The Holy Spirit turned my head slowly towards Rome with whispers first, and then shouts. Certain doubts about doctrine and Scripture always troubled me as a Lutheran. I swept them under the carpet because any other denomination I explored looked so similar that it wouldn’t warrant a switch. I never seriously considered Catholicism because, honestly, I didn’t know any practicing, well-catechized Catholics who could answer my questions or challenges. To me, if I was going to start a serious search for another religious home, I would start after the Reformation, not before. I visited Episcopal churches, evangelical churches, megachurches, charismatic churches, Methodist churches, and even read Kabbalah. Nothing struck me as being new. I decided to stick with my Bible. “Sola Scriptura” would be my credo; in retrospect, I think sometimes I worshipped my Bible more than I did my God.
While pregnant with my second child, my husband, daughter, and I moved from New York to Northeast Ohio. When I was searching for a new school for my daughter, I happened upon a small Catholic one. Thinking I would only keep her in this school for one year and then find a non-denominational Christian or Lutheran one (anything Protestant would do!), I decided I still better do some homework about what Catholic theology really entailed. I am that kind of mother; I cannot expose my kids to anything I have no prior knowledge of, lest I be unprepared to help them.
My research yielded many surprises, some disturbing, some painful to acknowledge, and some wonderful. I hadn’t been actively “lied to” as a Lutheran, but I had been selectively taught. Chunks of early Christian history were omitted from my education, and now I knew why. My impression had been that Martin Luther had the “real Bible” and the Catholics “added books” to it. I had to confront the fact that Mr. Sola Scriptura himself actually had the temerity to expunge books from the Bible. I was shocked, and reeling. Before I knew what was happening, a decision had set itself like flint in my heart and soul.
My husband came home one night to see me sitting on the couch in the dark, surrounded by my new Roman Catholic Catechism and about a hundred papers worth of Internet research. I stated the immutable fact to him: “I’m converting to Catholicism and raising the kids Catholic. Our marriage will have to be blessed, and I’ll have to attend RCIA every Wednesday night for two hours for the next nine months.”
My husband is a wonderful man who was raised Catholic, but who had long ago abandoned what was to him a dry and uninstructed faith. Now he is a revert who leads his wife and children to Mass weekly and goes to confession regularly. Our daughter attends Catholic school and we are finally all in the fullness of the faith together.
The first effect of my conversion process was to strip me of pride completely. I went from being a VIP in the Lutheran church to a nobody in the RC Church, from someone who administered the chalice to my fellow congregants to a silent observer, sitting in the back pew watching everyone receive the Eucharist while tears burned my eyes. My husband felt sorry for me; he suggested one day, “You can always go back and receive at the Lutheran church.” But I couldn’t. That wasn’t the Eucharist. That wasn’t the Real Presence. That was a church with no teaching on abortion, on what marriage and family is, on what being open to life is. Protestantism, in its effort to distance itself from Roman Catholicism and stand on its own, had stripped away much of the beauty, truth, and graces of the Sacraments, and of Church life. Today’s Protestantism was even a far cry from what Luther and Zwingli had tried to form; they at least had held Mary in high regard and revered her as holy. I could NEVER go back. I would have gone through five years of RCIA if I had to. I was becoming a member of the one Holy and Apostolic Church by any means necessary.
Reading the conversion stories of people like Scott Hahn and Reverend Alex Jones helped me along; these were people who felt as I did, deeply and irrevocably, and they had one eye on home and had to get there somehow. Along the way, I lost a few friends, but I gained so much that I cannot tell you with any sincerity that it upsets me at all to bid them farewell.
God gaveme the most important and precious gift I could ever receive by bringing me into full union with His Church. I have never felt such brotherhood with all of humanity, never had such a heart for the poor, never been so motivated to give of what I have. I have a family of saints and angels in Heaven, a Holy Mother to come to my aid and comfort, and a “Papa” on earth to address the questions that arise as our society changes and evolves. Without that guidance, individual interpretation of Scripture reigns, as does pride, and selective belief. Protestantism has truly become a cafeteria, where people custom design a religion for themselves based on their desires, appetites, needs, weaknesses, political leanings, whims, even on the faith of a celebrity or pundit. I can’t raise my children in a church like that. Moreover, I now know Scripture better, and I no longer have to shrug off certain passages that don’t fit in with any current ecumenical paradigm. I don’t have to be embarrassed that my church community is mamby pamby on issues like abortion. I don’t have to wonder anymore why Jesus’ promise that He would leave behind a Holy Spirit-led, unified church was never fulfilled, because it was. An umbrella title of “Christian” with thirty thousand denominations under it is not what our Savior would leave His lambs to: He left us His bride, His body, and a deposit of faith that will never change regardless of what human hands fall upon it.
Every day I strive to learn more about prayer, church history, and how to the world heal of wounds like poverty, abortion, and capital punishment. These are the things on my mind and in my heart. I keep Jesus always before me. I owe a debt of gratitude to The Church and I intend to repay it with service. I hope and pray that my story can edify someone in some way, whether that person is an intentional or unintentional (like I was!) seeker, or that person is a lukewarm Catholic who has fallen out of love with his or her religion. I am here to tell you that you have already found the pearl of great price, and you are squandering it. Please open your heart again, go visit Christ in His tabernacle, and enjoy the riches the living Savior offers you.