Have you ever stopped and wondered about the names of things? I especially wonder about cities and mountains. Albuquerque, for example, was named after Francisco, Duke of Albuquerque, a Spanish Viceroy from Spain in 1653. The original Albuquerque, of which Francisco was Duke, was a town in Spain near the Portugal border. In the early 1600s, New Mexico was nothing more than a vast wilderness that the Spaniards were eager to explore for two reasons: finding gold and preaching the gospel to the native people. Consequently, New Mexico is filled with very Catholic-sounding Spanish names. For example, the Sangre De Christo Mountains translate to “Blood of Christ,” and the city of Santa Fe is named after St. Francis of Assisi: the early pioneer of Catholic missionary efforts in the region. The missionaries were quite successful here in New Mexico, and can claim to have created and sustained a Catholic community older than that of Jamestown or Plymouth. In fact, the oldest church structure originally built in the continental United States is the San Miguel Mission in Santa Fe.
New Mexico is steeped in Catholic tradition and heritage. Today, 28.5% of New Mexicans are Catholic. Many members of North Church were raised Catholic, or have family who are still. I was raised in a Protestant home, but I’ll never forget my grandfather’s funeral when I was 13, when I sat there for what seemed like an eternity wondering why everyone was praying to Mary. The more I asked questions about Catholicism to my dad, the more confused I got. Why are the saints so important? What’s purgatory? There’s a book of Maccabees? Wait, TWO books of Maccabees? Priests can’t get married? What’s a mortal sin? Why do some of my friends come to school sometimes with ash on their foreheads? Transubstanti—what??
It got to the point in high school where I gave up trying to understand. Clearly there was way too much about this religion to worry about, because in my mind no way would God require all that of me to follow Him. But I was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I am now a member of a church intent on bring the Gospel to Spain, which seems a bit ironic, seeing how it was Spain who first brought it to us. When “neighbors and nations” is referred to, it is clear that Roman Catholicism permeates both realms. In order to bring the gospel to either, we as a church need to comprehend the predominant belief system already in place.
Deacon Greg Bump knows a thing or two about Roman Catholicism, and has prepared a fantastic summary of the history of the church, along with its doctrine and teachings. The class will be tonight, Wednesday, July 27th at 6:30 pm. You will come away from this class with a greater understanding of the backdrop of the Reformation, and answers to any questions you may have. Next week we will hear from people who were in the Catholic Church and have special insights into the differences between Protestants and Catholics. Bring friends and community groups! If you or someone you know has spent a significant amount of time in the Roman Catholic Church, we would love to chat with you. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Pastor Bob Paulsen at email@example.com.