Baptized Catholic, Lapsed, Then Reverted Because of the Eucharist (long!)


#1

I’m 20 years old. I was baptized Catholic and was raised in a non-religious, maybe nominally Catholic family. A crucifix hangs on a bedroom mirror, and there are a few crosses and rosaries scattered around the house, but that’s about it. We didn’t really go to Church except during Christmas or Easter, or during those odd weekends when my dad would just say “let’s go to Church”. I had “Catholic Education” for six years (two in grade school, four in high school) but that’s not saying much. I do remember knowing the difference as a young teenager the difference between Protestant and Catholic bibles. One evening I decided to crack open our home’s NIV Devotional Study Bible, and later asking mom:

Me: "Mom, why have we got a Protestant Bible?"
Mom: "How did you know?"
Me: "It only has 66 books in it…"
Mom: “Yes, it’s a Protestant Bible. A friend of your dad gave it to us.”

I think I got all the way to Genesis 4 or 5 before getting bored with it. I’ve had intermittent “contact” with God during my teen years. I remember pouring my heart out at a confession during my senior year, resolving to fix myself and get rid of my bad habits before God. I remember I stopped doing my “evil stuff” for maybe six weeks. But I didn’t even go back to Church, and I started doing them again after a while. I fell away from the Church completely shortly before I moved to college. I was enrolled in a secular university - a good secular university, but one of the reasons I picked it is because “I don’t have to go through that religious rubbish”.

During my sophomore year I dabbled into Objectivism. I got into arguments with my friend, who was at the time newly “born-again” at a non-denominational charismatic/neo-pentecostal church. I later abandoned Objectivism, seeing some dogmas in the philosophy that claimed to be “completely rational” and based on “challenging men to think” (thinking about it caused me to abandon it, ironically). About a year later, a few more friends of mine joined this same church, and they started to evangelize me very aggressively. At the time, I didn’t really know what I believed. I knew there was a God, I just didn’t know if he cared (in hindsight, it was me who didn’t care about Him!). I identified with Deists, sometimes I was thinking if I was really agnostic, and on one particular occasion I called myself secular humanist. I thought I still identified myself as “Roman Catholic” purely out of inertia and convenience. I subscribed to the “your religion is a private matter”, “Jesus is a historical person, probably not God though” and “the Bible teaches good morals, but it’s not infallible” schools of thought. A non-Catholic friend of mine told me about hypocrites in the Catholic Church, and I remember thinking:

“Yeah, I’m a hypocrite. The only difference between you and me is that I can admit that I am one.”

I showed to him part of a project I did for one of my classes. In it was a photo of our home parish.

“Would you just imagine that, I said I went to Church.”

Ah, good ol’ pride. I’d humbly eat those words many months later.

After a while, one of them managed to “corner” me into attending one of their services. I remember the pastor at the time, was preaching on verses about Christ’s blood and his sacrifice. I was rather indifferent at the time and I was more fond of picking apart their church’s rules on tithing than anything else. But that whole discussion about Jesus’ blood got me thinking:

“Hey, that’s what Holy Communion is all about, right? Them Catholics take that pretty seriously…”

Mind you, at the time I also had that “it’s a symbolic memorial ceremony” type of thinking – I didn’t believe in the Sacraments. I do remember telling my friends, that, “Hey, you know what, your pastor’s preaching for some reason allowed me to relate to Catholicism…” Responses ranged from “I don’t understand you” to “Roman Catholicism?! HAHAHAHA!!!”

I know what some of you are thinking. That’s the Holy Spirit right there, telling me to come home. In hindsight, that might have been it, exactly!

After a while, I thought, hey, this is awful! My friends joined a cult! That got me researching about religions and cults. I came across a “counter-cult” site with many Evangelicals on it, and one Catholic poster (God bless his soul!) joined in on one of the discussions, pointing out that “Sola Scriptura” is (ironically) unscriptural. Everyone told him to get out of the Church and be “born again”, and he pointed out that he did join a “born again” group and reverted to the Church after discovering it’s teachings. My country is predominantly Catholic, and there are plenty of anti-Catholic sects telling us about “non-biblical” Catholic “doctrines”. I’ve really always thought that “scripture vs. tradition” was a false dichotomy, and that extra-biblical stuff wasn’t necessarily un-biblical. That the Bible taught explicitly that it wasn’t the only source of authority… crikey! That got me reading up on Catholicism.

(to be continued…)


#2

I stumbled upon Catholic Answers shortly after that. I read the “library” and found that it made a lot of sense. “Wow, the Catholic Church does teach things that make sense after all!” I thought. I’ve been lurking these forums for quite some time, and slowly my thinking was becoming “more Catholic”. I wasn’t really going to Mass or praying or having any sort of relationship with the Lord yet. But comparing Catholic teaching with the teachings of other denominations, it was the Catholic teachings that seemed to be more coherent and consistent with the Bible overall. I found the Early Church Fathers. I found the ex-protestant authors like Scott Hahn, Marcus Grodi, et al. These people were giving up their careers, their lives in their Protestant/Evangelical world to become…*Catholic?! I thought religion was just a culture thing that you either grow up with, or fall out of for something else or nothing at all. And then there are these people who are giving up everything to become what I’ve always taken for granted.

Soon I started praying… intermittently. I felt spiritually dead (well, I was) and I had no connection with God. I started going to Mass. Praying and participating some times, going through the motions other times. I bought a Bible, and sometimes, I’d read it before Jesus Himself in the Blessed Sacrament , thinking that I had nothing to lose really if it was just a piece of bread. I’d catch the daily mass if I had nothing to do (hey, what’s half an hour for a bored college student really). Later, I realized that I shouldn’t be taking communion, and stopped doing so. I still didn’t know what I really believed, but after much reading, soul searching and prayer, I concluded that if Christianity is the true religion, then either the Catholics or the Orthodox are the true Church. The others just had teachings inconsistent with the Bible and didn’t have their roots in historical Christianity.

The Church I attend has a circular, layout such that if you were on one side, the tabernacle was to your left or right and not in front of you. When people sat on that side, many genuflected towards the altar. “What the heck people, are you worshipping the altar? Jesus is over there!” Even the people who went to daily Mass did it. Being a predominantly Catholic country, people are “Catholic by default” and many are clueless about their faith (like I was, prior to my search). Every single Catholic I knew, friends and relatives, were clueless about their faith and many weren’t even at least “Sunday Catholics”. All the committed Christians I knew were Evangelicals, and the rest of the people were atheists or agnostics.

At this point I was looking for the Catholic Church. As in, that “Catholic Church” that St. Ignatius was talking about. I had been praying to God, something that went like:

“If Catholicism is the true religion, why the heck are Catholics so clueless? Are there any committed Catholic Christians whom I could fellowship with and lead me towards a relationship with You? Surely there are some of them out there. If you are real and this is true, I need your help, I want and need sound spiritual direction.”

(to be continued)


#3

I was afraid of seeing a priest. And at that parish, they never seemed to be around except during Mass (though to be honest, that’s just me being afraid and lazy). Fortunately, the Lord had that covered. One day, right before daily mass, I saw a girl genuflect towards the tabernacle before entering the pew. I recognized her as one of my classmates. “Wow, she knows more than the average Catholic!” I thought. I sat right next to her. Not wanting to interrupt her praying I waited until she got out of kneeling and sat down. I then said:

Me: “I’ve got no idea why I’m here. I’ve got no idea why I have a Bible in my hand.”
Classmate 1: “Why?”
Me: “Well… this whole religion thing… I’ve been evangelized by my born-again friends but I’m looking into this and I think Catholicism might be… true.”

short conversation, then the Mass came around and we went on while we walked to class

After Mass she introduced me to another classmate (“Classmate 2”), who it turns out frequents an Opus Dei-backed study center. I recognized the place, having been invited there before by a couple of professors but completely ignoring the invitations. “When I’ve got the time.” I told him. Later that got me thinking: “you’re giving excuses as usual. Change that to “ASAP”! That’s the Lord answering your prayers!” Was that the Holy Spirit? I wonder…

A week later I found myself at the same place, at the same time, right before daily Mass. Again I thought… “Why am I here again? Oh well…” I took out the St. Josemaria Escriva prayer card “Classmate 1” gave me, and said the prayer written on it. As one of my intentions, I remember saying:

“Lord, If that’s *really**you in the tabernacle, the bread and wine, as the Catholics and Orthodox believe it to be, then I want that. I want the Eucharist. If that is true, I need you to help me make a good confession.”

After Mass I queued at the confessional not knowing what I was going to do. “Classmate 2” came around and told me he had something to give me. It was, thanks be to God, a “short guide to confession”. I had the piece of paper in my hand, looking up suspiciously, and told my classmate that he was the answer to my prayers! A few minutes later, a middle-aged lady queued behind me. I told her to go ahead of me because I had four years worth of sins to confess. That got her curious I think, and she gave me a prayer book which also had a guide to confession! At that point, I just couldn’t believe what was happening. I was praying:

“Okay, all right, Lord. I know you’re telling me that you want this. I will make this a good one. Just help me, please.”

That wasn’t all though. This lady, it turns out, volunteers at a healing ministry. She told me how her family came to know God when her sister was struck by a rare kidney disease. The doctors were recommending that she be transferred abroad because there were no specialists in our country who knows how to handle the disease. That sent her family into a spiritual crisis. Though they went to Mass every Sunday their family fought and argued often, and her dad was a gambler. They resolved to fix their family problems before God, and because they didn’t have the means to send her sister abroad for treatment, left the rest to Him. Her sister fully recovered, and her family came to know Jesus and became closer to each other. We engaged in conversation about Catholic beliefs, and after a while we were talking about the proper way to do Confession. She had two companions from her ministry, one of them is a reformed thief and drug addict who just came out of prison and will be continuing his studies in a few months. God really does change people!

Part of our conversation went something like:

Me: “It’s amazing. I asked God to show me the committed Catholics if Catholicism were true. And here we are talking. I didn’t know that a couple of my classmates were strong Catholics. You people just came out of nowhere!”
Lady: “It’s not a coincidence, that we’ve met. God wants to use you for something. But now that you’re doing this, remember that there will be many forces that will try to pull you out of it. Don’t give up.”

We exchanged contact details, and I hope to get in touch with her as soon as this semester’s exams are over.

(to be continued)


#4

My turn to confess then came. The priest, Fr. Mike was very kind. He made me feel at ease in confessing my four years worth of sins. A few times he actually asked me “is that all?” to which I went “no, not quite Father… there’s still this one where I…” It was much quicker than I imagined. I wasn’t really much of a “bad boy” in college, because I pragmatically dismissed the whole booze/drugs/sex subculture as a “waste of time” (thanks be to God!), but I had some really nasty bad habits I need to get rid of as well as my evil/lustful thoughts. After giving my penance, Father Mike recommended I read “The Faith Explained” by Leo Trese. I’ve gone through some of it and it’s a wonderfully easy read. Father told me to talk to Mother Mary and I would get to know Jesus better. He told me that you can’t love someone you don’t know and he’s right. He asked me which department in the University I belonged to, turns out he also graduated from the College of Engineering. He knew some people at my department and he referred me to “Classmate 2”. I was absolutely ecstatic and I just wanted to scream “I’m home!!!” I was so excited I forgot to say an Act of Contrition – it was I turned on my laptop to study for an exam that evening when I remembered! (So sorry, my dear Lord…)

After my confession, the lady in the church gave me a plastic rosary bracelet, the ones that they make at their ministry to raise funds. It’s teal, and people told me it looks “gay” but hey it reminds me of Mary my Mom and Jesus her Son our Lord, as well as my conversion experience. Maybe I’ll get one of another colour, but for now… hahaha.

I came in touch with “Classmate 2” the next day and we went to the study center that he goes to. I loved it there, it was peaceful and quiet. They were polite and straight to the point in introducing themselves, none of the “love bombing” in the Evangelical church which I found to be incredibly creepy. People were silently praying in the sanctuary right before our Lord. I told myself, “I want to be part of this.” I appreciate being on-fire for the Lord, (I wanted to scream like an idiot right after doing my confession) but there should be a time for reverence and there was never a quiet moment in the Evangelical church. This must have been the fellowship the Lord wants me to belong to.

So it’s all true!

There is a Communion of Saints, the way Catholics understand it! St. Josemaria Escriva brought my prayer to God and it was answered!

Reality really is sacramental, and the sacraments really do work! Before my confession, I’d try to overcome my bad habit but I often just find myself thinking “what the heck” and giving in and (consciously and consentfully) doing it anyway. It’s not magic, the temptations are still there. But through the special graces given by God through his sacrament, it’s like I didn’t want to do it anymore!

The Eucharist really IS Jesus! The “Cathodox” aren’t crazy! According to CatholicsComeHome.org, the #1 reason why people come into the Church is because of the Eucharist. I can personally attest to that – I guess that makes me a statistic!

”And it came to pass, whilst he was at table with them, he took bread and blessed and brake and gave to them. And their eyes were opened: and they knew him.” Luke 24:30-31 (DRC)

I was looking for the Catholic Church. I was looking for people who were committed to Christ through this Church, if it were the true Church. I asked God to show it to me. And show it to me he did! The committed believers, were after all friends and acquaintances! I’ve been invited to their study center before during my freshman year by my professors, but I refused it. I didn’t know I was rejecting God’s Grace. But now I know where the truth is – it was right in front of me, to be unveiled by God!

“Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7 (DRC)

As for my evangelical friends, I often hear that they want to be closer to the Lord. Now I understand why! Some of them wish that they could be living in Biblical times just to see the Lord in His ministry here on earth. How I wish I could share to them (and to my clueless/non-practicing Catholic friends and relatives) the reality of the Eucharist! You can’t get much closer to Him here on earth than through the Blessed Sacrament! When you understand that the Eucharist is Jesus, you’d stop asking “Why is it a mortal sin to miss Sunday Mass?” and start asking “Why the heck don’t we to go Mass every single day?” So where is Jesus? On the altar at every Mass and in the tabernacle of every Catholic (and Orthodox) Church.

”…as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” -St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrneans, ca.107-110 AD


#5

P.S. I just want you guys to know, Fr. Mike is right, Mother Mary is amazing. When I go through the day, I think of God the Father, and Jesus, and when I want to share my newfound faith, the Holy Spirit. But at night, before I go to sleep, is the time I’m often tempted and have evil thoughts. When that happens, I contemplate about Mary my Mom… I imagine her sitting on my bed, sometimes holding her hand… I try talking to her, I find myself at peace with her and couldn’t think of anything evil around her. Many times I contemplate Jesus sitting with her and I try talking to them both. It’s wonderful. I wish the whole world would know about her, too, for her soul magnifies the Lord! (Luke 1:46)

I encourage everyone to talk to our Mom. The Rosary is known to be good for your health (the heart, specifically… how appropriate) as well as your soul. :slight_smile:


#6

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