Hello Rosary Lovers! In this post I will explain why I converted to the Catholic Church.
My early experiences of faith and doubt
My journey to the Catholic Church was a long one. I was baptised Anglican when I was 3 and spent the early years of my life in an independent Pentecostal fellowship.
Throughout my teens I was largely agnostic, though never quite atheist. I believed there was probably a God, or grand Creator, but I didn’t know God and didn’t see the relevance of Christianity to my life.
Everything began changing just after my 19th birthday. I had been having serious issues in my life, and as a result I was reading the Bible and praying every night for the first time. I was looking for answers and felt lost and hopeless.
A sudden conversion
Just before my 20th birthday I fully committed to follow Christ, and huge changes took place in my life immediately. One of the most noticeable differences was a complete break with sexual sin and constant reading of the New Testament.
I decided to enroll at a Bible college to learn the Bible as well as I could. I didn’t know what God was calling me to do, but I loved Holy Scripture and wanted to know it better.
For nearly 10 years I was immersed in the Evangelical world. I preached at local churches. I worked for a well-known church. I wrote a couple of articles for magazines. Many people had great hopes that I would be some great pastor and preacher someday.
Until I went rock-bottom again. For 3 years I struggled through a dark time. Everyday was a challenge to get through unscathed. The only thing I could do to keep myself afloat was study Theology, so I did a Masters, followed by a PhD.
The Eastern Orthodox Church
It was during this time that I was introduced to the Eastern Orthodox Church. I began to study the Middle Ages also, and learned a great deal about the Orthodox way of approaching Christianity. I felt there was much here that could help me in my own life.
My interest in Eastern Orthodox Christianity became something of an obsession. It helped me look at Christianity and theology with very fresh eyes, and I began attending a local Greek Orthodox Church.
My theology had started to become less and less Protestant and more and more Orthodox. The last two hurdles were justification by faith alone and sola scriptura, the two battle-cries of the Protestant Reformation.
These were my conclusions:
- Justification by faith alone depends really on Martin Luther and John Calvin. Why trust them when they were just men and could be wrong?
- Sola Scriptura was a self-contradiction because to have an infallible Scripture in the first place one needs an infallible Authority besides Scripture to give us an infallible Canon (which books are supposed to be in the Bible). That Authority besides Scripture is the Church. And therefore, the Bible is not the only infallible thing in Christianity, thus refuting sola scriptura.
- Additionally, no-one reallys believes in sola scriptura, but rather in their own reason, and/or feelings, and/or their own Protestant tradition. I saw this firsthand again, and again, and again. Sola Scriptura is a myth.
- It’s also not taught clearly in the Bible that only the Bible is infallible in Christianity, which begs the question: why the need for someone to believe in this dogma of Protestantism? Sola scriptura is thus a ‘tradition of men’.
It was at this point that huge elements of historic Christianity began to make sense to me. Apostolic succession: if the Church is to be properly led and protected from error, she needs Bishops who derive their authority from a direct line back to the apostles.
Baptism actually saves, according to the New Testament: it puts us into Christ (Galatians 3:26-27), and brings us the forgiveness of sins (end of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2). Baptism also brings us into the body of the Church (end of Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 12:13).
Since Baptism is such a physical thing, might it not be the case that the Church is also something very physical?
And then Mary: St Elizabeth speaks of Mary as the ‘mother of my Lord’ and it is a ‘great honour’ to have a visit from Mary (Luke 1:43). And all generations will call Mary blessed.
I set about trying to join the Orthodox Church as I fell more and more in love with it.
But something began to take hold and wouldn’t let me go.
What about the Catholic Church?
What about the Papacy? Is the Papacy true? Why aren’t the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in full communion?
I started attending a local Roman Catholic Church when I couldn’t get to Orthodox services. Often Orthodox services were cancelled. I would travel far to go there and would look forward to Liturgy all week, sometimes to be let down. It annoyed me that there was no Orthodox Church close by, I didn’t understand this.
It also upset me that my baptism wasn’t seen as valid by the priest. I felt completely outside of the Orthodox and Catholics, as if they were on the inside. I desperately wanted to get in.
And because my wife didn’t want to join me into the Orthodox Church, I was told I would have to wait a long, long time before I was able to join. All of this was hard for me to take.
I began studying the Papacy. I was surprised by what the early Church fathers said about Rome and the Pope, especially the Eastern Church fathers. I found it considerable that many of them seemed to believe that the Pope was, in a unique sense, Peter’s successor and that Rome was the ruling Church within the Church.
I began looking at the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and studying all those issues that the Orthodox have a problem with: purgatory, the immaculate conception, the filioque. I found the Catholic response to these issues very sensible and it became next to impossible to know which group was right: the Orthodox or the Catholics.
I determined that there was only one issue that really mattered: whether the Papacy is true or not. Is the Pope the supreme visible head of the Church or not?
That to me seemed to be the only issue that mattered. If it was true, then all the other Catholic doctrines were true too.
But how could I know whether Papal supremacy was true or false?
It was one afternoon, as I was walking through the ancient ruins of an old castle, that it dawned on me: where was the true Church in the 12th century?
Now, a little history here. The Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church was one Church in the 1-4th century.
In the 5th century, the Oriental Orthodox split from the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Communion. So where was the true Church in the 5th century onwards? It was with the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholics.
But in the 11th century, the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholics split: 1054 is the usual date given. So from that point on: where was the true Church?
Now, I thought: if the Eastern Orthodox claim to be the true Church, and the Catholics are wrong, then how do I know that the Oriental Orthodox aren’t the true Church? What knock-down argument can the Eastern Orthodox give that THEY are the true Orthodox, and not the Oriental Orthodox?
Of course, the Oriental Orthodox claim they are the true Church, carrying on the faith faithfully, and that the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholics are wrong.
Both the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox have good arguments on both sides. Who was right?
So here I was, in a castle from the Middle ages, and it suddenly dawned on me: my goodness, without the Pope, there is no way to tell where the true Church was in the 12th century!
The Papacy has to be from God and it has to be true.
There were of course other reasons why I came to this conclusion. For instance, I didn’t think it made sense that people had to study theology, read church history and think about all sorts of arguments just to try to ‘work out’ where the true Church was.
I believed this was a gross error and that God had instead made it very easy to know where the true Church was.
POW: the Catholic Church is by far the largest Church in the world (over 4 times larger than the Eastern Orthodox Church), and has the Pope.
Could I really condemn a Mexican or a Brazilian for being brought up in the Catholic faith and believing it to be right?
Of course, anyone can make this argument about any religion. You could talk about Muslims in Iran. But the point was that the Catholic Church was everywhere: far more ‘everywhere’ than any other form of Christianity.
If Catholicism was a terrible error and delusion from the Devil, then God had permitted something very, very unfair. How was the poor average person to know that the Catholic Church was heretical or false? They could hardly be blamed for believing it to be true.
Finally, I came to see that without the Papacy, one cannot know whether the doctrine of Papal supremacy is true or false.
The reason for this is that the Eastern Orthodox believe that only the 7 Ecumenical Councils are infallible. But no Ecumenical Council had dealt with the issue of Papal Supremacy. So: if the Orthodox wanted to be strictly consistent, they couldn’t strictly say that Papal supremacy was definitely wrong. It may well be, but this wasn’t a certainty. So why do they reject it so sternly?
On the other hand, the Catholics HAVE to believe in Papal supremacy, because the Catholic Church teaches this very forcefully and dogmatically, at one of HER Ecumenical Councils (Vatican 1, 1870).
Hence I was left with the big: which is right? I knew the Orthodox couldn’t know for sure whether the Papacy was false, and I knew the Catholics knew for sure it was true.
No-one seemed able to defeat the Papacy with finality. Every argument launched at the Catholics and the Pope was answered with a rational response. Who was I to believe?
It was at this point that I held my hands up and simply said: in theory, Papal supremacy has to be at least an open question. It might well be true.
And it was at this point really I knew I had to become Catholic. I knew I couldn’t be Orthodox, because you can’t really be Orthodox and even be open to the possibility of Papal supremacy (even though their Ecumenical Councils never condemn this teaching).
The Eastern Catholic Churches
I had also discovered the Eastern Catholic Churches, and this made it a lot easier to convert to the Catholic Church. I was looking for a Church which had both worlds: the Eastern (Orthodox) world I was so familiar with, and the Western Catholic world of the Roman Catholics.
With my new-found discovery of the Eastern Catholics, it started to seem like the Catholic Church was the one Church which had it all. In one sense, I didn’t have to choose anymore between the Orthodox and the Catholics.
I Found my Kin
There was an overriding sense that drove me to the Catholic Church finally. I was out in LA visiting some friends, and went to an Ice Hockey game.
At that game, it was announced repeatedly that: ‘It’s Catholic night!’ And at that, all the Catholics would go wild. I recall having this overwhelming desire to be part of them.
Even though I wanted to be Orthodox, I knew the Catholics also had the sacraments. And for someone whose priest had implied that his baptism wasn’t even valid, I felt so outside of it all that I would have given anything at that moment to have just been Catholic.
With all the supposed ‘errors’ of Catholicism, at least I could have had their sacraments. And I bet they would let me join with a lot less hoop jumping than the Orthodox.
Whilst in LA, I caught a terrible bronchitis. I was very poorly and coughed for 36 hours every 30 seconds. It was so punishing. And I did this the whole flight home.
At home, I couldn’t sleep, and so I watched lots of videos. I found myself watching a lot of videos about Roman Catholic nuns. They seemed so full of grace. How could such people be heretics or in a false Church? To me, it simply looked like the other, Western, side of historic Christianity. It seemed to compliment the Orthodox/Eastern side.
Lastly, I watched a Western movie where the main character – a real piece of work – repeatedly crosses himself the Roman Catholic way. His brother is also a Roman Catholic priest. I don’t know why, but again I felt like they were on the inside and I was on the outside. I just longed to be part of them.
I felt like I had found my kin, the Catholics. And here they are: literally all over the world. Whether you go to Spain, Mexico, the UK, the US, China, or wherever: you always find Catholics. Truly the ‘Universal’ and Catholic Church.
So that was that. I converted to the Catholic Church by confirmation on St Patrick’s day (17th March) 2019.
Why I Remain Catholic
I have written on this website about how my first year of being a Catholic was very rocky. I indeed nearly left the faith entirely in May/June 2020.
But I came back with a vengeance and fell in love with Mary and the Church and her teachings, and the Rosary. This is what Rosary Lovers is all about.
I remain Catholic not for intellectual reasons. Intellectual reasons brought me to the Church, but they didn’t keep me in the Church. Faith kept me in the Church.
Love for the Church and her teachings kept me in the Church, a love you cannot produce yourself. This love for the Church and her teachings was birthed in me by the miraculous power of God. God worked miracles for me in my life and in my soul and it became impossible to deny the existence of God in the Catholic Church.
I remain Catholic therefore because I am convinced it is the truth. I am convinced because of love for the Church and her truths, and because the Church’s teachings really do change lives and make people holy.
Mary really does work miracles in the lives of those who cry out to her and try to keep the Church’s teachings. St Joseph is alive and will answer you if you consecrate yourself to him.
God bless you all, and I hope you find everything you are looking for. I believe that, like me, you will find it in the Catholic Church.