How Protestantism and Catholicism Are Alike and Different

The differences between Protestantism and Catholicism first began to be shown to me when I was a few years from junior high. Suddenly, a lot of my friends were tied up in Catechism classes and were making preparations for their first communion and all I ever had to do was show up at church on Sunday morning. As an adult convert to Catholicism, I began to learn and understand more about the Catholic church, it’s teachings and how they differ from my Protestant upbringing.

The Bible

One of the most obvious differences to me was the use of and the form of the Bible. You generally won’t see Catholics carrying their Bibles into church. In fact, they may not even be reading them. While modern Catholics are doing more with their Bibles, they were originally printed in Latin. Not everyone could read them, nor were they encouraged to interpret the Bible themselves.

Protestants do Bible study and use their Bibles extensively during church services. In a Catholic church, you will be hearing readings that apply to the Liturgical calendar and as it was explained to me, there are set readings for every Sunday of the year and for the religious days. You can walk into any Catholic church and hear the same reading. And you won’t be reading it from your Bible, Catholic churches have missals that have the readings in them for the daily masses. The readings hit on certain scripture and books and never on others.

Catholic Bibles also contain more books than their Protestant counterparts. These are called Apocrypha. There has been much debate and dispute over whether these books belong in the Bible or not, but they remain.

Prayers

Upon my conversion to Catholicism, one of the first things I did was get a rosary. Protestants and Catholics alike pray, the manner is usually different. I was used to bowing my head and listening to the preacher pray and we all said our amen when he was done. One of the confusing things about attending a Catholic Mass is knowing what you are supposed to be doing. At first you think you have never sat, stood, kneeled, stood again, sat again, kneeled again as much ever. You get the picture, it is a lot of up and down.

There are places where the priest recites a his part and the congregation has a response to it. The Lord’s Prayer is pretty familiar to people of all denominations, but Catholics take it a bit farther with it’s inclusion in the rosary. The Rosary is a traditional Catholic devotion where you pray by repeating Our Fathers and Hail Marys. These are kept track of by running the beads through your hands as you say it. A Rosary is traditionally dedicated to a set of Mysteries that are said in sequence. These Mysteries pertain to events in the life of Jesus.

Being able to pray without having to keep track of the number of prayers by having the beaded rosary allows you to enter a meditative state where you can really focus on the Mysteries.

Sacraments

Sacraments are partaken of in both Protestant and Catholic churches. The Catholic Church has seven sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation (Confession), Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. Protestants generally consider only Baptism and Communion to be sacraments as directly instituted by Jesus. I once visited a Methodist church with my friend, and it was on the Sunday that they were having communion. I was welcomed to participate.

It wasn’t until years later that I learned that Protestants who take communion believe it to be symbolic of the body and blood of Christ, while Catholics believe that the host is transformed and you are actually partaking of the body and blood of Christ.

Inclusion

I could go on and on about the differences and similarities of Catholicism and Protestantism, but the final issue I am addressing is that of the inclusion of anyone in services and sacraments. I have been to many Protestant churches of different faiths and at all I have been welcomed and encouraged to take part in their services, classes, communion and events.

As someone coming into the Catholic church, you just can’t walk in off the street after coming from a Protestant upbringing and partake in the Holy Communion. Are they checking your Catholic membership card at the door? Of course not, but it is expected that Catholics will be Baptized and receiving your First Communion is a big deal. Then you are supposed to go to confession and do your penance. So, taking Communion on Sunday in a Catholic church is preceded by doing what Catholics are supposed to do traditionally.

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