We’re all on one journey or another. Sometimes a person is just journeying along and then at other times reaches a point, perhaps a milestone, perhaps a destination. And sometimes that arrival really means something personally.
And so, when a middle-aged former Protestant converts to the Catholic Church, it naturally is a kind of subjectively momentous moment, and maybe not a little statement. For those who see the Christian landscape in terms of lines on a map, or divided territories, a conversion like this can seem as a crossing over to (or from) the enemy. There are still those who live in a world of Protestant/Catholic trench warfare, often never believing they are motivated by anything other than love (as the bullets fly). Probably for most people in our modern culture, however, such a conversion warrants merely a moment of curiosity with only a shrug and a “well that’s nice.”
But it is a kind of statement because, while many Catholics inherit their status from birth, and others convert in order to please their future spouses, to be raised as a Protestant like me, and to take one’s Protestantism seriously for more than forty years, and then to find a compelling enough reason to leave the anti-Catholics for the Catholics, is to proclaim something important, even if it’s only important to me. In fact, I suppose for many the issue isn’t at all Catholic vs. Protestant, but why even care? Just love Jesus man. So my conversion is both away from Protestantism and a stance for Catholicism. I am not a love Jesus/hate religion guy. I’m a love Jesus and His Church guy. Thus it’s a stand in favor of something older and more permanent than the latest fashion. It’s saying the old debates still matter in some important way. And it’s saying there is something that transcends both the debates and our post-modern nonchalance.
Regardless, it’s usually best to go where one is called to go. And so this past Sunday, with my family as witnesses, I entered the Catholic Church.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I’m no warrior or ardent apologist. I don’t want to defend the ramparts. I move incrementally forward, if at all, in fear and trembling. Only by the grace of God go I. If you have followed this blog at all over the past several years you know that my conversion was a long time coming, filled with pondering and searching along a somewhat circuitous path. If you know me personally, then you know I don’t make these kinds of decisions quickly. Perhaps I like to spend more time than I should in reading and discussing, but this was no little thing for me, and it took a lot of prayer, a lot of reading, podcasts, videos, many many discussions, talking to myself, and a fair amount of back-and-forth.
And don’t get me wrong. All this push and pull was not due to doubt. Seven years ago I knew this was the right way for me. But for various reasons I thought it wasn’t possible, or wasn’t coming soon, so I began working towards it in the only way I knew. Years ago I surprised myself (in more ways than one) by praying that God would “make” me Catholic if it was His will. I said that prayer because I didn’t know how to make it happen myself. In His wisdom God took His time.
So here I am, having “arrived” at (and in) the Catholic Church. I believe the Catholic Church to be the one true Church. And yet, in other more significant ways the journey has only just begun. I’m now Catholic but I’m also just now learning to be Catholic. And I think it will take the rest of my life to learn even a little of what that means. Perhaps it’s best to say the journey continues, as it always has. We are all being and becoming.
In short, I’m still on pilgrimage towards the promised land, towards the New Jerusalem, towards salvation. God willing.