Ecumenical Return to Home Sweet Rome


According to the USCCB website, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is January 18-25

I attended an ecumenical prayer service for Christian unity in 2011. A Baptist pastor, United Church of Christ pastor, United Methodist pastor and our parish priest took part.

As we prayed together, my heart went out to the Protestant ministers. I see them, and I think of my dad, the Protestant minister. Simultaneously, I find myself overwhelmed by the great divide and the burning desire within me to be able to share in a meaningful way what I have come to love and cherish in the Catholic Church. But an ecumenical prayer service is not the right place for that. It is not a moment for apologetics; it is a moment for prayer. Father, make us one.

I feel caught between what is and what should be. I feel the pain of it. I literally ache for the remedy.

As I prayed, I felt fully a preacher’s daughter and fully a Roman Catholic. It was like being the child of divorced parents, and you finally have your parents in the room together. And that is wonderful, but your heart wants more. Your heart wants full reconciliation between those you love so dearly.

And it’s even more difficult because you know that your Mother (the Church) wants it — though she may not have always known how to show it. You sense how close they are to reconciliation. And that just might be the hardest part of all.

I wanted to cry over what isn’t. But I also wanted to thank God for even this much.

It is a cross, this standing-in-the-gap. I care deeply for Protestant clergy because I was raised in a preacher’s home, and I can see my own father’s face on the faces of those pastors. I loved being a preacher’s daughter. I did not become Catholic to get away from being Protestant. I wasn’t trying to leave anything. I became Catholic to receive more of Christ — all of Christ — in the Eucharist.

I love being Catholic. I am home. I see the full helping of goodness laid out before me — all that I share in the nearly 100 columns I have written for newspapers and magazines – and all that I keep quiet in my heart.

So I stand and lift high this cross — lifting it up to the cross of Christ.

And when I’m with my father’s family, I tell them how wonderful our Mother is.

For the Quakers, I tell them that nobody is more active in social justice than Mother Church. Nobody knows contemplative prayer like Our Mother.

For the Wesleyans, I highlight the importance of sanctification and personal holiness. Nobody places a higher premium on these things than Mother Church.

For the Presbyterians, I affirm the Church’s adherence to all that the Early Church Fathers taught. How she holds to the Creed. She’s sacramental and liturgical. And she knows that everyone is invited to the waters of Baptism.

For the Assemblies of God family, I speak of the Holy Spirit. I remind them that Catholics believe in the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit. Catholics believe that we become sealed with the Spirit, always and forever when we are Confirmed, through the laying on of hands, through apostolic succession. The Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost and rested on Mother Church. We have always believed in signs and wonders.

We are saved by grace. Yes, we believe that.

Christ is coming back again and will raise us to new life. Yes, we believe that.

bibleWe love Sacred Scripture. And we believe the Holy Spirit guided Mother Church so that she would know what to include in the Canon of Scripture.

But where do you go if you want all of it, I ask my family and friends. Where can a believer go who wants social justice and is a contemplative, believes that sanctification and personal holiness are necessary, knows what the Early Church taught and holds it dear, is sacramental, liturgical, charismatic, believes in grace, knows that Jesus Christ really will come back again, and loves the Bible dearly?

Where is that church family?

Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ, because that Church does exist. Christ Himself founded her on solid rock. Where do you go if you want it all? You go home.

Dad, it’s time to come back home. Mother is waiting. The children are waiting, too.

As Catholics, we believe that unity is possible. We’ve been praying for it for a very long time.

I see the pastors, and I think of Dad. I see the priest, and I think of Mother Church. And I feel like the child of estranged parents. There’s joy, because I see them trying.

I look at the cross and think, now is an acceptable time.


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  • goral

    What a touching article. A daughter’s longing for her father is the closest example of all of our longings for our Father. Daughters do more to sanctify their fathers than anyone else. Sometime dads “come home” only through their children. It’s my belief that by the virtue of Communion of Saints, they make it home, also.
    Longing is a pure prayer of the heart. We don’t always get what we ask for but we do get what we long for because longing is void of selfishness.

  • Eyes on Christ

    16 And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the
    Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered
    and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because
    flesh and blood did not reveal [this] to you, but My Father who
    is in heaven. 18 “And I also say to you that you are Peter [Gk:
    petros – a boulder or stone], and upon this rock [Gk: petra – a
    large mass of rock] I will build My church; and the gates of
    Hades shall not overpower it. 19 “I will give you the keys
    of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth
    shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth
    shall be loosed in heaven.” (NASB).
    I have heard of two major alternatives to the Roman Catholic
    identification of the Rock upon which Jesus would build his
    church. One is that Peter’s confession of Christ is the
    rock upon which the church is built. That is to say, by “this
    rock” Jesus meant the foundational revelation that Peter was
    the first man to confess, that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son
    of the Living God.” The second alternative is that the
    Rock was Jesus himself, while Peter was the first stone
    to be built upon the rock of Christ in the church which Christ
    Himself is buliding. This latter interpretation makes more sense
    to me, because it is in perfect harmony with the tradition which
    the Scripture itself establishes concerning the spiritual meaning
    of the word “Rock”.

    • Denise Johnson-Bossert

      Jesus spoke Aramaic, and He used the Aramaic word Kepha in both places. You are Kepha and on this Kepha, I will build my Church. Kepha means rock. For more on this, go to

      We can take Jesus at his word (and the word He spoke was Kepha), or we can translate what He said into Greek and analyze the nuances of the words petra/petros. Even then, biblical scholars throughout time have held to the Peter=Rock formula because, even in Greek, the words are almost identical. Modern exegetes of Reformed traditions are the first to make the distinctions you suggest.

      The real question here is this: who has authority to interpret Scripture?