This week, I shared this image on my FB wall.
Someone responded by asking about our conversion and they ended up saying “I don’t see us ever being Catholic”. My thought is “Why? Don’t you know that Catholics are the original Christians?”
It’s almost like there is a terrible stigma with being “Catholic”.
Like “Ewww..that’s SOOO….Catholic”. It’s almost like people believe that we do really weird things or are some kind of weird cult who does human sacrifices. I wonder if it is that people have come to believe the caricature of Rome is the real thing.
With that in mind, I thought I’d start a series of blog posts (I don’t know how many..as many as it takes) and just go through the differences in Catholicism and Protestantism, but not just from a theological perspective but as they are in practice and in reality and in human form. I’ve documented why I now disagree with Protestantism pretty thoroughly already, from a logical perspective, but there’s a personal and emotional and “lived” side to it as well.
Having been on both sides of the Tiber, I feel like I have a perspective on it that is more unique than most even though it is not globally unique, at all, as I am just one of many millions of Pilgrims who have made this swim before.
I must say there is a huge difference in “Perspective” . The things I used to think were THE huge theological issues between Reformers and Catholics just don’t seem like such a big deal anymore. When I was a Protestant, I thought your credibility as a believer stood or fell on your opinion of predestination or the roles of works and grace and faith. Now, on the other side, those honestly seem like insignificant issues. In fact, they are so insignificant to me that I often describe them as “mechanical” when discussing them with my Protestant friends.
But how did I get to this point? How can I just walk away from what I’ve always believed? I guess we should go back to the beginning. We’ve got time. 181 days the last time I checked and I promise it won’t take that long.
I was born in 1980, at Princeton Hospital, in Birmingham, AL to Tim and Susan, who would later get divorced when I was just 2 years old. I spent my entire childhood splitting time in two different households. My father and step-mother raised me as a Southern Baptist. In hindsight, I would say they were not and are not especially devout and thus my upbringing wasn’t especially devout either but this perception is now colored by my exposure to the devoutness that I see in the Catholic Church. I think it is fair to say that they were as devout as any other Protestant family that I knew or have known.
My mother went through periods of being more devout and less devout. She too went to a Baptist Church when she attended. There were years during my childhood when she was really devout, more than the average Protestant, and then there were years when she didn’t go at all.
Let me stop here and say that I love my parents, and I’m not blaming them for anything. In fact, I’m grateful for the entire sequence of events because of where I ended up, but I’m just trying to give you an accurate representation “for the record”.
My religious up-bringing and childhood was never devoid of love or the truth of Jesus’ Gospel, that being that he loved me enough to die for me and saved me from my sins. Believing that, I accepted him into my heart at Hillview Baptist Church, in Birmingham, AL, when I was just 8 years old.
I think the first time I ever really had any sort of doubt about what I believed was when I was 10. Now this isn’t any sort of serious “doubt”. I didn’t doubt that Jesus loved me, nor did I doubt that he died for me or saved me from my sins. However, I had noticed that the kids across the street were Catholic and other kids down the street were Pentecostal and other kids I went to school with were Church of Christ and this led me to question, as a Southern Baptist: “Which one of us is right?”. You may be thinking [Well the obvious answer is that “WE ARE!”], but I wasn’t so sure.
It was a Sunday afternoon, my step-mother was preparing lunch after Church, and I walked into the kitchen and just asked: “How do we know that we’re right?”. She responded: “What do you mean?” And I said “How do we know that we’re right and the Catholics or the Church of Christ folks or the Assembly of God folks are wrong?” I think I got the singular most unsatisfying answer ever and it was something to the effect of “We just are.” I say “something to the effect” because what I remember most isn’t the exact wording but the look on her face, which was one of great concern. I remember thinking “she must be wondering if her step-son is a 10 year old believer who doesn’t really believe”.
Even I wondered, from that point and up-until later in life, if there was something wrong with me. I remember hearing from the pulpit frequently throughout my childhood and continually during my adolescent and even my adult years that we were called to live and share the Gospel with others, that we should be “on fire for Jesus”, but just being honest, I never really was and I never really felt the desire to share him with others. Getting up and going to Church on Sunday morning felt more like a dreaded duty or obligation than it did something I really looked forward to. In fact, in college, I didn’t do it a single time. Not once in 5 years, that I recall, did I ever get up on Sunday morning, get dressed and go to Church. When my wife and I got married, at Willowbrook Baptist Church, in Huntsville, AL, we started attending regularly, but even then I hated doing it. I heard some great messages, but I just wasn’t “on-fire for Jesus”.
After almost 4 decades as a Protestant, I now know that there wasn’t anything wrong with me and is in fact very normal in all of Christendom, not just Protestantism. Why? I dunno, but it’s true.
My wife grew up going to the school where the Presbyterian Church in America was founded. She introduced me to Presbyterianism and I loved it. We read the Bible all the time, the old and the new. We talked about how Jesus was prophesied in the Old Testament and how he fulfilled those prophecies in the New. As a youth, growing up in the Baptist faith, all I took away from the sermons were that the Old Testament contained instructions for “right living” and that the New Testament said that “‘right living’ isn’t important as long as you believe”, which I must say was and still is a very confusing. So learning that each of the four Old Testament Covenants (Noah, Abraham, Moses, David) was a preview of the final covenant in Jesus’ blood was a bit of a mind-melt and I loved it.
To try and move this along, you can go and read my first blog post to learn how we went from being Presbyterians to Catholics here, but to make it short and to move this along, I’ll summarize by saying that God led us to a place of isolation. To be fair, some of that was self-imposed, and some of it wasn’t. But it led me to pray a prayer in early 2018, similar to that of Kimberly Hahn’s:
For 48 days I prayed a prayer similar to this one and I poured myself into the Bible every morning and in prayer every morning.
On the 49th day, February 19th, 2018, I awoke with an immense desire on my heart to ask one of our Catholic friends about those issues I described up above as being so pivotal. Surprisingly enough, I got answers I could accept, I got answers that I found to be scriptural, and I was introduced to some authors and the early Church fathers and what they had to say absolutely blew my mind.
I’ll stop for today here but I’ll pose this question to you: “If you’re so sure you could never be Catholic, then are you brave enough to pray the prayer above?”
Tomorrow I think we’ll talk about how God added a new verse to my Bible, all of my Bibles, that wasn’t there until February 19th, 2018: 1 Timothy 3:15.
Peace Be With You!