I needed to know how it was that Marcus Grodi and his guests, such as the Jewish convert Rosalind Moss and some former Pentecostals, had a personal relationship with Christ. How could this be if they were Catholic? One Tuesday, when the Pentecostals were testifying, I beckoned to my husband.
The day President John F. Kennedy was shot is one of my most vivid childhood memories. I was in sixth grade playing on the playground when the rumors started. Just before the dismissal bell at the end of the day, the principal made the announcement over the PA system: JFK had been assassinated.
School was dismissed in eerie silence. Tears welled up in my eyes as I walked the half mile home that afternoon. My sorrow was almost overwhelming for a sixth-grader, not only because our President was dead, but primarily because in my heart of hearts I believed that he was in hell.
I found other aspects of Catholic life attractive as well. For example, while a senior in high school, the reading of Richard Tawney’s Religion and the Rise of Capitalism began a lifelong passion for the social teaching of the Catholic Church. All these things were attracting me to Rome during my years as an Anglican, although I tried to keep the emotional pull of Rome separate from my intellectual considerations about conversion.
The Christian tradition that emerged from John Wesley’s eighteenth-century Methodist movement has developed several branches. One of them is called the Wesleyan Church, and I was born into a family in that denomination. My parents met at a Bible college in Oskaloosa, Iowa. My father was studying to be a minister, and my mother was there to pick a husband out of the pool of future preachers.
From Hatred to Hope: One Man’s 20 Year Journey into the Catholic Faith by Daniel Burke. My first exposure to Catholicism was through an abusive step-father. A few key memories include our home being destroyed end-to-end in a drunken rage, and forensic photographs of my mother after a brutal encounter. My most prominent memory is of gunfire in our home during a shouting match between him and my mother. I was only nine years old. Not the greatest introduction to the faith.
For the first time in my life, I began thinking of the “big picture”: What do I want to do with my life? Who am I? What do I believe? It was about the time I began asking myself these questions that I started attending daily Mass at the local parish, St. Anthony’s Church. Why did I start going to Mass? Today, as a priest I would say that it was God’s prompting, an action of the Holy Spirit. But back then I thought the reason was familiarity. I had been going to Mass there since I was seven, and thanks to scouting, I’d spent plenty of time in this building (more than I ever did in a synagogue).
As I became disillusioned with the Mormons, I became nostalgic for, and then attracted to, the Catholic Church. The lack of passion or spirituality in the ward meetings made me think of the saints, such as Teresa of Ávila and Thérèse of Lisieux, who actually went into a spiritual ecstasy just thinking about Christ. You would never find that in the Mormon church, nor in any Protestant church that I attended. There is simply not that connection to Christ.
I looked at the secular bookstore and found some things written by Clement, Justin Martyr, and a couple of other guys who KNEW THE APOSTLES!!! I was blown away! And here was the kicker, they mentioned the same things as the guy who wrote The Way of a Pilgrim. They talked about the Sacraments, and something else I had never heard, The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. It was as if someone had slapped me in the face. What the heck was this? Justin Martyr described in detail what the Early Church gathering looked like. It was nothing like what we in Nashville were calling the Early Church! My curiosity began to germinate.
I also came across people such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christadelphians who questioned the deity of Christ. We both appealed to the Scriptures for our beliefs, my interpretation against theirs. I blew this off because I knew that Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, always had believed in the deity of Christ (looking back, it seems I was already appealing to Sacred Tradition, though I didn’t know it at the time). To me the Bible alone doctrine was the other side of the same coin as theological liberalism. It solved nothing, leaving everything in question, and nothing certain.