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“Why would I become Catholic when I love where I am?”
As a convert to the Catholic faith, this question is one that I am all too familiar with. I grew up in a very small, close knit Baptist church in rural western KY. The members of my church were a second family to me. We celebrated together, supported each other in times of need, and mourned the loss of loved ones together. Most of the people in my church watched me grow up and subsequently leave for college. So, why did I decide to leave a tradition and a community which I loved so much? In a word, Jesus.
Yes, Jesus was the ultimate reason why I decided to become Catholic after so many years in the Baptist church. To be clear, it was in said Baptist church that I first came to know and love Christ. Whether it was vacation Bible school in the summer, Sunday school before church each Sunday, or impassioned sermons about Heaven and Hell, all of these elements worked together to root me firmly in the teachings of Christ. Without the solid foundation I received there, it’s very possible that I wouldn’t be Catholic today. Just don’t tell my Baptist friends I said that!
So, how and why is it that Jesus led me out from the Baptist Church? I believe it was because Jesus wanted me, and others who have experienced similar conversions, to experience Him to the FULL. In other words, leaving the Baptist church wasn’t a complete denial or rejection of what I had received there, rather, it was the fulfillment of the heritage which was left to me. Although there were things I had to put down as I entered communion with the Catholic Church, what I gained made up for any and all that was lost.
Now, at this point I know there will be some who will shake their heads at this method of reasoning.
“Why bother with converting? Aren’t we all Christians? Members of the invisible body of Christ? Isn’t church membership irrelevant?”
To these questions I give a clear, concise, and direct…kinda sorta. The Catholic Church does affirm that many of our separated brethren (Protestants, Orthodox, etc) are indeed members of the body of a Christ via their baptism (CCC 818 ). That being said, it doesn’t automatically follow that church denomination is irrelevant. Unless you are comfortable with numerous inconsistencies, contradictory teachings, and radical divergence of opinion, that is. There is a reason for the thousands of denominations that dominate the Christian landscape today. We may all proclaim Christ, but we aren’t all saying the same thing about Him.
One of the fundamental questions that I had to wrestle with on my way to the Catholic Church concerned authority. Who decides where the buck stops? How do we get to Heaven? Can I lose my salvation, or is it eternally secure? Do I need to go to a priest for confession? I couldn’t get a definitive answer to any of these questions under the Protestant paradigm. Many used the Bible to justify particular understandings, but so did everyone. Definitive answers were hard to come by and that concerned me. In fact, as I would later find out, finding definite answers is impossible to do as a Protestant. A system that prides itself on being governed by the Bible alone, while at the same time championing individual interpretation of that same Bible, results in a recipe for confusion. The phrase “too many cooks in the Kitchen” applies nicely here. It was, and still is, very difficult for me to accept that God himself meant for it to be like this. I don’t trust myself to be the arbiter of divine revelation, and neither should you.
So, why should you consider leaving your own busy, familiar kitchen for that of Catholicism? To push the metaphor a bit further, it’s because you need a master chef! In the Catholic faith, the master chef would be the Pope in communion with the bishops around the world. You see, when Jesus established His church he knew that division would seek to destroy it. For that reason, he appointed Peter as the head of His church on earth. With the power of the keys (see Matthew 16:19), Peter would become the final court of appeals on matters of faith and morals. Only the Catholic Church, with the Pope as its head, has the authority, given it by Jesus, to have the last say. Only She could answer my questions with certitude.
So why should YOU leave your comfort zone? Why become Catholic? Do it to experience the peace that accompanies authority. Do it because Jesus established a church, one that can answer your questions and contains all the gifts that He, the Son of God, wishes to give to you. I have finally found the peace that I searched for. Have you?
Peace be with you!