Why is it so hard to walk through the door of a church for some of us? A church is a building loaded with significance and history, and good people, so what stops us from exploring faith in this communal setting? The beautiful yet confronting imagery, such as the crucifix at the altar or the Stations of the Cross, nourishes prayer and worship, and provides a rich landscape for faith. Yet so many hesitate at the door, as I did when I was considering becoming Catholic.
Whatever the barrier that is preventing you from crossing the threshold and into the Catholic Church, please know that you are welcome, even if it doesn’t seem that way at first.
There is probably some fear involved; fear of being an outsider and not knowing what to do. Maybe it is the fear that once you take the plunge and walk through the door, you will have to make some changes in your life.
Maybe you are a lapsed Catholic, and your faith diminished over time? Perhaps it has been so long since you went to church you can’t remember what to do? Perhaps you felt disillusioned and, at some point in your past, didn’t want to be part of the church anymore, and you wish to return?
Maybe you feel so broken that you don’t think you deserve to be part of a church community, or you wonder if you will be judged for your lifestyle or past choices?
There are many reasons why people find themselves lurking in the doorway of a church. And yet, the truth is, you are dearly loved by Jesus and you are always welcome in his house.
For me, the sense that I was an outsider was overwhelming. I thought that if I walked through the door I would be stared at and judged, because I didn’t know all the responses or when to stand up or sit down or kneel. Having been raised in an entirely secular household, I thought church was for others, and not for me. Yet I was being called to be there. At first I would sit in my car and watch who went in. Later, I got as far as the foyer, and left.
Eventually I walked through the door, both physically and metaphorically, and everything changed. Everything became infinitely better.
It took quite a few years for me to learn the responses off-by-heart, and when to stand and when to sit. The priest usually helps with a gesture. The responses, that you don’t have to say out loud, are on overhead projections in most churches, as are the words of hymns you don’t have to sing.
Our prayer book has a section with the Order of Mass that outlines what happens at Mass including all the responses. If you order our free “What Catholics Believe” booklets, you’ll also receive a prayer book. It is small and handy, and nobody will mind you reading along during Mass. Many experienced Catholics take a book called a Missal into Mass with them, so don’t feel self-conscious. Missals are available to buy from all good Catholic shops.
"What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the mountains and go in search of the stray? Amen I say to you, if he finds it, he rejoices more over it than the other ninety-nine who did not stray. Similarly, it is never the will of your Father in Heaven that one of these little ones should be lost." Matthew 18:12-14
If you would like some support making that all important step into a life with Christ, please contact us. The Catholic Enquiry Centre have been supporting people who want to become Catholic for over sixty years, and we can help you. Our contact details are at the bottom of our page. I pray we hear from you soon.