Posted by: littletoe | August 26, 2007

He Left Us With a Church, Not Just a Book

Sometimes this journey is just plain uncomfortable. Right now we are struggling with the Catholic teaching on Marian doctrine. I say “we” but it is really my husband because I’m just getting to the point where I feel like crying “uncle”. If I’m convinced (which I am) that the Catholic Church is the one instituted by Jesus Himself, Who has full knowledge of just how awful and incompetent we can be, then UNCLE! I also have to confess to just being burned out on digging for answers. I’m ready for a rest and to take it on faith for a while.

Last week this conversion thing was literally making me ill. Why couldn’t God have made me one of those people who just don’t care? I was sick, though, because it was dawning on me that I relied heavily on fundamentalism for defining my faith and it wasn’t working, especially for trying to get the Marian things. I felt my whole foundation being rocked. I was afraid that I would lose my faith, or worse fall into apostasy, without holding fast to the way I have always considered things.

I read Scott Hahn’s “Hail Holy Queen” and it helped although it didn’t really address the thing that is bothering my husband the most: Mary’s perpetual virginity. I’ve just decided to believe because I’m tired of fighting, but he’s fixated on the brother/kinsman problem. He’s been to his concordance and he doesn’t buy the RCC’s arguments. There are clearly two different words for brother and kinsman in Greek and he doesn’t understand why they would choose “brother” when they meant “kinsman”. The Greek word for “kinsman” is used to describe Mary’s relationship to Elizabeth. It doesn’t matter to him (son of a Lutheran pastor) that Mary’s perpetual virginity has never been in doubt, even by Luther and Calvin. He’s not sure that it’s not a very early innovation. At least that’s what he told me when I suggested that the burden of proof ought to lie with the innovators, i.e. sometime post-Reformation.

I was sharing my discomfort with the members of the Catholic Spitfire Grill and as always I was gladdened at the response. One of the ladies wrote:

Every day I see why God was wise enough to leave us with a Church, not just a Book.

Wiser words were never spoken. I guess I’ll just work on letting go of my fundamentalism and pray that God is leading me to higher heights and that my faith will end up being stronger than ever when all is said and done.



  1. i will continue to pray…God bless

  2. I don’t think the issue is whether there are separate words for “brother” and “kinsman” in GREEK. Isn’t the issue that there is only one word for both in Aramaic? Thus it would not have occurred to the writer to worry about which word he was using in Greek–the one for “brother” would be the only one he’d think of. I read a story somewhere about a modern person from a similar culture who would call all his male relatives “uncle” even though English has different words for cousin, uncle, etc. It’s about categories of thought.

    We are indeed fortunate to have a church and not just a book. But I also tend to think that people closer in time to the events (and cultures) are more likely to have an accurate sense of what the book means than people living after the Reformation, and the idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity is a very ancient one.

    Now that I’ve said this, though, I think Jackie has the right approach. I’ll pray, too, for whatever my prayers are worth! May God bless you and your husband, and may he lead you both.

  3. “Sometimes this journey is just plain uncomfortable.
    I also have to confess to just being burned out on digging for answers. I’m ready for a rest and to take it on faith for a while.
    Last week this conversion thing was literally making me ill. Why couldn’t God have made me one of those people who just don’t care?
    I’ve just decided to believe because I’m tired of fighting.”

    I completely relate to what you’re saying!

    “I guess I’ll just work on letting go of my fundamentalism and pray that God is leading me to higher heights and that my faith will end up being stronger than ever when all is said and done.”


    You’re not alone on this journey to the big magnet (I’m stealing from someone else here) called the Catholic Church. I just went over the issue same issues on my post the other day (Discernment). I agree with you that that this has felt like a fight. I’m thankful I’m getting to the point now where I can allow my faith in God to lead me there. I’ve come to realize that I could take years of study, and still not have all the answers (and comfort) ahead of time. Through the words of others in Blogville, I’ve come to realize that having complete comfort on the initial phases of this journey is a rarity.

    In my recent review of someone else’s discernment of the Catholic Church, they were directed to Peter’s response to Christ in John 6:67-68. There, we see that Peter believed and stayed with Christ without having full understanding. I’m certain it was uncomfortable too; given that “many of his [Christ’s] disciples turned back and no longer followed him (verse 66)”. I wonder if any of those disciples who left were close friends of Peter. People who might have given him a hard time? Either way, Peter didn’t waffle on his decision to follow Christ. He stayed (and followed) the Living Bread.

    For me, reading that passage again was a great reminder. A reminder to me to put the books down for awhile, pray, and trust Christ. And it’s there where you find peace and comfort again. For many, it sounds like comfort with Marian Doctrine (etc.) often can come later.

    God Bless you on your journey(s). What a gift that you and your husband get to go through this together!

  4. Hey Rachel,
    I have to laugh at your feelings of wanting to cry “Uncle”! 🙂 Oh, how I remember those feelings. There just comes a point when you are convinced that the church is THE Church and you decide you can trust the Church with EVERYTHING! But that comes sooner for some than for others.

    BTW, I haven’t been by here in a while and your header is just beautiful.


  5. <>

    I just found your blog, but thanks for posting that. I can really identify with that, as it seems to be the point I’m at too. I’ve read lots and thought and prayed lots and while I’m not sure I totally “get” everything, I’m to the point where I want to move on. Which is good since I started class last night to (most likely) become Catholic. I’m excited, it seems like the next step in this process.

    Also, I identified with your “coming out” e-mails. I’ll admit, I’m chicken to and did the same thing.

  6. I will pray for you and your husband. I have been blessed with stupidity and am very comfortable with ignorance. Once I figured out that the Catholic Church was the one true Church I didn’t sweat everything else.
    I do admit to having difficulties with some things so I read a lot and try to pray more but I try to go into the endeavor with the knowledge that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and am convicned that whatever I discover in the end will be ok.
    It’s like when i read a news report about some scientific explanation of the universe that claims to do away with any need for a creator. I can read the article without it melting down my belief in God.
    I’m probably not helping so I’ll do the only thing I can; I’ll pray for you.

  7. As far as I know the Catholic Church has never declared that the “brothers” were cousins. They might also have been Joseph’s children by a previous marriage. This view lost popularity in Catholicism with the rise of the notion that Joseph too was always a virgin. But this idea, unlike the PV of Mary, is simply a pious opinion and not binding. Therefore, your husband should not be fixated on the linguistic issue. I don’t buy the “kinsman” argument either.

    I have problems with the PV too, but for different reasons–it seems to me to reflect the idea that sex is intrinsically unholy and degrading. Recently I’ve been thinking about the relationship of ideas about Mary and Joseph’s marriage to the traditional Western concept of marriage in which the husband basically owned the wife. Perhaps the PV is important because it stands as a witness against that degrading view of marriage–you have a man held up for us by the Church as the ideal husband and father even though he did not “possess” his wife sexually, and even though in many ways his role was one of caretaker for two people more important in the plan of salvation than he was. As a relatively new father (my daughter is 10 months old), this means a lot to me–my calling as a father is to sacrifice myself rather than seeing my family as an extension of my own ego. So there may be more to the PV than I have recognized in the past.

    By the way, I’m an Episcopalian who has had a toe in the Tiber for about 12 years now. . . .


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