About a year ago I was talking on the phone to an old friend from Mongolia. In the course of conversation she asked if we were still going to the same church we had been attending the last time she came for a visit. I said, “No, actually, we have been going to St. Therese Catholic Church.” She literally gasped. “WHY?????” she asked with every ounce of incredulity.
Recently another old friend came to visit. And mentioned that since we had last visited I had become Catholic. He said that there would be time for me to explain myself during the visit.
I know this is just the beginning. People are genuinely interested and honestly curious as to why I would choose this. So, I thought I’d sort of break down my top reasons for joining the Church and dispel any misconceptions as well.
First of all, my reasons do not include:
- Rejecting my religious upbringing. I love the way I grew up. I had a good, no, excellent foundation of faith. My heart was converted to Christ early and I have always loved Him. My earliest memories of my folks are of them in prayer and Bible study. So, no complaints, AT ALL. Here’s the best I can explain it: You have perhaps heard that when a Jew comes to Christ he refers to himself as a “completed Jew.” He doesn’t reject his Judaism. In fact, he embraces it more fully now that he can see the full-revelation. I feel the same way. Since finding myself in the Church I feel like a completed Christian. I feel like the missing pieces have fallen into place.
- Having my heart or head turned by bad information or lack of research. If you’ve read other posts here or know me at all, you know that I do my research. Before I even considered joining the Church I had read Augustine, Chesterton, Hahn, Brother Lawrence, St. Hildegard, St. John Paul 2, etc. Not only that I had also read more than the average share of non-Catholic writers: NT Wright, Calvin, Luther, Macarthur, etc. Crossing the Tiber has not been without adequate study and information.
So, why become Catholic? There are certainly plenty of other things to be–things that are easier, that require less dedication, that would not upset the relational applecart with family and friends, that don’t require explanation. So, it must be worth it to risk so much. Am I right? Here’s what I believe is worth it all:
Unity. One of the first things that drew me to the Catholic Church was an ardent prayer for unity among believers. Once I really meditated on Jesus’ High Priestly prayer that His followers would be one as He and the Father were one, I was so convicted by the disunity in the body of Christ. Then I knew that the Protest was over. Although reconciliation between Christians is a two-way street, I feel like the returning needs to happen by those who left. Remember that the Prodigal Son had to return to the Father’s house. The Father didn’t move. Protestants left the Catholic Church. And it is we who have to do some returning. “In returning and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust will be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15. Add to all this that the 40,000+ denominations is surely an indication of the kind of disunity that can happen outside the Church Jesus established. As I prayed for unity it became increasingly difficult to ignore the very practical step I could take towards unity by calling off my own protest and joining myself to the Church. I mean, it’s all well and good to say you believe in unity while requiring the other party to make the first steps towards it.
The Real Presence. Long before I could understand certain doctrines of the Catholic Church, I fell head-over-heels in love with the Eucharist. Knowing that I was saved, am being saved and will be saved, it was not such a stretch to understand that Jesus came, that He is here, and that He will come again. His Real Presence in the host was impressed on me so clearly when I dared go to Adoration. I took my 9 month old baby with me who was as loud and wiggly as any baby ever. We sat down in the chapel and he was silent. He just sat there silently in baby awe for about 40 minutes. We sat there and I cried and I knew (like I KNEW!) I was in the presence of Jesus. Jesus was so clear about this when He said “this IS my body” and when He said that unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood we weren’t a part of Him. It was so important to Jesus that He actually lost followers over it! They left Him, unable to accept these hard sayings. And Jesus did not call them back and clarify. He didn’t say, “Wait, wait, this is just figurative. It’s only symbolic, don’t freak out everyone.” Once I knew this to be true in the deepest parts of my soul, I can never leave it. I cannot walk away from Jesus Himself in the Eucharist. And where can we find Him? In every Tabernacle of every Catholic Church everywhere on earth.
The Blessed Mother. I love her. I take that “All generations shall call me blessed” thing seriously. Most of my Christian life I have pretty much ignored her. I mean, at Christmas you think of her….briefly. She’s there in the nativity scene and all. But that’s it. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sermon (outside the Catholic Church) of Mary standing with her son at the foot of the cross or how Jesus does what she asks even if he wasn’t inclined to do something otherwise (a’la wedding at Cana) or how a sword pierced her heart (remember Simeon’s prophecy). I did not understand before that Mariology is really Christology. And I certainly did not understand that she has lots of children–those who keep God’s commandments and have the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 12:17) She is my mother. She prays for me. She goes to Jesus on my behalf and He does not refuse any of her requests, for she refused Him nothing in laying down her life to bring Jesus into the world in the flesh. Now that I have experienced her Motherhood, I cannot turn my back on her.
There are more reasons, of course. There is Confession and historical roots and the priesthood and the mystics and the respect for Life and steadfastness on moral issues and the saints. I could go on and on. (So, read the links!) But, the three reasons above are more than enough to inspire conversion.
My intention is not to upset the applecart. I have no desire to offend or rock the boat. Trust me! It terrifies me to think that I could make those I love mad or hurt by my decision to convert. But every time those fears start to creep up, Jesus whispers, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:34-39