Fulfilled All I Already Believed About God

In a couple of weeks Advent will end and it will mark two years since I really decided to become Catholic. I’ve been reflecting on why I made that decision, what it was that got me into the Church. It honestly wasn’t apologetics. I didn’t read any apologetics materials while I was converted. The only thing I read besides a couple of conversion stories was the Catechism. I wasn’t deceived by any clever tricks or anything, but really, I converted because the Catholic Faith emphasized and surpassed what I already believed about God.

God Is Merciful

God’s mercy was probably the most important thing to me as an Evangelical. His mercy was the prime thing I preached. We are sinners. God hates sin. But he is merciful and forgives us. The Catholic Faith, I learned, believed deeply in that mercy. It believed that I was a sinner. The Catholic church believed that God is merciful. Furthermore, I saw that Sacraments, especially Baptism and Confession really emphasized God’s mercy, they made it more real, more prominent. It takes what I believed about God’s mercy and exponentially maximized it in my life. I knew I wanted to take part in that.

God is Love

Purgatory had always been a sticking point for me, mostly because I didn’t know what it was. I quickly realized though that Purgatory was a burning outflow of the Creator’s Passion for me! Purgatory wasn’t a second chance, but a manifestation of God’s love for me, and his desire to complete the work which he began in me. I already knew that I wasn’t perfect, but that God wanted me to be perfect, and that I was becoming perfect, but that if I died in that imperfect stage, I’d need some help. And that’s exactly what Purgatory is!

Furthermore, I saw Jesus’ death on the Cross as his supreme act of love. The Catholic Church does too, and claims to make that very act, really present to me every day, not just in memory and Scripture, but physically present to me! Catholic beliefs take the Cross and truly make it a timeless event. God’s supreme love made fully present to me, to all of us. It truly astounded me.

God’s Family

I believed that, as Christians, we are a part of God’s family. We are here to help each other out, to offer what we have received for the benefit of others. We are to pray for others, encourage each other, and ask others to pray on our behalf. I believed that the bonds of Christ bound us together even when we were separated by one thing or another. This is why intercession of the Saints came so easily. The bonds of Christ go beyond death. Our love for each other does not get snuffed out when we breathe our last on this side of eternity. I realized that asking the Saints to pray for me, to offer their help to me, only made sense. Either we are family forever or we aren’t family at all.

God is Sovereign

I always believed that God, and God alone, could save me from sin. It was only by his choice that I could be saved. This also was proposed by the Catholicism, only with Catholicism, I was more than a puppet, a piece of dung. I participated, I responded to the graces of God to be transformed, to do my part as a member of the Body of Christ. God gave me the grace to have faith. He gave me the grace to do good. He gives us all both of these things and we must respond positively to both in order to have salvation. Whether I respond to one or both, is my choice. But it was God’s sovereignty that allowed me to have the option to make these decision. God alone is my Savior, and nothing I could do would merit salvation. With that comes faith and works, not an either/or.

God is Truth

God is truth, and he cannot stand falsehood. I believed this. This is why I talked to so many people in San Diego, worked so hard to convince them that absolute truth existed, that there could be no two things that conflicted that were true. Catholicism emphasizes this. I discovered that I could not be passive and wishy-washy. I found what I desired in Catholicism, a structure of truth that did not allow falsehood to come in without a sharp word. This was not so where I came from. Either abortion is wrong or it isn’t. It can’t be both ways and we must have a solid proclamation one way or the other. This strength I found in Catholicism.

God is One

God is indivisible. He is three persons in one. He cannot oppose himself. He must be unified. And so must his Body on earth. Not only must his Body be united in Faith, but also across time. His Church cannot change what the Eternal Trinity has decreed. She cannot alter what has been given to her to believe. Catholicism is unbelievably united across all generations from the day she was founded at Pentecost until now. Her beliefs are Biblical, they are historical, and the earliest Christians held firmly to them.

Fulfillment

And so, I came to realize that the reason my conversion was so fast, and actually quite an easy decision was that I was not leaving the God I loved. I was not leaving my faith behind for a new set of dogmas and views on God. Rather, my faith was being enriched. The things I believed about God, especially concerning his mercy and love, were taking on new dimensions, new facets were being uncovered. My beliefs were not being replaced, but being transfigured as Jesus was on the mountain. The disciples saw him in a way they never had, but he was still the same Jesus. I too, saw my faith in a way I never had, it was deeper, it was now three-dimensional, not just a planar thing.

Why couldn’t I stay the old way then? Why, if they were the same, did I have to move? When I was little, I was obsessed with this phrase:

ALL INSECTS ARE BUGS, BUT NOT ALL BUGS ARE INSECTS.

I see that this applies to God as well. God is like the insect. You can call him a bug in general and you get a broad group of faiths that fit that description. Some of them fit better than others. But only insects fits perfectly. I came to discover that while there were elements of truth in my old faith group, there were parts that were irreconcilable with what I was discovering about God. In the old way his love was shallow, his mercy was bland. I saw that his one-ness was not real. I saw that I was living in black and white, but now I was able to live in color.

So I invite you to look at the Church, to see that it fulfills and exceeds the very things that you believe about God, his mercy, love, sovereignty, his unity. Take a second look, and see that in the Church your wildest dreams about a relationship with God actually come true. I did, and it really, absolutely, positively changed my life for the better now and forever more!

I Should Be In Bed But…

…I just had a great three hour long conversation. After staff meetings, our staff sometimes goes to get late night munchies at the dining center. I usually decline because I don’t have too much in common with the clique-ish part of the staff. But I heard that my new floor partner would be there, so I decided to go, but he wasn’t. However, a staff member asked if I wanted to go to Cru on Tuesday’s with him. “Oh no,” I thought, “not this again.” I said that I would talk about it later, and declined his invitation. After the staff crowd dwindled down, he asked if I wanted to talk about it then. I agreed and went on about why I don’t like Cru, agree with Cru, and refuse to go to Cru. Of course, this is all deeply intertwined with my conversion to Catholicism. We stayed in the dining center until the lights were shut off and then moved into our office to continue. We had some heated argument about Purgatory and the Papacy. I should mention here that one staff member is a former Catholic, but so close to returning to practice the faith, and the other is a Presbyterian. I feel that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, I was able to explain well the doctrine of Purgatory to a point where he could understand, if not almost agree with, it. The Papacy was much more difficult, because like many Protestants, corruption of particular Pope’s actions seems to mask the legitimacy and even the need for the office. The idea of power and authority being the cause of that corruption needing to be thrown away creeps in. I may have made a little headway with it, regardless, though, I did not back down, insistent that St. Peter was the first pope, followed by St. Linus, (or was he third?) and so forth.

Eventually the conversation took the route of talking about what God has done in our lives, and that was a much more pleasant conversation. To hear the stories of the Spirit working in them and to share the stories, especially of this summer, when the weird priestly stuff was happening, was great. The best news of all, though, is that this Catholic guy admitted that he is so close to being ok with Catholicism. I told him that it was reading the Catechism that helped me understand the theology. I warned him, though, that it is very convincing, and it could be “dangerous” to read it, that if he picked up and read it, he will likely be left with no excuse to reject Catholicism.  When we departed like 20 minutes ago after about three hours of discussion, he said he would have a hard time sleeping with so much to think about now.

He is so close. So very very close. Please, please pray for him. Call him Fargo’s Prodigal Son, God will know who you are talking about. Pray to God, ask Mary, ask Joseph, ask every Saint you know to pray for him today, tomorrow and the day after. Surely if the choirs of Heaven pray for this man, that last step he needs to talk will be given him by God!

Sometimes these late night talks are the best evangelization we can have.

Conversion of St. Paul

Yesterday was kind of an important day for me because it was the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, my patron saint. It was a kind of day of conversion for me as one of my friends pointed out a huge thing about me, that being the extreme disrespect I have been showing towards Protestants lately on my blog. I realize that I have been showing a lot of anger towards non-Catholic Christians, especially those who were close to me during my time as a Evangelical. It makes me seem angry, it makes it seem like Catholicism has sucked the joy out of my life, rather than filling me with joy.

I have made a huge mistake. I have destroyed friendships that I wish I had never destroyed. People think that I hate them, when I really don’t. I fully understand now the reality of the damage I have done. So I went to Confession today and spilled it all out about the way I have treated my friends. I don’t know how I will undo it all, how I will fix it, but I know it will be alright. This great sin has been forgiven and we can all move on.

A Can of Worms

 

little_rock_desegregation_19571In my lifetime, I know of very few people who have chosen to join the Catholic Church. It is just something that doesn’t happen, or so it seems. In my day to day life I meet many Protestants and I meet many Catholics and become friends with people on both sides of the division. Typically, though, there is little spoken or expressed antagonism between the two groups, at least in the more local aspects. Though, there are instances where antagonists from either side, of which I was once one, start something, unprovoked. But now, with my conversion becoming public amongst my friends, it seems like a can of worms has been opened. I found out at lunch today that two of my friends, one Catholic, and one so opposedly not, got into it over whether or not Peter was the rock that Christ spoke of. Obviously it is a contentious subject because the truth of the matter either confirms or denies the Church’s authority and therefore denies or confirms Protestantism’s validity. I can’t help but think that this argument would not have occurred if my friend did not know I was becoming Catholic. From what I heard there was a lot of closed-mindedness from the non-Catholic side and it makes me apprehensive because sooner or later these arguments are going to reach me and I will have to deal with them face-to-face. A huge part of my cannot understand why some people are being so closed-minded about the idea of the truth being found in the Catholic Church. Then I remember, that six months ago, no, probably even five months ago that was me. I wonder how in the world I overcame the my own locked-up heart. All I did was pray. I prayed that my friends would see the truth, and that I would see it as well. Then it was all God. God was the one who opened my heart. There is nothing I can do to make my friends at least open their minds to the possibility that Catholicism could be truth. Only God can do that, can overcome their pre-conceived notions of the faith. And as sad as it is making me to know that I cannot get them to look at Christianity from the Catholic view, I am utterly thankful that God has opened my heart and allowed me to see it from the other side, the pre-Reformation view.

I also had a friend send me a facebook message saying she wanted to talk to me about my idea of the Authority of the Church and some “discrepancies” she has found in my views. I find it kind of ironic that she is dating the guy who got into it last night with my Catholic friend. Anyways, from what I have heard, she is more anti-Catholic than she has portrayed herself to be to me, so I am really really bracing myself and preparing myself for this conversation this weekend because when she returns next week, there is no telling when she is going to bring this up. It is with deep regret that I look back and realize that this is how I was before. I am just beginning to see how it feels to be a Catholic, persecuted alongside all Christians by non-believers, but than doubly persecuted against by non-Catholic Christians.

Our Heavenly Father,
I appeal to you for guidance. I appeal to you for the words of truth. I appeal to you to set the Spirit of God on my lips and on my heart. Lord, prepare my heart for the battles that will surely come. Help me to prevail over the stumbling blocks that others will shortly begin to throw in my path. But Lord, above all, open people’s hearts, give them the opportunity to get their misconceptions of the Catholic Church be turned to dust, to ash. Lord, let them hear the sweet song of the Church that I heard. Let them see the beauty that I saw. Let them feel it’s warm embrace. God lead as all in truth. Let my security and my fear over this matter be my greatest Lenten sacrifice. God help me to use this season of sacrifice and deep reflection to bring an open mind to my friends.
In the holy name of Christ I pray in unity with the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rite of Welcome

 

Yesterday, at Mass, at St. Joseph’s, I went through the Rite of Welcome. It served to show me just how much I still have to learn. Even after all that I have read regarding doctrine, and morality, and history, and sacraments, I still know very little (I feel) about the Catholic Church. After Mass was more eye opening for me though. For the first time, I actually talked out loud with Megan and Andy about my decision. For the first time I was really able to share my real apprehension about telling certain people in my life about this choice. It’s a big choice and it DOES have consequences, sacrifices, meanings. I know that there are people in my life who are not going to agree with this choice and are going to be vocal about it. I know because I have been on the other side. I know what it is like to misunderstand what it means to be Catholic from a lack of educated direction. Even more I know that it takes a real open heart and an open mind to even move close to being able to understand. I know that it is nothing I say that will bring them around to acceptance. It was nothing that Megan or Andy said to me. It was me deciding to be willing to find the answers. It is a scary thing to look for something you are against. It is scary to say, “I will look for the answers,” because in your mind you like your own answers and there is a fear that maybe, the answers you find will be right and then what? You must change. I know that fear because it has been very very real to me. I was so afraid of what was happening to me because in my mind, being Catholic was bad and I did not want it to happen to me, but the answers I found changed my mind. I know what my friends are going through (or will be going through). But we must all stand up and look our fears in the face, we cannot cower back and avoid it. If I had, I would not be here, at this point. God called from within my fear and I finally said, “Here I am. Your servant is listening.”

Anyways, all I can do, is inform them of my decision and pray for them. Not pray that they would all become Catholic, but just pray that they would seek answers. I trust them to God. And whether or not God shows them the answers they seek, I pray that he will allow them to accept my decision for the following the answers that God has shown to me.

First Meeting

 

I actually had to meet with the woman who does RCIA last night instead of tomorrow. I was pretty nervous the whole day and I’m not sure why. But it I enjoyed it. We talked about sacraments and what they are. The Catholic Church celebrates seven sacraments, which are Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconcilliation, Annointing, Matrimony and Holy Orders. We discussed what they are and what all of the symbols in them, especially baptism, mean. I will be going to to RCIA classes with Andy now up until Easter. It’s exciting, but I do have two problems, which are more schedule/transportation issues. You see, I’m on duty Easter weekend which is when I will be baptized/confirmed. That is my own fault though, because I switched duty weekends so that I would have an excuse not to go home for Easter weekend. I’m not really sure why I did that. But even if I did get that weekend off, I would not really have a way to get to the Church. I trust though that all of these things will be worked out.

Anyways, as a result of the meeting I missed The Office. When I got back to my room, one of my friends started talking to me on facebook, wondering what I thought of The Office and then wanted to know why I missed it. Then she wanted to know about why I came to choose Catholicism and so I got to have a good conversation with her about that. It was very encouraging and gives me a little more confidence to talk about it with other people, which is good, because now I really cannot hide this at all.

P.S. As I continue to explore the Catholic faith, I found this great testimony. You should read it.

Final Decision

 

This is something that I wrote yesterday as I was pondering Christ and his birth.

December 25, 2008
I think that it is time for me to start taking RCIA classes and get baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church. There is not much else to wait for. My eyes have seen, my ears have heard and my heart has been opened. I have learned about the ones I had persecuted, and like Paul, I met Jesus. When I look back over this year, I realize what a huge year it was. From TCX and the courage I got to follow God to southern California, to the renewed commitment I made to God in San Diego, to the strong trust I have built on Jesus, to my interest in the Church and decision to convert, 2008 has been the greatest year of my life. As 2009 dawns, I see hope, new light, and endless grace as I dive into the holy and apostolic catholic church and the communion with all of God’s saints.

At the same time that I feel like I should join the Catholic Church as soon as I get back to Fargo, part of me feels like I should wait. I feel like maybe I haven’t given it enough time. It has only been three months, and the change has been so big. Yet, I feel God leading me this way, so what excuse do I have not to abide? Why should I wait? Along with this thought and decision comes the very real “issue” of talking to my friends about this major decision. I know that there are two people at least who will be supportive, but there will also be people opposed to it.

Then there is this deep fear in me that perhaps I am only choosing to be Catholic to “impress” Megan and Andy or because I want to do the unpopular thing to look good, or because I like the extreme structure and rhythm of the Church, not because I believe it is truth. I mean, I am fairly confident in it, but should I be? I need to remember, though, that if I cannot trust the Catholic Church then I cannot trust any church. And if I can trust the Catholic Church, all other churches are sub-par and are missing something. If Christ is not powerful to protect the Catholic Church and lead her in truth, then he surely isn’t powerful to protect the Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, or any other church that is out there. Logic leads me to the Catholic Church, scrutiny of their beliefs against the Bible, and trust in my precious Savior confirms it.

So, when I return to Fargo, I will return with the intent to become Catholic, the intent to initiate the process. the intent to talk to people in church, to fend off the attacks of friends, and drink in the support of those who will. Most importantly I will submit to the Holy Spirit, to my Savior, and to my Creator. God was wise enough to make me, loving enough to save me, and great enough to guide me. What really helps me to set aside fear and doubt is the comfort of knowing that I will spend the rest of my life as a member of the longest standing institution of the present day, partaking in the rites of hundreds of generations of Christian believers. This is the biggest, most important, and best decision of my life.

Wow!

 

So Megan gave me this link. It goes to an article about the conversion of a Presbyterian minister to Roman Catholicism. When I decided to read it, I honestly didn’t expect much, but….

…it was far more interesting than I thought it would be and all of a sudden it made me really excited. I don’t know why. What is God doing? I can’t say for sure, but I am going to approach my question writing in a different light. Rather than asking shallow questions and then try to attack the answers, I just want to ask deep questions and not respond, just let it soak in and let God lead me to truth.