The question is simple – why exactly did I become Catholic? In brief, I become Catholic because of the Pope! I’m sure most folks would appreciate a bit more substantive of an answer, though, so here goes that attempt.
In my early college years, I left the church of my childhood, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, over issues regarding the nature of sin and absolution. I quickly found an Episcopal church in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, with a very conservative priest. For me, it was home. The preaching was sound, the liturgy was high and done well, and the sacraments were administered in accordance with the teachings of the Church Catholic. My priest, a member of the conservative Society of the Holy Cross, refused to let the abject teachings of the Episcopal Church hierarchy corrupt his congregation. He was and continues to be a pillar of righteousness in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. I eventually moved back home to Lubbock, and became a member of the conservative Anglican Church of North America.
In October of 2009, though, a milestone occurred that couldn’t be ignored. In his wisdom, Pope Benedict opened the doors to Anglicans through the publishing of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coebitus (hereafter referred to as AC). Where Anglicans had for years swum the Tiber in droves, His Holiness built a bridge for them, allowing them to convert as congregations while retaining their priests and certain elements of their Anglican heritage. His generosity overwhelmed me – it struck me that that was true reason for ecumenism – not just getting along, but total communion, while still allowing the last 450 years of heritage to shine through. After AC was published, I ran to my local bookstore to buy a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Over the next year, I poured over it, reading it front to back (and several sections twice). I found that I agreed with it! Although I knew that one day I would convert, I wouldn’t budge. You see, I have always wanted to enter the priesthood, and the celibacy requirement of the Roman Church scared me away from the church as a whole. Additionally, when I left the LC-MS, I did so alone and was alienated by many friends and pastors along the way, something I was not fond to repeat. For a year, I would hear time and time again “if you believe what Rome teaches (which I did), then why are you still a protestant?” It took an incredible movement of God (and of the CDF, a central agency of the Vatican) for me to budge. You see, the implementation of AC in Great Britain began in January – and it took its establishment for me to wake up. The timeline is remarkable: in November of 2010, three Bishops in the Church of England resigned their ministries. On January 1, they were received as Roman Catholics. On January 13, they were ordained to the diaconate, and on January 15 they were ordained priests. Such an elevation is unheard of in the history of the modern Catholic Church. They have since been elevated to Monsignor, and led the way for 60+ priests and over 1,000 parishioners in Great Britain to be received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil, with those men being ordained to the priesthood at Pentecost of this year.
It’s a funny thing, when God speaks to a man. Because when He has a message for us, He doesn’t just tell us once and go away – He keeps pounding it in until He’s sure we’ve gotten it. For me, that happened in very early January of this year. On a Monday, I was sitting in my kitchen, and I had a remarkable realization about trusting in God’s providence. I realized that if it is His will to make me a priest, He will make me content to be celibate; likewise, if He wills me to marry, He will make me content to be a member of the laity. This realization freed my spirit, releasing me from my deepest fear. The very next day, I was having a beer with a trusted friend. He let slip that he and his wife were no longer attending the Anglican Church, that in his words, they had “a bout of Roman Fever”. Once again, God freed me from my fears, assuring me now that I wouldn’t be walking alone (that friend and his family are now on track to be received into the Roman Catholic Church at Pentecost). The day after that I attended my usual Wednesday evening bible study with my Anglican priest. The text we were studying was John 1: 35-50. I was deeply struck by the first verses of that lesson: “35The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.” On day one, God freed me from my fears of celibacy. On day two, God gave me companions along the way. On day three, God totally released me, telling me to GO! I saw the Lamb of God in the light of Catholic teaching, and knew that it would be sin not to follow.
So I did. On the Great Vigil of Easter on April 23 of this year, I was received and Confirmed into the Roman Catholic Church by the Bishop of Lubbock, The Most Rev. Placido Rodriguez. It was a remarkable ceremony, filled with joy and triumph, not least because of the baptisms of two adults. How fitting that on the night Christ conquered death and opened the gates of heaven, they died to self and became heirs to the kingdom! All ten of us were welcomed home that night, and the Church has poured out her riches upon us in the time since.
Here I kneel, a broken, scarred, bruised sinner who sought sanctuary on the Rock that is the Roman Catholic Church. So, why again did I become a Catholic? Because I searched the scriptures, I searched the catechism, I searched my soul, and I found the truth of the Petrine Ministry, at the heart of which is Jesus Christ himself.
Soli Deo Gloria, indeed.