God and I Welcome You

Mar 28th, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Here I come around the final bend of my long journey into the Catholic Church. I could not have imagined it ten years ago. Six years ago I would have found the proposition that my wife and I would become Catholic at the Easter Vigil mass of 2010 to be incredibly absurd. But God never ceases to surprise me.

Here is a charming little note a child prepared for a student of our RCIA program.

Dear Catechumen,

Hello. I am in the fith [sic] grade. I go to Our Lady Star of the Sea School. I think you will enjoy the Catholic Church. You will love Jesus. It is great being Catholic. You will love God with all your heart.

God will welcome everyone to the Church. He will forgive anyone no matter what. God loves everyone. God and I welcome you to the Church.

Sincerely,
[child’s name omitted]

I liked that last line in particular: God and I welcome you to the Church. There was something to this. This ‘fith’ grader, through her full communion with the Catholic Church, already has something I do not. This is so despite my 32 years in the Protestant tradition of Christianity. She was in a position, along with God, to welcome me to the Church that Christ founded.  I was so happy to have her welcome.

40 comments
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  1. Tom,

    Praise God!

    Daniel

  2. I don’t know how to keep from smiling while reading that letter! Tom, saints will be rejoicing in Heaven when you are confirmed. By the way, what’s your confirmation name?

  3. Tim,

    It is a marvelous piece of writing, in my opinion. As for confirmation, why St. Thomas More, of course. St. Columba was a very close second — that was a tough choice.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  4. Tom,

    Good choice! One of the things that people often forget is that St. Thomas More wrote beautiful theological/devotional material, including one on the Passion. And, shock of shocks, he was a layman at the time of the Reformation, proving that the Church did not then, nor now, prevent the laity from writing and reflecting on theology.

  5. Thanks for sharing this Tom. May God richly bless you and your family.

    “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
    Be my soul’s Defender, O God, for I step over many snares. Deliver me from them and save me, O Good One, in Thy love for men.
    Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
    Let us not silently hymn the most glorious Mother of God, holiest of holy Angels, but confess her with heart and mouth to be the Mother of God, for she truly bore God incarnate for us, and prays without ceasing for our souls.”
    – St. John Damascene

  6. Tom B. – awesome! The man I’m sponsoring in RCIA was deliberating about his new name for a long time. Suddenly it hit me that since he was in law school, he should choose St. Thomas More. So I went inside to call and tell him. He emailed me before I got a chance and told me that he had chosen St. Thomas More. Pretty cool.

  7. hey! let’s all share our confirmation names…
    Mine is: St. James the Brother of our Lord

    In Jesus through Mary,
    Steven

  8. Tom, this is so exciting. What a journey you have been on!

    That child’s letter is priceless: “from the mouths of children and infants” comes simple truth.

  9. The pope’s words on Passion Sunday seem to fit:

    Communion with Christ is being on a journey, a permanent ascent to the true height of our calling. Journeying together with Jesus is always at the same time a traveling together in the “we” of those who want to follow him. It brings us into this community. Because this journey to true life, to being men conformed to the model of the Son of God Jesus Christ is beyond our powers, this journeying is also always a state of being carried. We find ourselves, so to speak, in a “roped party” with Jesus Christ — together with him in the ascent to the heights of God. He pulls us and supports us. Letting oneself be part of a roped party is part of following Christ; we accept that we cannot do it on our own. The humble act of entering into the “we” of the Church is part of it — holding on to the roped party, the responsibility of communion, not letting go of the rope because of our bullheadedness and conceit.

    Humbly believing with the Church, like being bound together in a roped party ascending to God, is an essential condition for following Christ. Not acting as the owners of the Word of God, not chasing after a mistaken idea of emancipation — this is also part of being together in the roped party. The humility of “being-with” is essential to the ascent.

  10. Hey Tom,

    I’m excited for you, your wife, and all your boys. I’ll be praying for you Sunday…

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  11. My confirmation name was Polycarp.

  12. Congratulations, Tom!

    “Absurd”: that says it. There’s a certain poem I used to quote relishing the line, “his battered signature subscribes ‘No Pope’…”

    Now, by God’s grace, I carry our Holy Father’s prayer card with me, praying for his intentions, praising God for the Church–one, holy, and apostolic. Thank you for sharing this: we will certainly be praying for you and your wife this week, and celebrating with you on Easter!

    (My first Confession/Reconciliation fell, unplanned, on the Feast of St Augustine. That was one reason among others that I chose the name Augustine: Praised be Jesus Christ!)

  13. Welcome! I will also be joining tonight and am so excited I can hardly stand it!

  14. I was led to your site from Brian Cross’ blog. Congratulations and God bless you, your family and all who will be received into the Church at this blessed season. Venerable Cardinal Newman, please pray for all those on their journey of faith to the Church.

  15. Congratulations for your family!
    Please pray for us still on the journey.

    mel

  16. Tom, welcome into full communion with the Church. I joined in 2008 and have found something I never imagined possible. God and I welcome you, and God bless!

  17. Thank you all for the kind comments.

    I particularly want to say to Mel, “you bet.” It is a hard journey. I remember this old post I did, a couple of years ago, when I was really feeling torn apart. Please stay hopeful that through prayer the Lord will lead you to peace (for your emotions) and wisdom (for your intellect).

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  18. Congratulations Tom. This Easter season marked my fifth anniversary of my confirmation in the Catholic Church as a convert from a non-denominational evangelical background.

    My confirmation name is Ambrose – a special saint in my family’s history. I was also in grad school at the time and taking the name of the patron of learning seemed appropriate.

  19. Dear tom:
    Welcome home!
    it’s been almost 6 years since we made the journey and have never looked back! The grace continues to grow in your life as you become increasingly submitted to Him through the sacraments. Take advantage of frequent confession and daily Mass if possible. The sacraments are lifechanging. You will be surprised how much you change .
    God bless

  20. Tom,

    Like Paul, I also found you via Brian Cross’ blog; and since it’s been a topic, I’ll offer that my confirmation saint is St. Peter, although as a law student and St. Thomas More fan, I applaud your choice as well. God and I welcome you home.

    Joe.

  21. Welcome!
    It’s been four years for me, and I think I still surprise both Catholics and non-Catholics when I announced that I love confession or daily Mass, . . .and that I picked Rose as my confirmation name (O:

    God bless,
    D’art

  22. I’m reeling. First I learn that IMonk died, then I read that you became a Catholic. What a day! Please pray for me, Tom. I put my journey aside for the sake of my husband, but my heart still pulls in that direction. Feeling pretty mixed up. Congrats to you and your family! I’d be interested in how your wife was brought around.

  23. Tom,

    Thanks for the link to your blog post from the “trenches” in May 2008. I loved this gem from Anonymous’ comment following your post:

    …the angst gets worse the closer to the head of the line you get, depending on the tradition(s) you were raised in, of course. Just be prepared. There is a spirit that will stop at nothing to keep you from receiving the Eucharist.

    Blessings and peace to you and your family.

    KB

  24. Kim,

    We should keep Michael Spencer and his family in our prayers. Thank you for mentioning that.

    I pray for you through this difficult season in your life. Here’s my humble layman’s advice: if you’re *feeling* pretty mixed up, spend some time reflecting on and praying about the role of feelings in this whole process of discerning the truth. You can’t hide from truth for your husband, and he can’t mean in love to refuse your exploration of what might be truth. The trouble is when painful feelings make the truth seem too expensive to grasp, or even the possibility of the existence of truth in the Catholic camp seem too expensive to explore.

    You should also consider talking privately with a Catholic priest for some insight about your duties to God and your obligations to your husband. You might (I pray) by pleasantly surprised by the measured wisdom a priest can give you. Of course, you need to make sure you speak with an orthodox (faithful) priest. This was a big help to my wife, and at a different place and time, to me as well.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  25. Tom,

    How do you know if you are speaking with a faithful priest?

    Sincerely,
    Jason Stewart

  26. Tom wrote:

    Of course, you need to make sure you speak with an orthodox (faithful) priest.

    To follow up Jason’s question, what characteristics/belifes due the orthodox(faithful) have that other duly ordained priests do not?

    thanks

  27. Jason/Norm,

    It’s not easy for one who doesn’t know the Catholic faith to determine whether the priest is orthodox or not. The answer is whether or not the priest conforms to the magisterium. But in order to know whether he does or doesn’t, you’d have to have a good grasp on what the magisterium teaches.

    When I came into the Church, I was given a number of unorthodox answers (not by priests but by lay teachers of the RCIA program.) I didn’t know until later that those answers were not actually what the Church teaches. The same could be the case with a priest.

    My parish priests are orthodox in that they aim to be faithful to the magisterium but they are by no means theologians. So you could very easily get some unorthodox answers from them. I think the main thing is that the priest is a faithful Catholic – (i.e. not someone like Hans Kung). One easy way to tell whether or not they’re orthodox is to see if they agree with the Church on some of the most basic issues where everyone knows the magisterial teaching – homosexual marriage, contraception, abortion, women clergy, etc. If they’re unorthodox, they’ll be on the wrong end of most or all of those issues, and if they’re wrong on any of them, they’re unorthodox.

  28. Tim
    Thanks for the information. During the 26 years that I have attended the same parish we have had several priests and found each would emphasize different aspects of the faith and parts of the mass.

    To help my understanding, I am reading a recommended book named “Magisterium Teacher and Guardian of the Faith” by Cardinal Dulles. The book is very interesting and I have learned a lot.

    Norm

  29. Tim:

    As you and the other hosts of this blog know, I decided in college for Catholicism over Orthodoxy, after a long investigation while double-majoring in philosophy and religion. What I haven’t yet recounted is my struggle thereafter to find good, orthodox Catholic priests. It wasn’t easy, but I’ll spare everybody the details. That was, after all, the 1970s; every serious Catholic of my age can tell you stories about the Church then that alternate between the truly horrifying and the merely silly. What I will say, however, confirms what you imply: the litmus test for orthodoxy, then and now, has been the way a priest approaches the Church’s teaching on sexuality, marriage, and gender.

    It used to mystify me why that’s so. There are, after all, many other issues on which priests can, and sometimes are, suspect; for instance, schismatic traditionalists are a bit more numerous now than a generation ago. But the trads aside, one can never predict whether or how a priest will be heterodox on issues other than sexuality, marriage, and gender. What one can predict is that, if a priest is going to be heterodox at all, he is going to be heterodox on at least sexuality, marriage, and gender. That’s largely because it’s almost as fashionable and popular to be that way within the Church as it is in the world. But why?

    The answer, I’ve come to see, is depressingly simple: the Pill, and what the Church failed to do about it. The advent of cheap, widely available, and reliable contraception in the 1960s is what sparked the so-called “sexual revolution” that has led to the rapid degeneration of mores about sex and marriage. In his landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae (1968), Pope Paul VI predicted just such a degeneration. His doctrine was orthodox and irreformable. But not only did he fail to discipline clergy who dissented from it; his own spokesman said, at the press conference announcing HV’s publication, that the document was “not infallible.” In the context of the times, that caused most clergy, and therefore most laity, to conclude that its teaching could be ignored with spiritual impunity. The last two popes have gently reiterated the teaching and explained why it can’t be ignored with spiritual impunity. But only a minority are listening, even now.

    When I was an RCIA director for three years, the pastor I worked for was heterodox, but not openly so. He respected my intellect and integrity enough to let me teach what the Church teaches—the unpopular as well as the popular. But he saw no particular need to hold people to it. So of course, they eventually concluded they didn’t have to. This sort of thing, I am convinced, is the biggest problem in the Church today—even bigger than the sex-abuse-and-coverup scandal, about which I have written here. The only solution is holier and more faithful priest. Rome does what she can under the present pope, but Rome is far from omnipotent. There’s a long, long way to go.

    Best,
    Mike

  30. Tim:

    Thanks for responding. I appreciated your answer, and also the contribution Mike made to the discussion.

    With that said, doesn’t the Catholic situation as you describe it in # 27 essentially mirror the difficulties inherent in Protestantism that have been regularly criticized on this website? Given the reality of unfaithful guides within Catholicism, whether priests or otherwise, aren’t you as an individual Catholic ultimately cast back upon your own resources, knowledge and ability – along with others whom you personally judge to be faithful guides – to interpret the Magisterium’s teaching? Could you please help me to understand how this is fundamentally different than the “me and my Bible” or “me, my Bible, and my historic Confession” situation found in Protestantism?

  31. Jason (#30):

    Given the reality of unfaithful guides within Catholicism, whether priests or otherwise, aren’t you as an individual Catholic ultimately cast back upon your own resources, knowledge and ability – along with others whom you personally judge to be faithful guides – to interpret the Magisterium’s teaching? Could you please help me to understand how this is fundamentally different than the “me and my Bible” or “me, my Bible, and my historic Confession” situation found in Protestantism?

    We get asked that question every other week or so. We have all answered it. As my own reflection on the issue matures, I become able to give a more succinct answer. I shall do that here.

    The difference between the interpretive position of the Catholic vis-à-vis the Magisterium, and the Protestant vis-à-vis the Bible or whichever church they choose to belong to, arises from the fact that the Magisterium gradually develops and clarifies its own teaching over time and claims that its definitive teaching, being divinely preserved from error, is “irrreformable.” Its teaching is thus dynamic and developing; it is not a closed set of texts, nor is it a unitary “confession” that people may just interpret as they please. The Magisterium helps Catholics interpret itself, and it does so consistently as well as “authoritatively.” Hence, as questions arise about how to interpret magisterial texts, the questions are gradually answered: sometimes by the consensus of theologians faithful to the Magisterium, and where that is unavailable or unavailing, by the Magisterium itself. Thus a Catholic is not thrust on her own resources for interpreting all the sources that are normative: those of Scripture, liturgical and oral tradition, and the texts of the Magisterium. The sources are mutually supporting and interpreting, and the last is continually being expanded and refined for the purpose. Any Catholic who wants to understand what the definitive teaching of the Church is, as much as that can be understood, is able to understand it by utilizing sources available to anyone.

    Two things are are evident, however. First, many Catholics are unable to do that because they lack either the education or the leisure to do it; second, many Catholics who are able to do it are unwilling to let the Magisterium itself be their guide. Many in the first group do well just to have an attitude of docility toward what they do know as the teaching of the Church. But often, despite good intentions, they fall prey to heretical priests, religious, or theologians, who take advantage of their ignorance. Catholics thus led astray cannot be faulted; the responsibility lies with those who lead them astray. And those leaders belong in the second category: those who are able, but unwilling, to conform their minds to what the Magisterium teaches. Those people are Protestant de facto even when, for whatever reasons, they are not branded as such by their bishops.

    The saving difference is that the faithful Catholic priest, religious, or lay person can learn for themselves exactly how the Magisterium interprets not only Scripture and Tradition but itself over time. The documents are there for all to acquire and read, in as much or as little depth as is called for. Thus they can bypass guides who seem to be suspect and learn “straight from the horse’s mouth” exactly what the Church requires them to believe. The only question is whether they will then choose to believe what they learn. If they do, they are faithful Catholics; if they don’t, they are not in full communion with the Church, and thus are a sign of deception, not of truth.

    This is not to say that the task of interpretation is ever finished in the Church as a whole, or that all questions which remain matters of opinion will eventually be settled definitively. Since the subject matter of divine revelation is inexhaustible, the development of doctrine will not cease till the Second Coming. But the fact that interpretive development is open-ended does not mean that nothing is settled. Over time, more and more is settled. That some in the Church refuse to accept that doesn’t mean it isn’t so.

    Best,
    Mike

  32. Dear all,

    This Sunday, July 28th, I will enter full communion with the Church that Christ founded at an Opus Dei mass in the Boston area, 8:30 AM EST. It will be a delightfully sacramental morning: conditional baptism, general confession, confirmation, first communion. I thought I would have to wait to begin RCIA in the fall, but happily I was able to undergo catechesis privately with an overseer and a priest in Opus Dei. I cannot wait to enter the next year of college strengthened by the sacraments.

    I owe all the contributors on this site many thanks, as CtC contributed greatly to my persuasion of the truth of the Catholic faith when I began to investigate its claims earlier this year after having been raised in a non-Catholic evangelical family. God bless you all!

    Michael

  33. Hi Michael,

    Wonderful to hear! Welcome Home!!!

    Susan

  34. Dear Michael,

    I welcome you to the Catholic Church! I will pray for you as you receive the sacraments of initiation on Sunday. We are so touched by your note. God bless!

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  35. Michael,

    I welcome you too! I entered a year ago and have felt as if I have passed from the shadows to the reality. The depths of the faith never cease to amaze me. I think you will find , as Karl Adam states:

    …..the worship of the Church is not merely a filial remembrance of Christ, but a continual participation by visible mysterious signs in Jesus and His redemptive might, a refreshing touching of the hem of His garment, a liberating handling of His sacred Wounds. That is the deepest purpose of the liturgy, namely, to make the redeeming grace of Christ present, visible and fruitful as a sacred and potent reality that fills the whole life of the Christian.

    May God richly bless you, Kim D

  36. Michael (re 32),

    Thanks for sharing that good news. You will indeed be radiant with grace!

    Andrew

  37. Michael,

    Congratulations!! It’s amazing to hear how Jesus has been moving in your life! I just entered myself on Easter Vigil after growing up in Protestantism. It is a difficult journey but so, so worth it. I’ll be praying for you on Sunday. Praise God!

    In Christ,

    Christie

  38. I was received this morning under the name Michael Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney. Thank you all for your welcomes and your prayers. I was also enrolled into the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. :) What a wonderful morning!

  39. Michael,

    Glorious! Welcome Home.

    Now, pick up a broom, there is a lot of work to do around here!

    Ave Maria,

    Brent

  40. Michael,

    Welcome indeed! I will pray that our Patron Saint Michael will protect and guide you through life’s journey! He is a most powerful friend.

    All the very best!

    Michael J.

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