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…)