Five months! We are half way through, and of course none of us can believe it, but we are soaking up the rest of our time together.  I wanted to update my blog to commemorate the mid-point of my journey, and I was inspired to write this particular post while I was jogging (Manchester Orchestra on the iPod really gets the inspirational juices going! I highly recommend “I’ve Got Friends” set to a mild pace.)

This evening I had provoking idea while I sat in on a focus group for how the Franciscans in the area can better meet the needs/wants of young adults in the area.  I have to add that because I’m in a Catholic program and because the Midwest is, nearly, the Catholic capital of the world, almost all of the young adult gatherings are made up of 99% Pope-fearing college grads and then me, the sole Protestant. I actually am used to prefacing that when introducing myself nowadays… so very naturally, the conversation evolved to spotlighting me and my non-Catholicism. It was a little awkward being the blatant minority, but it didn’t faze me nearly as much as it did my first weeks here. The focus was on me partly because I was urging the Sisters to minister to Protestants at the nearby Minnesota State campus (most of my ideas rightly involving food, the primary route to a coed’s heart), because I want other young adults like me to know and love St. Francis and the Sisters who live out Truth through his charism, or spirit. I admitted that I have been profoundly influenced by Franciscan spirituality since I came here to be a part of the program, and I think they were intrigued by it, because I’m not a Catholic, nor am I planning on becoming one.  In fact, I told them, it has affected me so much that I can’t imagine not living out the lifestyle of St. Francis.

Before I said it aloud tonight, of how much I cherished the Sisters and the Franciscan charism, I didn’t realize how much being in this setting has rocked me. Not necessarily theology wise; I’m an evangelical at heart. Among other things, I believe that God has breathed life into the Scriptures in such a way that it cannot be ignored and that includes being born again and making disciples of the nations (and there’s so much more, but that’s the stereotypical gist of evangelicalism).

What I mean is less tangible and now that I’m trying to write it out, it’s really frustrating to try and put into understanding. I guess there’s an appreciation that wasn’t there before, in that God has worked through this Catholic setting to show me His glory and my depravity; He has worked in my life here in ways I wasn’t expecting and He has surely revealed Himself to me even outside the more comfortable, evangelical setting that I’m used to. Sharing the past five months with this remarkable community has broadened me in a good way, taught me sincerity outside of my denomination, and deepened my appreciation and love for God – because I’ve experienced community outside of my known spirituality. I never would have been blessed with this gem if I hadn’t been placed among a completely different spirituality from my own, and I am just beginning to realize and be thankful for it.

So there is a blessing to be found in ecumenical gatherings. I think the biggest part of that is the idea that prideful claims on my spirituality tarnish community and I’m beginning to understand that I cannot flourish as bountifully amidst God’s people if I maintain that mindset. I had no idea that I was an elitist about my evangelicalism until I was plopped into a community of people that didn’t think or pray or process the way that I did, growing up in the Bible Belt. But I plopped was. And it was amazingly frustrating at first, not having people around me to agree with me or pat me on the back like I did in college, who all had similar mindsets when it came to spirituality. Granted, we definitely challenged each other and held each other accountable and shared our skepticism about this or that sermon or message. But at college, in the baby years of my faith (which I could arguably still be in), I was never amidst many Catholics, whom I held many stereotypes against, to pull me out of my comfort zone, stretch my awareness and thus, trigger a genuine response and some serious soul-stirring.

I believe that God honors this ecumenical gathering of different, but still Godly, perspectives. It is different, so different. But full of new joys. I want my non-Catholic friends to experience this, too. To all my wary friends, find yourself a people group that you know nothing about or that you’re even intimidated by. Go find the nearest St. Paul’s, track down the presiding minister after Mass and beg him to have coffee with you. It’ll be uncomfortable at first and you’ll want to argue about Saints and altar calls and all that good stuff, but believe me, after the third round you’ll start to witness something communal and something beautiful.