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.
One thing many people can’t quite get their heads around is the Catholic Church’s claim that there is one Church founded by Jesus and that one this Church, according to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), “constituted and organized as a society in this present, world, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him.” Or as Richard John Neuhaus liked to put it, “The Catholic Church is the Church of Jesus Christ most fully and rightly ordered through time.”
In the first installment of my advice as to how to avoid becoming a Catholic, I suggested two rules. First, assume that all Catholics are idiots. Second, get all your information about the Catholic Church second-hand. Steer clear of Catholic intellectuals, well-catechized laypeople, and young, zealous, orthodox priests and nuns. Look for leftover aging, hippy priests and nuns, poorly catechized Catholics, and ex-Catholics evangelicals who have it in for the Church. And above all, don’t read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
With those preliminaries out of the way, the next three rules have to do with history.
I was born into a loving, believing community, a Protestant “mother church” (the Reformed Church) which, though it had not for me the fullness of the faith, had strong and genuine piety. I believed, mainly because of the good example of my parents and my church. The faith of my parents, Sunday School teachers, ministers, and relatives made a real difference to their lives, a difference big enough to compensate for many shortcomings. “Love covers a multitude of sins.”
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.
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.
Because you are among several folks who are worried that we have fallen off the Christian cliff, I thought that this record of an interchange with Internet friends who had similar concerns might ease your anxiety about our salvation prospects. It is important to understand that we are not writing this to try to convert you, but to hopefully neutralize your prejudices so if any other friend converts, you can say “Gee Whiz, that is wonderful” as opposed to “You poor lost soul.” Here is the interchange:
Former Southern Baptist Dr. Frank Hermann joins Marcus Grodi on Deep in Scripture to discuss the authority of the Church in Scripture.
While Catholics are worrying about what will happen if you subtract from Tradition handed down in both written and unwritten form, Christians who are committed to Sola Scriptura, or Scripture-alone,