I was not leaving my lifelong church tradition. That was already gone. I was leaving what it became and where it was going. I had not resigned, quit, made some sort of protest statement, stamped my feet, or pounded my fist on a table – but in my heart I was no longer there.
It is still sad, but leaving and being unconnected can also be empowering. To remove the chains of self-identity we place on ourselves gives us the opportunity to make adult, reasoned and informed decisions. A chance to take stock and ask hard questions, even uncomfortable questions, with eyes wide open. Questions like “who am I?”, “what do I believe?” and “what have I been missing?.”
I made lists… what I want in a church… what my options were… how close of a match to my beliefs. If churches were engaged in internal liberal vs. conservative schisms, which side was in my area. That sort of analysis.
It didn’t take long to come up with a short list. One-by-one I eliminated candidates for one reason or another. Some had theologies too foreign to my faith. Some were zooming down the same liberal road my church was on. Some were just not in my area. Not all great reasons but that was my flawed process. It left me with one viable “candidate” – the Catholic Church.
I say candidate because I was by no means sure. Compared to many converts, my flavor of Protestantism was comparably close theologically. I probably knew more about Catholicism than most Protestants. Many friends and others very close to me are Catholic. I respected them and their evangelism by example.
That said, I was not Catholic and had no intention of ever becoming Catholic. Ever. There are many things I considered to be issues, such as an infallible Pope and a rigid hierarchy. Priests not allowed to marry. 2,000 years of history and not all of it something to brag about. Prayers I didn’t know and changes to those I did. Strangeness like statues, a preference for a crucifix vs. the empty cross of our risen Lord, an obsessive focus on Mary, genuflecting and making the sign of the cross. Those people even have additional books in their Bibles! Really, I could go on and on (and probably will in future posts).
As improbable and surprising as it was to me, the Holy Spirit led me here anyway. I prayed for an open mind and an open heart. That prayer was answered and my Protestant prejudices were put aside. I spent hundreds of hours (probably more) “researching,” finding out what Catholics really believe, addressing every “issue” one-by-one.
Wow. Really, wow! I had no idea just how mistaken I was. Some things I thought were issues were just misconceptions. Some are in reality huge strengths. The more I dug, the more I learned, the more impressed I became. There will probably always be items on my “to be explored” list, but a funny thing happens. After a while, after reading the catechism, after researching and studying topic after topic, after seeing how logical and faithful the Church is, after changing your long-held position on this and that – you begin to give the Church the benefit of any doubt. This is a part of what Catholics call “conversion” – not a label, not what you proclaim, but of heart.
There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen, 1938
Reflecting back now I see my whole approach was wrong. I was shopping for a church that fit my beliefs. Fairly arrogant, is it not? I should have started at the source and followed where His teaching led. It’s really pretty obvious.
This blog is about one Journey and what was learned and continues to be learned along the way. For those looking for the bottom line: the Catholic Church is not another Christian denomination. It is the Church Jesus founded. It teaches the deposit of faith He taught. Its organization was planned by Jesus and has a mission to preserve and teach that faith – not evolve it to fit society’s ever changing frailties. The Catholic Church has an amazing depth and fullness of tradition developed over 2,000 years yet is an unchanged faith as taught directly by our Lord. This is His Church; it is the truth and the way.
Intrigued? Want to know more right now? Have 5 minutes? View the video at CatholicsComeHome.org.
This is my Conversion Story, part 2 of 4. Please also see: