IntroductionSince I was a small child, I felt compelled to become a Catholic. My father had been raised a Catholic and had even been an altar boy. But when he and my mother decided to marry, my mother did not want to change religions. So my father crossed the Tiber and became a Methodist with my mother. Hence the beginning of my parents’ smorgasbord approach to God and his Church. During my childhood, we were Unitarians, Trinitarians, Presbyterians, a few other “Denominarians,” then “Nothing-arians,” and finally, "Play-golf-on-Sunday-arians.”
As a young adult, I became involved in an evangelical nondenominational church, where I was taught “once-saved-always-saved” theology, that the Catholic Church was dead and followed “the traditions of men,” that Catholicism contradicted the Bible, that our Blessed Mother was merely an incubator for Baby Jesus, that the Catholic Church was the Whore of Babylon and a host of other evangelical, fundamentalist doctrines. These teachings seemed logical to me, and I believed them.
After I had grown in my faith, though, there came a point where my connection with God began to wane, and after 23 years, I completely fell away. I don’t blame anyone but myself for that. But, later, when I wanted to attend church again, I couldn’t bring myself to re-join the non-denominationals because of some hurtful experiences that had occurred as I was on my way out.
Then my Catholic fascination reignited and, after attending *RCIA and working with a kind, loving priest, to have my divorces righted with the church, I became a full-fledged Catholic at the Easter Vigil, 2009. It has been two years, and I have not regretted my decision to become a Catholic for even one minute.
At the beginning of the RCIA process, I didn’t understand the doctrines of the Church, i.e., the “body, blood and divinity” of Christ in the Eucharist, reverence to Mary (it’s hard to go from incubator to Mother of God in one fell swoop) confessing to a priest, purgatory, praying to the saints, salvation through baptism, apostolic succession, the infallibility of the Pope and so on. But I was sure that I wanted something different than my Protestant experience had been, and Catholicism was definitely different! I decided that I would dive into the deep end and become a Catholic, even though I did not fully understand what they were doing or exactly why I was there. I just knew that I was supposed to be.
Two years later, though, I fully understand my Catholic faith and believe all of it. I began by studying Protestant doctrines in comparison to Catholic doctrines. Now I love Mother Church and all of her beauty, tradition, and history. I believe every word of the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church because, instead of contradicting each other as I had previously been taught, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they complement each other.
My plan for this series is to learn how to articulate, explain and defend my Catholic faith. I feel intimidated when a friend or relative approaches me with a litany of rapid-fire criticisms or challenges to the Catholic faith, like: “Mary is hardly in the Bible. Why do you worship her? Why do you kiss the cross at Easter time? The Bible doesn’t say that confessing to a priest is scriptural. The pope is not infallible; there were bad popes and even two at the same time. The saints are dead; you can’t talk to them. Catholics pray to statues. The Hail Mary is vain repetition. What about the priest scandal and all those ruler-swinging parochial school nuns? Where’s the love? Where’s the joy?”
Now I can answer those questions, but I want to become better at it. After all, it’s not just about being right or wrong. It’s about discovering the fullness of the Christian life. So next week I will begin with a study about the Protestant doctrine of the Bible as the only authority of who God is and what He expects of us – and compare it to the Catholic authority of Sacred Scripture/the Magisterium/and Tradition. Feel free to suggest topics, ask questions or correct me if I'm wrong.
* RCIA = Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults