What God Taught Me Through A Catholic Tour Guide (Updated)
By Jake Mueller Sept. 24, 2011
Being serious-minded about my Christian beliefs seemed to come natural for me since day one. Pleasing God was the most important goal in life. I had been on staff of a “Baptist” church for ten plus years which
allowed me to live out my beliefs on a daily basis. I have never felt that I had “arrived” as far as living out my faith, but deep down inside I felt that God was pleased with my progress. That is until the day I was asked to drive a group of our elderly church members on our church bus to a Catholic Monastery, the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament Our Lady of the Angels in Alabama!
As I pulled our bus onto the grounds of this oasis in a cornfield somewhere in the sticks of Alabama, I could not believe my eyes. First, was the medieval looking castle with turrets standing high against a clear blue sky. I squinted my eyes to see if there were any soldiers with crossbows standing guard at the turrets. Disappointedly, there were none. Next was the church building, large, beautiful, and spacious. The grounds were perfectly landscaped with colorful flowers and velvet green grass everywhere one looked. “How did all this get in the middle of an Alabama cornfield?” I wondered.
As our group walked up to the medieval looking castle, we all approached in unbelief at our surroundings. We considered our Baptist church and property to be “big”, but it was small in comparison to what our eyes were taking in. We entered the medieval castle and after several minutes we were ushered into a beautiful room off to the side to wait for our tour to begin.
Our tour guide entered the room and introduced himself as Jonathan. He seemed to be not much more than 18 or 19 years of age but before we could ask, he stated that he was a college student in his mid twenties. He was nice, confident, articulate, yet with a hint of shyness. He introduced our small group to two Catholic ladies from Florida that we be joining us for the tour.
We first entered a lifelike replica of a cave which opened up into a dark room which seem to have more candles than lights. A crystal clear, almost invisible sheet of glass separated our group from a beautiful Nativity scene. Jonathan turned and faced us and then said with quiet conviction, “Catholics believe in the incarnation of Christ, that God dwells with us, and the incarnation took place when Jesus was born.” As Jonathan turned to face the skillfully painted figures of the Nativity scene, I could not take my eyes off of him. I sensed something about him that turned my eyes into magnets fastened to his every move from that point on.
As we went from place to place, our tourist type questions were answered with patience, professionalism, along with kindness. But I noticed the two Catholic women from Florida were slowly distancing themselves from our group. I wondered why this was but it became obvious later on. We were curious about what we saw but they were inspired by what they saw. We were kindly interested while they were intensely enthralled. We were tourists out sightseeing, but they were pilgrims on a pilgrimage. The difference of our attitudes was only apparent to them. We unknowingly interfered with their spiritual experience. So for them, separation from our “Baptist” group was as serious as going to confession. And as if they had come across some secret hidden hallway, they were gone, not to be seen again, searching again for a meaningful spiritual experience.
We finally came to the “church” building. Jonathan told us that all Catholics, upon entering the church building, take time to kneel at a bench that was there for that purpose, before entering. He gently told us that we did not have to do this, but he asked that we please remain quiet and respectful of those who may be worshiping in the church. As he entered I watched as he knelt and looked toward the altar. As others in our group began to quietly walk about the beautiful church building which was furnished in kingly fashion. I watched as Jonathan walked up near the front and sat in a pew the whole while never taking his eyes off of the many relics and artifacts of his faith. The expression on his face could not be more sincere. The look in his eyes was amazing in that he had seen the inside of this church hundreds of times and yet it was like this was his very first time to gaze upon so many things that seemed to be stirring his emotions like never before. I had never seen such adoration in my life.
As I thought about what I was seeing, I began to be self righteously offended at Jonathan. With my spiritual chest sticking out as far as it could and my “holier than thou” nose protruding into the stratosphere, I thought to myself, “Doesn’t this guy realize that these things are statutes? Doesn’t he understand (like I do) that these are manmade figurines and relics? That is not really Jesus on the cross up there?” And then I proudly proclaimed within myself, “Jesus lives inside of believers, we take Jesus every where we go.”
It was at this moment when I began to experience a bit of a spiritual awakening. It was as if the Holy Spirit of God was speaking directly to my heart and said, “Jonathan knows that what he is looking at are statues, relics, and figurines. Jonathan is not so much looking at the statues as much as he is looking at the meaning behind the statues. And these meanings bring Jonathan to a place of great reverence for Me.”
That’s it! That is what I sensed about this Catholic tour guide early on. He is nothing but skin stretched over reverence for God. He is reverence for God personified! I have known many Catholics but I had never seen such reverence before. Then the Holy Spirit interrupted my findings and asked, “Do you ever reverence Me?” I began to examine my spiritual self. And it did not take long for conviction of my lack of reverence to come to the surface. Yes, as one who put faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, as one who was indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God and therefore took Jesus everywhere I went, I had to confess that I seldom ever reverenced the God who I said I loved. My spiritual chest was now completely deflated. My “holier than thou” nose dragged the ground. My eyes swelled with tears and my heart filled with shame, as my lips confessed my lack of reverence for God. I promised God right there, I would never look at any cross anywhere again without it bringing me to a place of reverence for His sacrifice. I promised God I would never look at a Nativity scene without if bring me to a place of reverence for His humility. I promised God I would never look at a sunset without it bringing me to a place of reverence of His creative powers.
As I drove our church bus away from the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament Our Lady of the Angels in Alabama that day, I drove away a changed man and a more mature Christian. As we headed for home and our “Baptist” church, the irony of this day set in and then turned into thankfulness for what God had taught me through a Catholic tour guide.