I feel like I need to come clean about something – I owe the Catholic church an apology. Now before I get ahead of myself and before you wonder what is happening let me explain.

I grew up in a small Southern Baptist church. This was all I knew, and frankly all I cared to know. The interesting thing about all this is that my mother’s whole family is Catholic. By whole family I mean everyone but us and one other couple, so out of 125 people, only about 10 are not Catholic. I spent most of my life thinking that Catholic = not Christian. Whether it was because of things I heard in the news, what our church taught, or through my own misunderstanding of their method of faith. So here is where I need to apologize.

To all the sincere Catholics who follow passionately after Jesus, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I’ve thought that somehow your chase after Christ was not as true as mine. I’m sorry that I thought Jesus could not work through the beautiful liturgies and homilies delivered weekly by your priests. I’m sorry I ignored all the good you do in the world and that it was not enough for me to see you as fellow saints.

My heritage is a rich Catholic heritage ground in the pursuit of Christ and his love. I went to mass for the first time in years last night and I was struck at how much the focus was on Jesus and his love. We recited the Nicene creed. We prayed the lord’s prayer. The whole service was a prayer to God through admission of sins and taking of communion. There was a holy reverence for Christ and his work.

I discussed with my brother in law recently that too often we (we being the American church in the generic sense) act too familiar with our holy God. He has become our friend, our buddy, and we’ve forgotten that he’s a holy lord worthy of glory and praise. Worthy of all of us and worthy of our love and adoration. I’m not saying that the Catholic church has this lined up, but there is a reverence for the word of God and the power of God too often missing in many of the Protestant churches throughout our world.

Is the Catholic church full of people who merely go because that’s what they’re taught and it truly means nothing to them? Yes, but my church is filled with the same people. Everywhere you turn people use Christ for their own intentions, and sadly the Catholic church has been abused over the years as much as the Protestant church has. We as fellow believers in Christ must look past this and look for real faith in our Catholic friends.

Taking part in Lent this year and attending the first mass of the Lenten season has me really rethinking how I’ve thought of not only my Catholic family in years past but anyone I have known that is Catholic. As we approach a new conclave in March and the election of a new Pope, I ask that all believers – Catholic, Baptist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Church of Christ petition the lord for the correct decision and the correct man to be chosen. The Pope is the most visible face of Jesus throughout the world and we need someone that truly displays God’s love and faithfulness.

I spent some time last year researching my family and I learned that the Smith side of my family hasn’t really provided me a rich heritage. Day Laborers from Oklahoma doesn’t really say strong heritage. Aimee and I discussed that it was time to build a new heritage for our kids, and an important part of that is establishing our faith now. The more we’ve discussed it though, the more we’ve realized we need to build on our family’s history where there is a foundation. Aimee’s grandparents were missionaries in Africa. How beautiful is that? We teach our kids of this, we teach our kids of the importance of mission work, of loving others. Now we’ve realized that the catholic faith and it’s work is a rich part of our family and that needs to be taught to our kids. Not ignorance, but true understanding of the church and it’s faith.

I’m not saying we’re converting, we are loved and called to our church, I’m saying that I plan to teach my kids that the church is not the evil empire that so often it’s made out to be. That there are beautiful things happening within it, and that it’s a part of who they are.