What made the Sacraments "click" for you? (especially converts)

As a cradle Catholic, I grew up in an environment in which the Sacraments have just been a part of my life, and a way in which God gives us His grace.

To an Evangelical Protestant, though, talk of the Sacraments seems to smack of “having to do something to get God’s grace” or somehow, like, setting requirements, or “trading,” to receive grace. Insert “earn” and “merit” into the conversation a couple times for good measure.

I had to try not to laugh at what a misunderstanding that is, but I was also at a loss as to how to respond in such a way that my discussion partner would understand. It’s such a different perspective!

Especially those of you who have come from that different background: What was it that helped you to understand the Sacraments? Something you read, or a particular example, or just a change in how you looked at things? What made them “click”?

The 37 year confession I made helped me understand. Many habitual sins stopped cold after that. That is how it “clicked” for me. I experienced the power of the sacraments in a profound way.

-Tim-

Kind of hard to explain, but I grew up outside the church yet remained a faithful Christian. Studying the roots of my beliefs I came to study Orthodoxy. Since I had been unable to receive communion in a the RC (invalid, irregular marriage) or the EO, I asked the priest when was the last time I received valid communion…he said it was when I was in the RC as a little girl.

That really gnarls and aches your soul.

I was taught by the EO that Divine Liturgy is all about a timeless gathering between heaven and earth where we partake of the Lamb. I used to wait for the angels, but now I can participate again.

It clicked for me when I realized that we are body AND soul as humans. In the protestant world, there is a belief much like from Star Wars, in Yoda fashion they believe we are “luminous beings” and not part of our body.

It was while reading something about the sacraments (probably Scott Hahn) and he discussed how many times Jesus and God instituted a miracle THROUGH the material world (Jesus using mud to heal the blind, God telling Naaman to dip in the water 7 times, etc).

That plus really focusing on our bodies being raised to re-join our souls at the Second Coming. I realized that we ARE body AND soul. So it makes complete sense that God would use visible, tangible sacraments to transmit His grace so that we have an ability to relate, touch, and feel it.

With most of the sacraments, it involves a physical portion, bread/wine in Communion, oil in Confirmation and Annointing of the Sick, water with Baptism, oil with Holy Orders, etc.

That’s what triggered with me.

This was quite a few years ago now, but as a member of the Assemblies of God who had been searching for the truth, I remember reading John 6, the verses in which Jesus declares that his flesh is real food and his blood real drink. The thought hit me: “What if the Catholics are right about how they read that–that Jesus meant it quite literally and not metaphorically?” I don’t know where that idea came from because as an AGer I’d had it drilled into me that it wasn’t possible for a priest to “make Jesus” just by praying over a bit of bread. But then the irony of the fact that we claimed to read the Bible literally–taking God at his word–contradicted the AoG’s position. It was a wake-up call for me that began a long journey back to the ECUSA and then on to the Catholic Church. Being able to receive the Eucharist is now one of my greatest joys–the reason I sometimes go to Mass when I don’t feel like going out of the house. Jesus is really, substantially in the host and the chalice. A miracle at every Mass!

Great, thanks for the responses! I’ve looked up some resources by Scott Hahn. I know and really like some of his other work.

I’m trying to figure out how to explain the Sacraments (in general) to someone who not only has a very different background, but also a serious misunderstanding of Catholic point of view. (She thinks we’re basically a “works” religion - as I mentioned above, “earning” salvation, etc.) CA has some good tracts on specific Sacraments, but haven’t found a nice one that is just kind of an intro, points out where there are examples of Sacraments in Scripture, and so on.

Any other stories or resources that anyone would like to share?

This is also from Scott Hahn, and his “Father’s Plan”, tracing the covenants through the OT to the NT. Also from his great new book “Consuming the Word”.

God required circumcision from Abraham – as a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham’s people. It was a physical act. How could that “make” people member’s of God’s covenant family? Because God had mandated it, so it is GOD who changes the person’s status.

I can see it most clearly in Baptism replacing circumcision as the NEW process/act which changes us forever into adopted children of God. WOW, talk about “clicking”! Pour water and my soul is changed for all eternity!

Not “works” just an “outward sign”, like circumcision.

You may want to explain that it is not the priest who converts the gifts into Jesus, but it is the action of God that does this.

The Evangelical Protestant has Sacraments whether he realizes it or not. Specifically, he will have baptism and matrimony. He may also have something similar to the Eucharist - depending on the denomination. But it will not be the actual body and blood, likely referred to as a “symbol”.

Confirmation is not necessary in his eyes because he will believe in Believer’s Baptism, which is accompanied by a public profession of faith. His views of Penance will not include confession, but rather a “perfect act of contrition” although the exact theology on forgiveness varies significantly. Finally, Holy Orders and Anointing the Sick will be entirely foreign to him (although he will have likely prayed for those ill).

My suggestion is to emphasize the similarities with him and then individually discuss the differences.

For me personally, as a former Evangelical Protestant, my initial issues were not with the Sacraments. The biggest issue for me was sola scriptura and Apostolic Tradition. Once these are conquered everything else sort of falls into place. Ironically, I now find myself defending these two Catholic positions with more passion than any of the others!

As far as being a “works religion” - show her James 2:14-26. The Catholic position is that one cannot claim to have faith without doing works, they are integrally related. Faith means a love for God which means doing his will. Jesus and the other Apostles clearly taught good works, so how can one claim to have faith if they don’t do this ie disobey God?

step.nd.edu/registration/complete-catalog/an-introduction-to-sacraments/

Great courses and resources.

I’m a former Evangelical. I came to believe in the Sacraments (particularly the Real Presence) after reading some of the Early Church Fathers in the 2nd century.

For me it was the real presence of Christ. We visited a Mass and there was just something different and my 12 year old daughter made the comment “I just feel closer to God in Mass”. Through prayer, study and attending Mass the reason became impossible to ignore that the actual real presence of Christ was in the Eucharist and we weren’t just in the presence of the Holy Spirit but that of our Lord and Savior. After that there is no where else I can imagine myself being but in his Holy and universal Church.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.