When I was in high school, I became aware of a significant difference between Protestants and Catholics and that is on the subject of the Saints and Mary. Non-Catholics would say that Catholics worship Mary as though she was a God. And yet the Catholic Church would go out of its way to say that we honor the Saints, with the greatest honor and glory going to God alone. The other thing that I became aware of was that the non-Catholics were saying that Catholics added books to the Bible at the Council of Trent. However; to my amazement, I discovered that Catholics not only didn’t add books to their Bible, but in fact Protestant Bibles had these same books until Protestant Biblical societies began to remove them after 1823. Before anyone take exceptions to this, I would suggest that you go down to your local Protestant bookstore and purchase a copy of the original, 1611 King James Bible with all of the books. I have a copy. One person said to me, I have a 1611 King James Bible and those books are not in there. I explained to him that he he may very well have a copy of the 1611 King James version; however, it is a later edition.
Beyond this, I didn’t know much about the differences between Catholics and non-Catholics. However, I was concerned that non-Catholics were unwittingly misrepresenting the Church based on information they were given from their own tradition These people did not seem to comprehend that what they were disagreeing with was often times not Catholic teaching at all, but misrepresentation of Catholic teaching. The irony in all this is that on the one hand they were claiming the Bible alone apart from tradition; on the other hand they were drawing from their own teaching tradition when they would misrepresent Catholic Church teaching.
I remember discussing this with a Catholic priest and I was saying that somebody needs to do something about this and of course, he suggested that I do something about it. I didn’t actually say anything to him, but am looking at this priest in dismay, thinking to myself, what can I do? Nobody is going to pay any attention to me; someone with the proper back ground should do this. What is this priest thinking? I am the least likely person to do something; I have no credentials.
Around that same time frame, I pulled into a parking lot in the back of Saint Paul’s University Center in Madison Wisconsin. I was with a friend; we got out of my car and then realized that I had locked my keys in the car. While we were standing there wondering what to do, a priest friend was driving slowly through the lot. After telling him of our plight he smiled and drove on. Another person associated with “Bread for the World,” who I knew, drove by on a bicycle and seeing our situation smiled and moved on as well. Since people were so amused by our situation, my friend suggested we charge everyone a quarter who came by. A third person, a stranger, came by and he thought he could be of help. He went back to his red pickup and came up with a flat L shaped tool. He manipulated the tool between the window and the door and was able to unlock the door. I thanked him and he went about his merry way just as happy as can be.
This would be just a nice little story except for one thing; the man who opened my car door had no hands. His forearms ended just below his elbows and then there was nothing, not even artificial limbs. I never said anything while he was opening my car door, but I was experiencing the strangest of thoughts; like, what’s the matter with this guy doesn’t he know he is handicapped? If you were to put these three people side by side to help me in this situation, which one would I have picked to help me out of this situation? I guarantee you, it would have not been the person with no hands. However; God it seems had other plans. This was the person who God chose to help me and it seems, He does not necessarily choose those who are seemingly the most qualified. He chooses those who are willing. I then realized that in some way, I was like the man with no hands. I too was the least likely of persons to attempt to clear up misunderstandings between Christians. This in some ways was like the parable of the Good Samaritan where the Samaritan was despised by Jews, the least likely of persons to be made the hero and yet Jesus made the Samaritan a hero on more than one occasion.
Through this experience something occurred to me that I never thought of before. If the Words of God are alive and well in every generation, then God must continue to speak to us in parables. This would include not only the parables in Scripture, but the parables in our daily lives. In whatever good or bad happens in any given day, God is speaking to us through real life parables. "Indeed he [Jesus] said nothing to them without a parable" (Mt 13:34). A person may very well say, if Jesus is speaking to me in this circumstance (parable), I don't have a clue what He is saying. This person would not be alone; the Apostle Peter had the same problem. He didn't understand a parable and so he had to ask Jesus. “Peter said to him, ‘Explain the parable to us.’ And he said, ‘Are you also still without understanding?’” (Mt 15:15-16). Peter isn't the only one who didn't understand Jesus' parables. We don't always understand the real life parables that God gives us in our lives today. When that happens just as Peter asked, we must also go to Jesus and ask.
Evangelical churches are not false churches without any truth. One of the things I have always appreciated about my own Catholic Church is that I was always encouraged to see non-Catholics as separated brothers rather than fake Christians, who do not know Jesus. And when non-Catholics come into the fullness of truth in the Catholic Church, they are encouraged to keep all that is good and orthodox from their previous church.
It must be remembered that the Protestant experiment was not the negation of all Catholic teaching. For example, non-Catholics are taught to have a high regard for the Bible. They believe in the two natures of Christ, both fully God and fully human. They usually believe that there are three persons in one God, believing in the Trinity. They are taught that they are saved by Grace through faith not by works of the law and many more things. These are all Catholic understandings and to the extent that these churches follow Catholic teaching they are Catholic. The only thing that makes them Protestant is the negation of one or more of the Catholic teachings.