Why I’m Becoming Catholic – The Holy Grail

It’s been an exhausting but happy week. We wrapped principal photography on The FellowsHip: Rise of the Gamers, though we have a couple days of pick-up shots this Friday and Saturday. I also received an e-mail informing me my visa was issued yesterday, which is a load off my mind, as it took longer than expected and I was worried I had been rejected for some reason and wouldn’t be able to leave on time. I leave for England on Sunday, barring any further pick-ups. I should arrive at the Kilns next Monday morning, Lord willing.

It’s time now to return to my series on why I’m becoming Catholic. I’ve finally run into some close family friends who are not too keen on my decision, grilling me on the Catholic worship of Mary (she’s not worshipped, she’s venerated – worship is reserved for God), Catholic belief in “earning” one’s way to Heaven through works (rejected by the Church early in its history as the Pelagian heresy), and Catholic focus on extra-Biblical practices and beliefs (the Church put together the Bible, and even the Pope is subject to the authority of Christ and the first Apostles – not to mention that sola Scriptura is itself an extra-Biblical doctrine).

I admit that I still have much to learn about Catholic doctrine and spiritual practices, and thus I don’t yet have the most robust answers to my challengers. But there is one important reason why I am pledging allegiance to Rome:

The Catholic Church has the Holy Grail.

No, I’m not about to write about some conspiracy theory involving the Templars or the Merovingian line. Rather, I realized that everything I love about King Arthur and the Quest for the Grail – the greatest legend of Western Christendom – can be found in the Catholic Church. When I participate in the Eucharist, even as a witness (since I have not yet been received into the Church), I participate in the reality behind the story that stirs the deepest longings of my heart. At the moment of consecration, the wine in the chalice becomes the very Blood of Christ, and thus the chalice itself becomes the figure of the Grail, the Holy Cup that holds the Blood of our Lord.

I think sometimes, in order to fully understand the rituals in which we participate in the “real world,” we need to enter into them through the side-route of the imagination. One example related to Lewis is the letter he received from Philinda Krieg, whose son Laurence, after reading The Chronicles of Narnia, was concerned that he loved Aslan more than Jesus. Lewis responded by saying:

…Laurence can’t really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that’s what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before. Of course there is one thing Aslan has that Jesus has not – I mean, the body of a lion. […]

Now if Laurence is bothered because he finds the lion-body seems nicer to him than the man-body, I don’t think he need be bothered at all. God knows all about the way a little boy’s imagination works (He made it, after all) and knows that at a certain age the idea of talking and friendly animals is very attractive. So I don’t think He minds if Laurence likes the Lion-body. And anyway, Laurence will find as he grows older, that feeling (liking the lion-body better) will die away of itself, without his taking any trouble about it. So he needn’t bother.

3/ If I were Laurence I’d just say in my prayers something like this: ‘Dear God, if the things I’ve been thinking and feeling about those books are things You don’t like and are bad for me, please take away those feelings and thoughts. But if they are not bad, then please stop me from worrying about them. And help me every day to love you more in the way that really matters far more than any feelings or imaginations, by doing what you want and growing more like you.’ That is the sort of thing I think Laurence should say for himself; but it would be kind and Christian-like if he then added, ‘And if Mr. Lewis has worried any other children by his books or done them any harm, then please forgive him and help him never to do it again.’

The full text of this letter can be found in Volume 3 of The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper. I’ve quoted most of it here, but the entire book (in all three volumes) is worth buying and keeping handy on your shelf, as it’s full of joys like this letter, in which Lewis’ love for his readers, especially the young ones, shines through.

Just as Laurence was learning to love Jesus through the imaginary figure of Aslan, I learned to love Christ through the figures of King Arthur and Aragorn (the good king), the Bishop of Digne in Les Misérables (the merciful priest), and numerous “suffering servant” figures in literature, film, and T.V. (like Frodo and Jean Valjean). For me, the painted pictures of Jesus on the walls at Sunday School didn’t become fully real until I saw flashes of Him in stories, and was able to realize that all that I loved in Camelot, in Middle-Earth, and in Hugo’s novel was completed and had its source in the Kingdom of God.

This sense of story being wrapped up in history was begun for me around the time I read G.K. Chesterton‘s The Everlasting Man, and came to its fruition in terms of my relationship with the Roman Catholic Church when I read Charles WilliamsTaliessin through Logres and Region of the Summer Stars.

Next up: Taliessin.

Read part 1, part 2, and part 3 of this series on my journey to the Catholic Church.

ETA: As always, if you decide to get your own copy of one of the books mentioned above, please do so through the C.S. Lewis Foundation’s online bookstore, powered by Amazon. Doing so helps support the work of the Foundation, including holding study programs, founding C.S. Lewis College, and maintaining Lewis’ home, the Kilns.

7 thoughts on “Why I’m Becoming Catholic – The Holy Grail

  1. “I realized that everything I love about King Arthur and the Quest for the Grail – the greatest legend of Western Christendom – can be found in the Catholic Church. When I participate in the Eucharist…I participate in the reality behind the story that stirs the deepest longings of my heart. At the moment of consecration, the wine in the chalice becomes the very Blood of Christ, and thus the chalice itself becomes the figure of the Grail, the Holy Cup that holds the Blood of our Lord.”

    Wonder-ful Truth.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I’m glad we’ve had the same experience at Communion, and have the same view about faith and works – it’s not “either/or,” it’s “both-and.”

    We should talk theology more.

  3. Fun read. Nice to see the richness of thought.

    I’m Protestant and when I observe communion I find the bread and juice (grape, of course) to be transmuted. They are for me conveyors of grace. I often feel a sense of relief from multitude tensions and a closeness to others around me and elsewhere.

    Faith by works, works by faith: Paul sought to reduce the man-wrought distinction/dichotomy (cf. Galations throughout). All divisions/partitions of this nature, engendered/upheld by the artifice of “Law”, are dissolved/washed away by the Blood, by grace. The whole creation was re-wrought, like Aragorn’s sword, by His sacrifice and the fey/faith in Christ.

    [“Fun” for me is intellectual twinkle, if “fun” in my first line was misconstrued.]
    DOM

  4. I am happy to see you so passionate about your personal quest. As you and I both know, Tolkien helped Lewis on his quest. You have chosen excellent company with your reading. But you know how I feel about Lewis and Tolkien. God bless.

  5. Dear CCE,

    I am a convert also, and you should be able to click on my name and find my blog to read my story of my conversion if you would like. Also there you will find a book on miracles from another web site which you may be interested in.

    Anyhow, I have never regretted one day of my life, being a Catholic. The reason for that is, to me it is the fullness and beauty of God, plain and simple. It is everything of how He wants to be worshiped.

    If I may recommend a book to you that will help you explain everything you need to know, A Father Who Keeps His Promises by Scott Hahn. In fact I have every book he has written and bought them when I was coming into the Church. He teaches you how to defend your faith, Mary, the Eucharist, everything. He was a minister set out on destroying the Catholic Church and her beliefs, ended up converting. His story on this is Rome Sweet Home. In most of his books he takes you from Genesis to Revelations and the whole Bible begins to come together for you and why we do what we do. Highly recommend any of his books.

    As far as the “work” issue, yes we believe our works do count as in James it says, “Our faith without works is dead.” Also in 1Cor. 3:15 we see where our works will be judged, tried by fire. Work is a fruit of our faith for sure, but they do count or they would not be judged. Another thing regarding works as you will get asked this a whole lot. Paul was speaking of works under the law not counting, where James is speaking of works under grace. People tend to miss that point.

    If you have any questions or need help please feel free to ask. I may not know all the answers but I know many who do. I have done nothing for six years but study our Church. My address is:
    http://godforgivesusall.wordpress.com

    The main thing you are going to have is of course Mary, and if you read my post on how I came into the Church I have a lot of answers regarding her for you if you need them.

    Again, go to Scott Hahn, God has really graced him with a gift. The Lambs Supper is another awesome Book, and Hail Holy Queen.

    Wishing you the best of luck and offering any help I can be when you get stumped. Trust me I got stumped a lot:>)

    God Bless, Sandy

  6. With regard to ‘earning one’s way to heaven’: Catholics believe that one needs both works and faith in order to be justified. For as St Paul says:

    Romans 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

    Believing alone is not enough, but we also need to love God and neighbour in order to go to heaven. A person who believes but who does not repent of his sins, cannot be justified no matter how strongly he believes. For as Jesus says:

    Matthew 7:21-23 “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’

    There’s a great wealth of culture within the church waiting to be discovered. I try to reproduce this to some extent in the stuff I write (see link). The meaning of our existence and ultimate questions of human life cannot be answered by anything under the sun, except in Jesus Christ.

    Best wishes for your conversion and God Bless,

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