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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why Be Catholic?

I’ve already shared my conversion story, but I thought I needed to address the question so many converts are asked “Why be Catholic?”. This will probably offend my Protestant brothers and sisters and perhaps a few Catholics but it’s my story to tell and if I am going to tell it, I am going to be brutally honest and not hold back my thoughts and experiences which led me to become Catholic. I am not going to go into the things already spoken of in my conversion story. Instead I am going to focus on the theology and beliefs part of my conversion. I grew up officially Baptist but also attended mass with my paternal grandparents. I did not have any formal Catholic teaching, just mass attendance. My formal Christian teachings came from Protestants. I started off like most Protestant kids in Sunday school classes led by other parents who most often had no formal religious education just a desire to “preach the gospel” and “plant seeds” in others. Nothing wrong with that. Well meaning and God loving people. I don’t mean to take anything from them, but I can’t help but admit to feeling a bit of resentment. A feeling of being gypped if you will. I was cheated, albeit unknowingly, of the truth. I was taught erroneous beliefs that took me half a lifetime to overcome. Though I am ever so thankful to my Savior for leading me to the full truth. The full truth found only in His Holy Catholic Church. That statement has ticked off quite a few Protestants, but it’s not meant to. It’s simply a fact. Last year Pope Benedict released a statement about what a “true church” was and it ruffled many Protestant feathers. Again, it wasn’t meant to, it was meant to clarify our Catholic faith and beliefs. Protestants are our brothers and sisters in Christ, no doubt about it. But they are not in perfect union with us because they do not hold the full truth. They have partial truth. To put this as a simple visual that was shared to me by another Catholic: picture the Catholic Church as a large box sitting on a table. The box is filled to the top with all the things that make us Christians. The Seven Sacraments, our doctrines, Tradition, Early Christian writings, Sacred Scriptures, the saints and everything God has entrusted His Church with since He founded her 2,000+ years ago. Now, picture many smaller boxes surrounding the large box in the center. Each of these small boxes have looked in the large box and taken from it only what they want. One small box has taken two sacraments and renamed them “ordinances”. Another small box has taken Sacred Scriptures but left behind Tradition and so on and so on. Then outside those small boxes are even smaller boxes and they have taken fewer things from the other small boxes. And outside those boxes are tinier boxes who have done the same until what they hold have very little resemblance to what the large box in the center holds. They’ve been diluted and watered down so much that what they have left is hardly recognizable to it’s original source. These “boxes” are Protestant churches dividing over and over again each time creating their own doctrines and beliefs from other Protestant churches. Taking what they want, rejecting the rest and adding their own beliefs based on their personal interpretations and revelations. There are now over 30,000 different (and often times bickering) Protestant denominations. They all have their own man made doctrines and beliefs. They are for the most part well meaning and not out to deceive anyone, but the fact is, they are. They all claim the Holy Spirit is guiding them in truth, but that just doesn’t make sense. Why would the Holy Spirit tell one denomination to baptize infants and tell another to forbid it? The Holy Spirit would not do that. God calls believers to unity. To all believe as one. This is a huge red flag for anyone willing to open their eyes and HONESTLY take on this Protestant problem. When I confronted this, it was like I had been slapped in the face! For years, I had heard (and believed) that it didn’t matter what church you attended as long as you believed in God. Well, that is not entirely true. God wants unity and He gave us ONE church and I believe it’s His desire that we all belong to HIS Church, the Holy Catholic Church. In Matt. 16 Jesus tells Simon that he is now going to be called Rock {Peter} and on that rock Jesus will build his Church. This scripture is tossed away by Protestantism because it clearly shows Jesus placing Peter as the first Pope and shows Jesus founding one church. In the Gospel we see Jesus sending out MEN to teach and preach and bring converts into the Church. Jesus doesn’t hand out bibles nor rain them down from heaven with a note saying “Read this and self interpret it”. That just doesn’t happen, but that is what many Protestants in theory believe. They believe the bible interprets it’s self for believers- I used to believe this also. The biggest problem with that (beside them not raining down from Heaven nor Jesus handing them out) is no where in the bible does the bible say that. The bible doesn’t even list what books, chapters or verses belong in it. The Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit compiled the bible and gave it to us. A Catholic once asked me ‘Using only your bible tell me how you know what books belong in it.’ That smart Catholic knew that I couldn’t and that my ‘bible alone’ theology was flawed. Now some people would just get ticked off and walk away. Not me, I am one of those people who needs to know the “why” and “how” behind things. So I searched for answers and the truth. I asked ministers and was told ‘the Catholic Church did compile the bible but they had some of it wrong and Martin Luther corrected it so now we have correct bibles’. Hmmm… If Martin Luther knew so much why did we still have Hebrews and Revelation and James and a few other books in the bible when Martin Luther wanted them removed and declared they were not Sacred Scripture? So how do we know Martin Luther was correct? Martin Luther also held to many Catholic beliefs that Lutherans today reject. By what authority do they reject them if they honestly believe that Martin Luther “fixed or corrected” the errors in the Catholic Church? It seemed every question I had could not be answered with any solid response. I began to see the foundation of Protestantism was built on sand, while I was recognizing the “rock” foundation the Catholic Church was built on. For 2000+ years this Church has stood against her enemies and she has not fallen. The Baptist faith falls over and over again and just makes up another branch all with their own differing doctrines. There’s the Southern Baptists who don’t allow women clergy based on their doctrines and scripture. Then there’s the American Baptists who do allow women clergy based on their doctrines and their own personal interpretation of scripture. This happens in all area’s of Protestantism. They can not stand because they are founded on sand, not the rock Jesus promised His Church would be founded. I didn’t want to be in a church founded by a man who self interpreted the bible and made his own doctrines. I wanted to belong to THE Church that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 16. The Church that He built on the rock. The rock foundation that will not fall and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. There is only one Church that is built on the rock and has the full truth. There is only one Church united in it’s doctrines and beliefs because it is guided by the Holy Spirit and is the pillar of truth. That church is the Holy Catholic Church. There is no other. Why belong to any other denomination? I am Catholic because I want all that Christ intended for me. I don’t want partial truths, I want full truth. I am Catholic because the Catholic Church has Seven precious Sacraments and Jesus gave them to His Church. They are there for the body of Christ as He intended them to be. I am Catholic because Jesus said “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” (John 6:56), and the Eucharist is found in His Holy Catholic Church. I am Catholic because I gave myself to Christ and asked Him to lead me to His Truth and He led me to the Catholic Church. I am Catholic because the Church was there for me with open doors and open arms. I am Catholic because good Catholics challenged me and shared their faith. I am Catholic because of the prayers of many on earth and the saints in Heaven. I am Catholic because of a feisty nun on EWTN named Mother Angelica who wasn’t afraid to tell it like it was for Christ’s sake, not her own. I am Catholic because men have answered the call to the priesthood and were there to bring me home to Christ’s Church. I am Catholic because a group of Catholics came together in an RCIA group to guide me. I am Catholic because Early Christians wrote of their faith and God preserved it for me. I am Catholic because my guardian angel looked out for me all these years. I am Catholic because God filled my heart with a tremendous love for His Church. I am Catholic because He wants me to be.

Now let me ask the non-Catholic's reading this: Why aren't you Catholic?

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