The following are stories from individuals on why they are Catholic.
These stories will be updated periodically to bring current, relevant discussions on what drives people to become part of the Catholic Church. Stories are powerful because we see ourselves through others’ stories.
Your story matters – know it and tell it!
DR. SCOTT CONVERSION STORY: Scott Hahn
I am a Catholic for various contingent reasons (this is as true of converts as of anyone else), but on a conscious level it’s because I am a mostly-faithful Christian who is mostly convinced that Roman Catholicism is the expression of Christianity that has kept faith most fully with the early church and the words of Jesus of Nazareth himself. A point that Cardinal George Pell, recently of Sydney and now of the Roman curia, made in a talk this week — that the search for authority in Christianity began not with pre-emptive submission to an established hierarchy, but with early Christians who “wanted to know whether the teachings of their bishops and priests were in conformity with what Christ taught” — is crucial to my own understanding of the reasons to be Catholic: I believe in papal authority, the value of the papal office, because I think that office has played a demonstrable role in maintaining the faith’s continuity, coherence and fidelity across two thousand years of human history. It’s that role and that record, complicated and checkered as it is, that makes the doctrine of papal infallibility plausible to me, rather than the doctrine that controls my reading of the record, and indeed if you asked me to write a long defense of “infallibility” as a concept I’m sure I’d end up caveat-ing it a lot more heavily than some Catholics of fiercer orthodoxy: The language that I think the historical record supports is more like impressive continuity on the most important questions.
One of those important questions is the nature of marriage. Unlike a lot of the issues that religious people fight about these days, and unlike many hot-button issues where the Catholic Church takes a controversial stance, the question of marriage and divorce is very specifically addressed in the red-letter portion of the New Testament — in the words of Jesus himself. His language is very strong: Divorce as permitted in the Mosaic law is dismissed as a concession to man’s hardness of heart, which under the new covenant is no longer permissible. Thus the line often adapted for the marriage service: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” And thus the conclusion, which appears in all three synoptic gospels: Remarriage after divorce is adultery.
Now in Matthew there is a possible loophole — an exception for cases of “sexual immorality” (depending on the translation) — that is often cited by those churches that have allowed divorce. But the present Catholic understanding, that the Matthean exception either referred to premarital behavior that would make the marriage invalid or else licensed separation but not remarriage, has the strongest claim to being the view of the early church. (The hunt for significant exceptions to that view, which has occupied some Francis-era Catholics, looks mostly like a wild goose chase or an attempt to marshal exceptions to an obvious rule.) Indeed, it was precisely this emphasis on marriage’s indissolubility (and that principle’s implications for gender equality, among other issues) that made one of Christianity’s most striking cultural contrasts with the sexual culture of late antiquity. And it’s the view and emphasis that Roman Catholicism has maintained ever since, through varying eras and debates: Not always for pure or pristine or uncomplicated reasons (I am quite aware, though of course I’m also grateful to readers for pointing out, that politics entered into the debate over Henry VIII’s marriage, as indeed it has entered into many theological controversies in church history), but in a way that shows a remarkable degree of continuity, to the point of martyrdom, on a difficult and never-uncontroversial point. Whereas the churches that have separated from Rome — first the Orthodox, then the Protestants — have tended (with all ecumenical respect intended) to pass from making a narrow exception for adultery to making more general exceptions, until the teaching can seem to be almost effaced altogether.
So if you asked me, as a secular or Protestant reader might be inclined to do, “do you believe that marriage is indissoluble because the pope is infallible and he says so?”, I might answer: “Mostly the reverse: I think the papacy might well be guided on the Holy Spirit because it has taught so consistently that marriage is indissoluble, while almost every other Christian body has succumbed to the pressures and political incentives to say otherwise.” (And those incentives were powerful long before modernity.) I respect the papacy’s authority precisely because it has kept faith with one of Jesus’s harder teachings, in other words, and shown flexibility or made compromises only in a way (through an err-on-the-side-of-the-petitioner annulment process, most recently) that I think has left the teaching’s basic integrity intact. And that sustained integrity on such an important and controversial question is itself also evidence on behalf of Catholicism’s claims on other issues — reasons to at least respect the church’s teaching, even if you dissent from or don’t live up to it, in cases where the historical record is murkier, or the extrapolation from the gospels a little bit less clear.
Which brings us to the issue that prompted my column: The debate, encouraged and I think guided in a pro-change direction by Pope Francis, over whether to admit the divorced-and-remarried, people in unions that the church has traditionally considered adulterous, back to communion while they’re still in a sexual relationship with their new spouse. I’ve written at length, as have others more qualified than myself, on why this allegedly-pastoral change would, in fact, represent a substantial alteration of doctrine on a very consequential issue — either the doctrine surrounding marriage, the doctrine surrounding sin, confession and the Eucharist, or by effect and implication both. Some of the people supporting the change obviously disagree with that analysis and seem to believe that this shift would be more akin to, say, changing the requirements surrounding fasts in Lent — a strictly disciplinary or pastoral change, not a doctrinal one at all. (Though some, I tend to suspect, privately agree that it would be a bigger changer and that’s precisely why they want it — to prove that the church can shift substantially on a question of sexual ethics, and therefore that other changes are possible as well.) But my own view, that doctrine is actually at stake here, is not some convenient notion ginned up to make life difficult for a progressive pope: It’s the historic consensus of the church (which is why the rules are written as they are), reaffirmed consistently during the last two pontificates, upheld by the existing Congregration for the Doctrine of the Faith, and defended by a wide array of churchmen during the current controversy. They/we all may be wrong, but if continuity and consistency matters in the church then the burden of proof is on the advocates of the proposed change, and they haven’t met it nor in many cases even really tried.
So if the change being debated were to happen, if the pope were to approve and promulgate it, that would seem like a Big Deal, with big repercussions for how people – myself, and others – understand their relationship to the Catholic faith. Andrew Sullivan, in a post that I think perhaps falls slightly short of his usual standards of generosity, accuses me of being filled with “rage” over this possibility, and of calling for an anti-Francis schism. But that’s not what I said, or how I really feel. When I suggested that church might have to “resist” the pope on these questions, I had in mind public argument and pressure, a more significant version of the pushback at the synod, rather than a beeline to the local SSPX chapel, and if Pope Francis were to make what I consider a kind of doctrinal backflip I wouldn’t be making that beeline myself; I’d remain an ordinary practicing Catholic, remain engaged in these debates (because I would still think my side’s view is closer to the original teaching of the faith), but my understanding of papal authority would be changed in ways that would inevitably change my underlying relationship to the church. And it’s that change, working itself out across enough people and enough time, that I think would make it hard for the church to escape the fissiparous fate of Anglicans and Methodists and Presbyterians and other churches that have explicitly divided on these kind of sex-and-marriage questions, why is part of why I raised the possibility of schism: Not (God help us) as a prescription but as a prediction, based on the unhappy experience of our fellow Christians, of where churches where authority is compromised or absent on these kind of debates tend to ultimately end up.
So my dominant emotion isn’t anger right now: It’s a mix of dismay and determination, anxiety and hope, cycling back and forth depending on events. And if the change being bruited were to happen I’m quite sure that my main emotions would be rue and regret – rue that I had somewhat misjudged the church I joined eighteen years ago this spring, and regret that an institution that I believe to be divinely established notwithstanding all its human sins turned out to have a little less of the divine about it than I thought.
For more progressive or liberal Catholics, many of whom are attached to the church for somewhat different reasons, and some of whom just have a much more modest baseline of what counts as continuity and keeping faith, there’s a tendency to look at this kind of argument and dismiss it – as Cardinal Walter Kasper has – as the Catholic version of “fundamentalism.” Indeed, for this reason I can easily imagine Sullivan, or some of my other eloquent critics, regarding the remarriage-and-communion proposal as an ideal means of making their conservative co-religionists grow up, of forcing us to finally leave our fond medieval illusions behind and join the existentially-ambiguous, every-man-a-magisterium chaos of our liberal, individualistic, postmodern world.
And they’re certainly entitled to that view. But the “fundamentalism” jibe cuts both ways, and from the point of view of the conservative side of things it’s the liberal Catholics who may have an unwarranted faith in institutional continuity, in the persistence and potency of a religious body once its reasons for being have been deconstructed, or once its authorities have undercut themselves. This was a point that the then net-yet-Catholic Richard John Neuhaus made thirty years ago, in an earlier era of intra-Catholic, intra-Christian debates on these questions, and it’s worth quoting here:
When speaking with Roman Catholics of a certain persuasion, one is frequently struck by the power of what might best be called ecclesiastical fundamentalism. There is an ecclesiastical fundamentalism of fevered infallibilism, whose proponents exult in surrendering mind and conscience to church authority. But there is another ecclesiastical fundamentalism that seems to believe that — after every form of doctrine, discipline, authority, and communal identity has been abandoned — the Roman Catholic Church will endure so long as there is something to call “Catholic.”
… A priest in charge of ecumenical affairs for a large diocese explained to me … why John Paul and Cardinal Ratzinger constitute “a return to the Middle Ages.” In leisurely conversation he expatiated on what a “really renewed” church would look like. Women would be ordained, pastors would be elected, academic freedom would be absolute, and all questions would be democratically settled in church conventions with a majority of lay votes. Yes, he agreed, such a church would look pretty much like the Methodist or Presbyterian church down the street. But in what way would it be different, in what way would it still be the Roman Catholic Church? He seemed taken aback by my question. “Well, of course,” he responded, “there would still be the bishops, there would still be the pope, there would still be the sacraments and the other things that really matter.”
But why should these realities still be there after every reason for being there is gone? That they would still be there, he allowed somewhat defensively, is an article of faith. So it is that we witness at least some Roman Catholics dismantling the house piece by piece while confidently asserting that the house is indestructible. Curiously, this particular priest harshly criticized [John Paul II] because “he talks about the church as though it were an abstraction.” Yet the church this priest describes —decontextualized, dehistoricized, and deprived of all its thus and so-ness —will, he believes, forever remain the Roman Catholic Church in which he made his first Communion and his ordination vows.
… For a surprising number of Roman Catholics today it seems to be inconceivable that any grave and damaging transformations could happen to their church. Of course we have our Lord’s word that the Church will endure, since not even the gates of hell can finally prevail against it. But, strangely enough, those who call themselves conservatives seem more aware of the possibility that the gates of hell might do a great deal of damage before Christ returns in triumph. They more readily recognize that the particular form of the Church that is Roman Catholicism is a historical construct and can be historically deconstructed. In this instance, Ratzinger’s complaint about theologians who view the church “sociologically” rather than as a “mystery” is reversed. An astonishing sense of “mystery” is to be found among the ecclesiastical fundamentalists who believe that the Roman Catholic Church can abandon its identifying particularities and indulge any force of transformation and still be the Roman Catholic Church. Their church, to which they are undoubtedly devoted, floats above the mundane, indifferent to the fragilities and contingencies of historical change. Therefore anything can be done, and it does not matter, not really.
That these things do, in fact, matter is a lesson that I think our Protestant brethren have been learning, at great cost, across decades of internal division and decline. Maybe I have misjudged my own church’s continuity and integrity, and it’s time for me to grow out of those misjudgments, and for Catholicism as a whole to learn the same lessons at experience’s hard school. But I make no apology for resisting, so long as resistance remains viable, developments that would make the reasons I became a Catholic in the first place look less like reasons, and more like wistful hopes.
We recently hosted a talk by John Beaumont, author of The Mississippi Flows into the Tiber: A Guide to Notable American Catholic Converts to the Catholic Church. It’s a wonderful compilation of convert stories that includes a few folks associated with this fine magazine. John recounted a number of them. He ended with an arresting question: Why do people convert to Catholicism? There’s no one answer, of course, but many reasons, which John winsomely summarized.
My Protestant friends sometimes accuse First Things of encouraging Catholic triumphalism. We’re not entirely innocent. How can we avoid an atmosphere of triumphalism, given the profound influence Catholicism exercises over so many who are associated with the magazine, beginning with our founding editor and including our current one, yours truly? We love the Catholic Church, and one invariably wishes to champion that which one loves. And so, in that spirit—and with the urgent reminder that there’s no reason Protestants don’t share in these reasons in their own ways— I’ll recount John’s summation, adding my own observations.
- Visibility:Catholicism attracts because it’s visible. That’s obvious in the case for the architecture of Catholic churches, which aside from a short period of modernist banality brashly claims space as sacred. Men and women in religious orders wear distinctive outfits. Priests consistently set themselves apart with clerical collars. Even the bulky, sometimes exasperating institutional bureaucracy of the Catholic has a reassuring solidity. This multifaceted visibility is especially powerful in our culture, which so often reduces faith to a private opinion or inward sentiment. The scriptures speak of a New Jerusalem, a city of God. Catholicism foreshadows that city with its very real and tangible buildings, uniforms, rituals, laws, and ensigns.
- Universality:The Church is universal, spanning the entire globe. Or more simply: Catholicism is catholic. This breadth makes the gospel more credible. The universality of the Church demonstrates that ours is a faith for all men and all seasons. It’s not a European or African or South American religion; it’s not an ancient or medieval or modern religion. The Church’s universality has a special appeal to those of us aware of the failures of postmodern Western culture. We feel the intellectual and moral decadence of our times, and we know this deforms our reason and conscience. Here the universality of the Church is a source of grace. To enter the Church is to enter a larger world. We don’t stop being postmodern Americans—instead, we become more than that. The Church’s catholicity delivers us from our parochialism, which in America often comes in the form of a false universalism.
- Endurance:There’s a joke about a papal representative who meets with Stalin. The Man of Steel announces his intention to destroy the Church. The cleric responds, “Good luck. We’ve been trying for two thousand years and haven’t succeeded.” The Church’s endurance, the continuity of teaching and ministry, is nothing short of miraculous—especially during times of high status, prominence, and privilege when worldly seductions are powerful. At the very times when the papacy fell captive to corrupt Renaissance popes, the Holy Spirt was stirring up a piety that gave birth to great new religious orders.
- Authority:In our age of exalted individualism and false views of freedom, the Church’s authority is often seen as a liability. It is in fact the opposite. When we are going headlong in the wrong direction, we need to hear a sharp word spoken with authority: Stop! When we wallow in skepticism and postmodern ennui, we need the galvanizing force of authority. As John Henry Newman recognized, the authority of the Church is a great asset: It heals the wounds of the pride of man.
- Beauty:The Church’s beauty has its own power as well. Her musical, artistic, or literary legacy caresses us with the truth of God in Christ. Catholicism’s neglect of those legacies in favor of an easy, banal contemporary aesthetic is one of the great evangelical failures of recent decades. The Lord walks with us along the dusty road of our humanity, it is true. But he does so to raise us up to dwell with him in the beauty of holiness.
- Hierarchy:Even as a non-Catholic—even attending worship services run by Jesuits!—I was struck by the dignity of the Mass. Although the Second Vatican Council emphasized the dignity of the laity, there remains a rightful hierarchy at the Mass, one that echoes in countless ways the Temple in Jerusalem and its high priests. The priest stands at the altar, representing the congregation—representing all humanity—as he brings his own voice in union with Christ in the word of institution (This is my body . . . This is my blood . . . ) This hierarchy of laity, priest, and Christ is felt at every Mass, not matter how far contemporary churches depart from the traditional relations of congregation, priest and altar. This hierarchy encourages a spiritual elevation, an ascent of the soul to God in prayer.
- Saints: The saints offer a great cloud of witnesses. Reading St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s spiritual autobiography, “The Story of a Soul,” helped me see the genius of the garish, often lachrymose piety of nineteenth century bourgeois French Catholicism. As Christ taught: We must first be as children. A desiccated East Coast intellectual, that’s what I needed to learn. And there are countless saints to teach others what they need to know. For someone else with handicaps different from my own the strict logic of St. Thomas opens up new spiritual horizons.
- Moral witness:John’s final reason why some are drawn to the Catholic Church is her moral doctrine. Secular folks find this quite baffling, imaging that the Church’s teachings, especially on sex, must be felt as a severe burden. Well, yes, the Church’s moral doctrine is burdensome in the sense that moral truth is always hard for fallen men and women to hear and unbend their deformed lives to conform to. But the Church’s courage to speak the truth also inspires. Human beings don’t want moral mediocrity. We desire to live in accord with higher standards, certainly one’s higher than those our age offers. The Catholic Church satisfies this desire. She does not indulge our weaknesses. She does not underestimate our freedom.
As I said at the outset, I see no reason why Protestants can’t find many of these qualities in their own churches. I don’t think its triumphalist of me—or at least not perniciously so—to say as a Catholic convert I’m thankful to have found them in mine.
I haven’t always wanted to be a Catholic; at least not in the fullest sense. Indeed I took a break from “organized religion” for several years of my young adult life and eventually, although I was raised with the sacraments in a loving Catholic family, the demons of the college life became much too enticing. The religious life, I decided, was boring and irrelevant. I wanted to have fun, and I felt entitled to it. I had become a grown-up kindergartner.
Though I maintained a limping sense of the spiritual after leaving home, I stopped all religious participation and adopted a completely self-serving lifestyle. God was no longer my friend; nor was he my Father (at least not until I was in big trouble). But good kids trust their dad; they obey him because they understand intuitively that there is a hierarchy of intelligence and wisdom in play. They understand they’re not at the top.
Fathers (and of course mothers) tend to “know better”; they are pillars of wisdom and knowledge and it is in a child’s best interests to listen to them whether they want to or not. Nonetheless, by the time I had reached my earlier twenties and university was winding down, I had adopted a life that had no room for my Father in heaven, nor Mother Church on earth.
Though I became skeptical of many of the major claims of Christianity, I never reached atheism; at least not intellectually. I did, however, reach atheism in practice (as too many of today’s professed Christians have). Practical atheism is defined by one atheist website as “disbelief in or rejection of gods as a matter of practice if not necessarily theory.” And that was me: believing in God but not acting like it (or what some people call “hypocrisy”). Hypocrisy is inevitable for us all (thanks to our first parents) because we are sinners; and we all too often, like St. Paul, “do not do the good we want, but the evil we do not want is what we do.” The key difference is in the will. Practical atheists don’t try; they’re all lip service. Christians fight and persevere. They do what they don’t want to do whether they want to do it or not.
This whole thing about what we “ought” to do and whether it’s worth doing comes down to two things: the true and the good. If Catholicism—or any religion for that matter—is true and if it is good for us then we ought to want it; and we ought to do it. After all, we want everything else that is true and good. Nobody likes to be lied to, and nobody wants to be unhappy. We want to live in the real world; and we want to be happy while we’re at it.
This is precisely what the Catholic Church teaches. It promises to be the indestructible “pillar and bulwark of truth” as the one institution established and empowered by God himself. It also promises hope in this life, and everlasting joy in the next to those who persevere in love. Sounds like a good deal; if it’s true.
Why be Catholic? Because to be Catholic is to be in full union with the one thing that can make you most sane and most happy. A tall claim, to be sure; but it’s not an arrogant claim. It’s a truth claim. I am Catholic because I am convinced the Church is the only place I will find the fullness of truth and joy. That’s why I’m Catholic: because I believe Catholicism is true.
G.K. Chesterton believed that often the first step for a convert is the decision to be fair to the Catholic Church. That’s right—fair. All too often those who are skeptical towards Catholicism are quick to give their objections and are, perhaps, too caught up in admiration of their own objection to hear the Catholic response. In effect, the skeptic becomes like the golfer who is too busy admiring his long drive to realize it’s headed straight for the water trap—the golfer who looks away in self-contentment before he sees where his ball is about to land. The water trap gets the best of the long drive; but the golfer isn’t paying attention.
Catholicism is both logical and evidence-based; but most skeptics just haven’t been listening. Shortly after his full entrance into the Catholic Church, Chesterton wrote in his book The Catholic Church and Conversion:
“It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment a man ceases to pull against it he feels a tug towards it. The moment he ceases to shout it down he begins to listen to it with pleasure. The moment he tries to be fair to it he begins to be fond of it.”
The problem with many of the objections towards Catholicism is not that they are illogical; indeed they are often logical. But a logical argument is not always a good argument. The contention that all Canadian Prime Ministers are aliens, and thus, because Justin Trudeau is the current Canadian Prime Minister he must be an alien, is a logical argument; but it’s foolish. One who makes that argument hasn’t considered all of the evidence seriously. It’s an unfair and thus intellectually dishonest argument.
The big point I am trying to get to (in a rather roundabout way) is that there are good reasons to be Catholic. Here are three:
- CATHOLICISM IS REASONABLE.
There are many aspects of Catholic belief that cannot be immediately reached by deductive reasoning: that God is a Trinity, for example. But the idea of one God in three co-equal and co-eternal persons is not a logical contradiction either; it just requires fine distinctions to be made and understood—namely, the difference between person and nature.
But some religious beliefs can be reached via deductive logic. The Church from her foundation has always recognized that there are footprints of God in the natural world. St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans that God’s existence can be known through the observation of created things (see Rom 1:20). Science combined with reason is a powerful combination for the believer.
Various arguments that address the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” demonstrate how religious truths can indeed be reached logically (like God’s existence, for example). Since reason tells us that things do not pop into existence without a cause, and scientific investigation (as well as philosophical reasoning) makes a good case for the beginning of the universe, it can thus be concluded that the universe has an eternal, all-powerful cause unbound by space and time.
And of course there are the cosmological arguments of St. Thomas Aquinas who observed (building on the arguments of the pagan Aristotle), for example, that an infinite regress of caused causes leads to logical problems; and thus there must be an infinitely perfect being—an Uncaused Cause—behind it all to get the domino effect going in the first place (as well as to sustain it here and now). Indeed it was such arguments as these that played a huge part in moving perhaps the 20th century’s most renowned atheist, Antony Flew, to belief in a Creator.
- CATHOLICISM IS HISTORICAL.
C.S. Lewis in his essay “God in the Dock” remarked that many of the unbelievers he encountered had no trouble believing in prehistoric man; but there was a paradox:
“I had supposed that if my hearers disbelieved the Gospels, they would do so because the Gospels recorded miracles. But my impression is that they disbelieved them simply because they dealt with events that happened a long time ago.”
Nonetheless, that Jesus existed is confirmed by nearly every New Testament historian on the planet. Due to a plenitude of early sources, and the multiple attestations of Christian, Jewish and secular sources, New Testament historians (particularly the skeptical ones) are interested in much bigger questions such as: “What did the Church persecutor Paul (not to mention the apostles) see that convinced him Jesus had resurrected from the dead?” and “What explains the rise of early Christianity?”
Indeed the non-Christian historical sources are valuable and interesting, but that’s not where the story ends. We must also ask: what was early Christianity like? And for that, one must go to the early Church Fathers and ecclesiastical writers of the first seven or so centuries.
What do we find in these early Christian writings? Catholicism. The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, baptismal regeneration, the baptism of infants, and the authority of the bishops are not disputed; they are staples of the faith. At the beginning of the first century, Ignatius of Antioch calls the Church of Christ “catholic”. We find the veneration of saintly relics in The Martyrdom Of Polycarp. Irenaeus records the succession of the first four popes of Rome. Tertullian describes how Christians make the sign of the cross on their foreheads. C.S. Lewis wrote that “a young atheist cannot be too careful of his reading”. The same would also appear true for the Protestant.
Indeed, as Blessed John Cardinal Henry Newman learned and thus noted, “to be steeped in history is to cease to be Protestant.” It’s not that Protestants aren’t our brothers and sisters in Christ—they are. It’s just that they’re separated from the fullness of the Church and her wisdom and we Catholics want them to come home. Our arms are ever open and waiting.
- CATHOLICISM IS BIBLICAL.
We’ve talked about historical sources that support the claims and beliefs of Catholicism; but we haven’t talked about the primary source, both theologically and historically: the written Word of God.
One of the shocking things I realized when I re-entered the Catholic Church was how plainly biblical her teachings were. We believe that we are saved by grace because St. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says so (Eph 2:8). But we also believe that we are saved by faith—but not “by faith alone” because that’s what the Bible says (James 2:24). We believe true faith works in love and thus we must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Gal 5:6; Phil 2:12). We believe that the deposit of faith has been passed down through the Sacred Writings and also by sacred oral tradition because that’s what Paul taught (1 Thess 2:13; 2 Thess 2:15; 1 Cor 11:2). We believe that priests can forgive our sins in the presence of Christ because Jesus said to the apostles “whose sins you forgive are forgiven them” (John 20:21-23). But we also believe that the grace required for our salvation comes freely through the sacraments, beginning with baptism, because the New Testament says things like “Baptism…now saves you” (1 Pet 3:21).
We also believe in the authority of the Church as the teacher and interpreter of the faith. Jesus makes the final authority of the Church clear in Matthew 18 and, furthermore, St. Paul calls the Church ” the pillar and bulwark of truth” (1 Tim 3:15). We recognize Peter and his successors as the leader and Prime Minister of the Church because, well, it is a sort of sociological necessity; even for the Church of God. Every institution on earth needs a “boss” because people disagree on things. But also, Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter (signifying a new mission like when God changed Abram’s name to Abraham) and then gave him “the keys” and the power to bind and loose (Matt 16:18-20; Is 22). There can be no mistaking it: Jesus gave Peter authority over the Church, and his successors (see Acts 1:20) would inherit that authority.
Finally, we believe in the Eucharist because Jesus said “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you” and “my flesh is food indeed”. Then the night before he died he showed the apostles how this was to be done by revealing his flesh and blood in the form of bread and wine. “Do this”, said Jesus. And to this day the Catholic Church continues to do this in memory of Christ making present today the once for all sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. The Eucharistic sacrifice is a re-presentation and this is the source and summit of the Christian life.
That is why a Eucharistic Church is the final resting place for every human. It is the one place where spiritual and bodily communion is possible with God in this life: and from that one great meeting with God flows all kinds of extraordinary possibilities. That is ultimately why I am Catholic. Because of the Eucharist. I believe it is found in the Communion of the Catholic Church—and only there. The Catholic Church, I believe, is where man finds everything he is looking for.
HI! I’M JEN
My search for God really began in earnest when I started reading up on Christianity. For a couple years I’d been making half-hearted attempts to open my mind to the possibility of God’s existence but it never really went anywhere. And then I stumbled across some reasonable Christian writers who laid out a logical case for Jesus having actually existed, the events as described in the New Testament having actually happened, and for Jesus being who he said he was (former atheist Lee Strobel’s Case for Christ has a nice, quick summary). Not that these authors “proved” their case irrefutably or that no arguments could be made against them, but they had a much more compelling, evidence-based case than I’d thought they had. I was intrigued.
I decided to see what it meant to be a Christian. Some bad childhood experiences had left me with a bad taste in my mouth about the religion, but I decided to give it my best effort to start fresh, exploring this belief system with an open mind. I bought a copy of the Bible.
Before I even opened the cover, we had a problem.
I wanted to know if the people who did the English translation of this version were said to have been inspired by God as the writers of the original texts were. When I found out the answer was no, I was concerned. Translators have a lot of leeway and can really impact a text. If this book could potentially be the key to people knowing or not knowing God, I was uneasy about reading a 21st century English version of texts that were written in far different cultures thousands of years ago, translated by average people. Could God not have inspired all translators? Though I was concerned, I decided to set the issue aside for the time being and move on.
Somewhere around page two, we had another problem.
I found the creation story fit surprisingly well with what we know of the origin of the universe through science, albeit in symbolic form. I could definitely believe that this was true. I could not, however, believe that it was a journalistic style account of events, like something you’d read in the newspaper. So I immediately needed to know: is it required of Christians to believe that Genesis is to be taken literally? I asked people and looked around online, and quickly found that there was not unanimous agreement on this. I found people who laid out a pretty good case that, yes, it is required of Christians to believe that Genesis is a literal, blow-by-blow description of events that happened about 6, 000 years ago; yet others made a good case that Christians should believe that it is truth conveyed through symbolism. I really couldn’t tell who I should believe.
I decided to move on and get to what I really wanted to know about: the Christian moral code. One of the things that had originally piqued my interest in religion in the first place was the fact that humans throughout history have all had this same sense that objective truth exists, what is “right” and “wrong” is not subjective. Also, I had begun to feel confused and lost when I looked at the world around me. This was around the time of the Terri Schiavo controversy, and when I tried to weigh issues like that, as well as the other big ethical dilemmas like human cloning, research on embryos, etc. I just felt sad and adrift. I really didn’t know what was right or wrong, yet I had this vague sense that a true “right” answer must be out there somewhere. If there was a God, surely he had opinions about these things. And surely he could guide me to find them.
So I picked the Bible back up and continued reading.
One example of the type of answers I was searching for was what Christianity had to say about abortion. At the time I considered myself staunchly “pro-choice”, yet something had started to nag at me about that position. I felt uneasy about the whole thing, and wanted to know if Christianity said that God is OK with abortion or not. I read through the New Testament (eventually reading it cover to cover), and couldn’t find much. I kept instinctively flipping to the last page for some sort of answer key. How was I supposed to find the part where God tells us what he thinks about terminating pregnancies? Someone recommended that I get a concordance. I was happy to do that, but it felt strange: in order to know how to live as a Christian you need a Bible and a concordance? And were the writers of the concordance inspired? What if they missed something big or made a mistake?
I wasn’t coming up with much so I Googled around to see what Christians had to say about it. And I found as many different opinions as I found people, everyone offering Bible verses to back up their claims. Each person stated their interpretation confidently as a fact — yet they contradicted one another. When I looked up the verses they cited in my own Bible, sometimes I felt they were right-on, other times I felt they were taken out of context, and other times I didn’t even know what the context was (e.g. some Old Testament verses where I just had no idea what was going on).
What frequently happened when I was looking for Biblical answers to my ethical dilemmas was that I’d read two contradictory opinions from two different Christians. I’d decide that Christian #1 made the best case based on Scripture, so I had my answer. But then Christian #2 would come back with a new verse that I’d never seen before that shed new light on it, and then I’d think his case must be the right one. And then Christian #1 would come up with yet another verse and I’d think he had the right answer. And then…well, you get the idea. It seemed that in order to form my own opinion about any of these issues I’d have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
So I started reading. I decided to skip ahead to the New Testament since that’s where Jesus comes in. And, as with the Old Testament, we quickly had a problem. Here is a sort of sample discussion I’d have with whatever Christian I could find to pester with questions:
ME: Ack! I just read this part in the New Testament where Jesus tells some rich dude he has to give away all his stuff! If I decide this Christianity thing is true am I going to have to give away all my stuff?! [Worried glace at brand new Dell Inspiron laptop.]
FRIEND: Hah! No, don’t worry, Jesus was just talking to that one guy.
ME: Where does it say that? Does he later clarify that that instruction was only for that one guy?
FRIEND: No, but that’s clearly how he meant it.
ME: That’s not clear to me. Anyway, there’s this part where he tells this woman Martha that her sister Mary did the right thing by putting Jesus before trivial stuff. Was that only a lesson for her?
CHRISTIAN: No, that’s a lesson for all of us.
ME: [Flipping to last page to look for answer key.] Where is that clarified?
This usually ended with my Christian acquaintances telling me to let the Holy Spirit guide me (and probably making a mental note to find less annoying friends). Even though I wasn’t sure I believed in God, I had been praying through this whole process. So I prayed for guidance. I asked God to lead me to the right conclusion about all these questions, to speak to me through Scripture about everything from abortion and experimentation on human embryos to whether or not I needed to give away all my stuff.
After a while of praying, reading the Bible, and visiting some churches, I felt like I had some conclusions. I decided that a good Biblical case could be made for “a woman’s right to choose” (as I thought of it then), that I didn’t need to give away all my stuff, that it was probably OK to experiment on embryos if it was for curing diseases, etc. I’d felt led to these conclusions, presumably by God, and had found some scriptures that would seem to support them.
But something didn’t feel right.
As I continued thinking and praying about whether or not I’d come to the right conclusions about what God wants for us, I realized what the problem was, the reason I couldn’t relax: I couldn’t trust myself. You have to understand, I am a seriously sinful, selfish person. I realized that my self-serving nature severely clouded my ability to be confident in my interpretation Scripture. I had some pretty passionate opinions about all of these issues, and it was so hard to tell what was leading me to my conclusions. Was my decision that the Bible would be OK with me continuing in my comfy American lifestyle led by the “Holy Spirit” or “Jen’s seriously deep desire not to give away all her stuff”? I couldn’t tell.
My confusion about all of this made me wonder how people who are severely unintelligent could use the Bible as their guide. I’m probably in the middle of the Bell curve on intelligence, and I was really struggling. For that matter, what about the illiterate? Widespread literacy is a relatively recent phenomenon, yet people who couldn’t read couldn’t use the Bible as their guide. They’d have to go through another, fallible person, which seemed dangerous.
Taking all of this as a whole, the writing was on the wall, so to speak. Christianity did not seem to be the path to God, if he even did exist. At least not for me. I just couldn’t trust myself to to get it right. I felt as adrift as ever in terms of the big ethical questions of our day. Though I thought I might have “experienced” God or the Holy Spirit or something from outside the material world a few times in my exploration, using the Christian holy book to find out how God would want me to live was just not working. I was leaning towards moving on to the next religion, seeking God through some other belief system. I prayed for guidance.
Around this time someone told me that one of the Christian denominations claimed that God did leave us this “answer key” I’d been yearning for. I found out that the Catholic Church claimed to be a sort of divinely-guided Supreme Court, that God guided this Church to be inerrant in its official proclamations about what is right and wrong, how to interpret the Bible, how to know Jesus Christ, and all other questions of God and what he wants us to do. I heard that it claims that God speaks to us through sacred Scripture and through the sacred Tradition of his living Church.
That got my attention.
Clearly there was a need for this. Surely I was not the only person to ever feel lost in the world, unable to trust myself to objectively interpret the Bible to discern what God wants from us, unable to clearly tell which of my conclusions about right and wrong were guided by the Holy Spirit and which were guided by deeply-rooted selfishness (or perhaps something worse).
Now, obviously I wasn’t going to become Catholic. I mean, the Catholic Church is weird and antiquated and sometimes the people in it do seriously bad stuff. But I was interested to at least explore this line of thinking and see what I found.
I could have never, ever imagined what I’d find. Reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church was like nothing I’d ever experienced. This was truth. I knew it. I’d finally found it. It described God, our relationship to him, the Bible, Jesus, moral truths — the entire human experience — in a way that resonated on a deep level.
When I started living my life according to Catholic teaching the proof was, as they say, in the pudding. It worked. It worked better than I could have ever guessed it would. And since I’ve been able to receive what they say is really the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, my soul, my entire life, has changed profoundly. But that is whole separate story (and, really, the main subject of this blog). To summarize my experience, I leave you with a quote from G.K. Chesterton, writing about why he converted to orthodox Catholicism:
I do it because the [Catholic Church] has not merely told this truth or that truth, but has revealed itself as a truth-telling thing. All other philosophies say the things that plainly seem to be true; only this philosophy has again and again said the thing that does not seem to be true, but is true. Alone of all creeds it is convincing where it is not attractive; it turns out to be right, like my father in the garden.
My thoughts exactly.
Again, I share this not to cause division, but for the same reason anyone talks about anything they love — that mysterious desire we all have to shout from the rooftops about the things that we find to be profound, beautiful, and true.
DR. SCOTT HAHN CONVERSION STORY
Here is an excerpt from the transcript of a talk given by Dr. Scott Hahn outlining his journey of faith. It is a journey that took him from being a fervent Presbyterian minister and Professor of Theology at a major Protestant seminary to become a Roman Catholic Theologian and internationally known apologist for the Catholic Church. Through study and prayer Scott Hahn came to realize that the truth of the Catholic Church is firmly rooted in Scripture.
Direct Journey to Catholicism
Finally, it happened. I got a call one day from Gerry, my best friend from seminary. A Phi Beta Kappa scholar in classics and New Testament Greek. He was the only other student at seminary along with me who held to the old Protestant belief that the Pope was the anti-Christ. We stood shoulder to shoulder opposing all the compromises we saw in our Protestant brethren. He talked to me one night on the phone. I read to him a passage from a book by Father Bouyer. He said, “Wow, that is rich and profound. Who wrote it?” I said, “Louis Bouyer.” “Bouyer? I’d never heard of him, what is he?” “I said, “What do you mean?” “Well, is he a Methodist?” I said, “No.” “Is he a Baptist?” “No.” “I mean is he Lutheran? What is this, twenty questions? What is he?” I said, “Well, he’s a Cath – – – .” “I’m sorry I missed that.” I said, “He’s Roman Cath – – – .” “Wait a second, there must be a bad connection, Scott. I thought you said he’s Catholic.” I said, “Gerry, I did say he’s Catholic and he is Catholic, and I’ve been reading lots of Catholics.”
All of a sudden it started gushing out like Niagara Falls. I said, “I’ve been reading Danielou, and Ratzinger and de Lubac and Garrigou-Lagrange and Congar, and all these guys and man is it rich; you’ve got to read them, too.” He said, “Slow down.” He said, “Scott, your soul may be in peril.” I said, “Gerry, can I give you a list of titles?” He said, “Sure, I’ll read them, anything to save you from this kind of trap. And I’ll give you these titles.” He mentioned to me about ten titles of anti- Catholic books. I said, “Gerry, I’ve read every single one of them, at least one or two times.” He said, “Send me the list,” and I sent it to him.
About a month later, we arranged to have a long phone conversation. Kimberly couldn’t have been more excited; at last a Phi Beta Kappa knight in shining armor coming to rescue her husband from the clutches of Romanism. So she was waiting with bated breath when the conversation was done, and I told her that Gerry’s excited because he’s reading all this stuff and he’s really taking me seriously. She said, “Oh, great, I knew he would.”
Well, this went on for three or four months. We would talk on the phone, two, three, sometimes four hours long distance discussing theology and Scripture until three or four in the morning. Kimberly was so glad and grateful for him taking me so seriously.
One night I came to bed around two or three; she was still up. The light was out, but she sat up in bed and said, “How’s it going?” I said, “It’s great.” “Tell me about it.” I said, “Gerry is almost intoxicated and excited about all the truth from Scripture that the Catholic Church puts forth.” “WHAT!” I couldn’t see her face, but I could almost feel it sink as she just slumped back down into bed, put her face into her pillow and began to sob. I couldn’t even put my arm around her; she was just so wounded and abandoned.
A little while later Gerry called and said, “Listen, I’m a little scared. My friends are a little scared. We ought to really take this seriously. I talked to Doctor John Gerstner, this Harvard-trained Presbyterian, anti-Catholic theologian . He will meet with us as long as we want.” We arranged Gerry, Dr. Gerstner and me for a six-hour session, going through the Old Testament in Hebrew, the New Testament in Greek, and the council documents of Church history. At the end of six hours, Gerry and I expected to be completely blown out of the water by this genius. Instead, what we discovered was that the Catholic Church almost doesn’t even need a defense. It’s more like a lion; just let it out of its cage and it takes care of itself. We just presented the Church’s teachings and showed the text in Scripture, and we didn’t feel like he had answered a single one of our questions or objections. In the end we were like, “Wow, what does this mean?” Neither of us knew. The most anti-Catholic seminarians wondering whether God might be a Catholic we were terrified.
Meanwhile, I sent an application off to Marquette University because I had heard they had a few really outstanding theologians who were based on the covenant who were studying the Church and doing lots of good things. Right before I heard back from them that I was accepted, and I got a scholarship, I began to visit a few priests in the area. I was scared. I’d do it at night so nobody would see me. I almost felt dirty and defiled stepping into the rectory. I’d sit down and finally get some questions out and, to a man, each priest would say to me, “Let’s talk about something else besides theology.” None of them wanted to discuss my questions. One of them actually said, “Are you thinking of converting? No, you don’t want to do that. Ever since Vatican II we discourage that. The best thing you can do for the Church is just be a good Presbyterian minister.” I said, “Wait a second, Father…” “No, just call me Mike.” I said, “OK, Mike. I’m not asking you to break my arm and force me in. I think God is calling me.” He said, “Well, if you want help from me, you’ve come to the wrong man.”
After three or four or five encounters like this, I was confused. I shared it with Kimberly. She said, “You’ve got to go to a Catholic school where you can study full time, where you can hear it from the horse’s mouth, where you can make sure that the Catholic Church you believe in still exists.” She had a good point. So after a lot of prayer and preparation, we moved to Milwaukee where I studied for two years full-time in their doctoral program.
Those two years were the richest years of study I ever experienced and the richest time of prayer as well. I found myself in some seminars, though, where I was actually the lone Protestant defending the Church’s teaching against the attacks coming from Catholics. It was weird. John Paul’s teaching, for instance, which is so Scriptural and so “covenantal,” I was explaining to these people. But there were a few good theologians who made so much sense out of it all. I really enjoyed the time. But something happened along the way, actually two things.
First, I began to pray a rosary. I was very scared to do this. I asked the Lord not to be offended as I tried. I proceeded to pray, and as I prayed I felt more in my heart what I came to know in my mind: I am a child of God. I don’t just have God as my Father and Christ as my brother; I have His Mother for my own.
A friend of mine who had heard I was thinking about the Catholic Church called up one day and said: “Do you worship Mary like those Catholics do?” I said, “They don’t worship Mary; they honor Mary.” “Well, what’s the difference?” I said, “Let me explain. When Christ accepted the call from His Father to become a man, He accepted the responsibility to obey the law, the moral law which is summarized in the Ten Commandments. There’s a commandment which reads, ‘Honor your father and mother.'” I said, “Chris, in the original Hebrew, that word “honor,” kaboda, that Hebrew word means to glorify, to bestow whatever glory and honor you have upon your father and mother. Christ fulfilled that law more perfectly than any human by bestowing His glory upon His heavenly Father and by taking His own divine glory and honoring His Mother with it. All we do in the rosary, Chris, is to imitate Christ who honors His Mother with His own glory. We honor her with Christ’s glory.”
The second thing that happened was when I quietly slipped into the basement chapel down at Marquette, Gesu. They were having a noon Mass and I had never gone to Mass before. I slipped in. I sat down in the back pew. I didn’t kneel. I didn’t genuflect, I wouldn’t stand. I was an observer; I was there to watch. But I was surprised when 40, 50, 60, 80, or 100 ordinary folk just walked in off the street for midday Mass, ordinary folk who just came in, genuflected, knelt and prayed. Then a bell rang and they all stood up and Mass began. I had never seen it before.
The Liturgy of the Word was so rich, not only the Scripture readings. They read more Scripture, I thought, in a weekday Mass than we read in a Sunday service. But their prayers were soaked with Biblical language and phrases from Isaiah and Ezekiel. I sat there saying, “Man, stop the show, let me explain your prayers. That’s Zechariah; that’s Ezekiel. Wow! It’s like the Bible coming to life and dancing out on the center stage and saying, “This is where I belong.”
Then the Liturgy of the Eucharist began. I watched and listened as the priest pronounced the words of consecration and elevated the host. And I confess, the last drop of doubt drained away at that moment. I looked and said, “My Lord and my God.” As the people began going forward to receive communion, I literally began to drool, “Lord, I want you. I want communion more fully with you. You’ve come into my heart. You’re my personal Savior and Lord, but now I think You want to come onto my tongue and into my stomach, and into my body as well as my soul until this communion is complete.”
And as soon as it began, it was over. People stuck around for a minute or two for Thanksgiving and then left. And eventually, I just walked out and wondered, what have I done? But the next day I was back, and the next, and the next. I couldn’t tell a soul. I couldn’t tell my wife. But in two or three weeks I was hooked. I was head over heels in love with Christ and His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. It became the source and the summit and the climax of each day, and I still couldn’t tell anybody.
Then one day Gerry called me on the phone. He’d been reading hundreds of books himself. He called to announce, “Leslie and I have decided that we’re going to become Catholics this Easter, 1986.” I said, “Now wait a second, Gerry. You were supposed to stop me from joining; now you think you’re going to beat me to the table? This isn’t fair.” He said, “Listen, Scott, I don’t know what objections or questions you’ve got left, but all of ours are answered.” I said, “So are mine.” He said, “Well, look, I’m not going to pry.”
When I hung up the phone, it occurred to me that delaying obedience for me was becoming almost like disobedience. God had made it so clear in Scripture on Mary, on the Pope, even on Purgatory from 1 Corinthians 3:15 and following, on the saints as God’s family, as my brothers and sisters in Christ. I was explaining to friends of mine how the Family of God is the master idea which makes sense out of all the Catholic faith. Mary’s our mother, the Pope is a spiritual father, the saints are like brothers and sisters, the Eucharist is a family meal, the feast days are like anniversaries and birthdays. We are God’s family. I’m not an orphan; I’ve got a home. I’m just not there yet. I began to ask the Lord, “What do you want me to do? Gerry’s going to join. What do you want me to do?” And the Lord just turned the tables and said, “What do you want to do?” I said, “That’s easy. I want to come home. I want to receive our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.” And I just had this sense that the Lord was saying to me, “I’m not stopping you.” So I thought, I’d better talk to the one person who wanted to.
So I went downstairs and I said, “Kimberly, you’ll never guess what Gerry and Leslie are planning to do.” “What?” She had already given up hope at this point. “They’re going to become Catholics this Easter, 1986.” She looked at me and with insight she knows me so well and she still loves me she said, “So what? What difference does that make? You gave me your personal promise that you wouldn’t join until 1990 at the earliest.” I said, “Yeah, you remind of that; that’s right, I did. But I could be dispensed from that if you felt…” “No, no, don’t….” “Would you pray about it?” “Don’t spiritualize away your promises, Scott.” I said, “But Kimberly, you don’t want to hear this, you don’t want to read this, you don’t want to discuss it. But for me to delay obedience to something that God has made so clear, it becomes disobedience.” I knew Kimberly loved me enough to never allow me or pressure me to disobey my Lord and Savior. She said, “I’ll pray about it, but I have to tell you, I feel betrayed. I feel abandoned. I have never felt so alone in my life. All my dreams are dying because of this.” But she prayed, and God bless her, she came back and she said, “This is the most painful thing in my life, in our marriage, but I think it’s what God wants me to do.”
That Easter vigil of 1986, she actually accompanied me to the vigil Mass where I received my what I like to call my sacramental grand slam: conditional baptism, first confession, Confirmation and then, God be raised, Holy Communion. When I came back I felt her crying, and I put my arm around her and we began to pray. The Lord said to me, “Look, I’m not asking you to become a Catholic in spite of your love for Kimberly, because I love her more than you do. I’m asking you to become a Catholic because of your love. Because you don’t have the strength to love her as much as I want you to love her, I’ll give you what you lack in Holy Communion.” I thought, “Well, try to explain that to her.” And I had this sense of peace slowly come when He said, “I will in due time; you just back off. You’re not the Holy Spirit; you can’t change her heart.” The next few days and the next few weeks and months she still wasn’t interested. It was hard.
I ended up taking a job down in Joliet teaching for a few years at a college there. Right before we moved something happened which the Lord did. We had a third baby, Hannah. When Hannah was conceived, I was really scared. Scared for lots of reasons but never so scared as I was one Sunday morning when Kimberly was only four months pregnant. We were standing in her church singing the last stanza of the last hymn, and she turned to me. She was white as a ghost and she said, “I don’t feel good, I’m hemorrhaging.” She sat down and laid in the pew while everybody just began to leave the sanctuary. I panicked. I didn’t know what to do; she was white as a ghost. I ran to a pay phone. I called up our O.B. I said, “Where is he?” “Well, we don’t know where Dr. Marmion is. It’s the weekend and he might be out of town.” “Could you page him?” “We’ll page him and he’ll call back if he’s around.” I hung up. I was in a panic. I began to pray to St. Gerard, to everybody. I just asked the Lord Jesus Christ to help us. Ten seconds, maybe fifteen went by and the phone rang. I picked it up and said, “Hello.” “Scott?” “Yes.” “Dr. Marmion here.” I said, “Pat, where are you?” He said, “Where are you?” I said, “I’m outside the city in this particular borough.” “Where?” “At this church.” “Where in the church are you?” “I’m right outside the sanctuary by the pay phone.” He said, “This is unbelievable. I just happen to be visiting that church this morning. I’m calling from the basement. I’ll be right up.” He ran up the stairs in four or five, maybe eight seconds. He said, “Where is she?” I said, “There she is.” He ran over and began administering help to her. She got in the car. We sped off to (thankfully) St. Joseph hospital and Kimberly’s life was spared, the baby’s life was spared, and eventually Hannah was born.
I just had this sense that the Lord was so much closer to us and to our marriage which seemed more broken down than I realized. I began to pray, “What are we going to do with a new baby?” Kimberly approached me right before Hannah was born, and she said, “I’m not sure exactly why, but the Lord has impressed upon me that Hannah is to be a child of reconciliation. I’m not sure what it means.” We hugged and we began to pray about it.
After Hannah was born, Kimberly approached me. She said, “I’m not sure why, but I I think the Lord wants me to have Hannah baptized in the Catholic Church.” I said, “What!” She said, “I’m not sure but yes.” We went through this baptism liturgy together. Monsignor Bruskewitz, the priest who brought me in, is just the noblest prince of a godly man. He’s now Bishop of Lincoln and he did this private liturgy so well, so filled with tradition and Scripture, that half way through it when he said, “Alleluia, alleluia,” in one of the liturgical prayers, Kimberly almost jumped out of her socks. She said, “Alleluia! Oh, I’m sorry.” He said , “No, I wish Catholics would do that; this is good.”
As a result of this liturgical celebration of baptism, she photocopied the baptismal liturgy and sent it to her family and friends. But she still wasn’t ready to go into these debates. She began to read and to pray. I just tried to back off more and more.
Trip to the Vatican in Rome
I want to insert one thing. My father passed away just last December (1990), the man who taught me to love calling God “Father”. In January my father-in-law invited me to join him and a very small group of people who are battling hard core pornography which is spilling into Eastern Europe over to the Vatican for a colloquium and a private audience with Pope John Paul II. My father-in-law, the Presbyterian minister, inviting me to meet the Pope? I said, “Yes.” So last January I not only met with the Pope in this small group, but I also was invited to join him in his private chapel for Friday morning Mass at 7:00 a.m. I was just a few feet away from him and I felt him praying. You could hear him praying with his head in his hands, carrying the weight of the Church with all of its burdens in his heart.
As he celebrated the Mysteries of the Holy Mass, I made a resolution, actually two of them: to enter more deeply each day into the Mass and into this ministry that he has to pray for him. But the second resolution was to share with my brothers and sisters in Christ about our Holy Father, and how Christ has graced us with an incredible family, with the Blessed Virgin Mary to be our own spiritual Mother, with Pope John Paul II to be a guide and a spiritual father-figure to lead all of us in worshipping our heavenly Father, with saints as brothers and sisters, to know ourselves as God’s family, but most of all, with the Holy Eucharist to know ourselves around the table as a household of God, His own children. What privileges we have; what graces He’s given!