Q - My boyfriend is Baptist and he has never really grown up w/ anyone who was Catholic. He didn’t grow up going to church, although he did know God; he was "saved" when he was a freshman in high school. He asked me if I had been saved and I said yes, when I was baptized...it didn’t seem to answer his question very well. I try very hard to explain to him why we do things the way we do...I’m not very good at it. It upsets me when I can’t get something across to him when I have been a Catholic and studied this faith all of my life. My parents really want him to convert, and I would love if he did too...(especially since he's not a very devout Baptist) ...my questions are: how and when was I saved? How do I explain our faith to him and convert him?
A – Thank you very much for your sincere questions! I can tell that you have a heart for God and your boyfriend. You should feel comforted in that. We all have limitations in our understanding of God, because if we didn’t then He wouldn’t be infinite! This is a good opportunity for you to learn more about your faith, so take advantage of it by continuing to study, read, discuss, and learn about your faith.
The first thing I will tackle is the question about salvation. It was hard for you to give your boyfriend a satisfactory answer (in his view) because you are speaking a different language. The way a Baptist defines and understands “salvation” is different in some ways than a Catholic would.
For most Baptists they understand Salvation to be something that happens at a particular moment in a person’s life. This moment of salvation is brought about by faith in Jesus Christ. Once the grace of salvation is accepted by an individual (most believe, though not all) that is cannot be lost. Thus, the door of heaven is open and the believer can now rest assured that they will be with Christ forever. This is the Evangelical Protestant belief of once-saved-always-saved. But, for a Catholic, this would be an incomplete understanding of salvation.
The Catholic Church teaches that salvation is a life-long process and the Bible also teaches it is a process (with many “moments”). In fact the Bible talks about salvation in the past, present and future tenses. For Instance:
- Eph. 2:5,8 - for by grace you have been saved through faith.
- 2 Tim. 1:9 - He saved us and called us through grace and not by virtue of our own works outside of His grace.
- Titus 3:5 - He saved us in virtue of His own mercy, and not by our deeds.Present
- 2 Cor. 2:15 - for we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved.
- Phil. 2:12 - we are working out our salvation through fear and trembling.
- 1 Peter 1:9 - you obtain the salvation of your souls as the outcome of your faith.Future
- Rom. 5:9-10 - since we are justified by His blood, we shall be saved.
- 2 Tim. 2:11-12 - if we endure, we shall also reign with Him.
- Acts 15:11 - we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus.
So, the past tense is speaking of the fact the Jesus won all the graces all of us would ever need when he died and rose from the dead. Of course, these graces do not come to us until we live our lives out and accept this grace through Baptism, faith and love - and so we have the present tense. Lastly, our salvation is only made complete when we enter into heaven.
So, to answer the question of “are you saved” the most Biblical of answers would be (if you have been baptized and are living a life in God’s grace) “I was saved when Christ died for me, I am being saved while I live my life in His grace, and I will be saved when I enter into heaven.”
Here are some additional helpful links.The next question centered on explaining the faith. This won’t be learned overnight. I once again suggest that you continue to study. There are great books that you can buy or check out here at St. Mary’s library. For a list of books I suggest, look here. You can also come to classes at St. Mary’s, come talk to me or another staff member or even start reading some great Catholic websites, like the ones above. But, be patient with yourself. You didn’t learn English overnight and learning about God and His Church is a life-long process. I am glad to see the desire to learn more.
Lastly, you asked how to “convert” him. This is a tricky subject. First of all, it isn’t our job to convert anyone. That is the work of the Holy Spirit, but we have to do our part through dialogue and example. Second, the closer a person is to us, the harder it is for them to listen to us. I would suggest that the two of you start to do some homework into the Church together (if he is willing) and that you continue to share with him what you learn about. Let the truth of God do its work. If it is God’s will that your boyfriend ever become Catholic, then trust that it will happen in its own time. Your job is to know your faith and then share it with others out of love.
Of course, your duty is to not only speak it, but live it. So, here are some practical ways you can help:
- -Frequent the Sacraments. You will find no greater source of strength and grace.
- -Pray frequently. Pray specifically for God’s will to be done in your boyfriend’s life.
- -Study, learn, discuss.
- -Offer to buy him resources (books, CDs, etc).
- -Invite him to Mass or other events here at church.
- -Work on any vices/sins/bad habits you may have.
- -Discuss whether he would be interested in attending RCIA classes and then go with him.