Returning and Relearning: Clearing Up My Misconceptions About the Catholic Faith

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For those of you who don’t know me, I once knew less about Catholicism than a dishtowel does. I had no interest in actually learning what the faith was all about. As a result, I was easily convinced by non-Catholics (as well as other misinformed Catholics) what my faith was. I’m happy to announce that I have learned some things since coming back to the faith a few years ago, but these are the common misconceptions I used to believe:  

The Immaculate Conception was Jesus’ conception.

More like “Immaculate MISconception.” I always assumed the Immaculate Conception referred to was Jesus’ conception, because he was born without sin. Only I had forgotten that Mary was, too. The Immaculate Conception was actually Mary’s conception in her mother, Anne’s, womb. By virtue of Mary’s son and with the help of God, she was preserved and born without sin

In case you weren’t sure either, it’s okay if you didn’t know. I’m not judging. I actually just learned this three years ago. 

Catholics aren’t Christians, they’re Catholics.

Oh, but we are Christians. We’re the OGs of Christianity! We do our best to hold to the same beliefs and traditions that the Catholic Church held to in the first century. We are followers of Christ and his teachings. So, that would make us Christians. Just like Swifties are fans of Taylor Swift.

Mary is “just” the mother of Jesus.

Mary is everyone’s mother. And like everyone’s mom, well most people’s moms, she wants what is best for us. For us women, she is the example of who we should be in life, family, and faith. (Although, I’m positive she would be much more patient than I am if she had to help Jesus with his math homework, and far more understanding with Joseph if she collected 50 thousand cups from his nightstand.) In all seriousness, though, I spent most of my life side-lining her as someone who was just another person in the Bible, not giving credit where credit is truly due. 

RELATED: Mary in Two Minutes

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to wonder if Mary was trying to get my attention. My social media and Amazon feeds were flooded with books about Mary. My penances were all Marian-related, and I was suddenly drawn to a statue of Mary inside my parish chapel. It worked. I started reading about her, praying the Rosary daily, and discovered that a relationship with Mary is easy, peaceful, and a fast way to get on track with the Christ-train. Spend some time exploring consecration to Mary through the book “True Devotion to Mary” by St. Louis De Montfort, and you’ll find a lot of answers about our devotion to the Blessed Mother. 

Catholics don’t really read the Bible.

Said the person who never went to Mass (me). As I mentioned earlier, I was away from the faith for a long time. So, because I never went to Mass, I never knew that the Bible is not only read, but also that the entire Bible is read over the course of three years if you attend Mass weekly. I think a lot of non-Catholics assume the Bible is not important to us because we also rely heavily on tradition, rather than Scripture alone. Ask any Protestant about a traditional Catholic belief (like using holy water to bless everything we own, or venerating the saints) and they’ll tell you that it’s not in the Bible. 

The truth is, Scripture is very highly prioritized in the Catholic faith. It’s just not the Church’s only source of information, nor does it have to be. 

So says Scripture. Jesus and Paul both accepted non-written traditions

No one believes in purgatory anymore.

There was a time when I thought the belief in Purgatory was simply outdated. Meaning, that once upon a time in history, people made up the idea of a spiritual waiting room of sorts. Like, reading the Bible, the idea of Purgatory was optional for me. But, there has to be a place where we can go to be purified to get into heaven. Unless we die with a bleached-white soul, we can’t go before God. Purgatory is a place of penance and purification to ready our souls to enter into heaven, and it is very real. The further I delved into my faith, the further I began to understand that there has to be a place for us to go to if we aren’t bad enough to go to hell, but aren’t good enough to get into heaven. 

Don’t believe me? Check out this clip to learn more.

Confession is an optional formality.

We can sin and the Sacrament of Confession is always there, waiting to help us redeem our souls. But, believing that Confession is just a formality and that our choice to deliberately sin doesn’t affect our lives and our relationship with God is wrong. Going to Confession with the intent to just go back out and sin doesn’t work. You actually have to be sorry to be forgiven by God. (And by the way, I love Confession.) 

RELATED: Busted Halo’s Guide to Confession

Taking an active interest in understanding my faith has put me in a position to help correct mistruths people have mentioned to me in conversation with friends, family, and coworkers who are also misinformed Catholics, Protestants, non-denominational Christians, and even some atheists. I’ve been able to help clarify certain teachings and traditions, and at least answer basic questions about our beliefs. In some cases, I’ve been able to defend those traditions.

The more I learn, the more I discern—which is a terrible slogan for RCIA. I have come to recognize the truths about our faith which helps me learn to live the way I’m meant to and try to strive to spread the truth about Catholicism. 

We were told to seek and we would find.

Knock and the door would be opened.

And both happen when you actively and genuinely seek to know God more.

Bishop Fulton Sheen once said, “There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church.” As Catholic Christians, it’s our duty to spread the truth of our faith. In order to do that, we have to understand it ourselves. Ask questions. You might be surprised to find that educating yourself on the basics of the faith might lead you closer to God. It did for me.