I am a staunch Catholic and I love my faith. I believe the Pope is infallible. I believe Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. I pray to (but don’t worship!) Mary. I talk to the Saints. I believe purgatory exists… I believe all the Catholic “stuff”.
That being said, there are various things I truly do admire in the Protestants I’ve known. I don’t think these traits are common of all Protestants, but I do think that, as a whole, Protestants have emphasized these things more than Catholics have, and it’s something we can learn from them.
- Fellowship. Many Protestant denominations develop a real sense of fellowship and community. This provides their members with a lot of support on a variety of levels. Some Catholic parishes have this sense of community, but many don’t – sometimes “parish” means nothing more than the place we go each Sunday, and our “Church community” is just the group of faces we see once a week. I think many Catholics would benefit from cultivating a greater sense of community and support within our Church communities.
- Personal relationship with Jesus. Many of the Protestants I know both talk and act as though Jesus is a real person. He isn’t just someone they read about, or “believe in” in some distant sort of way. He’s someone close.
- Joyful faith. Many Protestants draw great joy from their faith. It shines forth from their eyes, and probably springs from #2.
- Enthusiastic witness. I really admire the way many Protestants are willing to share their faith and their personal experiences of God’s grace and mercy with others.
- Scripture. I disagree with the Protestant belief in “sola scriptura”, but I think we can learn a lot from their love of Scripture and their dedication to learning about it.
- Kindness. I’ve never had a Protestant friend who wouldn’t go out of their way to help someone in need. They often seem characterized by a special kindness and willingness to help.
I think a lot of Protestants do a great job in these areas, and we Catholics shouldn’t be afraid to admit it, or afraid to strengthen these things ourselves.
All of these points are completely compatible with Catholicism – but we don’t always focus on them as much as we focus on the rational and moral teachings of our Church. Many of our Protestant brothers have cultivated these aspects of Christianity very well, and I think we would be not only better Christians, but also better Catholics if we learn from their example. We may differ in theology, but we are all trying to live by the same Gospel, and can support each other in this journey.