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?
Last year, Francka Povsic, my special friend and co-leader of our prayer group gave me a copy of the above inspirational audio cassette. These words from St. Francis De Sales powerfully describe the Truth that I have learned about God’s infinite love for me. Our Lady gently called me to peace through reported messages of Mary and eventually to the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1978, I was ordained a Presbyterian minister (Presbyterian Church in America) and served two churches while I also obtained a doctoral degree in biblical linguistics. Shortly after my ordination, I was preaching a homily on the unity of the Church and stated that the only justification for the Reformation was that the Catholic Church had left the Gospel.
“Most of you are members of the Catholic Church, but others are from other Christian churches and communities, and I greet each one with sincere friendship,” he said. “In spite of divisions among Christians, ‘all those justified by faith through baptism are incorporated into Christ … brothers and sisters in the Lord.’ ”
The Holy Father shook up my life in that moment. It may be difficult to understand why … unless you’ve grown up Lutheran.
Former Orthodox Presbyterian minister Gerald Tritle discusses his journey into the Catholic Church after seeking truth and desiring to be “deep in Scripture, deep in tradition, and deep in history.” Tritle tells the emotional story of his congregation’s reaction to his journey into the Catholic Church.