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By Fr Dwight Longenecker

7/18/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (

If you are a Catholic and you are talking with non-Catholic friends or family members about the faith, you have to be patient

It might be an email or a phone call, but they come in regularly now--enquiries from Evangelicals who are interested in the Catholic Church. They call me because they have heard that I was brought up as an Evangelical and graduated from the fundamentalist Bob Jones University--but now I'm a Catholic priest.

Fr Dwight Longenecker

Fr Dwight Longenecker


By Fr Dwight Longenecker

Catholic Online (

7/18/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: evangelical, catholic, protestant, ecumenism, dialogue, witness, full communion, conversion, catholic converts, Fr Dwight Longenecker

GREENVILLE,SC (Catholic Online) - It might be an email or a phone call, but they come in regularly now--enquiries from Evangelicals who are interested in the Catholic Church. They call me because they have heard that I was brought up as an Evangelical and graduated from the fundamentalist Bob Jones University--but now I'm a Catholic priest.

Invariably they areĀ  attracted to the Catholic Church, but having difficulties with some doctrine or devotion. They hold back from coming closer to the Catholic Church because they have real and genuine difficulties and doubts.

This is good. They're being honest and taking the whole thing seriously. However, one of the problems is that the Protestant (even when he doesn't know it) has an underlying critical attitude-especially when it comes to Catholicism. That is to say, deep down he has a belief that CatholicismĀ  can't possibly be true. Even when he has started to be fair to Catholicism and is even attracted to it he still holds back because that deep seated prejudice is still very strong.

It's understandable. That's why, if you are a Catholic and you are talking with non-Catholic friends or family members about the faith, you have to be patient. This deep prejudice is written into the genetic code of Protestants because it is written into the genetic code of Protestantism. Protestantism is a breakaway from the Catholic Church. It is, after all, called Protestantism because at heart it is a protest movement. It is by its very nature a reaction against Catholicism. It's whole theology and worship and liturgy and ecclesiology and therefore its whole understanding of God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, the world and everything is a reaction against the Catholic world view.

Therefore real, solid and in depth conversion takes a lifetime. Converts of many years still find themselves struggling with a basic aversion and distrust to things Catholic. It happens to me. I love the Catholic faith, but when I'm presented with some new devotion or Catholic custom I am, more often than not, likely to reject it rather than accept it.

When this happens I have to remind myself of the little dictum that changed my life: It is a quote by F.D.Maurice: "A man is most often right in what he affirms and wrong in what he denies." This is wisdom: it means that when we are denying we are usually cutting ourselves off from something which is good and useful and beautiful and true. It must be all these things or good people wouldn't hold to it.

This quote, joined with one by the poet Thomas Traherne, will change your life. Traherne wrote, "Can a man be just unless he loves all things according to their worth?" See, love all things. ALL THINGS!. What? Yes, but 'according to their worth'. By all means, therefore, love a Big Mac, but according to it's worth, for next to a five course French meal the Big Mac's worth is perhaps much less.

In college I joined the opera chorus against my first inclination. But when I thought about it I came to the conclusion that lots of decent people, people more educated and wiser and older than I seemed to like opera, so maybe my dislike of fat ladies bellowing in Italian was something I ought to get over. So with an open mind I joined the opera chorus and learned to like Puccini and Verdi, who are worth was much more than the music I had loved up to that time.

Same with religion. When confronted with something new we all need to have an open mind and open heart and realize that God has far more goodness and truth and beauty in store for us than we can ever imagine, and we should stop being so picky. Instead we ought to welcome new things with curiosity, an open mind and an open heart.

This has happened to me many times in my pilgrimage in the Catholic Church. I was in Oklahoma once and had a day off. I wanted to visit a nearby Benedictine monastery, but it turned out to be not so nearby and you needed a jeep to get there it was so out in the sticks. So it was suggested that we visit the shrine of the Infant of Prague instead. Now, I didn't really 'get' the Infant of Prague. To me it was just a doll baby dressed up in outlandish clothes with a crown on his head. I wasn't disrespectful or anything--I just didn't get it.

But wanting to affirm and not deny, I jumped in the car and off we went. I met the priest warden of the shrine and he told me about the history of the Infant of Prague--how it had links with St Teresa of Avila and therefore with St Therese (who was one of my favorites). Ahh! St Therese of the Child Jesus. I get it! So I knelt before the image and still not quite having made the long journey from the head to the heart I prayed, "Lord, help me to understand this Infant of Prague thing."

In the stillness I saw that this was a pro life image. It was a reminder that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords had become a little child, and that in this cruel and cynical age we needed to remember that unless we become like little children we cannot enter the kingdom. So now I love the Infant of Prague and when something new and Catholic comes my way I'm going to try to affirm and not deny!

Fr Longenecker is parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Greenville South Carolina. Visit his blog and website and browse his books at


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