12 May 2014


I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims to be revealed by God.”

This sentence was joyfully said. This sentence was easy enough to say on the 30th of March 2013. This is the sentence which I proclaimed when I entered the Church at Easter Vigil. Less than twenty words, memorized and stated with a group of three other candidates proudly before Monsignor and a church packed with Catholics, Protestants, atheists, agnosticsanyone who was willing to witness our welcome.

This sentence was joyfully said. I had anticipated saying this sentence for many months. My heart, which was racing as I walked with the other candidates to the front of the church, swelled with pride, relief and the excitement that can only be felt when one knows a great mystery is on the other side of the door which lies front of them. These words were me finally grasping the door's handle and turning it.

Balcony doors of the Palace of Versailles.
 This sentence was easy enough to say on the 30th of March 2013. However, this sentence was a long time coming. This sentence would not always fall from my mouth easily. I did not always believe these words. If I had been asked a year prior to say these words, I would have been on the fence. I would have loved for someone to tell me what my answer was, because I could not yet see it in my mind.

'What do I believe?'

If I had been asked two years prior to say these words, I would have been able to trace my uncertainty around every letter. The sentence would have ended with a dark blot of a period as if I'd let ink drip from the quill with which I wrote the words. My heart would have raced, not with excitement or anticipation, but with fear.

'What do I believe?'

If I had been asked three years prior to say these words, I would have raised my eyebrows, shaken my head, scoffed at my prompter. I would have said I had no idea what the Catholic Church taught, believed or proclaimed. I would not have thought what She taught, believed and proclaimed was revealed by God; not because I thought She lied and had nothing to do with God, but because I knew nothing about Her or Her relationship with God.

'What do I believe?'

Midwest countryside.
I was told yesterday that there are two parts to conversion: the intellectual part and the emotional part. Valuing intelligence is a good thing, but I think what mattered more for me was curiosity: what is going on here? I suppose I'm lucky enough to feel a thrill instead of despair when faced with a puzzle. The fact that I knew nothing of Catholicism wasn't a problem, because I knew I could ask. I could have history explained to me. I could have Church teaching explained to me. I was lucky enough to have a supportive environment in which to ask questions and be given the room to struggle with the answers. However, as the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat, and I would be lying if I said I never felt frustrated when my light-hearted curiosity began to feel like a stinging thorn in my side. There was always a point when "Why do you Catholics believe this?" became "Why do we Protestants not believe this?" or "Why do you Catholics do that?" became "Why do we Protestants not do that?"

Mere curiosity was not going to cut it after the facts were laid out before me. Mere curiosity would not tell me what I believed. Mere curiosity would not let concurrent Protestant and Catholic church attendance stay as such. I could not hide behind ignorance any longer. It wasn't until I was asked direct questions that I began to worry. I remember on a Summer 2011 evening lying on my bed, phone pressed to my ear in one of our usual hours-long conversations when my then-boyfriend, now-fiance, C, asked, "Where did the Protestant Bible come from?" "People?" I remember replying, as if it were a question. "People got together and decided which books belonged there." "Okay," he said with a surprising amount of patience, "Which people?" Which people? Funny how someone who was supposed to subscribe to sola scriptura Protestantism couldn't say from whence came the Scripture to which they clung. I remember that question more clearly than any other in my struggle because I think, as I counted my ceiling tiles to try to calm the wave of panic which hit me, I realized in that moment that the Catholic Church had its hold on me. It was not an oppressive, crushing hold. No. It was like realizing you had fallen in love. It was a nervous, transfixing and almost ready-to-bolt hold. I felt like Edmund Pevensie being confronted by Aslan. I had my eyes closed, but beyond the erratic drum of my heart, I could hear him breathing in front of me. I could feel his warm breath ghosting over my face. It was both exhilarating and terrifying.

Allerton Park field.
'Which people?' was only a two word sentenceso much shorter than the sentence at the beginning of this postbut so essential, such a tipping point for my faith. I had grown and accumulated knowledge, but now this quest for knowledge could no longer be my excuse. It was time for application of the knowledge I had garnered. It was time for decisions. I do not make light of that statement. Everything until then had been fairly simple. Now, however, fear began to set in. What would it mean if I kept walking down this road? What would it mean if I acceded to this knowledge? It would mean saying yes or no to certain statements. If I said yes, more yeses would follow. With each yes, I would step further and further from the faith of my family, the family which none-the-wiser conducted their lives only feet outside of my bedroom, where I still lay counting ceiling tiles.

In Introduction to Philosophy, we discussed Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy. For one of the Meditations, the lecturer showed us how Descartes' beliefs were like a pyramid. He had the basic beliefs at the bottom and the more advanced beliefs at the top. When he began to doubt the certainty he could place on information taken from his senses, he had to remove that basic block of the pyramid. If you took that block out, the whole thing would topple. I was afraid because I knew the entire pyramid of faith I had built up would come toppling down if I removed so basic a block as the Bible. 
"You have listened to fears, Child," Aslan says to Susan, "Come, let me breathe on you. Forget them. Are you brave again?" My fears were real and, on that night, the breath of God was stirring against me.

I could not have been as brave to confront my questions if I had not had emotional support from my boyfriend. That's how most conversion stories go, right? Someone close to you converts or is Catholic and your head is reeling from this revelation. Scott and Kimberly Hahn are a great example of the dual-part conversion formula: Scott, a hard core Scripture scholar, was drawn to Catholicism by immersing himself in history and Church teaching; Kimberly was astounded at his conversion but later joined him. (Their almost cult-classic book Rome Sweet Home describes their journey in good detail. I recommend it to anyone considering conversion or anyone floored by the conversion of someone they know. I wouldn't say it made me desperately want to join the Church; rather I found similarities in the way I was feeling toward the Church on both sides: both drawn to it and afraid of what joining it would mean.) 

Sunset over the library.
I should be clear here: I did not convert because my boyfriend was Catholic, nor would I advise converting on the basis of a relationship. In fact, I would say definitely, definitely do not convert on that basis. I actually doubt you could truly convert in mind and heart simply because someone you love belongs to the Church (unless you are completely comfortable with a constant disjointed inner battle: then be my guest). What was truly helpful in having someone in my life who was Catholic was the ability to ask questions, seek clarification and gather support when I was in the most tumultuous throes of conversion. I never felt pressure from him to convert. I did feel pressure to figure out what I believed, though.

We should all feel this pressure. We should all have our faith tried and be able to defend it. "My breathren, count it all joy, when you shall fall into divers temptations; knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience." (James 1:3) "[Y]ou shall greatly rejoice, if now you must be for a little time made sorrowful in divers temptations: that the trial of your faith (much more precious than gold which is tried by the fire) may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the appearing of Jesus Christ..." (1 Peter 1:6-7) 
One of the biggest failings I found in Protestantism was my inability to defend it. What did history say? What about these verses which support the authority of the Church, given by Christ? What about these verses which support the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist? What about the early Church?

St. Ignatius was a student of St. John and the Bishop of Antioch, living in the first and second centuries AD. "Be ye subject to the bishop," he wrote to the Magnesians. In his letter to the Smyrnaeans, he wrote, "They [Heretics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again." Early Church writers sounded really Catholic. Why were these beliefs, which were so prevalent in the early Church, abandoned several centuries later by Protestants?

Another thing Protestants couldn't tell me is why they believed things contrary to Catholic teaching. 
Where in that Bible is sola scriptura supported? Why should I think the Papacy is all one big sham when Christ says:

"'But whom do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said: 'Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: 'Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.'" (Matthew: 16:15-19)
 and also:
"Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained." (John 20:23)
Christ gives authority to St. Peter. First He says he shall be the rock of the Church, which will stand strong against the powers of evil. Second He places him in charge by giving him the keys to the kingdom; he also gives him the power to forgive sins (or not). As Peter was the leader of the disciples, Jesus sets St. Peter up to be the leader after Christ's Ascension. All of that seemed pretty clear to me when I read it, but was never discussed in Protestant circles. This lack of Protestant Catechesis confused me: why hadn't I been trained to understand the faith when it came to all of these new (but historically old) matters? Why had I never heard discussions about why Catholics, from whom Protestants broke off near five centuries (at most) ago, believed in things like the Real Presence and why Protestants didn't? How strange it was to find out later that Martin Luther believed in the Blessed Virgin Mary's perpetual virginity and Immaculate Conception, neither of which present Protestants (for the most part) support.

Campus sky.
Confusion and struggle hit me. Everything seemed tangled. I know my questions about Catholicism would not have begun as soon as they did had C not entered my life. I know the stress and tension I experienced would have had no basis if he had not asked me about my faith and I about his. While all of the worry could have been avoided, I know that I would take it all on again. I know that, as each question was answered, I could feel everything shift around me as the Catholic Church became more familiar and I began to feel hope. All the tangles were untangling. I began to feel like Catholicism wasn't some strange, ominous door; it was a door to home. I also know that the next pivotal moment of my conversion story will be remembered for the rest of my life.

C and I went on many walks in the Summer of 2012. This was easily the best Summer I've ever had, largely because of the following memory. Our walks always prompted long discussions about faith, school, books, music... I had spent the last couple months checking out Catholic books from the library which were much more captivating than my required coursework. This conversation was prompted by a question I had about The Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith. As we neared my apartment, he asked me what my thoughts were about conversion: had I thought about it any more seriously and practically? I don't know if he was looking for as serious an answer as I gave. Perhaps he thought I would shrug about it noncommittally. "Well, I'm not sure everything the Church teaches. I haven't read it all. I don't know everything
" He interrupted me with something like: "It would take more than a lifetime to read everything." However, I continued, "I know. I wasn't finished. What I'm saying is, I don't know everything, but I trust the Magisterium. I trust the authority of the Church. I'll believe what She says."

'What do I believe?'

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty,
Creator of Heaven and Earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in One Lord Jesus Christ,
the only begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation,
he came down from Heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day,
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into Heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.

'What do I believe?'

I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims to be revealed by God.


  1. Beautiful. <3
    Its so very irritating when Proddie friends are always like, "Catholics added books to the Bible!" when it was Luther who wanted to remove the Book of James. But I digress. :)

    1. Luther was all kinds of confused. ;)
      You could always agree with your Proddie friends. "Yeah, Catholics did add books to the Bible. All the books." Zing!
      Happy blogiversary, Grace!