I have to admit that as a Protestant I have far more positive reasons for being a Protestant than actual protests. I guess that's a good thing. And, well, I do have a lot of protests for any number of Christian things. But to actually Protest well I've been learning about Catholicism in order to know what I'm actually protesting. It's been tremendous for my faith by causing me to challenge my own assumptions, to know what I believe and why I believe it.
Here are some resources I've been using learn about Catholicism, and my encouragement to other Protestant church leaders.
1. Attend Catholic Mass
It's too easy to talk about things we experienced long ago or have only heard about. Go experience it. See the devoted kneeling, note the art on the walls and ceiling, the candles lit around statues and paintings. Watch the Eucharist take prominence and ask yourself what the devoted are kneeling to. Let the story of the past 500 years of the Reformation meet you in a Catholic Mass and then see what you see. It was eye-opening for me. It was spirit-provoking. I brought my entire family once so we all could talk about it.
You can probably find a Saturday night Mass so as not to miss what your church is doing. Don't take the Eucharist (they don't want you to anyway). I stay seated as others take, and observe.
2. Join discussions or studies
I have joined two discussion groups at our Catholic church. They are 6-8 weeks in length so it's short term and very informative. At our local church they have an Understanding the Catholic Faith class that goes over basics and a Catholics Returning Home class for those who have left and are returning. I've gotten to know several folks at these classes, which is a great way to learn about Catholicism (as I say in #3 below). And the content of these classes have a been very informative for me. Why get what Catholics teach from a book when you can hear it from a Catholic?
3. Talk to Catholics & get to know a priest
When a Baptist pastor joins Catholic studies, you tend to raise eyebrows and get questions. It's a great thing. I'm on a first name basis with the local priest, a deacon, & other teachers including a CCD teacher who is now receiving me with a hug. I love these folks and love getting to know them. And they are probably my best resource for getting to know Catholicism. I'm learning what makes them tick, gives them hope, is the heart of their life of devotion and worship. I'm answering their questions, but asking more than answering. I let them know my religious background and ask about our differences. What do they see as real differences? Ask about their understanding of the Eucharist, Pope, Rosary, etc. Important stuff.
The local priest, Aaron, is a very friendly and knowledgeable guy. We are near the same age, which is a cool thing. We've already been talking about getting coffee and talking more one-on-one. He's also given me a CD about a Protestant pastor who became a Catholic, opening another door for discussion.
As with any faith you have those who are very devoted and those who are somewhat devoted or nominal. Getting to know all these folks helps you to get their faith as a whole.
4. Study stuff by Catholics
- Catholic Answers Live podcast - A call-in show with Catholic apologists & authors like Tim Staples & Jimmy Akin. I've found myself arguing aloud with these dudes, and after a while able to answer the callers' questions before the apologists do. Sharpens me through "battle" with ideas and explanations and Scirptures.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church - Vatican website (or buy the book). Where it's at, whatever it is, on Catholic teaching.
- CatholicsComeHome.org - Evangelization emphasis website. Tons of resources and pretty well organized.
- Catholic.com - Home of Catholic Answers podcast with other resources. Where I got Why Be Catholic, below.
- EWTN - TV. You've seen it. The entire Rosary with Mother Angelica. Listen to Fr. Corapi preach/teach. Kids shows. Find discussion shows with Scott Hahn or other thinkers. Helpful resource.
- WordOnFire.org & The Catholicism Project from Fr. Robert Barron (@FrRobertBarron) - One of the sharper Catholic thinkers I've found.
- Handbook for Today's Catholic - Got a copy free at local Catholic church.
- Why Be Catholic by Tim Staples - A 90 minute DVD of preaching/teaching to a Catholic (it seems) crowd. "Amen?" Sorry, inside joke. My review coming soon.
- The Lamb's Supper by Scott Hahn - Book by (maybe) the most respected former evangelical. Many other books by Hahn are sure to be excellent resources for Protestants learning about Catholicism.
- Why a Protestant Pastor Became Catholic by Scott Hahn - Audio testimony/teaching. Got a copy free from our local priest.
5. Study stuff by Protestants on Catholicism
- Holy Ground by Chris Castaldo (my review)
- The Roman Catholic Controversy by James White - A key resource for me.
- The Dividing Line podcast from James White - At times very argumentative, but always very helpful.
- Christianity's Dangerous Idea by Alister McGrath - I've read parts where applicable to what I'm studying. I like it.
Hope you find all this helpful. What resources or points am I missing from your experience?