So I was coming home, right?
If you read my little prayer from the last post, you know I was pretty worried about this. I told two of my best friends about my new area of inquiry and one of them reacted as I feared (asking about all the areas that we Protestants think are antiquated and incorrect: Mary and the saints, works, the pope, etc.) and one asked me this, “Is Jesus still your Savior?” I said of course and he replied, “I don’t know that much about Catholicism, but as long as your answer stays “yes” to that question, have at it.”
If only everyone was so gracious and humble as him.
I remember sneaking out of the house to talk to one of the local parishes about my questions. The lady there recommended I buy the book Catholicism for Dummies (which I did) but by the end of our conversation she handed me a devotion version of the Catholic Catechism. To be completely honest, I found the renowned yellow cover to be the more helpful and to the point in my search for truth.
That Sunday, somehow I skipped my church service and snuck into my first mass. I expected the liturgy, yet I think the only bit I knew was the Lord’s prayer and the Apostle’s Creed. On the way out, I remember walking by and shaking the priest’s hand. He paused and said one word, “Welcome.”
At this point of the summer, the unified, traditional aspect of the Catholic Church was more attractive than ever. Same-sex marriage had just been legalized in America and evangelical churches everywhere went nuts. And by nuts I don’t mean they raged about it and protested (well some did) but that they became unpredictable. One church said it would preform same-sex weddings and welcome them into the church. One church walked the streets with signs saying, “God hates gays,” or trying to apply levitical law and advocating for the genocide of LGBTQ. It was chaos. One church said this, the other said the opposite. One can only imagine the desparation in trying to find a church that was rock solid in protecting the marriage covenant and the unconditional love that God has for all of us sinners.
My parents found out. I mean it’s pretty hard to hide a bright yellow textbook from your mom. I then had to tell my dad. We still laugh at his reaction. He said, “At least you aren’t telling me you lost your faith or got some girl pregnant.” He asked the same question my friend did and satisfied with my answer, left it at that. The only variance was that he felt he should read up, because he is my dad anyway. I eventually told my sisters and they (having celebrated Reformation Day with me for years at our school) had no response. I’d love some day to actually talk with them about the joy and homecoming I have since found, but I fear it would be disrespectful to my parents to initiate those conversations.
I left to go to college at Biola University, an interdenominational university. It requires its students to sign a statement of faith, which I did the previous winter. I checked what I had signed and found it to be consistent with beliefs I was looking into. So my mind was at rest…for a time.
Going there I was pretty hesitant to even mention that I was looking into Catholicism. I looked up stats from two years ago and apparently only 2.5% Biolans were Catholic. And let me tell you, that feels like an exagerrated percentage. While at Biola for my freshman year, I met two (…TWO!!!) other Catholics.
I got involved in RCIA at the nearest parish (RCIA is like the class you participate in while discerning whether to become a member of the Catholic Church) and it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy because it was so easy. I mean we were given Bibles and a post-it note and then told to put it on page 10…the Table of Contents!!! I was the only one there for religious convictions; most of the others wanted to learn more about the church they grew up in, or see what their spouse believed, or get confirmed so they could sponsor someone. Of course me being the single young man that I was, I was asked repeatedly to consider becoming a priest. HAHAHAHA! Can you imagine?! This was at the first class! I wasn’t even Catholic at this point.
But life was lonely. I felt that I had to keep this hidden from friends at school. For instance, I remember asking my friends to drop me off at mass on their way to their church. When I got out, one of their other friends said, “Wait? Are you a Catholic person or something?” I quickly replied, “Yes! Have fun at your evangelical service or something.” Later on, the night I spoke on the panel in Vlog-1, I was on a very casual date and I remember intentionally checking that she wasn’t coming to chapel that night. Why? Because this was something I was made to feel ashamed of. I didn’t want to mess up my chances, you know? Catholics are free game at Biola and I felt it. Even one of my better friends there considers me a Christian solely because he knows my beliefs aren’t fully aligned with Rome’s (…yet, I’m still studying.)
I had to wrestle with a lot of doctrine on my own. My questions started to go beyond the extent of the class I was in or my sponsor’s knowledge. When the leader of the RCIA class met my sponsor he said to her, “Good luck with this one.” Regardless, I was under the constant pressure to personally defend Rome to my friends.
This was the evening of the first day. My chaos had been burst open by light, but the process was not yet complete. If this post seeems dark or sad to you, it’s supposed to be. But morning will come in the next, and last, post about my story.