An Invitation to my Sacred Space

Last week I entered into my 4th year of actively participating in the season of Lent, with ashes on my forehead as well.  No, I am not Catholic, as some might quickly assume.  I am a Protestant.  I do, however, attend weekly mass and spend quality time in meditation at a local Catholic church.  This practice started three years ago when my mother, a practicing Catholic, passed away shortly before Lent.

Ashes in cups

Cups of ashes from the Ash Wednesday service.

My Weekly Prayer Practice

It was in those first times of prayer there that the Lord showed up, gave me incredible peace, and started to speak to me in ways I’d never experienced before.  Those weekly visits became my Lenten practice that first year.  I’ve continued ever since, but not just for Lent.

Those first few months when I had one foot in my Protestant Church and another at the local Catholic Church were very difficult for me.  I knew God was doing something in me.  I knew/know that my identity in Christ was/is secured.

What I learned about myself in the process is that I am a contemplative, as described in the book Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas.  It is how I best get in touch with God.  I came to understand that it didn’t matter if I was Protestant or Catholic.  It is faith that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6).

I was encouraged and supported through this spiritually growing time by Protestant pastors who accepted my unique walk of faith, and my not doing “church in a box.”  I was living missionally.  These visits to the Catholic Church also helped me to connect with my Spanish family and gave me a longing to worship in Spain, like I did last summer.  This has had major ripple effects in my spiritual walk and in God’s Kingdom in many ways here and abroad.*

WP_20140312_008Welcome to my Sacred Space

In light of my unique perspective, I thought I would share with my readers what it is like for me, a contemplative Protestant, to worship in a Catholic Church.  In so doing, maybe some of my readers won’t judge the Catholics so harshly, or maybe the Protestant Churches could learn something about this as well.  I am not advocating one way or the other is correct.  It is merely my perspective; and I am not a seminary student, an ordained minister, or a theologian.

First of all, I believe that no church can ‘meet’ everyone’s needs.  Yes, Jesus can meet all of their needs, but the way one church structures their church service, or the ‘vibe’ of the church, will not appeal to everyone.  I don’t think it is about structure; it is about content.  It is about preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

One thing that is consistent about the Catholic Church is that they all have a set structure or order to the mass.  They even have the same scripture readings in all churches throughout the world, as dictated by the head of the Catholic Church.  (Not sure exactly if that is the Pope or some organization under him.   As I said, I’m not an expert on this.  The idea here is that it is divinely revealed as to what scripture is read worldwide.)  Those scripture readings are published in various publications and online.

I have to admit that in the past, I was one of those people who felt that the mass was just a bunch of rote responses and prescribed prayers.  As I’ve come to view it and take it in, I see that it is a beautiful dialogue between God and His people.  One could just say the responses, but I prefer to contemplate and say the responses in praise to God.  There is also deliberate quiet time in mass, albeit, much too brief for my liking.  It is all a rhythm back and forth.  To me it feels like an invitation to encounter God.  It is a sacred time.  I covet this time and notice a dramatic difference in my level of peace when I miss it.

WP_20140312_004One last thing, because I’ve been asked and know people are curious.  I don’t take communion—not because I don’t want to.  It’s because I’d have to become a member of the Catholic Church.  I’ve had lots of dialogue around that topic with priests, pastors, and even bloggers.  Instead I receive a blessing from the priest.  (And that is a topic for another post, but you can check out a very enlightening post by a Catholic blogger that I follow and admire.)

Find Him in the Stillness

Well, that’s a glimpse into my sacred space.  If you are reading this post on a Wednesday morning, you could actually walk into the small chapel of that church and see me praying, reading scripture, or journaling my conversations with God.  My friends and family all know I’m there, interceding on their behalf and talking with God.  But now it is late Tuesday night as I write this, and I will turn in so I don’t miss my weekly appointment with God.

What are you doing to give God more space in your life?  I know that if you give him the stillness of your day, and seek Him, you will find Him.  I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. (Proverbs 8:17, NIV)

*Live locally and interested in what those ripple effects are?  You can request information about my next speaking opportunity through my Contact Page.

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

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11 Comments

  1. celia.whittome@talktalk.net

     /  March 12, 2014

    Thank you Ardis for that very illuminating post. I completely understand your feelings being a Protestant but sharing in a Catholic service. I taught in a Catholic school for over 30 years and always loved going to the Catholic services. I well remember how special it was and on one occasion when we were allowed to receive Holy Communion it was all the more uplifting. When I began my career at this school, there were several nuns on the teaching staff, and the Head Mistress was always a nun, but gradually over the years the numbers of nuns dwindled, and we had a Head Master instead of a Head Mistress. It still remains a Catholic school, but fewer girls these days are willing to become nuns and live a life of dedication only to God. All good wishes, Celia

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    • Celia, I didn’t realize we shared that kind of spiritual experience. Though distanced by generation and across the world, God is ever present in our church services, and in our Christian schools. It is a sad state of affairs that the young are turning their backs on their faith or not considering a call into serving in an official capacity in Christian denominations. We need good religious leaders to ground our kids. For way too many kids, the teaching they get at Sunday school is the only Biblical teaching they get. I fell into that trap at one point myself. Let’s pray for the children of the world find God and cling to Him. Blessings to you across the Pond! Ardis

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  2. This is a lovely post. I am a convert to the Catholic Church going on nine years now. It has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. I do believe however, the Catholic Church does offer the best way to maintain our salvation through the Sacraments. That I found wonderful in the conversion. Again lovely post and God Bless, SR

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    • SR, The Sacraments are a great way to keep one’s faith active and alive. It does disappoint me when I see Christians who take their faith for granted and don’t revere the Lord. Thanks for stopping by my blog and the follow. Blessings to you as you begin your blogging adventure for Him. Ardis

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  3. What a lovely and inspirational post! Your experience inspires me to reclaim my sacred space that I neglect when my schedule gets pulled in different directions. Fortunately I do have a 24/7 connection that I am thankful for but the time set aside to be in solitude slips away from me at times and getting back to that takes a matter of priority and recognizing that. I sure enjoy reading about your journey.

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    • Susan, Lent is a great time to refocus and make that priority (like I did 3 years ago). The daily routine is harder for me. Fight for the time you need to be alone with God. It pleases Him and you are worth it! Hugs, Ardis

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    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

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