One of my friends has been emailing me lately with questions and confusion as she tries to decide whether to date a Catholic friend of hers. Her comments have brought back memories of when I was facing the same decision just over a year ago.
We both grew up in Protestant churches; I was Lutheran, she is Calvinist. We attended the same Lutheran college, studied together for our classes, and debated theology occasionally with each other and with the friend whom I ended up dating and am now engaged to.
She’s getting a similar reaction from her parents that I got from my parents a year ago when I told them that I wanted to date my Catholic friend. Her dad has muttered comments about getting her to talk to their pastor. My mom told me not to date a Catholic, because she disagreed with their theology. We both decided to give the guys a chance anyways. We aren’t trying to be disrespectful to our parents, but I guess I didn’t see that many differences between Lutherans and Catholics. We’re all Christians, aren’t we? So I was willing to investigate his faith, to ask questions, and to consider dating—and marrying—him.
One of the questions that my friend asked me was about Catholics praying to Mary. I sent her back a quick reply, because just mentioning that will get my fiancé going for an hour. One little preposition has caused huge misconceptions among Protestants for years. It’s more accurate to say that Catholics pray with Mary. Just as I would ask my friends to pray for me when I’m going through tough times, I can ask Mary to pray for me.
My friend says she won’t convert to Catholicism, and I’m okay with that. I’m just happy that right now, we can talk about our faith, including the differences. I’m glad to have someone to share my faith journey with—someone who now understands some of what I went through, even if she isn’t making the same choices that I did.
And I’m glad that, even if she doesn’t become Catholic, she can understand some of what the Catholic Church teaches. Because in the end, we are all Christians, and we should at least be able to understand each other. Maybe we won’t agree with each other’s theology. Maybe we won’t all pray with Mary. But we can talk about our faith, accept our differences, and understand each other.