This week I'm sharing the heart of one of my closest friends, Jenna. Jenna and I have many mutual friends, but really connected at this year's Influence Conference and only live a short 6 hours from each other. She has a heart of gold and sincerely loves the Lord with all she's got. She founded Blessed is She, a daily devotional and community for Catholic women, (kind of like She Reads Truth, but with the Apocrypha!), and the community is growing at an incredible rate. She's incredible and I love her dearly and I know you will too.
How did you come to your faith?
I was raised Catholic --- let me back up --- I was raised to go to Church on Sundays and I was sent to a Catholic school. I didn’t pray at home or talk about having a personal relationship with Jesus. I was sent to youth group every Monday night, but at home was taught to be a good citizen and to have values and morals, but not that they related to the faith. Needless to say, I learned a lot from the actual Church, not so much my parents or family members. I had my own personal conversion at the age of 16, and the rest of kind of history. Of course, I struggled with my own sins like any teenager and college aged student, but I knew that I had a relationship with the Lord that would repair all of that. I knew that despite my personal struggles, I was loved.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced with your faith?
My biggest challenge that I’ve faced is the struggle with family and friends that don’t really understand me. They think that because I’m religious, I should act a certain way or be a certain way, and I say, “You don’t know me.” I can still be very much me AND have a deep and spiritual relationship with God the Father. I am loved, so despite anything that I say or do, or any sins that I struggle with (gossip, right speech, lying, etc.), I have a Father who redeems all of that. And people who don’t know the faith think that I’m a hypocrite -- when, really, we all are. I just admit it, every day. And despite my hypocrisy and struggles, I am a daughter of the King.
What does Ecumencial Friendship mean to you?
Ecumenical friendship is something that I’ve come to love and appreciate since my husband was in a Catholic band that toured with other Protestant artists. I grew to understand that we all aren’t trying to convert each other -- we all have the same goal -- Jesus! Heaven! Each one of us has something to add to the religious equation: we all have different life perspectives and religious perspectives. Praise Him. We all get to teach each other, every day.
Did you have any incorrect perceptions about what the Protestant church was like? What were they and what or who helped you see things differently?
I remember saying to my husband at a Protestant worship concert, “It makes me sad, that Protestants think that this worship is the culmination of their faith, that they don’t understand and get to experience the Eucharist like we do.” And he replied, “Praise God that this is their culmination. I only wish I could worship like they do.” DANG. He told me. And since then, I have an insane appreciation for the utter abandon and surrender that my Protestant brothers and sisters have to the Bible and to worship. It is an example that I look up to, daily.
If you could break down one stereotype about your church, whether Protestant or Catholic, what would it be?
I’m with Cassie, there are so many misconceptions about the Catholic Church. The stereotype that Catholics are boring or that the Mass is just repetitious babble really bothers me. It is literally Heaven on Earth! I know there are countless memes and jokes about Catholics and the teachings of the Church that make all sorts of incorrect claims about Mass or our thoughts on the Word or so much more, but I’m here to tell you: Our Most Holy Mass is FULL of Scripture! The whole thing is Scripture. It is truly beautiful, truly divine, and truly all-encompassing. It is where “heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss.” If you’d like to know more about that little nugget of truth, head over to your local bookstore and read Scott Hahn’s The Lamb’s Supper. It is straight-up gold.
If you could share one thing that you’ve learned about Protestants with other Catholics, what would you say?
Oh gosh, too many things! I look to Protestant’s example of reading Scripture, their example of worship, their example of trusting in the gifts of the Spirit, their example of living their faith out by their actions every single day. I truly appreciate the diversity of each and every person in the universal Church, and I humbly lay down my life at the service of it. Let’s all do that, for each other.
Do you want to be a part of the Ecumenical Friendships movement? Here are a few ways to participate in the movement :
Share your photos and stories of friendship and faith on instagram using the hashtag #ecumenicalfriendships. We'll pick a few stories to feature every month.
Email your answers to these 7 questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with a short bio and a headshot and I'll feature you in an upcoming Ecumenical Friendships blog post