Now that things have settled down in the Richard's house, I can finally have a few moments to get back to some serious blogging. I had an awesome experience last week of having lunch with an old (emphasis was mine---sorry Jacob) college acquaintance who I probably haven't seen in at least 15 years. After we caught up with marriage and kids and the family stuff, the question came: " So how does one go from 'We bring the sacrifice of praise' to 'Ave Maria'?" You have no idea how many of people from my past ask me that question. And to be honest, I never tire of answering it.
A couple of blogs ago, I really put into metaphor what my conversion was like. It truly was a love story that blossomed between me and the Church that our Lord established. But exactly how did it happen? What caused me to "flip" or "cross the Tiber"? I have gotten all sorts of answers from what other people think. Some believe that I have been possessed by a "religious spirit". Others think that I have psychological imbalances. I have even been told that I have fallen for the pomp and circumstance. Lastly, I have been told that I converted just to "be different...to stand out". I mean, after all, there is no good reason that a "free Charismatic" would give up his freedom to return to the "slavery of Rome." And now that I look back on it, I can understand why any good protestant would ask. After all....how can you explain Tradition, Confession and penance, the Eucharist, Mary, Purgatory, Saints, Priestly celibacy? Aren't these all unnecessary, cumbersome inventions of the Catholic Church to keep people in line. That is what I was told. Control mechanisms to keep people in line and intimidate them into "submission".
For us, it happened a bit differently. Sometime in 2002 there was an unrest in our hearts with our spiritual journey and where we were at the time. Just as a background, Laura and I had been raised in a Charismatic Non-Denominational background for our entire lives....nothing else, so everything else to us was foreign. We were used to the entire Charismatic experience and all that goes along with it. As a matter of fact, Laura and I met each other at Liberty Bible College in Pensacola, Fl., and we were very happy. After moving to Jackson, MS for a few years, Laura and I returned to Pensacola and began attending Liberty Church again until 2oo2. We had been very active there in the Church, working with the youth, worship team, prayer teams the whole nine yards. At that point, Laura and I knew that we had to make a change. We talked about it and we both agreed that our time in the Charismatic movement was over. There were many concerns that we had with the direction that the Charismatic overall was headed, not necessarily with Liberty itself. The Charismatic gifts that I had been brought up with were not satisfying this longing I had to truly know Christ and move closer to him. How do I go about this? Worship to us began to be more of a performance trying to engage the congregation emotionally and I was tired of pretending. I didn't want emotionalism, I WANTED TO KNOW JESUS! Who He was, where He was, what He wanted me to believe, who He wanted me to be. I began to question and search everything that I had ever been taught. Why do we believe that the Bible is the Sole Authority of our Faith? And if this is the case, which of the 10,ooo+ denominations is correct in their interpretation? How did I know that what any pastor was teaching was absolutely correct? Is there anyway to know that? I was told that Scripture was the guideline. The only way this can be true, however is if you have a correct interpretation of Scripture. How can we have that verification that our "yardstick" is the correct interpretation? By the Holy Spirit that is within us? If that is the case, then which of the 1o,ooo+ denominations have the correct interpretation? (I will address these questions individually in separate blogs.) This was my dilemma, and it was no small potatoes. At this point I decided that it would be best for us to make a move to a denominational Church......but which one? It was at this time that a buddy at work who knew that I was searching for a new church asked me if I would be offended if he brought me some reading materials. The reader that I am, I gladly accepted his offer. The next day, I found on my desk a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,along with a subscription to This Rock Magazine, a Catholic Apologetics Magazine. I readily devoured this material and honestly at that point, even though I could not put my finger on it, I knew that there was some truth in what was was being taught. It was at this point that I had my introduction to the writings of the Church Fathers. Wait, Church Fathers, what are you talking about? I am talking about the early writings from the disciples of the first apostles, the ones that actually established the Church after Christ left us. People like St. Clement, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, St. Irenaeus, Origen, St. John of Chrystostom, St. Jerome, St. Cyprian, St. Augustine and Gregory among others. This was a whole new world to me? Why didn't I know about these guys and their writings? I had to find out more. It was at this time that I visited my first Catholic Mass.....all by myself. I sat on the very back row, and had no idea what was going on. I was lost as a goose and now I had even more questions that ever, so I had to have some questions answered.
Unfortunately, I really didn't think before I proceeded further. I had no contacts in the Catholic Church other than my buddy at work and I certainly couldn't tell him that I had questions. That would have been crossing a line that I was not ready to cross yet and and I needed a "neutral" opinion. So where did I go? A former Liberty instructor who was a former Catholic Priest that lived in town. I remember that day like it was yesterday. We met at a local restaurant for breakfast so I could get a good opinion on me moving to the Catholic Church (he didn't know that. I just told him that I needed some questions answered). After that meeting, I was done. I begged forgiveness from our Lord for even considering the Catholic Church. I was made aware that Catholic Church was full of Sacrilege and idolatry. I was scared to death......I knew I could never, ever become Catholic. I was convinced and sold................for then.