21 March 2010

becoming catholic: part 1

Becoming Catholic icon

I've not yet discussed it explicitly here, but I've left a hint or two along the way. It's something I've been meaning to write about for awhile and seeing as the journey will reach a kind of culmination in the coming weeks, I find it fitting to write about it here now.

As the Part 1 portion of the title of this post suggests, this is something I will be writing about over a series of posts, knowing I won't be able to address this subject adequately in a single entry.

Disclaimer: When it comes to matters of faith (and matters of Catholicism in particular), emotions run high. It is a topic on which many have strong bents, preferences, and biases and regarding which particular views are held strongly. In many circles, there is much in the way of fear, misinformation, and outright antagonism when the topic of Catholicism is broached. I do not claim to speak in any official terms about matters Catholic, I claim only to speak for my own experience and journey. That being said, things may be introduced or stated in this series of posts which directly impacted my decision to convert. The purpose of stating these things is not to exact judgment on anyone or to incite anger or division, but only to provide reasoned explanations for why I now freely and deliberately chose to become Catholic.

A note on additional reading/resources: At the end of each post, I will attempt to point to additional resources that were helpful to us in our search.

* * * * *

An introduction
By way of providing a little background, allow me to present a bird's-eye view of my upbringing. I was brought up in a Christian home by wonderful, loving, and imperfect parents. I loved Jesus and the Bible from an early age and even in my earliest years, don't doubt the sincerity of that. We went to an evangelical, non-denominational church that was in many respects like extended family. This love for Jesus grew and in my high school years, burst into something new and altogether consuming. I read my Bible almost constantly and knew my life would be centered around my faith.

I went to and graduated from a Christian university and after moving home, continued my involvement in church. I worked with the youth group, led a Bible study, and continued in my personal devotion. It was just three years ago that I met someone who professed what he referred to as Traditional Catholicism which, in practice and in statement of belief, is different from what the majority of Catholics profess today (it would take volumes to explain the differences; the link above provides a good overview). After seriously considering conversion, I came to the conclusion that I could not accept the views of God and Jesus with which I was presented there. And so I returned to my evangelical roots, and was warmly welcomed upon my return.

An unexpected pit-stop
Fast forward to September of 2009. It was Labor Day weekend and James and I (married not quite four months at this point) were making a road trip south primarily to pick up some things he had in storage in the Modesto/Manteca area, but also to visit several friends and acquaintances we had there. We stopped in Redding at a coffee-shop to grab a bite to eat, this stop still about three and a half hours away from our destination. As I waited for our meals, James sat down to someone who, by the telltale collar, was obviously a priest. Another sat with him dressed in black, a novitiate preparing for the priesthood.

James was raised Catholic and left the church when he was 19, having some objections about certain doctrines that appeared to be incompatible with Scripture. But not one to shy away from any theological or intellectual discussion, I wasn't surprised that he chose a seat at a table with two obviously Catholic guests at this coffee house.

door table
Door table at Yak's Koffee
Redding, CA

We exchanged the usual pleasantries and launched into a discussion that while neither of us could forget it, we also found that we could not later recall all the specifics. James discussed his background with the church, his passion for the Catholic church when he was growing up, and the reasons why he left. The discussion was spirited, passionate, and sincere amongst the four of us involved. We discussed what it means to be "saved", and I remember feeling like all of us had been challenged. I hadn't ever seen my husband quite so emotional or flustered. But I remember walking away from that discussion the distinct impression that the bulk of the challenge was ours.

They made a lot of good points, I said as we returned to the truck. A lot of them. He didn't disagree.

We talked about it for the remainder of our drive. We knew it was something we had to look into if we were going to be intellectually and spiritually honest. Given our backgrounds, neither of us had been looking for this. Both of us had been burned in our very different experiences of Catholicism, and were understandably a little gun shy about giving it another look. Besides which, we were very newly married and not looking to introduce this kind of huge change so early on.

Coming home
Upon our return home, the research began. James spent hours reading Scripture, the church fathers, studying the teachings and beliefs of the protestant reformers, and looking at church websites. He found video testimonies both Protestant and Catholic, looked deeply into Catholic doctrine by way of the Catechism, and learned about the differences between how Catholics and Protestants approach the Christian faith. We learned about the Canon of scripture, and authority, and read some of the less commonly known writings from the reformers, many of which turned our stomachs.

This went on for about three weeks. Every day when I came home from work, he'd summarize his findings. More than one day, I remember him saying, This is tearing me apart. It was clear that he was exhausted, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Torn apart seemed an apt enough description.

And so it was. It was tearing us both apart. What we had found was turning our world upside-down.

For further reading:
Reasons to Believe: How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith by Scott Hahn (Hahn is a former Protestant minister who converted to Catholicism in 1986)
Catechism of the Catholic Church


  1. So interested to continue reading this Kirsten! Thanks so much for sharing. You have such a beautiful heart for the Lord.

  2. I'm interested to continue reading this, too! I love the little snapshots you've given us so far. You are such an unendingly interesting person to me. (I really like having interesting friends.) :)

    I'm glad you're beginning to share more of this story with us. Picture me sitting on the couch in the Yaks Coffee photo, eagerly leaning in to hear more.

    PS: That door table is so cool. :)

  3. I am happy to see you writing this. I remember you leaving the Catholic church a few years ago so I am interested in what drew you back in.

    You and James are people of great faith, and the Catholic church is stronger for having you as members.

    Peace to you and James and strength for the journey. This crazy journey of faith and life!

  4. i'm so glad you're telling this story, and i expect i'll be challenged as i listen. so here i am listening expectantly...

  5. It's great to be reading this! I remember you calling me that night after Yaks and telling me about the conversation. I am excited to continue reading it and going to mass with you again next time I come to visit.

    I love you both and the wee lil' one to come!

  6. oh, and picture me sitting next to christianne. :)

  7. SO excited to read this. It already sounds like a great story. Can I sit with Terri and Christianne?

  8. @Jodi
    Thanks for reading, Jodi!! I appreciate your encouragement.

    Thanks for reading, and thanks for thinking I'm interesting!! ... sometimes I wonder. I'm glad you're here and interested, reading the story, following along, and caring.

    Thanks for your love, dear friend.

    Thanks for being here, and for following me along as I do my feeble best to describe this crazy journey!!

    Oh, dear Terri. You were such a dear friend in listening to me sort through my tangled thoughts the first time around, and I'm glad you're here again. Take a sit on the couch, and I'll spill the beans.

    Wow, friend!! Thanks for stopping by, and thank you for your tremendous encouragement. And thanks for not thinking I'm nuts. I'm proud to call you "brother".

    Pull up a seat, there's plenty of room!! I do so look forward to sharing this journey with you, dear friend. I only hope & pray that I make some sense.

  9. Toss one more onto the couch, if there's room. I had picked up on your hints earlier as well and have been very curious as to your journey.

    Kind of reminds me of some of our old Torrey sessions, lots of heavy stuff to discuss with an open air for discussion and a passion to learn.

  10. thank you for sharing this! looking forward to read more.

  11. I'm going to read the sites you noted, thank you.
    This is very important to me, so however you are comfortable, and whatever risks you take, I will appreciate it so .

  12. @Dillie-O
    Thanks for the encouragement, and for sticking around to find out the story. There are plenty who think we're nuts, so it's good to know there are those who care to hear.

    @Inside My Shell
    Thanks for reading, Esther!! I hope you are encouraged.

    Oh, Deb. Your words mean the world to me. I mean to share as much as I can here, and I know some of what I say will not be very popular. So thanks for sticking around.

  13. I'm glad you're sharing this! I've been interested in learning a little more about Catholicism, I really know very little and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your journey. Thanks for sharing! :)

  14. Thanks, Tea!! I hope that what I write about will satisfy some of your curiosity and provide some insight. Thanks for following me along the journey.

  15. Funny- I happened on a Catholic Bible a few months ago and have been using it for my readings now. I like it better. This can't be just a coincidence.....Very interesting. I am going to take some time to read through your research and ponder it.
    You go Catholic girl.....

  16. I'm a COMPLETE stranger who "happened upon" your story. Reading how "this is tearing me apart", I could really relate. My husband, a Presbyterian minister who has been ordained about 5 years, starting reading more about RC just to get some answers that were bugging him. When he was talking to me about what he was reading I could tell his tone had changed and my stomach dropped. I felt sick for a couple of days and I also said ABC to him, as well!! At this point, I feel I have more of the fear of man than the guts to go where I feel the Lord is leading. So much hinges on this... I have been doing a lot of reading and I am amazed at how misinformed I was about RC. If you think of it, will you pray for me? Thank you.

  17. Hi Cindy,

    I don't know if you'll see this, and I have no idea how you found me in the great expanse of the internet, but I'm glad you found me. It sounds like there are some similarities in the processes we went through -- discovering just how much misinformation is out there, being surprised and turned inside-out by the truth.

    We are praying for you and for your husband. Any movement from Protestant to Catholic is a difficult one, but especially so when your husband is a minister. There are many stories of others who made this move -- let me know if you'd like some resources. Perhaps they might encourage you.

    No matter where this journey takes you, know that you are covered in prayer.

    Blessings & peace,

  18. Thank you, Kirsten, for your kind words and prayers! You’re very sweet.

    Commenting on your post yesterday helped me get a huge load off of my chest. I am so burdened regarding this truth we are facing, especially since we can’t really talk to anyone in our lives about it. I feel in a way that we’re acting the part of good Protestants while we figure this thing out. Is this a normal feeling? But, I know the Lord is leading my husband (and me) and I take rest in that.

    Thanks for the offers of any resources, I would appreciate them. The Lord is good and I am encouraged!

    In Him,

  19. Cindy, I'm so glad you came back, and I'm glad to hear that yesterday's comment helped you feel less burdened. There was a lot of tension when we told friends and family about this move, and there are some who still ask us why we didn't choose something else, so I know what it is to "act the part of the good Protestant" while you're figuring things out. I have no idea what is normal, but what you're talking about is consistent with our experience as well. I have some small idea of what that feels like.

    I can't even imagine the added tension that comes with your husband being a minister, and you his wife. There's so much expectation surrounding that role, and I know that it will probably confuse and confound (maybe even anger) a lot of people. It's taken a lot of practice, but even though my husband and I are just normal laypeople, we've gotten practiced at responding to our critics and questioners with honesty and love, knowing that their hearts for us are in a good place. Many are surprised to find that Catholicism isn't what they thought.

    You should know that you and your husband are in good company. Scott Hahn, Marcus Grodi, and Steve Wood are all former Presbyterian ministers who converted to Catholicism and now act as apologists for the Catholic church. The stories of these men and their wives have been particularly encouraging for us, since we knew that as ministers, they'd have a lot of issues to work out before embracing Catholicism fully.

    Blogger tells me this is too long, so I'll continue in another comment ...

  20. My husband and I are major nerds, so I have a ton of books, CDs, and websites I could recommend, but I'll try and limit myself to what I think will be most relevant to you and your situation:

    The Coming Home Network
    This website is specifically for non-Catholic ministers & their families who are looking into making the change to Catholicism. Lots of good resources here, and stories from other ministers and how they worked through it.

    Catholics Come Home
    This is just a good general resource to answer basic questions from anyone who is a non-believer, non-Catholic Christian, or even Catholics who have left the church and are looking to come back. I imagine you & your husband have already done a fair amount of study to be at the point where you're at now, but sometimes I just go here to be encouraged & find succinct answers to general questions.

    Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism by Scott & Kimberly Hahn
    Scott Hahn is an incredible apologist (his wife is no slouch either, having written several books herself) for the Catholic church and was once a staunch anti-Catholic. He is someone I really respect because it is obvious he loves Christ and is seeking the truth, not to mention he is very intelligent without speaking in a way that's over my head. Actually, I would recommend any of his books, but this one specifically is about their family's conversion.

    Journeys Home by Marcus Grodi
    This is a collection of stories of people from all walks of life who made the switch to Catholicism for a variety of reasons. I loved reading the stories of different people's journeys and what brought them to "come home."

    If there are any other types of resources you would like or need, feel free to let me know. We've read quite a few things now that have continued to reassure us that we're on the right path. Feel free to e-mail me if you like at kirsten116 [at] gmail [dot] com.

    I hope you continue to be encouraged!! We will keep you and your husband in our prayers.

    Blessings & peace,