One item of profound concern to me back when I was contemplating entering the Church was the note of dire warning in the collective voice of Protestantism. No daughter was ever more seriously cautioned against rash elopement – he’s not serious about you, he’ll mistreat you, he’ll get tired of you, he’ll leave you, you’ll come crawling home, you’ll rue the day…. The gloom-and-doom prognostication is enough to give any would-be convert grave pause; after all, conversion is a serious step, and anyone who undertakes it lightly has no real comprehension of the potential eternal consequences. I was worried, especially since I was bringing children into the Church with me. What if the warnings proved true?
Next Easter will mark our 10th anniversary as Catholics, and after nearly 10 years I think I can speak with some authority on this subject. Did the Protestant misgivings hold water? Let’s examine them one by one – you might be surprised:
Protestants warned that by submitting myself to the teaching of the Church I would make of myself an intellectual slave.
Surprisingly, since proclaiming that “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims to be revealed by God,” I have been freed to ponder and explore doctrine like never before, securely tethered to “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15).
Protestants warned that by using set prayers, I would be putting a chokehold on my devotional life.
Surprisingly, written prayers proved to be the trellis upon which my frail prayer life has grown and borne fruit.
Protestants warned that by participating in the liturgy I would lose any sense of a personal relationship with Christ.
Surprisingly, by participating in the Church’s worship at Mass, my personal relationship with Jesus has been greatly strengthened, as I now have the assistance of the Church teaching me how better to pray and to worship my Lord, and the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist to change me from the inside out.
Protestants warned that when I began striving to obey the commandments of Christ, I would become bound up in works and lose sight of grace.
Surprisingly, in attempting to obey Christ’s command to love God and love my neighbor as the Church teaches us to do, I have been overwhelmed by the necessity of God’s grace to fit me for this otherwise impossible task.
Protestants warned that by embracing a belief system that proclaimed the existence of a ministerial priesthood, I would betray my understanding of the “priesthood of the believer.”
Surprisingly, when I accepted the idea of priests who offer up the once-for-all sacrifice of the Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, I became profoundly aware of my own responsibility as a member of the priesthood of believers, most especially when I assist at Mass, and when I pray, “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners.”
Protestants warned that by confessing my sins to a mere man, I would forget that only God can forgive sins.
Surprisingly, by taking seriously my responsibility to confess my sins to a priest, I have become profoundly convinced of God’s love and forgiveness in the confessional.
Protestants warned that by forsaking their “once-saved/always saved” theology, I would lose all sense of “blessed assurance” and live in constant fear of hell.
Surprisingly, by admitting that the Bible does teach that we can lose our salvation, I have been freed to embrace a constant, trust-filled reliance on the only One Who can keep sin from ruling over me (Ps 119:133, Rom 6:12) rather than pretending that this One will turn a blind eye no matter what I do….
Protestants warned that my Christian walk would suffer as I embraced the notion of “a second chance” at salvation after death known as Purgatory.
Surprisingly, as I came to understand that the doctrine of Purgatory proclaims a final, thorough cleansing for those already headed to Heaven, I began joyfully offering up my sufferings in this life in cooperation with the God Who loves me too much to leave me the way He found me.
Protestants warned that I would be taught to consider 7 uninspired books to be Holy Scripture, books that the Church added to the Bible after the Reformation in support of false doctrines.
Surprisingly, the historical truth turned out to be the opposite of what I had been warned, and I began studying the 7 inspired books that Protestants removed from Holy Scripture, books that had been there since the New Testament canon was settled.
Protestants warned that I would end up praying to Mary and the saints rather than to God.
Surprisingly, as a faithful Catholic I have been taught to ask Mary and the saints to pray for me to the Lord our God that I would love Him above all things.
Protestants warned that I would lose sight of Christ when I cultivated a devotion to Mary.
Surprisingly, by drawing closer to Mary, my relationship to Christ has become deeper and wider and more profound than ever, as I ponder the events of her Son’s life through her eyes.
Protestants warned that I would become disillusioned with Catholicism when I found out what Catholics were really like.
Surprisingly, as I receive my Lord in Holy Communion Sunday after Sunday, I have been given special insight into the sins and failings of one Catholic in particular – myself. I am far too busy fighting to overcome that which displeases God in my own life to worry about what other Catholics are really like, although I suspect that they are for the most part a lot like me. “What is that to you? You follow Me.”
Protestants warned that I might get “left behind.”
Surprisingly, it turned out that the novel doctrine of the “secret rapture” so dear to Evangelical hearts is nothing more than theological speculation on their part, heavy on eisegesis and devoid of historicity. As a Catholic I await with the Church the glorious Second Coming of our Lord.
Protestants warned that I was leaving the Truth behind.
When I entered the Catholic Church, I left behind nothing that was true in all the Protestant denominations I had loved throughout my life. I entered into MORE truth, into the very Fullness of the Truth, when I was reconciled to the Church. After all, the Catholic Church is the Church established by Jesus Christ the Lord, and so there is
no surprise about that at all!
On the memorial of St. Francis Xavier
Deo omnis gloria!