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Testimony of Former Catholic:

Donna Morley


Growing up in a strict pre-Vatican II Catholic household, I knew the meaning of prayer and authority but it was prayer by rote and the unquestioned authority of the church hierarchy. Let me explain.


Praying By Rote


As a Catholic, at a very early age, I was encouraged to pray the Rosary (a series of beads). Such praying is quite tedious. At the beginning of the Rosary, a Catholic will pray a prayer titled “Glory Be to the Father”.


After that, they pray a series of “decades” on the Rosary (the Rosary is divided up into 10 decades of beads).


Each decade consists of one “Our Father” (the large beads)" ten "Hail Marys" (the small beads), and one "Apostle's Creed" (to be said when your fingers come to the Crucifix).


I understand that many of you may be confused. Let me simplify it for you. Each time after I prayed the Rosary I had recited the “Apostle's Creed” once, the “Our Father” ten times, the “Hail Mary” one hundred and fifty times, (yes, that’s right, 150 times) and the “Glory Be” ten times.


I was taught from my Saint Joseph Daily Missal that,

 

*       If I pray five decades of the Rosary--on my behalf or on the behalf of a dead family member or friend, I or the deceased one, would get 5 years off the time we spend in Purgatory (praying the Rosary is viewed in the church as a type of Indulgence).

 

*       If I was to recite five decades of the Rosary in unison with others, publically or privately, I earn ten years off of Purgatory.

 

*       I was able to gain an additional 10 years off if I recited in unison the Rosary with my family.

 

*       If I was praying the Rosary while driving a car or doing housework, I was guaranteed to get time off Purgatory, but there was a condition–I had to at least have the Rosary hang around my neck or be attached to my person (such as a sweater I might be wearing), while I was praying.


This was the type of repetitious praying I was involved in–especially during Lent when a Catholic must give up something or do some sacrificial act. I really thought of such praying as sacrificial because it took a lot of time to pray a total of 171 prayers each day of Lent (40 days of Lent x 171 = 6,840 prayers!). And, along with that praying, came pride as I saw the benefit I could have on the dead person I was helping get out of Purgatory (a temporary place of fire) and into Heaven (will explain a bit more about Purgatory in a minute).


I was not only involved in repetitious praying on my own, but such praying was done when attending Mass. I knew the Mass backwards and forwards. I could recite it from beginning to end. The same exact words and prayers said during the Mass are repeated week after week, year after year. Actually, century after century. For well over 1500 years the same exact script has been said during the Mass. The only change made, since the 1960's, is that the Mass is now performed in English instead of Latin--the universal language for the church over the centuries.


One thing is certain, during Mass every Catholic, world-wide, knows when to stand, when to sit, when to say “Amen,” when to make the sign of the cross, and when to say the “Our Father” and the “Glory Be.” There doesn’t have to be any heart in this at all. As long as you are at Mass going through the motions, then you are seen as acceptable to God.


When praying the rosary, or when praying at Mass, Jesus is never included. Ask most Catholics and they will tell you they do not pray to Jesus (unless they’ve become born again, and haven’t left the church yet). The closest I ever came to praying to Jesus was when making the sign of the Cross I would recite: “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”


As a Catholic, I had a deeper reverence for Mary and the Saints than I ever did for Jesus. This is true for many Catholics. They will tell you, for instance, that they pray to Mary because she was Christ's mother; herself born without sin (called the "Immaculate Conception"); and most importantly, that she intercedes for the sinner. Since 1589 Catholics have prayed these words to their mediator--the “Blessed Mother Mary,”


Hail Mary, full of grace! the Lord is with thee;

 blessed art thou among women,

and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us sinners

now and at the hour of our death.

Amen.


This prayer (again, prayed 150 times when praying the Rosary) has become so much a part of popular piety that it never occurs to the average Catholic that exaltation of Mary is not found in the Bible.


If there are any Catholics reading this testimony, please do not be offended, when I say in love, that Jesus has warned us against repetitious praying. When I came to realize this, I wanted to change my prayer life completely! Listen to the words of Jesus. He says, “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles, do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words” (see Matthew 6:7,8).


The Lord also tells us that He is against heartless and mindless praying:


...this people draw near with their words

and honor Me with their lip service,

but they remove their hearts far from Me,

and their reverence for Me consists of tradition

learned by rote. (Isaiah 29:13).


The Priests, and the Nuns


Along with having a deep reverence for Mary, I also revered the priests and the nuns in the church. I had always believed that they were the only ones who could really know God and be close to Him. After all, the priests were God’s representative, and the nuns were the “Bride of Christ.”


In my father’s family line we have had (and continue to have) priests and nuns, a monsignor and even a monk (a relative on my grandmother’s side of the family). This monk went off to a monastery in New York and no one ever heard from him again. What devotion! I thought.


I believed that anyone in the Order was “above” others. They live celibate lives (considered to be more spiritual). They not only pray the Rosary more than most Catholics but the nuns have their rosary with them at all times. The beads are on their person, dangling down their habit (habit refers to the nun’s clothing).


These “holy people” are addressed by all Catholics by their given titles, such as “Father”, “Sister,” “Monsignor”, “Bishop”, “Cardinal.” Even family members are expected to address them in the same way. Without diminishing the respect and honor I have for my family, let me share with you what I mean by this. At a family reunion, for instance, one of our family priests had attended the gathering (surprisingly). Cousin “Jim” (names are changed) was addressed by all his relatives as “Father.” Never once did anyone just call him “Jim.” This is the same for the nuns in the family. My own dear grandfather (who accepted Christ at age 90 and is now in glory!) would have never called his nieces by their first name. He always addressed them as “Sister.” My father’s uncle was a monsignor in the church and was always addressed by the family as “Monsignor” (with last name), rather than “Uncle Bill.”

It has been said by former priests and nuns that when they entered the Catholic Order they were advised by their superiors to become emotionally detached from their family and friends. I would add that family members become detached from them, as well, simply because the church becomes their priority. When they enter the Order their new family becomes those whom they live with: priests in the parish house, the nuns in the convents, and the monks in the monastery.


Because I had such a high respect for the Holy Order I told my grandfather, at age seven, that I was going to become a nun. I too wanted to know God, or at least find Him. Grandpa was delighted. As time went on my ambitions to become a nun were no longer in my thinking, at least, not until I turned 21 years old. Just a few weeks before I found Christ I went into an empty Catholic church (doors use to always be unlocked...I'm told it's different now), knelt at the pew, and told God that after my studies I would be a nun if that’s what He wanted. I was searching more than ever. I really wanted to know God, and if that meant becoming a nun to find Him, then I was willing to do it.


Right here, I must add that in my search for God I never considered myself as a sinful person--despite living a worldly life. As I saw it, I was a “good” Catholic–a Catholic who not only revered the priests and nuns but I obeyed the Pope. I believed him to be infallible and the only one who could speak for God.


An Unquestioned Authority: The Pope


Looking back, I can see how very close I came to worshiping the Pope. I listened to his every word–believed his words to be divine. I would have bowed down before him and kissed his ring if given the chance. Whenever I was able, I would watch him on television performing the Mass and listened intently to his message (usually on world peace).


I was taught since childhood that the Pope is the "...Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church he has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church." Furthermore, it is the Pope that takes "upon this earth the place of God Almighty."


Because the Pope is viewed as God Almighty on earth there’s no need for a personal relationship with the One and Only God. Nor, do you need to go to the God of Heaven to forgive you of your sins.


Confession


In Catholicism, a person doesn’t go to Jesus to ask forgiveness–they must confess to the priest. The Bishop of Salzburg, Johannes Katschtaler, stated to all Catholics that:


...the Catholic priest has the power to forgive sins...

God has, as it were, to this end

surrendered his omnipotence

for this moment

to his representative on earth,

the duly empowered priest...."


I absolutely believed in the priest’s role to forgive my sins, although there were many times I had wished I didn’t have to confess to him. I always entered the confessional with much trembling.


Along with going to confession, and continually performing “good works,” I kept the sacraments. They are a major part of getting to Heaven, and actually an important activity required to attain salvation. In the Roman Church, Catholics should perform all the sacraments that apply to them. Let me share with you what these sacraments are and what the Church says about them. Notice for yourself how each sacrament helps the Catholic gain salvation.


The Sacraments


The church teaches that,


         The Sacrament of Baptism (usually performed on infants), is "necessary for salvation" because by it "all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sins." It makes a person a member of the Body of Christ.


         The Sacrament of Confirmation (normally given when a person is about age twelve), completes the grace given in baptism.


         The Sacrament of the Eucharist is performed through partaking of bread and wine, which are said to be changed into the "very body" and the "very blood" of Christ. The very presence of Christ in the bread and wine is therefore "worshiped" and "adored." The sacrament is said to be "necessary for salvation..."


         The Sacrament of Penance is the "disclosure of confession of sins to a priest." The priest assigns some good work (usually assigning the confessor to recite specific prayers) in order to reestablish a good life. The church states that, "The Sacramental confession of sins is ordained by God and is necessary for salvation."


         Extreme Unction is for the seriously sick Catholic, who is anointed with oil and is prayed over by a priest. Extreme Unction provides, "...the grace of God for the supernatural salvation of his soul and often for the natural healing of his body."


         The Sacrament of Holy Order is for those who want to be priests. The Church says that the Order is to give sanctifying grace, to "imprint" the person's character, and give spiritual power.


         The Sacrament of Matrimony is for those who desire to marry in the Catholic church. They will receive "Sanctifying Grace...and [it] is a means of salvation against evil..."



No Assurance of Salvation


Salvation, according to the Catholic, is a combination of what God does for you and your own good deeds (which of course include the sacraments).


Trying to be a good person, as a way of getting to Heaven, was a great burden for me. No matter how hard I tried I just never gained the assurance that I would one day be in Heaven. Most Catholics will tell you that “No one can know whether a person will go to Heaven. It’s impossible to know.” That’s why most Catholics believe they’ll go to a place called Purgatory first.


Although Purgatory isn’t in the Old or New Testament, Catholics do believe there is such a place. As I mentioned earlier, Purgatory is a place of fire, but it’s not a place as permanent as hell. In Purgatory you can get out only if you have some living person on earth pray on your behalf. The living must pray the Rosary over and over again. Why? Because no one–not even the Pope–knows how many rosaries it takes to get a person out of Purgatory. Of course, in your lifetime, if you’ve prayed a lot of rosaries for yourself it’s credited to your purgatorial account.


This was my life. A life of trying to get to God–but I was so far from Him. A life of trying to get to Heaven–but it always seemed so out of reach. Fortunately, God promises, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13, also see 1 Chronicles 28:9, 2 Chronicles 15:2). God knew I was searching for Him, and He was reaching out to me, although at the time, I didn’t realize it.


You Are Not A Christian


The Lord certainly had a plan when one day, beyond my control, I was a visitor in a Christian church. How I ended up in that church is a story for another time. As a 21 year old who had never been in any church other than a Catholic church, I didn’t know what to expect. What I did know was that I would need to go to confession later that week to confess to the priest what I had done. I had always believed it was a mortal sin to attend any church that didn’t hold true to the Catholic beliefs.

 

While sitting and waiting for the pastor to speak, my eyes moved all around the church. I found it odd that there weren’t any stained glass windows of the saints or of Mary, or at least, of the crucifixion of Christ. Nor, were there any statues of Mary, Joseph, or others. I also thought it was strange not to see any candles lighting or not to smell incense burning. And, where were the confessionals?

 

While I continued to sit in wonder, a guest speaker by the name of Pastor Chuck Smith, came up to the podium. Amazingly, he was carrying a Bible. I couldn’t believe my eyes–a Bible! As a matter of fact, everyone brought a Bible to church with them. What an unusual sight!

 

While I can’t remember Pastor Smith’s entire message, I left that church impressed by three things. First, that the Bible speaks to me personally, and is useful for everyday life. Secondly, that Jesus Christ is alive. He hears our every prayer and forgives our sins. Third, that it is only through Jesus, and not of ourselves, that we can get to Heaven (John 14:6, Ephesians 2:8-9). These truths were foreign to me!

 

In the next few days, there was room in my heart for rebellion. You see, after Pastor Smith spoke and the people ended in song, a few young men (who found out I was a Catholic) approached me and told me I wasn’t a Christian. I was furious at their remark. Certainly I was a Christian! I was a very good person, at least I tried my best, therefore I had to be a Christian!

 

As the days wore on, the Holy Spirit took hold of my sinful heart and showed me that I was not a true Christian. True Christians see themselves as sinners and in need of Jesus. True Christians repent of their sins directly to Christ and ask Him to enter their lives. True Christians are followers of Jesus and desire to live out His will for their lives. True Christians can take the word “Christ-ian” and say, I Am Nothing without Christ”. True Christians know–really know--that they are saved not on the basis of their “good” works but they rest solely upon Christ for their salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). True Christians feed upon and rely upon the Word of God–it is their spiritual food. I had gotten “fed” from the words of men and completely ignored the true manna found in the Bible.

 

The Words of Men

 

I had believed and trusted in the words of men, such as the priests and the Pope. I never challenged their words of how one gets to Heaven. Yet, Scripture wants us to question the things they say. The Bereans, in the Bible, did just that. They challenged the words of an apostle! Imagine that. After Paul preached to the Bereans, they examined the Scriptures to see whether the things Paul preached to them were true. The Bible commended the Bereans calling them “noble-minded” (Acts 17:18).

 

If Scripture commended the Bereans for challenging the words of an apostle, then it would certainly commend us for questioning the words of the priests, bishops and the Pope. We are to compare their words with that of Scripture–just to make sure the things they say are true.

 

There are many things that were taught to me by the Pope, the priests, and even the nuns (when attending a parochial school) that went unchallenged but later proven wrong when I discovered truth in the Bible. For instance, I was taught that Mary was a perpetual Virgin, but the Bible says that Joseph kept Mary a virgin until she gave birth to Christ (Matthew 1:25). I was told that not only was Mary a virgin, but that Jesus didn’t have any brothers or sisters. Yet, the Bible reveals that Mary had other children, after the birth of Christ (Matthew 13:55,56). I was also taught that Mary was sinless, but the Bible shows us something different. Like all of us, Mary was a sinner (see Romans 3:23). She even acknowledged God as her Savior (Luke 1:46). If Mary was sinless she wouldn’t have acknowledged God as her Savior. Sinless people don’t need a Savior.

 

The words of men also told me that my salvation came through the Catholic church, the sacraments and my good works (despite these things, salvation was never guaranteed). Again, I discovered that these words were--and still are–wrong.

Jesus Himself proclaimed on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Christ completed the sacrifice needed to cleanse us of our sins. The sacraments and our good works cannot possibly do what Christ did on the cross for mankind (John 3:16). Again, “It is finished.” The Bible says that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone (Acts 16:30, 31; Ephesians 2:8-9) and that salvation is guaranteed to all who believe (1 John 5:11-13).

 

Committing My Life to Jesus

 

The young men at that Christian church were right. I was not a Christian. God says, “...unless you repent, you too will...perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). And that, “...whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord. But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:35-36).

 

God sends no one to hell. We send ourselves through unbelief and by refusing to turn to Jesus Christ and receive His free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). Despite our stubbornness, God loves us and desires that no one perish (John 3:16).

 

Responding to God’s wonderful Word, and coming face to face with my utter sinfulness and my need for Christ, I prayed--and did what many years of confessions never allowed me to do–REPENT to Jesus Christ. Realizing He’s the only One who can forgive my sins, I asked Jesus for His forgiveness, I thanked Him for His love, and for dying on the Cross as an atonement for my sins. I acknowledged Him for who He is–Lord and Savior. I then asked Jesus, on September 10, 1980, to come into my life.

 

Since that momentous day, Christ has been with me each day of my life, and will be with me to the very end (Matthew 28:20). I also have this assurance from God: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13).

 

My new relationship with Christ brought instant changes. I began to pray my own prayers rather than the prayers the church taught me. I came to discover, by praying to Jesus, that the living Lord not only hears me but lovingly answers my prayers as well. Obviously, as a result of communicating to the Lord who hears, I no longer prayed prayers to Mary and other saints (who do not hear).

  

During this time, I also began to read the Bible for myself. This may seem unremarkable, but the pre-Vatican II mind-set did not encourage lay people to read the Bible. That was left to the priest, who on Sunday morning would read perhaps a verse or a short paragraph of Scripture--not directly from the Bible, but from the Catholic missile that is distributed to Roman Catholic parishes worldwide.

 

There are no words to describe what it meant to read the Bible for myself for the very first time. I filled several journals just copying verse after verse of God’s wonderful and profound Word. During those days the Word of God became so alive (and still is!). It’s God’s love letter to us–how could we not want to read something sent to us from above? In one of God’s letters, a question arises: “What must I do to be saved?” The answer is, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31).

 

There are no other conditions for the salvation of mens souls other than believing by way of putting your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, rather than the words of men, the sacraments of the church, and your own good works.

 

It is by confessing to Jesus our sins, and committing our lives to Him that we become born-again and spiritual transformation begins to take place. Jesus said that we must become born-again to enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:7).

True Christians, as I discovered from the Bible, are born-again believers who no longer live for themselves, instead Christ lives in them (Galatians 2:20); and that in Jesus they "live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28). Because they are guided by Christ and His Spirit, it is absolutely impossible for the born-again believer to keep quiet about their living faith. As the Scriptures confirm, “we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). I hope this gives you a better idea as to why we just can't keep the good news of Jesus Christ to ourselves. We want you to have the same true blessings and joy that we have, along with the guarantee of eternal life. It's offered to you only through Jesus Christ. Why not embrace Him today? The Bible says, "it is time to seek the Lord" (Hosea 10:12) and "behold, now is THE DAY OF SALVATION" (2 Corinthians 6:2).

 

If you are without true living faith in Jesus Christ, and have questions, feel free to contact me at

donnamorley@faithandreasonforum.com.