I’m a Catholic: by choice. I was born into a nice, normal, mainstream Protestant church. I accepted what I was taught there and still do, to a great extent. It’s not so much that I rejected the faith I was brought up in, as learned that it’s a small piece of a much larger reality.
The area I grew up in was virulently anti-Catholic. My parents weren’t — but I couldn’t help but pick up the local culture’s message about the Whore of Babylon. It’s “Queen of Whores” now: tomato, tomahto. Lurid rants about the evils of the Catholic Church got me curious: how could an organization so corrupt, so wicked, be allowed to exist in a civilized society? More to the point, why couldn’t I see any evidence of all those evil deeds?
My curiosity was aroused. Not much, but enough for me to have a sort of ‘In Basket’ in my mind for facts about the Catholic Church. Facts, not assertions: I knew the difference between the two before I left my teens.Decades passed, and eventually I became a Catholic. There was a woman involved: my wife. I didn’t sign up with her church to be a nice guy, or to fit into her family. That’s not the sort of thing I’d do. But she did help me learn about the Church.
Answers that make sense
One of the big reasons that I converted was a preference that things make sense. I’m a very emotional man, but I try to think with my central nervous system and feel with my endocrine system: not the other way around. A system of belief that’s mostly an emotional rush and slogans wouldn’t appeal to me. Something that I could still believe when I felt like all the color and beauty was drained from the world — that, I’d pay attention to.
A huge turning point came just before my wife and I got married. I knew that I’d have to agree that our children, if any, would be raised in the Catholic faith: which meant I had to start a sort of crash course of study, to learn just what I was agreeing to.
One of the items was the Church’s stand on artificial contraceptives. I really, really, didn’t want the Catholic Church to be right about that. Remember, I’d been raised as a nice, normal American. The key document for that issue was Humanae Vitae. I got the official English translation and studied it. I’m fairly sharp, and my experience with other Christian denominations suggested that I’d find gaps in the Vatican’s logic I could drive a truck through.
I failed. I didn’t find a gap in the document’s reasoning. So, I went through it again. I must have missed something, I figured. Second time, same result. I could reject the conclusions of Humanae Vitae, but to do so I’d have to reject ideas like God being real and having created the world. I was not willing to do that: hormonally-addled or not.
So, grumbling all the way, I acquiesced to the Church’s position on artificial contraceptives. Decades later, I’m glad I did — for aesthetic as well as ‘spiritual’ reasons. But that’s another topic. That experience taught me a respect for the Catholic Church that no other outfit had earned. Eventually, it was a case of ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.’
Besides, by then I’d found out who currently held the authority that my Lord gave Peter. (Matthew 16:13–19) As I’ve said before:
“That authority has been passed along to each of the Popes since Peter’s day — and through the hierarchy to the parish priest, down the street from my house.1 Thanks to the 265 successors of Peter, I have a direct connection to my Lord, and the Last Supper. And Golgotha. In a way. (Catechism, 1326, 1330, 1545)”
(June 15, 2011)
I’ve written about why I became a Catholic before, and probably will again.
Another appeal the Catholic Church had for me was that it really was “catholic:” universal. Many denominations I’d run into over the years were, I think, heavily rooted in the members’ culture. Some seemed to be a sort of social club where like-minded people could get together and congratulate each other on feeling that, for example, playing cards, Bingo, and certain kinds of music were bad.
The Catholic Church has rules, and there are a few things that we’re simply not allowed to do. But that’s just part of the picture. We’re not tied to one country, or one culture, or one ethnic group. Catholics are certainly not people who get together because we all like the same things.
I shared one way I’ve explained Catholicism to my kids, in another post:
You want rousing music?
We got rousing music!
You want quiet meditation?
We got quiet meditation!
You want ancient rites?
We got ancient rites!
You want polka with your Mass?
We got polka with your Mass!
You name it?
We got it!
You won’t find that list in the Catechism, but I think it’s a fairly reasonable summary of what I’ve learned about Catholicism.
(© 2014 Brian Gill)
Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Nanoc, aka Norski, I’m a married guy, over 50, with four kids in a small central Minnesota town, interested in three things:
- What exists in the universe
- What exists beyond
- What might exist
My background in history; a checkered work history, and guardedly hopeful attitude toward human goofiness, is off the fiftieth percentile: whether above, below, or to the side, I’m not sure.
It’s a different perspective, and one that I believe sets my blog, http://catholiccitizenamerica.blogspot.com, apart from most blogs dealing with this conflict.