I've converted in spirit at this point, and will hopefully a.s.a.p. have the opportunity to enter the Church physically, so hopefully my testimony counts here.
I'll try to tell this in story form.
My family isn't religious, except for my dad, who practices more or less in secret. I suppose for years, perhaps since the beginning of high school, I considered myself a general "Christian" (it's hard to remember), but I can't remember doing anything aside from sometimes praying. Back then, I didn't really know the first thing about denominational differences except for the propaganda taught to me in history classes, but I guess by sola fide standards I was doing okay. Then the last couple years (I'm finishing my second year of college now) where I actually learned about Christianity in general and even attended a non-denominational church with my friend. But I sinned gravely (if not mortally?) all the time, in a variety of ways, and I almost knew and could feel that I shouldn't, but that was never enough of a reason.
Then, in the midst of one of my toughest semesters ever (last Fall) something caught my eye. My dad usually drops me off at the small college I attend and then continues on to work (and picks me up on the way back), which is a convenient deal, and in the morning on our way there, his lips scarcely move as he stares forward and silently mouths the rosary. I usually just tried not to bother him, but he didn't mind if I did. So -- and I hope to always remember this moment, to burn it into my memory -- we were driving along a semi-rural road in the pre-dawn near-darkness, and I remember looking over at him and seeing his lips (in the light of the dashboard?
) barely moving as usual, and a thought (which, upon later reflection, I realized I've only had a few times in my life total: a very rare thought indeed) crossed my mind: "does praying the rosary actually do anything?" Then, within the same instant (I'd be surprised if the word "anyway" appearing in my mind and the following event were separated by a 1/4 second), a car which was waiting patiently at one of those middle-of-nowhere intersections decides to turn left, pulling out right in front of us. My dad didn't slam the breaks, but he did hit them hard: enough to jerk me forward and wring my adrenal glands, and the guy turning squeaked by. So a few things about this:
1. I'm not embellishing the timing: it was as if the driver ahead deciding to randomly turn when he clearly and obviously shouldn't have overlapped with the very end of that question in my mind.
2. Since this, I usually think of this and like things as "statistical miracles." Of course, people can say anything isn't a miracle, especially what I witnessed (which isn't the wildest thing but it was certainly enough to get the ball rolling), but even with mustard seed-sized faith, I find it hard to dismiss that something was responsible for this statistically interesting event.
3. I try to be reasonable and logical, so naturally I had to then figure out the following: was this a miracle from the Deceiver or from God?
Okay, so that was the catalyst. The ball's rolling. For the next half year roughly, up to this day, I spent an inordinate amount of time researching mainly Catholic and Protestant and (a little) Orthodox apologetics. I slowly became a pattern connoisseur, searching deep and wide for answers. At first especially, it was intensely confusing and a little distressing. I realized that whichever sect (if any in particular) was correct, the less-correct sect(s) would have hundreds or thousands of years (depending on the sect) to muddy the apologetic waters and form all sorts of deceiving counterarguments.
I also started praying a lot and praying consistently (probably for the first time ever). I realized I couldn't do this on my own, but I recognized the true gravity of this decision, and so I tried to clear my mind of all preconceptions and I honestly prayed (on many occasions over those months) something like this:
"God, if any Christian sect holds truest to your truth, or if somehow they all do, or certain ones do, please show me so I know how to best worship you. I want your Truth -- no matter the cost."
And I tried to make sure that I meant it. Each time that I can remember praying that, I got an answer which was along the lines of a "statistical miracle," though not quite as grand as the first, and it always pointed towards Catholicism. I would always feel at peace after this was revealed to me, not because Catholicism is the most comforting choice at a glance (is St Leonard of Port Maurice's (private) revelation, or anything for that matter, more comforting than sola fide?) but because the Truth became clear to me, finally. But I would forget much of what I read as I continued my journey, and slowly I would erode down again into doubt, which is why I ended up praying for the Truth, whatever it may be, so many times. There would be a bi-weekly or monthly peak, then a downward slope until the next peak.
(to be continued...)