I had not considered the Catholic Church as an option. From my perspective, Catholicism was not “normal” Christianity. It seemed very strict and ritualistic, with too much pomp and ceremony. It seemed too formal, rather than “Spirit led.” … After some thought, I had to admit that my opinions were based upon mere glimpses into the Church and that I actually knew very little about Catholicism.
I was raised in the Methodist faith in a small town in North Carolina. The only Catholic Church in town was a block away from my house and a large brick home which served as a convent was just around the corner. I would often see the nuns, dressed in their habits, walking to the Catholic school which adjoined the church. Whenever I saw them I felt a great sense of respect. I considered them to be very holy, although, I knew nothing about the Catholic faith.
My departure from God began in my teen years as I started to have serious doubts about my compatibility with the Baptist church and stopped attending at the age of 16. This rebellion then evolved to me declaring that I was an agnostic in college and later spending years as a workaholic who was too busy for God. A familiar tale, perhaps?
I read more on the histories of various denominations and competing theologies and, in the process, my eyes were opened to the fundamental fallacy of the doctrine of sola scriptura, the idea that the Bible alone is the sole authority for Christian belief. As I later discovered, so many people who end up becoming Catholic realized that the belief that all Christian teachings must be found in the Bible is not itself taught in the Bible!
Ruth: That Good Friday, I carefully took out white construction paper and the big, thick crayons that normally were reserved for my coloring books. Slowly, and very deliberately, I drew three crosses, the middle one in red. I don’t know how long I sat there, but I remember talking to Jesus in my own child-like way. That is my first memory of prayer or any understanding, however rudimentary, of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world. I was a preschooler, not yet attending kindergarten, but this memory is still so vivid and detailed that it doesn’t seem that almost fifty years have passed.
Browsing the religion section of the local used bookstore, I caught sight of a peculiar volume, the black and red ink on the spine contrasting sharply against the drab surroundings. “Now, there’s an oxymoron!” I thought to myself as I reflected on the book’s title, which read Catholic and Christian. Intrigued by the apparent paradox, I reluctantly grasped the book from the shelf and began reading, beginning with the ornate back cover. The author was a certain Dr. Alan Schreck, a professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville. His objective was simple—to clarify Catholic doctrine for the many Catholic and non-Catholic Christians who misunderstand it. At $4.50 the paperback seemed a bargain I couldn’t afford to ignore. Little did I know that this meager investment would pave the foundation for my journey home to the Catholic Church.
Oh, no, I thought to myself, here we go again. Some latecomers had forced us to move into the middle of the pew. There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of the pew in a Catholic church if you’re a Protestant “pew potato.”
You’ve heard of a couch potato? I was a pew potato. I plunked down in my pew every week but didn’t participate a whole lot, other than singing a hymn I recognized or shaking hands with my neighbors during the sign of peace.
As I try to recount my journey into the Catholic Church, I feel as if I could write from so many different perspectives: history, the sacraments, the saints, Mary, or contraception. All of these words characterize, in part, my reasons for becoming Catholic. I feel like each represent a small book I could write. In this story though I want to connect how I believe my particular Protestant tradition prepared the way for my entrance into the Church. I pray it will encourage many more to fulfill the prayer of Christ “that all of them may be one as I and the Father are one” (John 17:21).