By Anne Marie Schlueter
There’s a picture of me in my grandparents’ house: my white-blonde baby hairs looking kind of like a mullet, and my face in a concentrated stance, my eyes closed, my hands open–
Growing up, praise and worship was normal. We’ve done family worship for as long as I can remember, with my dad playing the guitar and offering ample opportunities for my siblings and I to voice “prayers from the heart.” It was simple– our simple songs and simple prayers, thanking Jesus for things and interceding for people we knew. My little brother sometimes would goof off and thank Jesus for literally everything– “Thank you, God, for the door. Thank you, God, for the toilet. Thank you, God, for that pillow.” So, yeah, sometimes it was little kid messy, but it left a lasting impression on all of us.
At the same time, we went to mass multiple times a week, prayed the rosary, and often prayed the liturgy of the hours. For my mom and dad, it wasn’t about cultivating a spiritual high or creating a certain “religious image”; it was about introducing us to Jesus Christ through His bride, the Church. They wanted each of us to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
It wasn’t complicated, or solely emotionally driven. And, as my siblings and I foray into the arena of adulthood, we find ourselves chasing after Jesus, seeking to constantly step into the identity poured out by the Father, and to be on mission to bring souls to Him. It looks different for all of us, but we all remain within the beautiful confines of the Catholic Church. Our lives have not been without struggle or temptation, but we’re all walking out our respective processes with the Lord, knowing that He sees and hears us, and actively desires to be intimate with us.
Quick note, before continuing: My words here are not necessarily meant to be a theological argument. More than anything, I want to inspire you to openness to the spiritual practices of the Catholic Church, and to seek out answers to what you do not understand.
When I began college, I started to hear a lot of different views on various spiritual practices of the Catholic church. I heard everything from the belief that praise and worship is heretical to people who refused to partake in fasting because of a history of an eating disorder. Many people I know identify themselves within either the “charismatic camp” or the “traditional camp”, and most believe that the other group of people is less Catholic. I’ve been around both types of people, been pressured by both types of people, and been inspired by both types of people.
In this self-help age, we’re so quick to think that we know what we need, and we are the only ones who know what we need. Self-knowledge that leads to self-advocacy is a beautiful thing, but we’re finite human beings who are created to seek direction, and be under direction. We can seek it from ourselves, or we can seek it from the One who made us and intimately knows us. When we adhere to the later, we find ourselves unwrapping the tremendous gift of the Catholic Church. Here’s what I’ve discovered here: the Church knows what you need more than you know what you need.
When something is hard, that does not mean that it isn’t for you. When something is stirring up uncomfortable emotions, that does not mean that it isn’t for you. When something brings up scrupulosity, that doesn’t mean that you should quit it; that means that it’s time to let grace beat it, and experience freedom and healing from it.
“Mmm, that’s not for me,” I’ve heard people say, about the Latin mass, about the rosary, about the liturgy of the hours, about fasting, about almsgiving, about service, about praise and worship, about praying with people…pretty much anything.
But here’s the deal: y’all, there is a world of hurt out there in need of a world of grace. I’ve come to realize my deep pride in resenting some of the practices of the Catholic Church. If your whole prayer life is praise and worship, there’s more for you. If your whole prayer life is the rosary, there is more for you. If your whole prayer life is the mass, God desires to unpack that power within you through additional time with Him.
So don’t be so quick to say “you’re not getting anything” out of praise and worship, because the point of it isn’t for you. The point of it is to bring honor and glory to God. The point of it is to offer up the voice that He gave you, back to Him.
And to the Theologically minded, read Newman’s Sermon 13 on faith and reason as the foundation of any sort of theological argument. In every conversation, question intention: are you driven by a desire to be right, and to fit everyone into what you’re comfortable with? Or, have you approached the topic with openness, and are you driven by a relationship with Jesus, and the desire to bring Him honor, glory, and reverence? Have conversations, debate things, and grow…we’re so blessed that we have an authority that we can avail ourselves to within the Magisterium. There is no uncharted territory within the Catholic Church.
The Church would not give us things that did not ultimately benefit us in some way. And what is the ultimate benefit? It’s growing in intimacy with our Creator, for whom we are created.
Anne Marie Schlueter is graduating in May from Ave Maria University with her major in communications and minor in theology. She is passionate about speaking and writing about the love of Jesus, creativity, and building community. You can find her blog here (https://captivatedfreedom.wordpress.com/) and podcast here (https://thecolinandannieshow.video.blog/).