So we either had to believe God protected His Church’s theology, or we have to cut the Church off right after its birth. Is it possible that these godly men, who were martyred for their faith, could have gotten it that wrong? In the end, we had to admit, that their writings didn’t actually conflict with Scripture; their writings were in conflict with our personal interpretation of Scripture, or rather I should say, the way we had been taught to interpret it.
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.
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.
On January 24, 1997, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, I was received back into the arms of the Holy Catholic Church. Since I had made a profession of faith in the Presbyterian Church, I now made a renewed profession of faith in all that the Catholic Church teaches. For this I chose to read the profession of the Council of Trent, because it spoke the truth concerning specific errors I had embraced. Then I received the sacraments of Penance, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist.
I was raised in a Jewish home, one that celebrated many of the Jewish traditions, at least in our younger years. I remember having a special sense that the one God was our God and that we were His people. Yet as we grew and went out on our own, much was left behind. Eventually my brother, David, became an atheist, and I, perhaps, an agnostic.
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.
Taking dramatic steps of faith runs in the family. In the eighteenth century, my ancestors left Switzerland for the new colony of Pennsylvania to find religious freedom. The two Longenecker brothers were Mennonites — members of an Anabaptist sect so strict that it had been persecuted by John Calvin.
As an active Protestant Christian in my mid-twenties, I began to feel that I might have a vocation to become a minister. The more I studied, the more perplexed I became. At one stage my elder sister, a very committed Evangelical Protestant with somewhat flexible denominational affiliations, chided me with becoming “obsessed” with trying to find a “true Church.” “Does it really matter?” she would ask.
The thirteen years my husband, Ray, served as an Episcopal priest were exciting, fulfilling years. We had both come from a Disciples of Christ background, and we found the intellectual and liturgical ethos of the Episcopal Church very satisfying. But questions arose: Who was right? Which were the teachings faithful to the Gospel? Who was to say which teachings were true or false? Where was the locus of authority?