (this is still not very surprising since I always like any serious Bible study class), I begin to respect and like the Fr more and more, and some thoughts come and dwell in my mind slowly. I begin to ask questions to myself: how old is my church? I told myself that it is not Luther, nor Calvin, nor John Knox whom I follow. It is the Lord whom I follow (my heart can’t help saying, maybe it is Timotius Santoso whom I follow) But, isn’t it too arrogant? It is like saying, I am in the right path: be all the Reformers wrong, be all the Protestant leaders wrong, I am not misled, I heed the clear voice of my Lord—what statement can be more arrogant than that? I always think that I judge all the teaching and sermons I heard by the Bible. But then, it is also very arrogant. It is like saying that my understanding, my interpretation (since obviously I am illiterate in Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic) is better than the Reformers’. In recent weeks, I’ve been accustomed to browse to some Catholic websites, and I found some very valuable sources. There is a personal website of a Jesuit priest explaining about basic faith of the Church and the meaning of the liturgy; the CatholicAnswer website which provides answers on what Catholics believe; and also there is the official website of the Church. In the website of Gereja Katolik Indonesia, I read stories of some Christians who join the Catholic Church and their reasons (basically they say that this is the true Church, the Mother Church, since She has a very clear, unshaken teaching and foundation, in contrast to so many different views taught in different Protestant churches. Another reason is the Mass; it is Worship, how a worship should be like– I cannot be more agree to this). The crown of these stories, I think, is the story of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman. He questioned the Anglican church (he was an ordained priest in the Church of England), he reasoned, he listened, and finally he made his decision. From what I read, it seems not to be based on emotion or hatred or a personal problem with the Anglicans (as we often find in the story of those move from GKI to JKI to Bethany and then to… you name it), but purely based on careful, honest, humble reasoning and study. My dear central library unsurprisingly has many volumes of his Apologia Pro Vita Sua and Loss and Gain; so I am reading both now. Apologia is a bit more difficult; obviously not for leisure time, so I turn to Loss and Gain since my not-leisure time is devoted to system reliability.
In line with these stories, there is a sentence of the Fr which keep repeating in my minds: in answering a question whether a Protestant needs to convert to Catholic since it is the true Church despite the fact that we worship One Lord, the Fr said,”yes, we worship One Lord. But the important thing is, what does Christ want His Church to be? We believe that we are the Church He Himself founded, and never changed from then until now. But about conversion, God will call you, oh, He will. You don’t have to be converted at the end of this class, but listen to His call”. So now, that is my reason to join the RCIA: I am listening carefully.
Remarks: the title is taken from a quote attributed to Queen Elizabeth I of England. On the Protestant/Catholic divide, she reportedly said, “There is but one Lord, Jesus Christ. One faith. All else is a dispute over trifles”.