Oh to Be Catholic

Jun 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Yesterday two Reformed Christians announced that they had decided to convert to the Catholic Church. It reminded me of my own conversion.

Becoming Catholic or in my case coming back home to the Church is so hard to explain to those who find such horror when they look in the face of the Church. They just do not get it, for whatever reason. For me being Catholic is so rich, so lively. I think of cannoli and ravioli, and red wine, laughter, piazzas, feast days, families (indeed large ones) all held together by the love of the living God made known in the face of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit.

Being Catholic is sitting in the family room, praying the Rosary, as your three year old hits his eleven year old brother or one child prays his decade a bit faster. It’s daily mass, sitting with the young and old, who have a simple faith. They really believe that God is there, yes, the Lord of the Universe is there.

It is the 24/7 365 Adoration Chapel, that is even scheduled with the faithful during the Easter Triduum, as men just getting off their shift — still in their work clothes — come to spend an hour before Him who holds all things together. It is the mom, with her six kids at home, who takes that precious hour, when she could go shop or grab some coffee, and sits at the feet of the Master, her Lord, much like Mary of old. It is the old couple, who can barely walk, with shriveled bodies, who come to have some time with the Lord. It is the man, who has buried three kids and then his wife, who in the midst of it all clings to his Lord. It is the mom who, after losing her daughter and then her son, finds consolation for her heart in the Virgin at the Cross who hears the words, “and a sword will pierce your soul.” It is the man watching his father die an agonizing death who sees in this suffering the sufferings of Christ, that nothing, not even the last moments, are wasted, but in some way through this, all things will be made new. It is witnessing the man receive for his last bit of food not the bread of this world, but the bread of the angels. Oh to be Catholic…

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  1. Are the two Reformed Protestant converts well known?

  2. Tom,

    This post resonates greatly with me. I’m not yet fully reconciled to the Church (still trying to arrange a time for Confession, which, with my being able from the Church for almost fifteen years, will need to take an hour or more), but in terms of my convictions and the desires of my heart, I am Catholic. What an unexpected road it was for me to even consider Catholicism in the first place! I was born and raised in a small town in Alabama, in a very nominally “Baptist” household, in a decidedly mono-cultural larger social milieu. Not exactly the most friendly territory for Catholics, I can assure you (EWTN being in Irondale, AL notwithstanding)!

    When I went away to college (still in Alabama), as an angry, basically atheistic, young man, I could not have imagined that God would use a conservative, practicing Catholic English professor to help in leading me to the Church. If my formal catechesis had been as helpful as that man was, I probably would have never *left* the Church. However, that’s an aside– my main point here is that, while I was raised in nominal Protestant Christianity in a very “white and Southern” environment, incredibly, God has led me, through many twists and turns, back Home to His Church– and it is a big WORLD, in all senses. Theologically, culturally, socially, ethnically, the Catholic Church is a world, within the world, but not of the world. I love it! I love her!

    I am glad for my “Deep Southern” upbringing, in many ways, but I was always curious about the larger country (outside the South) and the world. Some of my friends thought (and may still think!) that I am a bit “strange” for enjoying foreign films. (Yes, subtitles and all!) They have been a love of mine from my pre-Christian, pre-Catholic days. I am realizing, now, that one of the reasons I have loved European films for many, many years is that even some of the “secular” European filmmakers exhibit a strongly “Catholic” sensibility in their films. After a good long while now in Reformed churches, which can sometimes (not always) tend towards mono-culturalism of a sort, it is wonderful to be back in the Church in which one finds, to a remarkable degree, “every tongue, tribe, and nation.”

  3. Correction– I meant to write, in the second sentence, “with my being *away* from the Church for almost fifteen years”….

  4. I always feel a little sad for those who are NOT converts as they never know the Joy of the discovery and coming in. There is nothing as wonderful.

  5. Terry,

    I do know what you mean, but we converts will also never know the joy of a cradle-to-grave Catholic life– such that one has, perhaps, in a sense, never seen the world through anything but “Catholic eyes.” It is in that specific sense that I sometimes wonder what it must be like to be born and raised in a strongly Catholic country to practicing Catholic parents. I believe that it will take a long, long time for me to reach the faith and depth of spiritual understanding (if I ever get to that point in this life) of a faithful Catholic, born and raised in Italy or Mexico, or even here, born and raised in the U.S., but simply as part of a strong Catholic family. I am still striving to understand the Church, her teachings, and the hard-for-me-to-articulate “Catholic sensibility,” without the influence of my long-worn Protestant glasses.

    With that said, God has His reasons for where we are each placed, in our lives, and in the larger world, and trusting His plan, I am still very happy to be a Catholic convert (or soon-to-be reconciled Catholic)!

  6. Douglas – the two converts he mentioned are Christopher Lake and David Meyer and they’re at least well known around CTC.

  7. Thanks for that Tom!

    I can’t wait to dive in.

    I am what you would call uber unknown. Which has been easier for me than others with more at stake. I am corresponding with someone whose job is on the line if he converts. I have a lot of respect for that kind of courage. For me, being a nobody makes it easier.

    Thanks for all the kindness shown and the prayers. Thank God for Called to Communion as well!
    (You guys need to get Michael Liccione on the list of contributors btw. He is awsome.)
    If any Reformed people are interested in reading my letter to my PCA church, it is here:
    http://newchristendom.blogspot.com/2010/06/letter-to-gspcpca.html
    It is to anyone who feels they want to better understand my family’s reasons for this change.

    Peace,

    David Meyer

  8. Terry,

    But he said to him: Son, thou art always with me, and all I have is thine. But it was fit that we should make merry and be glad, for this thy brother was dead and is come to life again; he was lost, and is found.

    I think hearing those words from the father are just as much a cause for ultimate bliss as the feast experienced by the brother who returns to the sheepfold. I understand what you are saying, though. I wouldn’t trade my discernment process and, ultimately, my entering into full communion with the Church for anything. On the other hand, I think that the experience of the one who has always been in the sheepfold is something to marvel at (in fact, I am sometimes a bit envious of those who have… but not in a bad way).

  9. I am a descendant of William Bradford (Mayflower and all that jazz). (I could be in the Mayflower society if I fork out a bunch of cash.) I have no doubt he thought he was doing God’s work as a Protestant. My prayer is that this move of my family will be the beginning of generations that come back to the church. It has been so long it seems impossible, but if we think generationally and train our children to train their children… then the church can enjoy full unity in 1 or 2 generations. I hope Bradford is smiling down on me. Can’t wait to talk to him about all this.

    -David M.

  10. Dear David,

    I just read the open letter you’ve written and posted on your personal blog. Since I’m more or less (mostly more) an idiot, I couldn’t successfully post a comment on your blog. So here’s what I wanted to say:

    Will be in prayer for you and your family, especially that the Lord will provide for you a parish where you can set down roots and start living the day-in-day-out life of the faithful Catholic. It’s a wonderful thing, that, and it makes the pains of transition easier to handle with grace. All my encouragement and well wishes are with you.

    With respect,

    Neal

    PS: Look forward to your first confession! You’ll likely feel like you’re walking on air for the week to follow.

  11. David,

    Since I’m an idiot and can’t even seem to find your personal blog (I did find your letter on Francis Beckwith’s blog though), I want to offer my joyous congratulations here! :-)

    My brother in Christ, leaving the Reformed Baptist (and more recently, the non-denominational Calvinistic Bible church) world is hard and painful for me, and I can’t imagine that leaving the CREC is any easier for you. I don’t even know yet how many friendships I may be seriously damaging or losing. I anticipate a good bit of pain.

    However, you and I can both take comfort in the following: with all that we may have lost, we have gained (re-gained, for me) the One Church, which Christ Himself founded, which has the apostolic authority to teach and to lead us through the rest of our lives– and which has the same apostolic authority to teach and lead your wife and children (I’m still hoping and praying in that area, as a single man!). We have gained the fellowship and prayers of Our Lady, who I hardly knew at all as a Protestant. We have gained the communion of saints, in here, in Purgatory, and in Heaven, not as a little-understood (for me at least) line in a creed, but as a living daily reality of our everyday lives. We can pray to God, ask our friends here on earth to pray for us, *and* ask Mary, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Sienna, and all of the others saints (lower and upper-case “S”) to pray for us! :-)

    What GIFTS we have been given, my brother! I rejoice with you this evening, and welcome Home!!! :-)

  12. David,

    I should have written this above, but along with so many other people here, I will be praying for you as you make this move. Please keep me in your prayers.

    Your brother in Christ, on this same road,
    Christopher

  13. Wow, I’m even more of an idiot than I thought! :-) (It’s good for my humility though.) I somehow completely overlooked the link to David’s blog in his earlier comment! Lord, help me to look more closely, and read more carefully!

  14. Thanks for that Christopher!

    I know what you mean about the Saints. Once the “seal was broken” for me as far as my mind being convinced of the authority of the Church, the Saints were, to my surprise, what I found most quickly changing my devotional life and my conception of heaven etc. That was the last thing I would have thought would happen! My family actually went through a personal tragedy a week after Easter, and I was so consoled by the reality of the communion of saints, and also by the Catholic idea of our sufferings being offered as a participation in Christ’s sufferings. I feel like a kid in a candy store, all these glorious doctrines I am learing about!

    Peace,

    David M.

  15. David,

    Mostly a lurker here, but I wanted to step out of the shadows to congratulate you and offer you my prayers as you take the very scary step out of the world you have known into a world that is foreign and mysterious. I know the feeling, because I was just received into the Church this past Easter. I have been extremely blessed to have strong Christian family and friends who, even if they do not understand why I have done this, nevertheless still love me and accept me – I pray the same for you and that God will lead you to a parish where you will find new friends that will support you on your journey.

    Jumping off of Neil’s comment #10, the emotional high for me was not after my first confession, it was just before I went forward to receive my first Communion. Long story short, through my whole time in RCIA I had this almost subconscious fear of the Eucharist, which only heightened during the Holy Thursday and Good Friday liturgies as I thought about the broken Body and shed Blood of my Savior being held there not 10 feet from me, in one instance. So as I’m waiting to get in line for Communion at the Easter Vigil, I’m pretty scared, when all of a sudden a verse from the second reading of the Good Friday liturgy came into my head: the reading was from Hebrews, and it said, “Let us approach with confidence the throne of grace”. All of a sudden, I had the confidence to go up and receive the Body and Blood of my Lord inside me, and as soon as I did it was all joy. My confirmation name is John Paul, so I like to think that he gave me one last call of “Do not be afraid!” when I was hesitating at the very last moment.

    - Steven

  16. Additional congratulations from another Class of 2010 convert. I have to say that as much as I built up my first confession and first communion, they weren’t quite the emotional high I expected. Too much anticipation, probably…

    However, the first few months as a Catholic have been simply otherworldly. All I can say is that I’ve never known the peace and grace of God quite like I have experienced it since Easter. I never had what I would call a “prayer life” as a Protestant. It was very on-again/off-again, with little focus. However, I feel like I just can’t pray enough at this point. As a Catholic, I feel so powerful in prayer.

    Also, as far as the communion of saints (or rather prayers to the saints), that was one of those things that, early on, I accepted with enthusiasm. It seemed so biblical and reasonable, I felt like a knucklehead for denying it for so long. What a blessing it is to have such a family, all of those champions of the faith urging you on to the finish line and there to assist you with their powerful prayers. Just wait until the Litany of the Saints at the Easter Vigil. It will give you chills.

    There are difficulties to be sure. It has certainly been a stumbling block for many of my closest relationships, but there is also this incredible peace and “holy anticipation” that comes with it as well. What will God do next?

    The Catholic faith has restored for me the joy (and wonder!) of my salvation. It is ocean-sized in every dimension.

    You can both be assured of my prayers.

  17. Oh to be catholic! I want to be now but I cant because of the job. I have decided but have to work with the job situation, being in a poor estern european country. I am fully convinced about the claims of RCC, and especially instrumental has been Saint Francis De Sale’s The Catholic Controversy.

  18. And I am the one refered in the comment 7 by David Meyer

  19. Thank you for the prayers, Ivan! Your comment is wonderfully encouraging!

  20. Andy,

    Be assured of our prayers.

  21. Thanks, Ivan. I’m going to google “litany of the saints” right now. Sounds awsome.

    If there are any Catholic philanthropists or businessmen that read this site, please get in touch with Andy and get him a Job so he can convert! That is all that is holding him back. He is in a tough spot! I am still praying for you every day Andy, wish I could help in a more temporal way.

  22. I’m praying for you too, Andy. Don’t lose heart, my brother. God can make a way for your formal conversion (or reconciliation, to be most accurate) to the Church.

  23. Last year I posted a bit on on the convert/ cradlecat thing from a cradlecat’s view:

    http://platytera.blogspot.com/2009/09/betrothed-at-birth.html

  24. I just want to share with the brothers here who have played a *crucial, crucial* role in my returning to the Church, that after weeks of earnestly trying to arrange it, I have been able to meet for Confession with the same wonderful, older priest whom I met with three weeks ago. He patiently listened to me and counseled me for about two hours (*very* patient man!) as I confessed the sins of well over a decade away from the Church, and he gave my absolution and my penance (now completed), which was so meaningful, especially in light of not having had them for such a long time.

    Transportation is in the works for me to be able to regularly attend Sunday Mass, and whenever possible, Daily Mass, at Our Lady of the Annunciation Parish here in New Mexico. Brothers, I’m as light as a feather and joyful in the hands of God. I can’t wait to take the Body and Blood! Thank you again for all of the good work that you do here, and for how it has helped me, personally! Oh to be Catholic indeed!

  25. Christopher, (re: #24)

    Thanks so much for the update. We rejoice with you!

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  26. Christopher,

    Praise be to Almighty God for His Paternal love manifested to you through His Son Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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