For many years now, I have felt a pull to the Catholic Church. It first began around six years ago when struggling with my faith (at the time I was Episcopalian), and has persisted in varying degrees even though I no longer consider myself a Christian. In fact, it was a previous failed attempt at converting to Catholicism resulting in nothing but anguish and frustration that caused me to abandon religion altogether. I don’t know if it is a true interest in the Catholic faith or simply a fascination with certain aspects of Catholicism (reverence for Mary, the liturgy, the beauty of cathedrals, what you might call the “smells and bells”–no offense intended). Probably a little of both, or perhaps there is no real difference.
At any rate, I am taking baby steps toward Catholicism, if only to settle the matter once and for all in my mind, whether or not I’m REALLY interested in Catholicism or just toying with the idea with no real purpose. I went to Adoration today at a parish in a neighboring town for about 45 minutes today, though I’m not sure if it did anything for me. I am planning on picking up the book “Catholicism for Dummies” at the library today, and I have started looking at the Catechism online. I am not committing myself to a specific outcome other than to explore with an open mind and heart and see where that leads me.
When I said I no longer consider myself a Christian, I mean to say I believe in God, but I’m not really clear on what I believe ABOUT God. I guess my current view is somewhat pantheistic or panentheistic–God is everything or God is in everything, but honestly, I have no real defense for that view, other than that I have a difficult time seeing God as a personal being, having interaction with humans. I also have difficulty accepting the miracles of Christianity–virgin birth, resurrection, miraculous healings, etc. It just sounds so far fetched to me–again, no offense intended. I believed it at one point, and I don’t understand what changed that I don’t believe it now, which makes me wonder if I ever really believed in the first place. I certainly thought I did when I was baptized. It’s a strange thing to experience–growing up without religion, becoming a Christian as an adult, then having a crisis of faith and abandoning it to wonder why you ever believed it in the first place, to once again saying, hmmm, maybe there really is something to it.
I was hoping perhaps some former atheists or agnostics might share how they were able to make the leap from believing in God to believing in a personal God to believing specifically in the Christian view of God. Was it just a matter of prayer and time? Was it a book you read or something someone pointed out to you? Did you have some sort of mystical experience?
I don’t think I’d have a lot of trouble believing the Catholic view of God if I were able to get to the Christian view of God (of course I know Catholics would say the Catholic view IS the Christian view, but Protestants would disagree, which is why I made the distinction). What I mean is, I think if I could believe any of it I could believe ALL of it. Or put another way: If I can believe Jesus died and came back to life three days later, how would believing in the perpetual virginity of Mary or the Real Presence or any of the rest of it be any more difficult? It all sounds equally crazy to an outsider
Feel free to share anything you think would be useful, and forgive me for being offensive if I have been. Lifelong Catholics are welcome to answer as well, but I’m really hoping to get perspectives from someone with some experience from the “outside.”