My father is of Jewish upbringing, and my mother was raised Protestant, but both gave up the practice of any religion when they reached adulthood. Accordingly, I grew up without religious instruction, having limited exposure through relatives both to Judaism and to Protestantism. My fondest childhood memories are of Christmas at the warm and cheerful home of my maternal grandparents. The enormous tree, surrounded by endless presents, was the highlight of my existence, and the usual collection of Christmas carols, some with occasional references to a newborn king, afforded what seemed to be the most fitting orchestration for this annual event.
“I went and talked with a Catholic priest. As it turned out, he was less than encouraging. I don’t know if he was disgruntled with the Church or what, but he seemed to say, ‘Why would you want to go and become a Catholic?’”
What shall I render to You, O Lord, for all Your bounty to me? You created me out of nothing, You hold me in existence, You redeemed me by Your Son’s Precious Blood, You adopted me in the Sacrament of Baptism. You have led me to the fullness of faith in the Catholic Church, and through her, You call me into an eternal communion of life and love with You. Truly I can justly thank You, O Lord, only by offering myself to You day by day in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in union with the oblation of Your Son.
In seminary the problems we had with Evangelical belief were only exacerbated. From my early days as an Evangelical I had been aware of the many differences in interpreting the Bible and the plethora of Protestant groups all claiming to have the “correct” biblical teaching. This awareness intensified at seminary as we studied various Protestant traditions and their interpretations of the Bible.
Through my history classes I quickly realized that all allegedly “Bible only” groups actually had an extensive extra-biblical tradition for interpreting the Bible. This tradition was influenced by specific ways of reading texts and ways of explaining uncomfortable passages that don’t fit with the system. It was also heavily determined by historical, social, political, theological, and philosophical factors. In many cases Protestant traditions had surreptitiously adapted the traditional teaching of the historic Church.
My theological research at this time was making me aware that even the Protestant Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin believed that the Lord’s Supper should be taken weekly. My religious sentiments naturally inclined me to awe and great reverence for God. Contemporary Christian music and contemporary Christian churches were missing something. The awe and reverence were replaced with a shallow emotionalism that just didn’t ring true. Something was missing, but I didn’t know what it was.
My father is a retired Assemblies of God pastor. My parents had a deep and abiding love for Jesus Christ. Their lives expressed who Christ was. I vividly remember being awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of their praying — praying for each of the people in their congregation.