As we approach the end of the Christmas season, we celebrate The Epiphany of the Lord and remember the wise men’s visit to see Baby Jesus. This Epiphany Sunday will be special for me because I am going to a friend’s Confirmation and 1st Communion. Adults, like my friend, who convert to Catholicism often receive the Sacraments of Confirmation and 1st Communion at the same time. Attending my friend’s Confirmation will have special meaning to me because it is at the Church I was confirmed at less than three years ago and will bring back many good memories. As many of you approach your Confirmation, I want to recall to you the very short version of why I converted to Catholicism and why that matters to you.
I grew up in a great, faith-filled Evangelical family. We went to church on Sundays and I attended youth group on Wednesdays. Faith was always a big part of our family life, and I never had any reason or desire to learn about what the Catholic Church teaches. Then, my world was rocked when I met my now wife Kendra! I started dating her even though she was Catholic! I still had no desire or intention of being Catholic and even told Kendra, “I will never be Catholic!”. As we dated longer and our relationship got more serious, me being Protestant and her Catholic became more of an issue. Kendra was adamant that if we were to get married and have kids, our kids would be raised Catholic. I respected what she had to say but didn’t like it. I couldn’t in good faith raise my children to believe something that I didn’t even believe in. Eventually I wanted to learn more about the Catholic Church to see if I could somehow make things work raising Catholic children as an Evangelical Protestant.
I went to mass a lot with Kendra while we were dating (even though a lot of the time I wasn’t overly interested in being there), and I think very slowly, sometimes without even realizing it, I started overcoming misconceptions and seeing things I appreciated about the Catholic Church. Kendra had given me the book Rome Sweet Home by Scott Hahn and it sat on my shelf unread for a very long time. One night out of the blue I decided to start reading it. That book opened my eyes to wanting to learn more about what the Catholic Church really taught. The book was written by a former Protestant pastor who was very anti-Catholic but had converted to Catholicism. He initially had no desire to be Catholic but through a lot of prayer and study came to recognize the truth and beauty in the Catholic Church. After reading that book, I was ready to learn more. (On a side note, if you are looking for a book that will help you appreciate your Catholic faith more, I would highly recommend Rome Sweet Home. Let me know if you’d like to borrow my copy of the book!)
By God’s grace and after a lot of study, I came to the point where I realized Catholicism is either right and it’s all right and every Christian should be Catholic or if it’s wrong it’s way wrong and I should have nothing to do with it! By that time, I knew it wasn’t way wrong, so it didn’t leave me much of an option! The other thing I realized was I could study Catholic doctrines and Protestant doctrines for years and years to fully understand things and feel comfortable with knowing everything I could about Catholicism. Or I could accept that Jesus established one Church (as shown in the Bible) and gave that Church authority and protection to be free from error in its doctrinal teachings. If I was comfortable with that one teaching of Catholicism, that meant that every other teaching was also true. While it’s obviously still important to know the theology behind Catholic doctrines, accepting the authority of the Church made it less necessary to get buried in the details of proving every doctrine true.
The Eucharist was another huge part of my conversion. If you accept what the Catholic Church teaches about the Eucharist (that Jesus is really present), you can’t really justify not being Catholic! Looking at Scripture passages that I hadn’t paid attention to before really helped me understand the Eucharist such as the following verses from John 6:53-58:
“Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
The writings of the Early Church Fathers that show the early Church held the same belief about the Eucharist as Catholics hold today and Eucharistic miracles throughout history also opened my eyes to the truth in the Catholic beliefs regarding the Eucharist.
After learning what the Catholic Church actually is and actually teaches, I felt like I didn’t have any other option. I had to be Catholic! I followed God’s will for my life on His terms and not mine, and that led me to joining the Catholic Church. I remember the joy I had because I knew I was being Christ’s disciple. I left some of the first masses I attended after my Confirmation with a smile on my face because I knew I was home and where I was supposed to be.
In closing, I hope you remember that you are part of the one true Church that Jesus founded and recognize how blessed you are to be part of a family that raised you in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is the fullness of truth that God has revealed to man and contains so many graces for us all to receive, and God has picked us to be disciples of His in that church! As you prepare for Confirmation, I hope you appreciate the blessing that the Catholic Church is. This is the Church that Jesus founded 2000 years ago, and while the Church is full of sinners because we all sin, Jesus gave us the promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. His Church and His true disciples will ultimately be faithful to the truth and will conquer death! You are all part of that Church through your baptism, but it is your choice to stay faithful to God and to daily answer God’s call to holiness.
Word up. I am Stacy, the youth minister of this amazing group of teens. I have 4 kids of my own, 2 heaven babies and like 60 teens I consider very large children of my own.