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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Why I Still Love Reformed University Fellowship

I'm a Catholic, if that isn't obvious. I'm a real Catholic, too, by the way. Not a person who's understanding of the faith is limited, though of course, any of us could stand to deepen our understanding. This means for our purposes here that I actually believe the Council of Trent was and is correct. And despite what you may have heard, the Second Vatican Council is not in essence any different from Trent. Our popes and Councils like to use a phrase "of happy memory" to refer to a predecessor who did something important, and that council is no exception. A good Catholic loves and affirms all the ecumenical councils. Not only is that an obligation we have, but we rejoice to do so. I belabor the point because if any non-Catholic Christians harbor hopes that some teaching of the Church on faith and morals will change, because they have been in dialogue with a Catholic who has a defective morality, faith, or ecclesiology, they stand a good chance of being deceived.

But if you've been paying even a modicum of attention here at Safe Haven, you know that we keep an eye on the ideas that impact the lives of Christians, separated or not, and we like to affirm whatever we can, and discuss the rest. So let's get to it, shall we?

Reformed University Fellowship changed my life. They nurtured my new faith at a time when it could have been destroyed. Most of the people I count as my closest friends, I met through RUF. I wouldn't trade that time for anything, unless Jesus asked me to. I have to say it that strongly. I cannot affirm Reformed theology on the whole; I think some of it is even actively harmful to communion with God. But I'm not messing with you when I say that God used it, and He's using it right now. Lumen Gentium, 8 is not a concession; it is not a grudging acknowledgment; it is in fact a recognition of the power of Christ. If those elements of sanctification and truth outside the Catholic and apostolic Church were not real, there would be little point in hoping that we all were impelled toward greater unity. Truth binds and unites; He demands that those who find Him do the same, pouring themselves out in the effort. It is not opposed to the teaching of the Church and its claim to be the true home for the children of God; indeed, if there is but one God, the self-understanding of His own Church could not oppose Him.

I love RUF. I love it because it gives every person the tools to love God with all that he or she is. As I said, they don't have all the tools that exist; any one thought you may hear might be contrary to the truth in Christ, but what they have, they give. More than this, there has been much thought about what serves to give people a real encounter with Christ, and largely, they do those things.

The three main elements that make it work are:

1. Small group Bible studies--If you want to make disciples, put the Bible in front of them and make them read it. Jim Gaffigan made a joke about not needing to read the Bible, because he's Catholic. It was hilarious. It was also sadly true. Which is stupid, because...IT'S OUR BIBLE!!! That's right, I said it. Because it's true. We have to restore the place of the Scriptures in the hearts and lives of Catholics. There's more of the Bible in our liturgies than in other communities, anyway. The whole thing is truly bizarre.

2. Student leadership--We had a campus minister, but most things were student-led. Just naturally, this makes people take ownership of their faith, whether they learned it at home or not.

3. Singing--I still can't get the songs out of my head and heart. I happily defer to the Church if theological adjustments need to be made, but to a generation buffeted by the theological dumbing-down of the evangelical subculture, RUF's conscious choice to draw content from older hymns while splitting the middle musically changed me forever. It was a gateway to traditional music; when I heard traditional music in church married to the content I already knew, my attitude on what was proper changed irrevocably. Those of you for whom "Marty Haugen" is a swear-word need to get over yourselves. First of all, he's an actual person that God loves! Oops, forgot that, eh? Don't hear what I'm not saying, as Captain Jack would say. Just because it's not proper for Mass doesn't mean we can't use it somehow. If you need to re-write it, do it. Tell the young people we're going to be a little "traditional" and split the middle anyway. IT WORKS! If you do it right, they'll be lovers of Gregorian chant (like we're supposed to be) without being snobbish about it.

Bonus: I don't remember much in particular about what those men said, but who they were, we remembered. You need to find people, clerical or lay, who know they live by God's mercy and grace, but who are nonetheless worthy of being emulated. I'm sure FOCUS does everything I've said already, but just in case, here you go.

P.S. Our Bible studies had been segregated by sex. I can understand why a person would view that as puritanical and unhealthy, but it helped me feel safe and comfortable. There are some things you don't want the "other side" to know. Just trust me on this.

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