A pilgrim's journey home
Discovering the good, the true, andd the beautiful in the Catholic church.
As our school year comes to a close (and for many of us its the closure to our undergrad student careers), we are given an opportunity to come to terms with how our educational experience has shaped us. Education can be a catalyst and space that fundamentally transforms our spiritual convictions. My experience has been no exception. I was raised in loving Protestant/Charismatic household, but now am in the process of converting to Catholicism. I did not come to this rashly; it has been subtle and gradual process of years that has culminated in the last four months. You (like others) may be wondering why. I am going to attempt to answer that question briefly. Please note, that I am writing this humbly as I am only beginning to learn about and practice Catholicism. There are a lot of more qualified people to teach you if you are interested. This is to be brief description of what I have come to believe to be the Church’s innate qualities of the truth, goodness, and beauty.
The True. The heart of spiritual pursuit is the desire for truth. That is what I find so desirable about Catholic theology. Everything from the Sacraments to the Church’s stance against abortion and contraception are grounded not only in the Tradition and Scripture but also Metaphysics. In Catholicism there is a harmony between truth that is discovered with human reason and given by revelation. There is also strength in the historical continuity of the Church’s theology. The ministration of the Sacraments and Liturgical Tradition go all the way back to the early Apostles. Our Protestant doctrines are relatively new in the two thousand yearlong history. I am not comfortable with being disconnected with the fifteen hundred years of Christianity prior to Luther nailing the ninety-five theses.
The Good. It became clear to me that learning about Catholicism was not enough? For if the Church’s bold claims were true, it would have to mean a change in the way I do things. As St. James says, “Faith without works is dead”, therefore learning and acting cannot be disconnected. Peter Kreeft in his Catholic Christianity warns against “cafeteria Catholicism”, meaning one cannot pick and choose what they like about the Church and ignore what they find uncomfortable or undesirable. This it’s a process rather than an emotional decision to be confirmed into the Catholic Church, as it takes time to appropriate the Catholic way.
The focal point though for the certainty in this process for me, is a growing conviction of my own sin. There is a lot of things that I have done and continue to do that I know are not congruent with God’s will (Mortal and Venial Sin). While I know that I have a “relationship” with God, I do not have a certainty that the one prayer I said when I was four settled the state of my soul. I cannot receive the both the Sacraments of Confession and Eucharist yet. Yet I am convicted that the sacraments of Confession and Eucharist play a tangible role rather than symbolic role in receiving God’s grace. Jesus stated to His disciples in the last supper that this was His Body and Blood. The Sacrament of Communion is both physical and full union with God. The authority of the Sacraments stem from the authority of Christ, “Faithful to the Lord’s command the Church continues to what He did” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And in the Gospel of St. Luke, “He who hears you hears me” (Lk 10:16). While I have not received communion, I have a deep sense of reverence and presence in the Church as I gaze at Him.
The Beautiful. I do not want to sound trite or cheesy, but I have become quite enamored with Church. It’s not just her buildings, saints, liturgy, practices etc. It’s in Her very essence, that being of truth, beauty, and holiness. When I walk into the Church and I am taken into a space that is connected with Church in Heaven. I realize that I will not always have these “feelings”. Its not always fun to be Catholic, but the reasons to love the Church are very clear and rooted in Christ. He is present with His Bride. He loves Her immensely, and that should be reason enough for any of us to do so as well. It the movement from desire to love that pulls me “home to Rome”. Christian love is not rooted in feelings, but in motivation and action.
In conclusion, do not let concepts such as tension or paradox stop you from finding certainty and direction in Christian Orthodoxy. It’s not an end to the encounter and pursuit of truth. Christ illuminates things for us allowing us to see more clearly the reality of the world that we are in. I do not see this as an end for much of my Protestant/Charismatic spirituality, but rather the proper ordering of it and actually in many ways a more authentic way of practicing the Christian life.
The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live
From The Convert, G.K. Chesterton