If Someone Had Told Me That I Would Become Catholic (I Would Have Told Them They Were Crazy)
My story starts in law school in 1995. At that time, I was a fervent Reformed Presbyterian (Calvinist), having spent time in seminary and still actively teaching apologetics and philosophy in the church. If someone had told me that in ten years I would be Catholic (and that I would truly love the Church), I would have told them they were absolutely crazy.
While I was at Cumberland, I got to know Pastor Scott Houser, a very orthodox PCA Presbyterian theologian. He was also an FSU alum, so we became fast friends. I attended a bible study at his house throughout law school, and that study continued when I went to Montgomery to work at the Supreme Court (he traveled to Montgomery once a week to lead a lunch study there). By that time, he had become Fr. Scott Houser, as he had been ordained in a branch of the Anglican Church. I thought that calling him “Father” was weird, as were other aspects of the Anglican Church (various liturgical practices and traditions, like crossing oneself and such).
In 2000, Donna and I started dating. She was a leader in her campus ministry at Troy, and quite devout. She began Cumberland that year, and I got her connected with Fr. Houser. I knew that Donna would like the meaty studies.
During our weekly studies in Montgomery (which covered the same topics as Fr. Houser was teaching with his Birmingham study group), we began to study the writings of the Church Fathers – the leaders of the early Church, several of whom actually walked with and learned from the Apostles themselves. I really enjoyed that, as we good Presbyterians loved to quote from the Fathers in our various discussions (not paying attention to the fact that they were all Catholics). We discussed not only their particular theological positions – which seemed very rich and deep – but also their views about the Church. I was struck by how different their experience was, and how Catholic it sounded. We talked quite a bit about the question “What is the Church?” Incredibly, that was simply not discussed in seminary or in any of my discussions in my very solid and scholarly PCA church. The most we discussed then was that there were certain forms of church government, but that it was not really important.
We then moved into a study of the Council of Nicea, where in 325 the early Church had to answer what was perhaps its greatest controversy ever: the question of the Divinity of Christ. I would have thought that a very clear answer from Scripture – of course Christ was divine, of course the Trinity was a reality, of course Jesus was the second person of the Trinity. But this was a major battle in the Church. A priest named Arius and many of Eastern bishops believed that Jesus was not equal with God, and they had numerous Scripture passages and logical arguments that seem to strongly support that notion. Jesus Himself said many things that seemed to make it clear that he was lesser than the Father: the Father knew things that he did not, He did the will of the Father, Jesus prayed to the Father (was he talking to Himself?), etc. Also, logic seems to fight against the Trinitarian view: the eternal God of the universe was born as a baby, grew in knowledge, worked, obeyed his parents, went to the bathroom, got hungry and tired and so forth?
It took a long time, but I very slowly and reluctantly came to realize that what I knew to be the orthodox Christian positions (like the Trinitarian view) were not self-evident. In other words, while a strong argument for the Divinity of Christ could be made from Scripture, I could not pretend that it was the only possible interpretation. Indeed, Arius was not a monster; he was a generally well-liked priest that was genuinely concerned that the Church not misconstrue Jesus and His work. (The Jehovah’s Witnesses say the same thing today – using Scripture). The question is simply one of what I call “anchor passages” – passages by which other passages are to be interpreted. We would point to John 1 (“The Word was God”) as clear evidence of the Divinity of Christ, but others would say that that is a heavily spiritual passage, and, given the clear indications from other verses that seem to show that Jesus is lesser than God, perhaps John 1 should be understood as meaning that The Word – this man who was born as a person – was “one with God” in some way. It all depends on which verses are considered “anchors.” If John 1 is an “anchor passage” (and I have interpreted it correctly), then the “Jesus as lesser being” passages should be interpreted as consistent with the “anchored” view that Jesus is God (i.e., is equal with the Father). But the reverse is also true – perhaps the “Jesus as lesser being” passages are the “anchors.” This raises the question: who gets to authoritatively decide which passages are the “anchor passages,” and what those passages mean in the first place?
My first instinct was to say “Come on! All reasonable Christians know that the Trinity is clear from Scripture! Nobody (except maybe the JW’s and a few other weird cults) really questions THAT. We all agree on the essentials!” But not everybody does agree on “the essentials.” Who gets to define which are the “essential” beliefs? And I came to understand that the reason I was having such a hard time seeing how someone could really question the Trinity was because I had grown up with it all my life, in a generally Christian society where the notion of God coming to Earth as a baby was commonly believed – not because it was the only possible interpretation of Scripture. But if an alien from Mars that have never heard one iota about Christianity or Christian culture, came down, was handed a Bible, and went back to Mars to read it, the idea that he would of course come up with the Trinity (and the other essential doctrines of the Faith) is just not reasonable.
All of this raised the question of authority. And it scared me.
I was scared because I started to realize that my view of the Church and of the Christian Faith was perhaps a bit cramped, incomplete and maybe even naive. I was scared because I thought that by raising these questions I was somehow improperly questioning my faith or giving in to some kind of liberal viewpoint. But that was not true at all. I was just coming to a realization of the fullness of the Faith. Avoiding the history of the Church was not an option. And as for the Council of Nicea example, the reality was clear: the Church had to decide the matter, and the Church did so. The Bishops of the Church met, debated, and answered the question, and their decision became what is known as the Nicene Creed. They certainly thought that they, as the literal successors to the Apostles, had the authority to do so.
In other words, they – the Bishops of the Church – decided what was orthodox, and what was not. By the standard that they set forth, some were considered “outside the Faith.” But who were they to do so? By what authority did they do that? Fr. Houser continually raised that question. Over a period of time, it sank in: either they had authority to answer the question or they did not. If they did not, then how do we know what the Faith is with any certainty? How do we define the Faith with any authority? Do we each get to define the Faith for ourselves? How can we defend the Faith? It seemed like there had to be some identifiable Body that could answer these fundamental questions as they arose through the ages, and could define the Faith. And that notion was only emphasized when we began to discuss the next topic: the New Testament Canon.
I had never really considered the question of how we got the NT, and many believers do not. Most simply assume that it arrived from the Spirit somehow and was beyond question. But learning the reality was quite illuminating. The question was: how do we know that the books of the NT are inspired, and that the list of books is complete? I learned that this became another early controversy that the Church had to resolve. It was the Church that decided which books were in and which were out. Indeed, the Church finally identified what we know to be the NT canon in the late 4th and early 5th centuries in the Councils of Rome, Hippo, and Carthage. But how did we get there, and what was the purpose of the NT in the first place?
Jesus never commanded his Apostles to write down anything. Instead, Jesus founded a Church and gave the Apostles the authority to go and make disciples and to lead the Church, and that is what they did – they went forth and ordained new bishops in various parts of the world, and trained the people on the Faith. It was at least 40 years until anything was written down – for 40 years the Church flourished and grew without any NT book at all. And when such books and letters were written and sent, they were to address specific problems in specific regions (like the Judiazers in Galatia, for example). These were helpful instruments created by the Church, for the Church. But the Church came first.
But I also learned that many, many gospels, books and letters were written by many people over the first few centuries. And the various churches had varying copies and disagreements about which should be considered “inspired.” There was some general agreement as to some of the books and letters. However, some churches considered certain books and letters inspired that were later considered not to be by the Church. And some churches rejected certain books and letters later considered to be inspired by the Church. The point is that it was the Church – in councils of Bishops ratified by the Bishop of Rome (the seat of St. Peter) – that made the final, authoritative decision.
All of this was really beginning to sink in. Either the Church had the authority to decide the canon or it did not. If it did not, then we have little hope, as we cannot know for sure what the NT even is or whether we have all of it. How do you answer the liberal Da Vinci Code silliness about the so-called “lost gospels?” Am I supposed to decide for myself what is authentic and authoritative? But Christ explicitly established the Church so that we might know the Truth throughout the ages. The Apostles themselves made clear that it is the Church – not the Bible – that is the “pillar and ground of the Truth.” 1 Tim. 3:15. At first I thought that to be a slap at the Bible, but it is not at all. The Bible is a tool created by the Church for the Church (after the Church had been founded and was growing), but it was never intended to be the be-all-end-all-answer-to-everything and sole authority for Christians, and indeed it cannot be, for all the reasons above. If the Bible alone is our sole authority – a view that would have been very strange to the Apostles, the Church Fathers, and the early Christians (indeed, it was strange to all Christians for 1500 years) – then we have no reason to believe that the Bible is what we believe it to be, because we have stripped away the authority of the Body that determined and compiled the Bible in the first place. To really believe in “sola scriptura” is to believe that each one of us is our own authority to determine not only what the Bible means (that is, to define Christianity for ourselves), but to determine which books should be in the canon and which should be discarded. That means that everything is up for grabs, even today.
This was a huge problem for me and for Donna. How does one say that a Jehovah’s Witness’ interpretation of who Jesus is (essentially Arian) is “wrong” with any certainty? Or, without an authoritative Body to answer questions and define the Faith as the need arises throughout history, there is absolutely nothing to stop people from bringing up “other gospels” (like the Gnostic works) and claiming that they are inspired and should be in the canon (this is the Da Vinci Code problem). The best we can do is say “well, we do not think that they should be in the canon,” but that is not a solid defense. Without a body, how does one defend the present NT canon? How do we know that the people today holding up the old Gnostic works are not right? To say “well, many of the early Christians rejected those works” is to say nothing. Who cares what they thought? “We stand on the COMPLETE ‘Word of God’ that so far has been withheld or suppressed” will be the quick response. In all of my years in teaching my Protestant brethren how to do apologetics (defend the Faith), I secretly always wrestled with this fundamental question, and just hoped that nobody would bring it up.
I found myself precommitted to a belief in the Trinity and that the NT canon in my Bible is the real NT canon, and I wanted to defend those positions. But in doing so I was – without realizing it – defending the authority of the Catholic Church, which gave us the Nicene Creed and put the NT canon together. I came to realize that the only reason that these doctrines and the canon seem so reasonable and commonplace to us today is because we all stand on the unchallenged authority that solidified these matters over the first 1500 years of Christian history. Had there been no such central “Body,” it is hard to imagine what today’s “churches” would look like or teach, or if they would even exist.
At some point during the studies with Fr. Houser (which went about 3 or 4 years), I finally came to see the need for a center of authority, the need to have an identifiable, authoritative Body in order to fulfill what Christ and His Apostles said about His Church. I saw that “sola scriptura” was not workable, not possible, not what was intended, and not even scriptural. Besides – I had to finally admit that nobody really believes “sola scriptura” anyway. Everyone that proclaimed that notion had libraries of commentaries on the Bible from scholars that they had come to trust, and it was those commentaries and teachings – and not the “Bible alone” – that framed their understanding of the Faith. Why? If the Bible is all we need, and I am solely competent to interpret it, who cares what other people have said? (Nobody acts like that.)
I also came to understand that the Presbyterian Church — as much as I loved what I received from it (and still do) — could not be that Body, because it was a continually fragmenting group that had no “head” and did not even exist until 1600 years after Christ. And I began to ask myself: where does the Presbyterian Church’s spiritual authority over me come from? If I am a Christian, shouldn’t the local Methodist Church or Baptist Church have authority over me as well (to rebuke me or discipline me and such)? The answer was no, those churches do not have authority over you, but the Presbyterian Church does because you have chosen to become a member here. So it was basically a contract where I had agreed to allow my Church to have authority over me. But that is no authority at all, I am still the final authority. If my elders had told me something that I disagreed with, I would simply have moved to another church that happened to agree with my theological views. But I saw that that was not only a radical departure from the intended Church established by Christ (that it be “one” and speak the “Truth” with authority throughout the ages) and proclaimed and governed by His Apostles and the following bishops, but that that notion of “church” was a recipe for total disaster. If I was the final authority, why did I need to go to Church at all? I can study on my own, and have fellowship in any number of ways. And the Spirit will lead me to Truth on my own. But that idea has in fact led to disaster, and is at the heart of the crazy ideas that liberal denominations now proclaim. Who is to tell them they are wrong with any authority? The response will be (and is) that those people that disagree with me are not really “hearing” the Spirit.
I knew I needed to find the authoritative “Church,” but in my mind it just could not be the Catholics. The Catholic Church was just too weird, and they seemed to believe bizarre things about salvation and Mary and such. So I just put that possibility out of my head. About that time, we began to study more Church history. I saw that there were no Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, etc. churches back then – there was one Church and it was easily identified: the Apostles had gone forth and ordained others who ordained others (as Paul and other Apostles discuss in the NT). This line of apostolic succession of bishops was universally acknowledged as the authority structure for “the Church.” As one Church Father said, “where the bishop is, there is the Church.” Thus, one could not just go and start his own “church,” because they did not have the apostolic authority to do so. And this made sense, given the chaos that would have ensued if everyone had been their own authority. How would we have gotten the Bible? Our doctrines? In fact, when Roman persecutions came, the Romans knew exactly where the “Church” was – they went and found the local Bishop and the priests who served under him (and they were called “priests”).
We also began to study the sacraments. There is much to say here, but the main point was that I saw that the focal point for the Church from the very beginning was the Eucharist (Communion). I found that one of the earliest Church writings (possibly the earliest) is a writing called the Didache (possibly written about 60 AD). It is a virtual how-to about the earliest worship service, and I saw that it looked very much like one would see in a typical liturgical service today (in a Catholic, Orthodox, or high-Church Anglican service). There were readings from Scripture, and a homily of some sort, but at the center of it all was the actual communion with Christ in the bread and wine. And I saw how the Church Fathers made it clear that the bread and wine were in some way Jesus’ own body and blood, just as Jesus indicated in John 6. I saw how beautiful this was, that Jesus came as food “for the life of the world,” and we actually get to — in a very real and tangible way — commune with Him. Through the Church, Christ literally feeds his sheep and imparts grace to them in a special and primary way through his sacraments. This was the consistent witness of Christian History. This was very different than my typical experience, where I would listen to a sermon and sing some songs, but in the end it was me and God, and there was nothing tangible or necessary about it (indeed, I could get those things at home on my own), even when we would have the “Lord’s Supper” — it was a nice reminder, but not necessary for anything. But the early Church knew that one had to be where the Church was in order to receive the Eucharist, and they were glad to be there to meet with their Lord (literally). It also made me realize just how different my Presbyterian experience was. I grew up thinking that that was what Christianity was supposed to look like. But I came to see that my American Protestant view of Christianity and worship put me in a very, very, very tiny, fringe element of Christian History — an element that the Apostles and the Fathers (and most Christians throughout the world and throughout time) would have thought very odd indeed. That was uncomfortable.
And the Eucharist ties together so much in such a beautiful way, as I came to realize that there is a sacramental quality to all of life. God made Creation as food for Man. In doing so, he brought life from water after his Spirit “hovered over the water” as Genesis recalls (foreshadowing the new life we are given by his Spirit in the waters of baptism — which is a similarly fascinating study that itself ties together the OT and NT). God saves his people with “bread (manna) from heaven” (foreshadowing the true Bread from Heaven who would come later). Melchizedek the “king of Salem” (“King of Peace”) and priest of God Most High mysteriously comes to Abraham to bless him, and brings bread and wine. (Gen 14). Along with numerous other OT examples, this notion continues on in the NT, where Jesus first miracle was to create wine at a feast, he refers to his body and blood as food and drink for the life of the world, he invites people to the marriage feast of the Lamb at the end of all things, and on and on and on it goes. Donna and I were fascinated by this connection between feasting and communion and grace. We wanted to see and touch and experience our Faith in the way that all Christians had in earlier times.
By this point I had seen the need for an authoritative Body that stood in the line of the Apostles and the importance (and beauty) of the sacraments. But now we had to land somewhere. And we were faced with the fact that it was the Catholic Church that appeared to have existed from the beginning, and had the line of succession down to the Apostles (indeed, Christ had said that Peter was a “Rock” upon which Christ would build his Church and would hold the “keys of the Kingdom,” and under the very center of St. Peter’s in Rome are the bones of St. Peter himself). So, with some fear for what I might find and what people might think, we started looking at these crazy things that Catholics believed. And I was shocked at what I found. Virtually everything that I thought I knew about what the Catholic Church taught was not what it actually taught. And I saw that what was actually taught was quite reasonable (when properly understood), and quite beautiful – and it was all about and centered on Jesus Christ. For example, I looked at the “weird” the idea that Mary was protected from sin. When I really thought about this, it made perfect sense. Mary was unlike anyone else in history by a mile – she actually had a flesh and blood connection to the Eternal God of the Universe. Is it so unreasonable that God would prepare her from her birth to be a pristine vessel for His Son? Indeed, Luke very intentionally makes it perfectly clear that Mary is the fulfillment type of the Ark of the Covenant (she is the Ark of the New Covenant). See these sites:
And Revelation 12 indicates her honored place in Heaven. Mary was Christ’s – God’s – actual flesh-and-blood mother. We tend not to think about the reality of this, and her actually nursing him, caring for him, raising him for 30 years. That is a mind-blowing reality. And the Church Fathers honored her as the Jesus did, realizing her special place and that she represented the Church’s perfect response in a real way. Just as Eve’s failure to obey caused the fall, Mary’s perfect obedience to God’s call (“I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done unto me according to Your Will.”) brought about the world’s salvation in Christ. Her obedience is our model. In that way, as we are in Christ, Mary is our spiritual Mother, as Jesus explicitly indicates from the Cross when he tells John to “behold his mother.”
And I was really blown away when I found out that these views of Mary were commonly held from the beginning. For example, one of the biggest Protestant heroes – St. Augustine, a staunch Catholic – said about Mary’s perpetual virginity (to which even Calvin and Luther held):
- “In being born of a Virgin who chose to remain a Virgin even before she knew who was to be born of her, Christ wanted to approve virginity rather than to impose it. And he wanted virginity to be of free choice even in that woman in whom he took upon himself the form of a slave” (Holy Virginity 4:4 [A.D. 401]).
- “It was not the visible sun, but its invisible Creator who consecrated this day for us, when the Virgin Mother, fertile of womb and integral in her virginity, brought him forth, made visible for us, by whom, when he was invisible, she too was created. A Virgin conceiving, a Virgin bearing, a Virgin pregnant, a Virgin bringing forth, a Virgin perpetual. Why do you wonder at this, O man?” (Sermons 186:1 [A.D. 411]).”Heretics called Antidicomarites are those who contradict the perpetual virginity of Mary and affirm that after Christ was born she was joined as one with her husband” (Heresies 56 [A.D. 428]).
AND on Mary’s being prepared free from sin to bear the God-man:
“That one woman is both mother and virgin, not in spirit only but even in body. In spirit she is mother, not of our head, who is our Savior himself-of whom all, even she herself, are rightly called children of the bridegroom-but plainly she is the mother of us who are his members, because by love she has cooperated so that the faithful, who are the members of that head, might be born in the Church. In body, indeed, she is the Mother of that very head” (Holy Virginity 6:6 [A.D. 401]).
“Having excepted the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom, on account of the honor of the Lord, I wish to have absolutely no question when treating of sins-for how do we know what abundance of grace for the total overcoming of sin was conferred upon her, who merited to conceive and bear him in whom there was no sin?-so, I say, with the exception of the Virgin, if we could have gathered together all those holy men and women, when they were living here, and had asked them whether they were without sin, what do we suppose would have been their answer?” (Nature and Grace 36:42 [A.D. 415]).
And then on salvation, I found the Church’s teaching there to truly flesh out and hold together all of Scripture, and was totally centered on the work of Christ while making clear that we have a part to play and a duty to fulfill. We always said that “salvation is by grace through faith in Christ,” and I found that that is precisely what the Church has always taught. But I also came to realize that those words by themselves mean nothing or everything. Catholics have no problem with that phrase, the question is: What does that mean, and who says? What does the Christian life look like? What must a Christian do? How is grace given? How are we made partakers in Christ’s death and resurrection? There was too much mere tossing around phrases, whereas both the Bible and the entire history of the Church teaches that those words have real, concrete meanings in the real world.
I found that the Church’s position is and has always been that Christ’s salvific work was complete and satisfactory. We can do no work of our own merit that earns us salvation. The “works” that are condemned in Scripture are all of that type — works done in someone’s own power and merit as though they can pridefully earn “favor points” with God. The works that one does on the journey of Faith, however, are all through the power of Christ as bestowed by his Sacraments and Spirit. One MUST hold fast to the Faith to be saved, but God gives us everything we need — newness of life in baptism, spiritual direction, food (Eucharist), etc. — to hold fast. If we do not, we are like the weeds that spring up for a time, and then die away (as Jesus taught), as referenced in Heb. 6 and 10, and in other passages that state that those who persevere will be saved, we must run the race, “if you love me, keep my commandments,” etc. I came to realize that to say that one who has been raised with Christ from spiritual death to newness of life in Baptism (as Paul discusses in Colossians and Romans), pointed and nurtured in the correct direction by Christ’s Church, fed and given strength by His Body and Blood is making this necessary journey of his own works is just not reasonable. It is only through Christ that we can even walk the walk at all — but that does not mean that we do not have to walk.
And then on the issue of the Papacy, I was by this point already convinced that the Church, if it was to fulfill what Christ said, it absolutely had to have some kind of “center” or “head” that would be guided by the Spirit so that we could know the Truth with certainty and authority. I was blown away by the discovery that when Christ declares Simon to be Peter (“Petros”) meaning “Rock,” and gives him the keys of the Kingdom in Matthew 16, Christ is explicitly quoting from Isaiah, where God is establishing a prime minister over the House of David to be a “firm peg” to speak with the King’s authority when the King is not present:
When we understand that Christ is the true son of David who came to restore the prophetic kingdom of David, we understand that in Matthew 16, Christ, like the king of Israel, was establishing a “prime minister” among his ministers, the apostles, in the kingdom. Isaiah 22:20–22 gives insight into the ministry of the “prime minister” in ancient Israel:
In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.
In Revelation 1:18, Jesus declares, “I have the keys of Death and Hades,” then quotes this very text from Isaiah in Revelation 3:7:
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: “The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens.”
No Christian would deny that Jesus is the King who possesses the keys. To whom does he give the keys? To Peter!
This and many other biblical passages seemed to confirm the special office that Peter held. See these:
And the fact is that the office of the Papacy was actually held to be at the center and head of the Church from the earliest times. Some examples of this are found here:
And many more sources of information are available. For example, here are some of the things that St. Augustine said about the Church and the Papacy:
- “If the very order of episcopal succession is to be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them [the bishops of Rome] from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the Lord said, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not conquer it.’ Peter was succeeded by Linus, Linus by Clement. … In this order of succession a Donatist bishop is not to be found” (Letters 53:1:2 [A.D. 412]). (Donatists were a group outside the apostolic succession that argued that they — and not the recognized Church — had the “true” knowledge of Christianity)”If all men throughout the world were such as you most vainly accuse them of having been, what has the chair of the Roman church done to you, in which Peter sat, and in which Anastasius sits today?” (Against the Letters of Petilani 2:118 [A.D. 402]).”[T]here are many other things which most properly can keep me in [the Catholic Church’s] bosom. The unanimity of peoples and nations keeps me here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15-17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here. And last, the very name Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called ‘Catholic,’ when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house” (Against the Letter of Mani Called “The Foundation” 4:5 [A.D. 397]).”[On this matter of the Pelagians] two councils have already been sent to the Apostolic See [the bishop of Rome], and from there rescripts too have come. The matter is at an end; would that the error too might be at an end!” (Sermons 131:10 [A.D. 411]).”Rome has spoken; the case is concluded” (Roma locuta est; causa finita
est.) (Sermons, Book I)
The more we studied, the more the beauty, majesty, weight and history of the whole of the Christian world seemed to open up to us. We had not really left our core beliefs behind at all – indeed we love and greatly appreciate what we had been given in our Presbyterian communities – we had only fleshed them out in a real sense. We now felt connected to our brothers and sisters who had gone before us, who are alive right now in Heaven, and are just as much a part of the Body of Christ as we are. No longer was it solely up to us to test our hearts and hope that we are right on every theological point – God had given us His Church to guide us through the waters of this world. And although the Church undoubtedly had its warts and some miserable persons in leadership (as did ancient Israel), God has sustained it as He promised. Corruptions that pop up from time to time are always eventually weeded out. Even the worst of Popes (from a personal or political standpoint) did not lead the Church into heresy. (The study of that issue is also quite fascinating.) Instead, when we stepped back and looked at all of human history, it became clear that it has been the Catholic Church that has been the defender and patron of virtually everything that we like about Western Civilization: the Church gave us the Bible, the Church and its priests and martyrs spread and defended the Faith in all the world, the Church was at the heart of learning, reading, languages, arts, agriculture, science, the rule of law, human rights, charity, hospitals, education, etc. – it was truly the agent of the right kind of change in an often dark world. (I have some great books on this.)
I could go on and on, and I have really only touched on our journey and would be happy to discuss it further. But after we had been blessed to learn all of this, we simply fell in love with the Church and feel truly at home. We came in on Easter 2005, and have grown to love it even more. There are still things we are getting used to, but we continually see Christ at the heart of absolutely everything the Church does and teaches.