Then somewhere on my journey, some things just did not add up right. I was confused and challenged by the different "truths" that were being taught. One of my greatest hurdles was the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America). The teaching of John Calvin from the post reformation period really challenged my faith. The predestination theology was a big influence in my journey to discover the history of the church. Up to then in my Christian walk, I was living in the now and never realized the church of Jesus Christ had 2,000 years of history. The PCA encouraged me to read about the reformation and how Luther, Calvin and John Wesley changed the course of history concerning the church of Jesus Christ. Still, after I read Calvin's theology it was not balanced with the totality of the Bible. It confused me even more and if we were predestined, then why should I even pray? I also got a lot of negative opinions about the Catholic faith during this time of searching. Always hearing about the bad history and not realizing the Catholic Faith had a 2,000 year old history compared to a 500 year history of most main stream Protestant churches, I needed to discover its humble beginning with Jesus as the Foundation and His Apostles being commissioned by Him as the builders. How did the building of this faith start? Who was in charge? What was the theology of the early church? Did it have a theology? I knew the New Testament was not available for more than 300 years into the church history. How was the faith taught and who was teaching it after the Apostles died? With no New Testament Bible how did the church keep this Christian faith from heresies? How do I find these answers to all my questions?
My Uncle and Aunt journeyed into the Catholic Faith in the early 90's. They shared with me their journey from time to time, not to convert, but just to share what they were experiencing. Rives and Penny attended many "Life in the Spirit" retreats and even traveled to the Holy Lands with a Catholic group. They always came back from each event full, complete and with a joy for this new found spiritual experience. They invited me to several Catholic Charismatic Conventions during the 90's and I enjoyed them, but I was not Catholic and really did not desire to be one. They would on occasion hear a good teaching on tape, such as Scott Hahn, and sent it to me to hear. "That was nice," I would always reply.
I love music and "worship music" is my favorite. In the mid 90's I ordered a Christian CD by John Michael Talbot, not knowing anything about him. I loved it. I bought more of his CD's and begin to learn he was Catholic; hummmm. In my journey there have been times that the music of John Michael Talbot was my only source of worship. I realize now the words he sang were historical to the church teaching and the faith of my Lord. The Holy Spirit would always comfort my soul with the prayers and truth John Michael composed in his music.
In 2004 my husband's job relocated our family to Magnolia, AR; the heart of the "Bible Belt" where there is a Baptist Church on every corner. Our move was a new start in a new town and just maybe we could finally find a church. We started visiting all the churches in our area that we could relate to; Non-denominational, Baptist, Assembly of God and etc. We visited most, all except the Catholic Church which was still not an option. Two years came and went and we still could not claim a church as home.
I ordered a book written by John Michael Talbot during this time called "The Joy of Music Ministry" thinking it was all about worship music. I soon discovered it was about sacraments, sacred music, liturgy, the Catholic Mass and how the Mass brings you into worship with God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord and the Holy Spirit. I also found a new station on television called EWTN; Journey Home, Scott Hahn, The World Over, Mother Angelica, Threshold of Hope and Abundant Life.
I argued for several months with my Lord, when I knew the Holy Spirit was saying "try the Catholic Church". I would say "Lord we are in Baptist County. No one probably goes to the Catholic Church". Being a Protestant all my life and listening to views the Protestant's held concerning the Catholic Church was a tremendous hurdle for me. Pride was a factor as well. For about one year EWTN was a place I learned about the Catholic faith. The grace of God opened my heart and I became hungry for more. I wanted fellowship with believers of this faith to discuss and learn about it. The Lord kept encouraging me to just visit the local Catholic Church. To be honest, I was scared of the outcome. What if it did not work out? This meant "I had not heard God's voice". I was very tired and longed for a church I could call home. I finally surrendered to the direction I felt sure my Lord was sending me.
I drove by the little Catholic Church several times and even stopped once. It was locked up and nobody was there. The church sign gave information concerning the times of Mass; Thursday at 6:00pm and Sunday at 10:00am. My thoughts were "I guess I will have to show up at a Mass" and we finally did. Our first few visits would have probably been our last visits had we been visiting a Protestant church. The priest is from Africa and we could not understand a word he was saying (I have over time taught my ears to understand & know this priest is God's instrument for this Parish). There was no choir, no wonderful dramatic worship music playing. I do have to say one thing about the music there. Two different ladies (they take turns) with servant's hearts play the organ and though they might not have the tools of a choir, musical instruments, power point songs and high tech speakers, they are faithful. We sang hymns about; One Body, One Church, One Eucharist and One Lord. We also sang scriptures such from Psalms, Old and New Testament. With the soft playing of the organ in a slow timely manner the hymns became prayers (Be still and know that I am God). St. Augustine said, "he who sings, prays twice." Quote taken from The Joy Of Music Ministry.
The Lord's Grace has been my walking stick in this journey and a peace to continue moving forward. For the first time in my journey it was not about me and I had to trust.
A few weeks into this new journey, a young man of the church who is the "educational organizer" invited us to a small group called Why Catholic. My foundation about the Catholic Faith so far was built on trusting God (blind trust), EWTN, The Joy Of Music Ministry and things my uncle and aunt had shared with me about the teachings of the Catholic Faith. I had a lot of questions about how this faith lined up with the word of God. Why Catholic was a wonderful starting place. I came to realize that I was not the only one who did not understand the faith. Why Catholic challenged the cradle Catholics on "why am I Catholic". I had the honor last spring to facilitate a group at my home. We did the first six chapters in "The Celebration of the Christian Mystery". Facilitating gave me the opportunity to attend the leadership class in Hope, AR. The Eucharist was the topic that evening. The teaching and discussion about the Eucharist during this class time reaffirmed what I was already learning. A lady present at the class shared with the group her testimony about receiving the Eucharist for the first time when she entered into the faith. She was a Jewish convert. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she shared the mystery of worship when she took of the present "Body & Blood" of her Risen Savior. Her faith sharing touched me and gave witness to me that this is the worship I had been longing for.
It has been almost four years since my first visit to Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church. I have discovered 2,000 years of tradition and church doctrine that is beautiful. The early Church Father's writings confirm the teachings that are still being taught today in the Catholic faith. The history of these teachings has survived the test of time. I realize my journey is just now starting and I have so much more to learn.
To learn more about Julie and her ongoing journey of faith please visit her blog.