Also, I’m not blogging much right now thanks to a very busy, and thoughtful, semester. Too much information, and too rich, for me to formulate much in the way of blog posts at present! But I’ll get back to it whenever the present flood recedes enough….
So, here’s why I became a Catholic, unedited except for replacing the inquirer’s name with asterisks:
I have written some parts of my conversion story on my blog, such as how I first came to encounter Christ, and how my experience of Christ has changed during my journey from Evangelicalism to Catholicism.
In a nutshell, through a long period of study and reflection I simply became convinced that the Catholic Church really was founded by Jesus, grown from a small mustard seed into a mighty tree, as he promised it would. In studying Catholic doctrine, which formerly I had been told was “man-made” and had nothing to do with scripture, I found that it is actually more consistent with scripture than the Evangelical theology I had studied before. In fact, it is completely consistent with scripture – I still cannot find a single contradiction, when studied and understood at depth. And I have been a studious Catholic for nearly 10 years, and am now earning a master’s degree in theology.
In coming to the conclusion that the Catholic Church really was founded by Jesus himself, in person, I also realized that if I am truly serious about following him regardless of the cost, and really take everything the bible says seriously, like the parts about being one Body and not getting caught up in division and controversy (which is endless in the Protestant world, in my experience), then I must become a Catholic. My ancestors left Catholicism either by choice or by compulsion during the English Reformation (I don’t know which); regardless, I needed to reverse the break and come back into union with the original Church.
I also realized that if I really, really trust Christ, then I must trust his words that he founded the Church, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it – and so they never have. To say that the Catholic Church failed and some ordinary man had to come along and re-found Christianity is to say that Christ failed. That is the implication in what Protestants say – and Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and any number of other groups who claim to have “found” the truth that was “lost.” But Christ could not have failed – and he does keep his promises, and always has. I trust that. And history bears it out, if you study the history of the faith in the first 1500 years of Christianity. It did not die out, and there have always been men and women of very great faith in Christ, in every era.
I realized, in the end, that if I really believe that Christ is in control, then he also is in control of the Catholic Church, knows what he is doing there, and always has. Appearances to the contrary at different times in history, including our own present time, are due to a combination of human weakness and sin, and interference from the evil realm. These are prophesied in the bible, and the answer always given in the bible is to keep one’s eyes on Christ and remain as one, growing in knowledge of him. The bible does not give leaving and founding one’s own church as an option during difficult times – to do so is a direct contradiction of scripture. On the contrary, we are to stay put, keep our eyes on Christ, and refuse to get caught up in division and controversy. Our job is not to run the church or run away from the church, but to love the Church and each other in the Church, and Christ above all, as one, and stay put in the Church.
The Protestant Reformers were living during a difficult era of Church history, and came to their own conclusions about things, and did what they felt they had to do. I’ve also come to mine – and reversed what they did, because I became convinced that it is the better, more biblical course.
And the faith is not a static thing – it is eternally growing, deepening, unfolding, from a tiny mustard seed into an ever greater Tree, under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and will continue to do so until Christ comes again, and the whole creation, heaven and earth, are made new. And the more closely I follow the Church, the closer I come to Jesus himself, the more closely I am conformed to Him. Because the Church is Him; it is His Body, the expression, the on-going earthy incarnation of His Mind and Will and Love. It is very beautiful.
Not that it is always easy – Christ did tell us that to follow Him means we must take up the cross – but even difficulties, endured with patience and faith, cause us to grow ever closer to Christ, in union with the Church, his Body on earth. It is a spiritual battle, *****, and we must not let appearances fool us. The battle is for the salvation of souls, and the evil that wants to snatch souls away from Christ also wants to discredit and disfigure his Church as much as possible. But believe me when I say that it is only a superficial disfiguring. Christ was disfigured on the cross; the Church is disfigured on earth; but Christ remains, and lives, as does the Church. The truth is there, *****, and it shines when you find it. And it is Christ, who has already won the battle, and who will prevail. And our trust is in Him.
To me, Protestants who keep trying to found new, pure, churches based on “original” Christianity or the book of Acts are like people who don’t like the direction a tree is growing – and so chop it down, and start a new tree. Not to be overly harsh – they sense, rightly, that something is wrong, and are trying to fix it. And their faith is real, and saving.
But they miss the point, because they do not know it: there already is a Tree, the original Tree that’s been there all along, and there is a Master Pruner, and He prunes the Tree in His own time, in His own way, and so keeps the Tree healthy and growing in the direction He wants it to grow. Our own natural impatience makes us want to take matters into our own hands, and force things to be right, right now, rather than letting God truly be in control, and make things right according to His own way, in His own time (remember: with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day – 2 Pet 3:8).
Yes, some things about Catholicism may at first seem strange or unscriptural, but there are two reasons for that. First, lack of knowledge about the doctrine itself and what it really means (including lack of knowledge of the scriptural underpinnings). Second, the simple fact that most Protestants have spent their lives being told that certain doctrines or practices are unscriptural without ever examining them, and so believe they are, with a kind of (understandable, under the circumstances) knee-jerk “that’s not biblical!” reaction whenever they hear of certain Catholic beliefs or practices. In some extreme groups, they have even been told their whole lives that the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon and the Pope is the anti-Christ, so there is not only misunderstanding but actual fear of Catholicism (I had friends like that in my old Evangelical church), which makes it even harder to consider the truth.
There is also the simple fact that, whatever you think, Catholicism has been around, and growing, for 2,000 years. You simply can’t wrap your mind around it in a day or two, or a year or two. Or maybe even a decade or two. It is, in my opinion, the Mind and Life of Christ expressing and growing on earth, ever since he planted it here in his own flesh and watered it with his own blood, and continues to feed it with his own flesh and blood. And that is a great mystery, for it is the Mind and Life of our eternal, infinite God, whom the Church brings to us, and whom we enter into, and Who enters into us, endlessly, in the midst of the Church.
And it doesn’t really matter how well people understand it. We are like sheep – and sheep aren’t very smart, and do wander off and get lost, frequently. And Christ is our Shepherd – and he always comes and finds us again, and brings us back, and helps us to understand once again. He is in control, not us.
So, in sum, I converted because I became convinced that the Catholic Church is Jesus’ Church, the original Church that He founded while on earth. And I stay because I have since become convinced that it is not only His, it is Him, living and working, suffering and saving, through the Church on earth – and always has, throughout all of history. For me, knowing what I now know, to be true to the Church is to be true to Christ. To leave the Church is to leave Christ. But being true to Him, I touch Him and am united to Him more closely than in any other way possible, every time I receive Him in the Holy Eucharist.