I have recently converted to the Roman Catholic Church. My family and I are in the latter stages of coming into full communion with the Church. It’s been quite a journey for me personally. I say this because I recently had a friend who is Protestant, but also exploring the claims of the Catholic Church, encourage me to write about this and so I shall.
There were lots of things that compelled me to “swim the Tiber” and I’m not really sure where to start. I have spoken before and often about my journey into what I called the historic Church. I was raised Protestant, graduated from a Protestant seminary, was ordained in the Protestant tradition and even pastored a Protestant church. The last two to three years of my pastoral ministry, things began to change for me. I discovered something that was a bit jarring for me. I discovered that there were Christians before Martin Luther and after the Apostles.
I know, shocking, right?
I say this with, of course, a touch of sarcasm. I say it sarcastically because, growing up the way I did and being educated by the people I was educated by, one would have thought that Christianity had somehow been lost after St. John the Apostle died and Martin Luther nailed up his famous 95 Theses. Now, in fairness, not all Protestants think that there were no Christians between St. John and Luther…but most of them act like it. The attitude seems to be one of “Well, Christianity kinda got lost during all those dark years and then Luther came along and read the Bible and voila!” Again, I know I’m using caricature, but you get the point.
What happened, for me, was that I began to go back. I was reading Scripture and preparing sermons. Anyone who preaches regularly will know exactly what I mean when I say that I was wrestling with some of these texts. There are some things in Holy Scripture that are difficult to understand. So, I did what I was trained to do; I consulted commentaries. One day I realized that almost all the commentaries I had consulted were written within the last 100 years and all were written by Protestants. So I did something dangerous. I decided that I wanted to know what the earliest Christians thought about what Holy Scripture said.
Like, when Jesus, at the Last Supper, said, “This is My body…This is My blood..” What did He mean by that exactly and how did the earliest Christians view those statements? So I began to read and consult with the earliest Christian writings I could get my hands on.
You guessed it…the Church Fathers.
Some of this I’ve said before but, the point is worth re-stating. As I read the earliest Christian writers, thinkers, theologians, pastors etc, I was astounded. They were Catholic. For example (my brother and I talked a bit about this last weekend), did you know that you could not find a Christian for the first 1500 years or so of the Church that did not believe in baptismal regeneration? Let me say that a little more clearly. Baptismal regeneration was believed by all orthodox Christians for the first 1500 years of the Church.
Sure, there were people who didn’t believe that, but those people were considered to be heretical. For my Protestant friends, read that again. Baptismal regeneration was believed by all orthodox Christians for the first 1500 years of the Church. To say that I was shocked when I discovered this is a huge understatement. This flew in the face of everything I had been taught about baptism as a Protestant.
Another example for you. The unanimous belief of all orthodox Christians before the Protestant “Reformation” was in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. All orthodox Christians believed that Jesus was present body, soul and divinity in the Eucharist. Those who did not believe that were considered heretical. I can’t even begin to describe to you how much this shook me.
I wondered, ‘What else was I taught that doesn’t align with traditional Christianity?’
You must understand. I was, and am, wanting to align myself with and practice the faith “once for all delivered to the saints.” How can I claim to be Christian if I am not practicing the faith once for all delivered to the saints? How can I claim to be Christian if I don’t believe the faith once for all delivered to the saints?
We cannot claim that we are practicing the faith once for all delivered to the saints if we don’t follow the practice of the faith once for all delivered to the saints and we cannot claim that we believe the faith once for all delivered to the saints if we don’t believe what Christians have always believed.
I found myself in a really awkward position. Indeed, I found that I could not claim to be a Christian if I did not do and believe what Christians have always done and believed. As we progress, I will lay out my personal journey back to Mother Church.
I pray that this journey will be as wonderful for you as it has been for me.
My family and I live close to St. Meinrad Archabbey and, this morning, we attended Mass at the Archabbey church. Albeit virtually (which is a whole ‘nother subject but don’t get me started) but we were there.
The thick and weighty silence that punctuates the parts of the Mass at the Archabbey, the chanting of the Psalter, the quiet shuffling of the monk’s feet, the architecture, the solemn joy with which the monks sing…so beautiful; it feeds my soul and brings tears to my eyes each and every time.
I don’t know the monk who preached the homily but it was outstanding and I wanted to talk about it for a bit. The gospel reading for today is Matthew 13:1-23. Go and read that before you proceed.
This is the parable of the seed and the sower. I want to tell you right out of the gate that my thoughts on this are not entirely my own. The monk who preached the homily did the exegetical work (and it was outstanding) and his words I will basically echo here, with a few of my own additions.
If you’re like me you’ve probably heard this text preached a few times. Every time I’ve heard it preached, the focus was always on the soil. Usually, the preacher would draw some application about being the right kind of soil. But the brother that preached this morning did something brilliant with this parable and it needs to be heard.
His focus in the parable was not on the soil. Rather, it was on the opposition to the seed. Look at the text and you’ll see it. See it in your mind and heart.
Hungry, squawking birds (I always picture crows) gobbling up the seed.
Rocky, flinty soil that seems to almost be “bullet proof” as the seed literally bounces off the hard, cracked surface.
Scorching sun that blasts things to powder under its relentless gaze.
Spiny thorns literally choking the life out of the tender shoots that bloom.
Do you see it?
The sower and the seed are opposed. It’s a powerful image, isn’t it?
Kinda reminds me of the world we live in today. Make no mistake, friends, the Sower and His seed are under assault and open opposition. The gospel of Jesus Christ and His person are openly opposed by the current culture in which we find ourselves. The Church is under open and naked attack by our great enemy and those who are under his control.
The Sower and His seed are opposed.
In the face of the world and the darkness that seems to grow on a moment by moment basis, what are we to do? We who are the Church, we the seed sown by the master Sower. What are we to do? Do we take up arms? Do we retreat from the squawking and ravenous enemies of the Light? Do we beg for rain that this dry and hot sun of opposition would be banished from the Earth? How can we fight against the thorns that seem to choke the life out of us?
I submit to you for this answer our Old Testament reading for today. Our master Sower speaks in Isaiah 55:10-11,
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I intend, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ!
We who are the seed of the Sower of the Word, look and listen and take heart! Look at the promise of God! He has promised. The Sower has spoken. His seed will bring forth sprouts and bread to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness! His Word will not return to Him empty. His Word shall accomplish all that He intends! His Word shall prosper in the thing for which He sent it!
In the face of a decaying society and blazing heat of the opposition of the enemy, do not despair beloved!
Hope in Christ!
His Word shall not fail!
His Word shall not fail!
His Word shall not fail!