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Encountering the Truth in Christian History

Lonna Graves November 13, 2017 No Comments

My husband and I were received into the Catholic Church in 2016. Even though it was a difficult decision at the time, we couldn’t be happier or more at peace with our decision. We were both in our late forties, Protestant all of our lives.

I was raised in a traditional Presbyterian church. I always felt God’s presence there as a child. It was built much like a cathedral, with old wooden siding. It had a beautiful pipe organ, and there were wooden walls and pews. I loved to stare at the stained glass windows and hear the old-style hymns.

My father died when I was just 11, and that was when my world changed. We moved to a different town, and I began going to a Church of Christ and a Baptist church with my school-aged friends. I learned a great deal about God, Jesus and the love of a Christian community, and was baptized in that town.

After I graduated high school, my life journey took a new turn when I enlisted in the U.S. military. I met my husband, a lifelong member of the Church of Christ, in the Army, when we were both serving overseas in Bremerhaven, Germany. We moved frequently for 26 years, all around the world, from Germany, to Virginia, then to Texas, Alabama, and Korea. My husband was also deployed several times to the Middle East. We managed to raise three wonderful sons during this “gypsy” time.

We attended military chapels in every place we lived. The chapels were designed to include the Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant faiths. We also attended a Baptist church off the military base. We learned from them all, but what we were taught provoked questions from my husband and me.

I was fascinated by the old cathedrals throughout Europe, so we visited many during our life there, which lasted nearly eight years. We both enjoy history and are quite inquisitive, eager to investigate the history of anything we found interesting. We continued attending the Protestant service at the military chapel, but never felt that it was “home” for us, even though we loved the people and the chaplains. The reason we were unsettled was the multitude of unanswered questions that kept arising. We began a more thorough study with a dear Presbyterian chaplain while we were stationed in Seoul, South Korea. He led us through the history of Martin Luther, and we read volumes of Church history and about the Church Fathers. We had taken a Martin Luther tour while living in Germany, and instantly I wanted to know about the times before him, what happened to bring about the Reformation and why it had to occur. What were the teachings of the Church, and why was Luther so against much of it? Who were his followers, and how did they change the Church? At the time, we had no idea that this constant investigation into the Christian past would eventually lead both us into the Catholic Church.

Time passed, and we stayed on that journey, even after moving back Stateside. We soon started attending a Baptist church, which had a wonderful youth group for our boys. I sang in the praise band, loving to participate, since our frequent travel abroad had curtailed any substantial participation earlier. However, something was still missing, and we weren’t exactly sure what it was. We followed that path for another eighteen months, then moved home to Texas, where my ​husband retired from the military. We now live on a farm and raise animals. So far, life had been full of times of searching, but not knowing what we were searching for.

We began attending a Church of Christ with my husband’s family, mainly because that is what he grew up with, and we did not know anyone in other churches. It was a good way to get plugged into the community and make friends. We attended there for about two years, but then the same yearning for “something more” occurred. We were surrounded by loving Christians, involved with the church, but still we had questions and doubts. Our oldest son mentioned the possibility of trying the Catholic Church, but I was hesitant. I thought, like so many others, that they weren’t really Christian — the statues, Mary, the Pope, etc.… but after some time, the desire came over me to just go one time and see. Before I went, however, I studied and read everything I could find about the Catholic faith.

The first time I went, I was alone, and I cried through the whole Mass. It was all so real. They really were Christian, even more Christian than all those Protestant churches. The people were so wonderful and understanding. They talked with me, gave me books, and the priest would stay after Mass and chat — or rather teach, which is what I needed. They never tried to push me, and they even had questions of their own for me. I went to Mass alone for a while, before my husband started attending with me.

During this same time I began reading the book, Catholicism, by Bishop Robert Barron, and the lights in my heart started to light up. Soon I had a flood of questions, and somehow all of them were answered. I felt, for the first time since childhood, that I was “home.” My husband began going with me, a bit hesitant at first. Soon we started the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), the class for inquirers.

Then it all came to a standstill. We both had problems with family. No one on either side of the family is Catholic, and most of them think very negatively about the Catholic Church. We were worried that it would cause strife among friends, coworkers, and family, and we just could not, at the time, bring ourselves to take the final step and become Catholic.

One of the biggest issues for me was worrying about ridicule, or being gossiped about in that small town. I sat with our priest, Fr. Joseph, and he told me that this decision would be between God and myself. We talked about many things, but that phrase stuck with me. When God speaks, I now know to listen and follow through. I knew, no matter what, that I had to face the fact that being Catholic was the right thing to do. There might be struggles, but in the end, it would be worth it.

So I went forward. I came into the Church at Easter 2016, and my husband followed, entering just before Christmas of the same year. Two of our children attend with us. Even though they are not yet Catholic, they do stand up for the faith.

We have watched just about every video and CD published by Bishop Barron and have begun watching EWTN. We have seen The Journey Home television program, have enjoyed and learned a great deal from many of the converts and reverts who appear on the show. We love watching Fr. Mitch Pacwa’s programs, and during the day I watch several of the other shows on EWTN. It has been a blessing in our lives.

Our dreams of a real church home have come to life for us, much like a pop-up book. The understanding of the great honor given to our Mother Mary, what happened from basically the year 33 until now, and the study of many of the saints — all this has opened our minds, hearts and eyes to the faith. The intense history, which in many cases is not even discussed by those in the Protestant tradition, had us both reading and listening with interest to the Lighthouse CDs. One of the most compelling bits of history, was about Peter, the keys and the continuation of the Church, through the Apostles (see Matthew 16:19). Some of the first saints we encountered were St. Catherine of Siena, St. Raphael the Archangel, St. Hubertus, St. Lucy, and St. Thérèse, the Little Flower. From there, we continued to study and were amazed at how the saints lived their lives for the Lord and died with such great faith, even though some had very short lives. The Archangel Raphael was an angel we had never heard of. Since Raphael appears in the Bible only in the Deuterocanonical book of Tobit, which is not in Protestant Bibles, we were encouraged to buy a new Catholic Bible so we could understand more of our new faith.

We had encountered much misunderstanding over Christian history in the Protestant churches we had attended. But now we know the true history, which among the Protestants was never taught or known, history which has now connected us with the actual Christians of ancient times. There is so much more to the Catholic Faith, a richness beginning with things we already knew but adding much to that.

We gave up nothing, but have found and embraced the truth. The main truth is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. This sacrament gives a whole new meaning to communion and draws us closer to Him. That His true Body and Blood are present brings such joy to us at Mass, a complete peace. We are now fully children of God, and by being Catholic, we possess the fullness of faith. We love our small farm-town church community and are ever grateful to God. We are still learning, but life is truly a journey to heaven. God bless.