‘Preach Out’ beats out prejudice

by Katherine E.M. DeLine

I was raised in a staunchly Catholic family. Our friends were Catholic, my school was Catholic, even my dentist was Catholic. My life growing up was filled with things like morning prayers on the way to school, writing reports on the saints for my religion classes, family rosaries beneath the crucifix and pictures of our Lady and the Holy Father, and eating Sunday dinner with our parish priest.

I had virtually no contact with Christians outside the Catholic Church. Whenever someone would say they were Methodist or Lutheran I would picture cold, proud looking ministers preaching fire and brimstone to their congregations, and when someone would say they were Baptist I would think of a fiery minister preaching to shouts of “Amen brother!” and the Gospel Choir in the background starting up choruses of Amazing Grace.

No surprise, therefore, that when I heard that there was to be a “Preach Out” on campus featuring two Protestant ministers along with Father Michael, I was not inclined to go. What could I learn from them, I thought? I’m Catholic, they’re Protestant. End of discussion. (I had heard of “Ecumenism”, of course, but I always regarded it as something priests need to be concerned with, not I.)

As the date came closer the subject came up often in conversation, and I heard various views on it (both positive and negative). Several students expressed reservations about the appropriateness of having Protestants preaching on a Catholic campus. This attitude fit in with my own initial feelings, and I resolved not to go.

But when the night arrived I realized I had to go. I had to go for the precise reason that I did not want to go. I realized I had been forming opinions based on somebody else’s critique, rather than on my own experience. I did not even know what they were going to say, so what right did I have to object?

When the night arrived I headed over to Christ the King Chapel, late. I walked in just as Marcus Grodi had introduced the first speaker (a Methodist). He spoke, followed by a Baptist minister, and finally Fr. Michael. Their message was passionate, moving and very clear. It was a call for us to become more closely united with Jesus; to make Him our personal Savior. They bore beautiful witness to the power of Christ in their own lives and of the work He had done in and through them. They shared with the whole assembly their deep love of God, and in so doing shattered all my prejudicial illusions about their faith.

There I was, realizing that not only was their faith real, it was greater than my own. What was all my proud attachment to Catholic Culture worth, I thought, unless I too have true faith in Christ ?

These Protestants opened my eyes to the beauty of faith, and to how much I can learn from a true follower of the Messiah. At the same time I recognized how a deepened faith in Christ increases my understanding of and devotion to the Church, and enriches my experience of the Sacraments. Without knowing it, those Protestant ministers (and Fr. Michael) helped me gain a greater appreciation of the gifts of the Church.

I now have a different view of Ecumenism. Prejudice and misunderstanding no longer cloud my perception of our brothers in Christ. I do not pretend to know much about Protestantism, but having learned at least something, I can say I will celebrate the similarities we share, while I appreciate the differences.

The differences are important, and we can only pray to Mary and the saints that someday all our “separated bretheren” will share in the fulness of our Faith. But, until then, we can and should have “communio” with these brothers.

Thank you, Fr. Mike, for inviting these ministers to our University, for your leadership, and for your words of wisdom.

Katherine DeLine is a sophomore in Humanities and Catholic Culture.