On the eve of Pope Franicis’ visit to the United States, a question: What do Catholics and Protestants share in common?
First, The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today’s Language. The book has been honored for over 500 years from Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) to which the current pontif belongs, to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.
I’ve taken 90 of Thomas à Kempis’ “chapters” divided into devotional-length passages, organized them by the characteristics of Christ, and modernized the text into contemporary English. Here’s a sample chapter:
ON THE IMITATION OF CHRIST
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.
These are the words of Christ: “If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness” (John 8:12). They teach us how thoroughly we must imitate his life and character if we desire true understanding and freedom from our own deceptive hearts and minds. And so, may we earnestly study and meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.
Christ’s teachings surpass all of the great holy writers of the past. If we have his Spirit, we find spiritual nourishment. Unfortunately there are many people who frequently hear the words of Christ but have little desire to follow them and so do not have the mind of Christ.
What does it profit us to engage in deep discussions about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit if we lack humility and are displeasing to God? Truly, deep and profound words do not make a person holy and upright, but a good life is what makes us dear to God. I would rather experience sorrow for my ungodly thoughts and actions than simply be skillful in defining “repentance.” If we know the whole Bible and the teachings of all the philosophers, what does all this benefit us without the love and grace of God? It is completely futile unless we love God and serve only him. This is the highest wisdom: to put earthly values behind us and to reach forward to the heavenly kingdom.
It is futile to strive for earthly things and to trust in riches that will perish. It is futile to desire honors and lift up ourselves. It is futile to be ruled by the desires of our physical body, for this will only bring misery in the end. It is futile to desire a long life and to care little for a good life. It is futile to concentrate on the here and now and not look forward to the things which are eternal. It is futile to love temporary things and not strive toward eternal joy.
Always keep this saying in mind: “The eye is not satisfied with visible things. Neither is the ear content with hearing.” And so, let us strive to turn our hearts from the love of things that are visible and concentrate on the things that are invisible. If we are controlled by our own physi¬cal desires, we will corrupt our conscience and destroy the grace of God. Book 1 Chapter 1
Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins
The Apostles’ Creed
Second, Roman Catholics and Protestants share a common statement of faith—written well before the Reformation. The Apostles’ Creed is first mentioned in 390 AD, although what we recite today was probably written in the 700s. (Martin Luther nailed his grievances against the Roman Catholic Church on the Witterberg church door over 800 years later on October 31, 1517, which instigated the Reformation in Germany.)
The Apostles’ Creed is widely used by Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists and many other denominations.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
* Lower case c meaning “universal” church
I trust that amidst the public appearances and pageantry, that the importance of imitating Christ is emphasized by pope’s visit.
Sense of humor
And I’m glad Catholics have a sense of humor. From Pope Francis to founder of jokewiththepope.org:
I like to laugh a lot. It’s helps me feel closer to God and closer to other people. When we laugh with each other and not at each other, God’s love is present in a special way. Share your jokes and your funny stories: the world will be better, the Pope will be happy and God will be the happiest of all.
I hope he enjoys these . . .
Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins
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