With so many threads focusing on people who are leaving the Church for one reason or another, I became curious as to the other side of the equation. For those who weren’t born into the Church life, how did you come into your Catholic belief?
I wasn’t raised in church. My parents took me to a protestant Sunday school when I was very young. Not very often. My family was was never big on attending church.
I read the Bible a lot (I had received a NIV translation on my 9th birthday and studied it with great interest). I was in my early twenties before I realized that although I KNEW a lot of scripture, I really wasn’t using that knowledge to guide my life. I was drinking with friends most nights, and chasing women. A light bulb finally came on and I stopped doing those things. I also decided to get baptized (not an easy feat, especially when a person doest belong to a church, nor have any intention of joining one.) In any event, I did manage to get baptized in my early twenties.
Years later, when I was twenty seven I was reading my Bible and another light bulb went off, telling me that Christ and the Apostles put a rather heavy importance on having communion with others of the faith. Suddenly I was staring at scriptural proof that church was, in fact, an important part of Christian life.
Wanting to obey the scripture, it seemed I needed to make a change. I needed to find a church to belong to.
Now came the fun part… which one is the RIGHT one?
So I went ‘church shopping’. The Catholic Church wasn’t even on my radar. I tried a lot of other churches in my area.
I sat through sermons that I wanted to get up and walk out on. Half the time I didn’t think the preacher had a clue what he was talking about. I looked at the other parishioners in the pews, nodding like bobble heads, eating up every word.
It really bothered me. Hadn’t these people ever READ the Bible? Was I the only one in the audience that realized the errors that the Pastor was making?
I kept going back to the scriptures, saying “Why aren’t we doing THIS, or since when is THAT okay? Doesn’t the Bible tell us to do THIS? Well why isn’t the church doing it?”
I sat through long explanations that basically boiled down to “Well, society has changed…” or “People dont like that”… “It just isn’t done anymore”… or “Jesus understands. Jesus doesn’t mind. Jesus wants us to be happy, that’s all.” …No consequences for sin. No solid rules to live by. It was like a never-ending sound byte of “Jesus loves you!” and “Once saved, always saved.”
Most of the ‘theology’ was that once you were baptized you could do whatever you want. Sex before marriage? Internet porn? These are harmless vices. Everyone does them. They’re frowned upon, but gee golly, once saved always saved. Jesus paid the price, so now it doesnt matter…
I was floored. After a month or two I felt like I had exhausted all hope of finding a REAL Church. One that actually held to the standards of the scriptures.
I had all but given up hope. My life had gone into a dive. My wife and I were going through a divorce after nine years of marriage. My career was on the rocks. (both of these turned out to be blessings in disguise) One night I was surfing the internet. I came upon an article by a Catholic Apologist.
I won’t lie. I had a lot of pre-conceived notions of Catholics, none of which were true. Idol worship. Pope worship. Saint worship. A faulty understanding of confession. Etc.
So I read this article, and it addresses those very issues. It explained everything and made a lot of good points. More impressive, it actually showed in SCRIPTURE where those things came from.
That was the beginning of my journey toward the Church. I was fascinated. I dove into research, and the more I learned about the Catholic Church, the more in love I fell. I devoured as much material as I could about the history of the Church and the Saints. In particular I read about Mother Teresa. All of her good works. All the good she did for the poorest of the poor. Her devotion to God. I read about St. Pio, St. Francis, any saint I could find a webpage about. It was amazing, like an un-ending flow of information.
I decided to attend Catholic church the next Sunday. The homily was wonderful. The priest was EXACTLY in tune with scripture. He actually KNEW what he was talking about! (You have no idea how much joy this brought me). Afterward I was invited to attend Bible Study. Again, I loved it. The priest had so much knowledge. It was the first time in years that I felt like I had learned something new and true.
I bought a copy of the Catechism and a few other books. I learned about the Rosary.
It was incredible. Two thousand years of study and dedication to the scriptures! How had I never known these things? It was like opening a door in your house and finding an entire extra house you never knew you had.
After that I was simply on fire.
I spent the next two years simply learning more (and I still am). I picked up a copy of St. Augustine’s “Confessions” and devoured it. It was uncanny how much I had in common with a man who lived so long ago. I practiced my Rosary. I learned the prayers. I simply became infatuated with God and Christ and Mary and the Saints in a way I never had before. I was always interested in them, but now it was a burning passionate desire.
Over the years I re-married (after my first was annulled by the Church). I have truly started to change my life to live according to God’s laws. Next week I start RCIA at the local parish here. I can’t wait. By Easter I will be a full fledged member of the Church! (It only took me 30 years. LOL)
I’d love to hear other people’s stories of how they ‘found’ the Church.