Before I Go...Catholic: Some Final Thoughts
Tomorrow I will be confirmed in the Catholic Church. With this being my last day as a Protestant, I wanted to take a moment to write a “letter” or “note” of sorts to those who have walked with us on this journey. This idea came to me after my parents gave me a book by Peter Kreeft, Before I Go. It’s truly unbelievable to me. I never thought in a million years I would become Catholic. The process has been joyous at times and painful at others.
It’s my hope to convey how grateful I am for your love and spiritual guidance in my life. I thought that it would be fitting to do something in a similar vein, not of advice and parental wisdom like Peter Kreeft, but of gratitude for the Protestant traditions, without which I would have never known Jesus, King of Heaven and Earth, and the and Catholic Church whose saints and parishioners helped me discern it as the true Church. As I said to my wife, “If I have to choose a road to travel to Rome, give me the one littered with Protestant churches over the one barren and atheistic.” The faithfulness of the protestants, in some mysterious way, continues to be used by God, whether they like or not, to bring people into the Church.
So before I go…allow me to express my gratitude for your love of Christ and your love of neighbor.
God used all of you to carry me through many dark days in my life, and without you I may never have arrived where God wanted me to be. Each note will be in the form of gratitude and apology. While I am grateful to enter the Church, I also know that Christ’s sword divides and it cuts. I know that this decision, while glorious and painful for me, is mostly painful for protestants. With that in mind, I hope this is blessing to all of you who read it.
Before I go…
1. My Parents
Thank you, Mom and Dad, for teaching me what it means to love God, to fear him, and to be willing to sacrifice anything for him. Your actions were far more potent than your words. Few parents know this; I’m glad I had ones that did. For those that don’t know, my dad has a devotional routine that is saintly. It has impacted us all. Every morning he wakes up, reads his Bible, and prays for us kids. Even when he visited my home this year, I walked out to see him in my living room reading his Bible and praying while everyone else was asleep. What a gift you are to a son, Dad.
Mom, you showed me unconditional love, even when I was a jerk in seminary. Your faithful seeking and searching for God in the text, reading different translations, always asking the right questions, and creating word pictures and theological models was something I carried with me through seminary and into my personal study. You also gave me a desire to write. You fostered in me years and years of writing in my journals, all of which I still have. If it were not for you, I would not be writing now. Even today, we told a friend about our first confession, she said “make sure you write it down!” I heard my mom’s voice echo through the suggestion.
Both of you gave me an understanding of faith and reason. Dad would say “Don’t give more credit to the devil than he deserves.” Mom would remind us of the spiritual battles that warred for our souls in the world. Every morning, before we went to school, Mom would pray, “God, put a hedge of protection around them.” Mom, your home was like a spiritual HQ where we could recharge our souls with cookies, milk, prayer, hugs, kisses, and the Word.
I’m sorry for any ill judgment that has fallen on you from protestants who see my salvation as being in jeopardy. I know what kinds of things can be said when a friend or loved one converts, because I said them, passionately and vigorously myself. The Protestant and Catholic divide is best described as a divorce, and in some sense I’m leaving my home for another home. This is hard. But I thank you for the grace and love you have shown me in this whole process. I pray that God gives you grace to handle any challenges that come as a result of my conversion.
Both of you have given me an example of godliness that I know will only blossom more through the power of Christ, his Church, the saints, and the sacraments. It is my hope, that my life as a Catholic will still be a life that is both honoring to God and my parents. Love you both.
2. My Seminary
I was torn on thanking my seminary, as there are always those fundamentalist trolls that like to rip seminaries, regardless of tradition, as having a curriculum that leads students to the “false Church”. My seminary may have exposed me to the thought of Thomas Aquinas, but I was not influenced by them to become Catholic. Christians must engage with the whole of Christian thought, not just the bits that they like. Our seminary taught us to think courageously and as an act of worship to God. I would not be the man I am today without them.
Should this little testimony cause any controversy, I’m sorry. I’m also sorry if any of the professors or alumni feel betrayed by my decision. For those anti-Catholics that weaponize the phrase “You taught me how to think…” by following it up with “…Yeah, think like a Catholic.” They would be wrong. My seminary was an incredible gift, and I hope more schools follow their example of rigor for study and ministry to students.
I became a Catholic because I believe that you must follow God wherever he leads, not because I was baptized in the Summa. As I have said to some of you, if God had done in your life what he has done in mine over the last year, I think you would be considering the Catholic faith as well, and I pray he does. But it’s important for people on the outside to remember: one may read their way into the Church, but that will not keep them in the Church.
3. My Anglican Family.
You were the church that showed me the truth of the soul and body unity. I only came to you because of one of those Catholic shadows that God brought into my life. A Catholic friend knew I was struggling and said I should visit. I’m glad I did.
During this time, liturgy was only an idea, but it was here that I learned what it was beyond the academic descriptions of substance dualism and hylomorphism. I experienced what reverence looked like. No Holy Spirit machines (aka smoke machines), electric guitars, or massive projectors: just the beauty of worship, prayer, and love of God. You showed that kneeling really does something to the soul. That our physical posture before the King of Kings really does matter. Worship is, as the kids say, a “full body experience”.
God used you in such a powerful way, especially. You had no idea how deep in despair I was when we walked into that church. At a time when finding a church was so difficult, you opened the doors to the church and the doors of your heart and mind to our family. Our time with you would be short, only 18 months, but I can remember weeping in the parking lot as we said good bye to Redeemer. You were the first church I felt I could call home. Thank you for hosting and nourishing our souls while you had them.
So many good memories were had in these churches. All Saints Anglican in NC was where our children were baptized, where our battles with COVID took place. We stood strong in our jobs, read tons of good books, and lifted each other up in prayer weekly. These times were such a blessing.
It was this church family that really encouraged us to start the podcast, Solomon’s Corner. It was also here that I met Jim Pohlig, discovered Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and the vastness of how God works throughout the world and through different denominations. Thank you, to all of you, for your challenges to our conversion, and also to those who, though we did not know at the time, also followed the Lord’s leading and converted before we did.
While I know that Anglicans understand more than other denominations why people go Catholic, I am sorry for any frustration I may have caused you in this process. You are all still very dear to me, and as I said above, it’s far better to walk this road within the light of protestant churches than to do it in the darkness of atheism.
4. Catholic Converts
To those converts I argued with vigorously and judged prematurely, I’m sorry. Sorry, for preventing you from what is now the greatest gift I have experienced in my Christian life. When I called, you did not have bitterness, only grace. Any attacks I leveraged against your decision, came back upon me. The wounds I created on myself in condemning you were the wounds you stepped into. Thank you for your words, prayers, and faithfulness. You loved me, the way I should have loved you.
To those priests and bishops in the public square, none of you know me personally, but your digital witness rippled through my heart and mind while we discerned this whole process. Your courage and grace were an oddity to my Protestant mind. “What did they mean, ‘It’s been worse than this, way worse.’” Seeing your courage and grace were a testimony that helped put flesh on what it meant to be loyal to the Church, but not disobedient to God. You showed me what it means to submit to God and the Church, despite the chaos within it or within you. Thank you for your testimony and witness to Christ’s Church. You have shown me what it looks like like to be lambs in a den of wolves.
5. My New Catholic Family
God led us on a wild goose chase through Southwest Ohio. June was the month of spiritual war. We decided to visit Ohio to scout the area as a place to move to get closer to family. It was a horrible trip, logistically speaking. Rentals falling through, weird experiences at multiple hotels, and the whole time we didn’t know where we were going to live next.
We had no idea what Catholicism looked like outside of our little country parish, with a firebrand of a priest, Fr. Jeffrey Kirby. By God’s providence, we discovered that there were two former alumni from our seminary who had walked the road we were walking. All of them opened their homes, and had us over into the late hours of the night. Telling us all the ways that God had worked in their lives to get them into the Church.
When God opened the door for us to move to the area, we didn’t know what to expect. All denominations have their wolves, and when you move to an area you have to wonder what the commute to a good church is going to be. For those that don’t know, the church we attend is a Dominican one. This is the same order of Catholics as St. Thomas Aquinas. Worshiping there is incredible, and to know that I will be confirmed in the Church by those who share Aquinas’ order is providential icing on the already incredible Catholic cake.
For the first time in my life, I know what David meant when he said “I want to live in the house of the Lord forever.” Every time I set foot in that Church, God touches my life. The pastoral care of the priests is incredible, and I am so thankful to all of them for how they have guided us into the Catholic faith. To all you godly Catholics, laity and ordained, you have radically changed our lives. Our family is so grateful to the witness of the Dominicans, both the brothers and the sisters.
I don’t have anything to apologize for, other than keeping you all up incredibly late at night with good food and great conversations. God bless you all, and I look forward to coming into full communion with you tomorrow.
It’s been a wild and chaotic ride, and while tomorrow is, in some sense, certain, the future is unknown. The Gates of Hell will not prevail, but, as history shows, that doesn’t mean they won’t try. With the recent confusion generated by the Fiducia Supplicans and my own chaotic journey into the faith, I selected an AI image that used themes from Frodo, Lord of the Rings, and the Catholic Church. The image above is what it produced. I will below for convenience.
It seemed fitting considering there is much light in the Church, but also much darkness. The image conveys the idea that the Church is at the crux of the spiritual war, a war where darkness and light seek to lay claim on the souls of men. Outside its walls is a hobbit with a little stick. This is how I feel.
Here I am, a little hobbit, with nothing but a philosopher’s stick, from a protestant seminary no less, entering this great Kingdom. I have nothing to bring. I’m dirty and unfit for such a place. I am not worthy to enter on my own merit, so I must enter on the merit of the King who established it, curated it with saints, and called me to it. In a very real sense, I was carried here, and given the choice to enter or to turn away, to which I said, by the grace of God, onward and upward.
Catholics say the road to Hell is paved with the miters of bishops, but the road to heaven is sprinkled with the blood of saints. It is intimidating, but exciting. Darkness and light are the same to God, and so we must not fear the road ahead, but instead do what God has called us to in the moment, this moment. As one friend told us, “God just wants us to show up.”
This last year has been an incredible gift: discussions with dear friends, deacons, priests, and meeting new friends, reconnecting with old friends, discovering new churches, reading commentaries, testimonies, philosophy, and praying more than I ever have before in my life — earlier this year I attended a prayer vigil, and I lost myself in prayer for 2 hours; it was incredible. God’s hand has guided us all along the way, and his saints, mere creatures made in his image, vessels that serve as a sign of the uniqueness each Christian bears, and the unique fruit that comes from a life fully committed to God’s will, have been present throughout the whole process. What was once an obstacle to the faith, the intercession of the saints, became very apparent in this whole process. As Christians, our work never stops, even in heaven where the saints understand more fully the command to “pray without ceasing.” So pray for my wife and me, as we join with all the saints, angels, and arch angels as they boldly acclaim:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt cæli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory;
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest.
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