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What to do When you Disagree with a Catholic Teaching

As a newbie to Catholicism or as someone exploring the faith, you will likely find one or more teachings that you just can’t get your head around — or flat out disagree with. Oftentimes, these are teachings like the saints, Mary, purgatory or contraception. Don’t worry about this; you are not alone! Most of us struggle with multiple teachings as we learn more about the faith.

Here are some suggestions to help you if you find yourself stuck in this situation:

1) Keep searching – Read, read and read some more. Listen to Catholic radio and watch EWTN. Look it up in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Find Bible verses about the issue. Ask your RCIA leader or another Catholic well educated in the faith. Keep reading different explanations and really delve deeply into the whys of the teaching, and I promise, you will find one an explanation eventually that makes sense to you. I found that every issue I did not understand I eventually came to terms with. Several issues for me included contraception and purgatory.

Gifts of the Visitation, Ave Maria Press, Denise Bossert2) Write a petition – I just finished reading “Gifts of the Visitation” by Denise Bossert (Ave Maria Press, 2015), a convert to Catholicism, who explores the Visitation (when Mary and Elizabeth meet and John the Baptist leaps in his mother’s womb) in detail and shares along the way her conversion to the faith. The daughter of a Protestant minister, she felt called to Catholicism after her father’s death, but especially struggled with the Church’s teaching on Mary’s Immaculate Conception. This teaching is that Mary was conceived in her mother’s womb free from original sin.

After many attempts to understand this teaching, her RCIA leader advised her to write a petition to Mary, asking her to show Denise the truth. What a wonderful idea! Here’s what she wrote:

Mary, if you are as the Catholic Church says, and if you love me, please answer this petition. I want someone to communicate with me by your inspiration. Mary, I want the message to come from you to the ears of one who could know no other way. Please choose someone who, for me, would represent the universal Catholic Church. Then I will know I am right where I am supposed to be and that the Church’s teachings are all correct, terra firma, especially the teachings about you. Please answer my petition before the end of the year–I know, that’s just two weeks.

Thinking it unlikely she would receive a response, she was surprised that the day after she wrote the petition, she received a letter from a woman she had written to after seeing her on EWTN’s The Journey Home. The letter, dated Dec. 8 had hand written beside it “The Feast of the Immaculate Conception.” That was her answer.

While God sends me these types of messages and reassurances quite often — now that I’m looking for them! — I too had a WOW moment after praying to my confirmation saint, St. Therese of Lisieux, for a specific intention. Known for sending roses as signs, as soon as I woke up the next morning and stumbled outside to pick up my paper, I opened it to find giant picture of a rose across the whole paper and a story about decorating your home with roses. Thanks St. Therese!

How did you come to terms with a Catholic teaching you were struggling with?


Another Take on Purgatory

Here’s a video that I found courtesy of Father Christopher Roberts’ blog And the Church that helps give some perspective on purgatory.

I love the visual illustration. It’s from Father Robert Barron’s “Catholicism” video series:

Advice to Other Catholic Newbies

Catholicism RCIAHere’s a quick piece of advice I wanted to share with others new to the faith or considering Catholicism. We’ve all got portions of the faith we have a hard time understanding. Maybe it’s the issue of contraception or purgatory or praying to the saints. Whatever it is, hang in there!

I found that when I took the time to really read up on the issue in detail — and I mean more than just looking in the Bible or the Catechism — I eventually understood it. Look for books on the topic, ask different people to explain it to you, read online (sites like are great at providing easy-to-understand answers) until you find one that makes sense. If reading isn’t helping, stop and be quiet. Spend time in Eucharistic Adoration or just in prayer. It might take you a while! Months, years even. But keep looking — the answer is there.

Also, once I understood the validity of how the church was founded – by Jesus himself! — and that he gave the “keys of the kingdom” to future popes, I knew in my heart that what the church was teaching was right. Jesus makes sure of it. I just had to find a way to make it make sense to me.

So, don’t despair, keep looking, pray about it and God will show you the answer when you’re ready :).

A Catholic Newbie’s Take on Purgatory

Catholic understanding of purgatoryFrom the beginning, purgatory was one of the Catholic teachings that I had a hard time getting my head around. I had always been taught – if you believe in Jesus you go to heaven. So this was a new concept. No one wants to think they have to suffer again after death, right?

I’ve talked with one of my priests about it, heard about it in RCIA (Catholic preparation class), read about it and studied it, but today I finally GOT it and I have to thank the wonderful Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J. He addressed the issue for a caller to Catholic Radio Indy this afternoon and all the pieces of the puzzle suddenly came together for me, making it crystal clear.

I’ve been reading a lot about redemptive suffering, or the idea of letting your suffering “work” and have benefit for other souls, and recently blogged about it. Purgatory is entirely tied to this and I had missed it.

So here goes, a Catholic Newbie’s take on purgatory:

When Christ died on the cross for us, he did so to “take away the sins of the world.” But unlike Protestant churches who believe that once you “accept” Christ that your sins are “poof” entirely forgiven and that you go to heaven if you believe and are sorry for your sins, the Catholic church believes that the taking away of those sins might hurt a little and that there’s more work involved to get there.

When we enter heaven we will be in the presence of a “perfect” Father (to whom we are to model in His “perfection”), and therefore we must be perfect. How could we sully the presence of God with our fallen nature, our shameful thoughts, our bad deeds, our angry words — whether committed in the past or present and forgiven or not.

We do go to confession to be “forgiven” of these sins, but that does not entirely remove their effects. If we have gossiped about someone, the damage we did, even though we are sorry, may be unable to be corrected. We may still harbour anger toward someone even if we are sorry and even if we desire not to.

So we must be “purified” to perfection before we go to heaven — either here or in purgatory.

This is where redemptive suffering comes in. Some humans have purified themselves on earth, many of the saints! This involves suffering, just as we would suffer in purgatory. So many great people endure great suffering. Wonder why? Because they are being purified for heaven. Like Saint Therese of Lisieux who made every tiny act of sacrifice a work for God and dear Elisabeth Leseur who deeply suffered physically and who offered it all to God.

Christ suffered GREATLY on the cross. Why should we not suffer along with him to get to the wonderful reward he purchased for us by his death? I for one think it’s worth it!

The good news is, guys, that we GET to go to heaven. Before Christ, we could not get there at all no matter what we did. Now, we can work to get there through some suffering. That means suffering is GOOD. Christ made it good!

I think we can also offer up our suffering to purify other souls — both here and in heaven. We can ask to whom that suffering be applied or we can give it to the immense wisdom of our mother Mary or her son Jesus and let them distribute the good works where they know best.

I’d love some comments or questions on this topic. Please pipe in!