Like most converts, becoming Catholic was the last thing on my mind. The first church I ever attended was Sunset Wesleyan Church in La Puente, California. I remember it like it was yesterday. My mom took my sister and me to church while my dad stayed home to watch football.
I wanted to stay home for football too, but when we walked through the doors of the church, something clicked. It was like I was supposed to be there. The piano started playing, the congregation sang hymns, and this was the first time I had ever heard the gospel message. Within a year I made a public profession of faith and was baptized. From the age of thirteen through high school, I read the Bible every day, was youth group president, went to many conferences, and was a member of my high school’s campus life club.
These groups always taught that once you proclaimed Christ as savior, your salvation was set, and to a certain extent I believed that. That is, until I read a passage such as Hebrews 6:4-6 which states:
For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt.
In my adolescent mind, this brought up an apparent contradiction in the Once Saved Always Saved doctrine I had been taught. When I asked our adult leaders about it, I encountered an apprehension about answering this question directly. Some would just change the subject, or I would be told that they were not really saved to begin with.
In the summer of 1998 I joined the Army and served over six years as a Chaplain’s Assistant. This was a job I truly loved, and it allowed me to be exposed to many Chaplains of different denominations. This is where I first experienced a Catholic Mass. I was working the sound system and was intrigued by the altar boys lighting the candles, the reverence when scripture was read, etc. I was amazed at how much scripture was read in the Catholic liturgy.
Some of the Protestant services I worked during this time read only one verse – literally – at their services. I had heard all the standard anti-Catholic comments from a coworker who was a former Catholic. He would say things like, “Catholics do not read the Bible” and other myths. The irony was that this conversation took place as we were making the Catholic bulletin and typing in the readings for the week!
Not Fully Convinced
I decided to attend the Catholic Church’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in 2004 so I could learn more about the faith. I attended with my fiancé, now wife, who is a cradle Catholic. I was surprised at some of the similarities in theology that I held in common with Catholicism but was most surprised that Catholics considered the Eucharist to be the real Body and Blood of Christ. Like most Protestants, I was told that it was symbolic. The RCIA director made it clear that to become Catholic you must believe this. I made the decision to go through with the RCIA process all the while secretly believing that the Eucharist was still symbolic.
The grace of God intervened as I was not able to enter the Catholic Church that year. My fiancé and I had gone for premarital counseling, but due to a previous divorce, I had to go through the annulment process first. This also meant that I would not be able to enter the Church that Easter. I went through the annulment process, which at the time I found humiliating, but as I look back, it was therapeutic. I joined the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 2006.
I wish I could say that I was 100% on board with the declared dogmas of the Church at that time. I blame myself for not asking enough questions because I would eventually leave the Church (at least intellectually) in 2011 and enter the seminary at Liberty University in Virginia. I researched Church teaching in all the wrong places, which included listening to non-Catholic theologians such as R.C. Sproul and James White. I attended Mass with my family every week while secretly bitter about being there. I would help out where I could at the parish to try to convince myself that this was where I needed to be.
A Doctrinal Conflict
The biggest area of conflict for me in matters of doctrine was Marian teaching, specifically the Assumption. I wrote against it, did podcasts decrying it and said it was pagan. I read many books about it – except Catholic ones. One day I saw an ad for the book, Behold Your Mother, by Tim Staples, and I was intrigued. I bought it for the purpose of destroying its arguments on the Marian Dogma.
One by one, Tim Staples answered my objections to Marian dogma in his book. By this time I was terrified. I contacted the Coming Home Network, which I had joined some time earlier, and was told that some resources were on my way to answer any questions I might have on the Assumption. The final nail in my Protestant coffin was when I watched a YouTube video featuring Scott Hahn defending the Assumption. He laid out the objections he had when he was a Protestant, which just so happened to be identical to mine, and handily answered each one of my questions.
It was a long journey with many pitfalls, but I am happy to say that now I am home for good. I wasted a lot of time wandering about the Protestant fields of doctrine, but I learned much along the way. It is good to be home!
The Journey of a Lifetime
I have been very active in my parish during the past few years. I am grateful for the opportunity to teach children and adults in my parish now, and I help out anywhere else I can. I realize now how prideful I was and have come to the realization that I had wasted a lot of time in deviating from the faith I had earlier embraced.
As I write this, my wife and I have decided to answer the call to the Diaconate, and that paperwork will be filled out later this year. I write about the Catholic Faith and speak about the faith whenever possible.
It is my hope and prayer that the ups and downs of my story may help you or someone else. Christ established the Catholic Church as His own, and we need to tell people about it. One of the best ways to do so is with our individual stories. You’ve just heard my story. Your story, too, is what someone needs to hear. Make sure you share it!