No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened. //C.S. Lewis
I grew up in the small town of Mount Airy, also known as Mayberry. My childhood home was surrounded by tobacco fields, quaint farms, and picturesque brick churches nestled in every corner. My parent’s church was less than five minutes away—Sunday school crafts were fun, the stain glass windows told stories, and Welches Grape Juice was served for The Lord’s Supper! More importantly, my childhood church preached the gospel. I was four years old, but I still remember that moment when I realized I needed forgiveness. Fast forward to my teens my family attended a Southern Baptist church in Winston-Salem. This was a much larger church with similar teaching but on a grander scale. There were multiple services, nicer microphones, a praise team, and greeters. My family became members and attended weekly, I even met my husband there! I am grateful for both of these churches, so why did I convert?
Happy, but for so happy ill secured. //Milton
My curiosity in the Catholic Church began in my Church History class when I attended ¹Liberty University. I remember sitting at my desk watching my professor write how old the Protestant Church is on the whiteboard. After I realized Protestantism is so young, I had a lot of questions, for example: Why did Martin Luther put the Deuterocanonical books, James, Hebrews, the letters of John and Revelation in the appendix of the Protestant Bible? What exactly is so special about Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli that we would abandon ship? Why are there thirty-three thousand Protestant denominations? I suppose my malaise within Evangelical Christianity was my starting point.
This may come as a surprise, but I didn’t set out on this journey to convert, I was terrified of the Catholic Church. Here I am a Protestant questioning whether or not Protestantism is reasonable. Even though every question I had led me to a Catholic answer, I was reluctant to even consider converting to the Catholic Church. However, I knew I couldn’t call myself a Baptist any longer—I also couldn’t call myself a Presbyterian, a Methodist, or any other Protestant denomination. Honestly, I was frustrated.
Free will, though it makes evil possible, also makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. //C.S.Lewis
After university, I had more questions I needed to answer and one of them was the problem of evil: how could a benevolent God allow evil to exist? Honestly, I considered giving up Christianity altogether that’s when I met C.S. Lewis, in a book of course. I read The Problem of Pain and I was never the same. I know, it’s dramatic, but it is the truth. Lewis answered so many important questions in this surprisingly thin book, I am in his ²debt. Beginning in 2010 I slowly purchased all the books I could by C.S. Lewis, and when I didn’t have a book of his to read I researched his life, friends, anything about him really—like how he loved port and smoked about sixty cigarettes plus two pipes a day. Also, he would forget he lit a pipe and place it in his coat pocket, that’s why his clothes had patches everywhere.
Many of you know I could spend hours talking about C.S. Lewis, so I’ll try to keep this tidy. My next step was to explore Anglicanism simply because Lewis was Anglican; I even considered settling on Anglo-Catholicism, but that wasn’t solid enough. I needed to reconcile myself to something more substantial. I live in a predominantly Evangelical area, conversion is a big deal. I would also be the first Catholic convert in my immediate, and extended family. So saying conversion is a “big deal” is actually an understatement. I took my time; for six years I prayed and researched. I continued to read Lewis, noticing his theology was far more Catholic than Protestant; he was quasi-Catholic. For example he described the Eucharist as the “Blessed Sacrament” and believed in the Real Presence. According to his letters he frequently went to confession, he not only believed in purgatory but he believed he was destined to go, he also opposed the ordination of women in the Anglican Church on grounds that the priest at the altar is in persona Christi. In the end, Lewis wasn’t the reason I converted, he did, however, help me find the Catholic Church.
Fides et Ratio
We do not really want a religion that is right where we are right. What we want is a religion that is right where we are wrong. //G.K. Chesterton
C.S. Lewis read G.K. Chesterton, so I began to read Chesterton and I’m so glad I did. He is known as the king of paradox, and honestly, I just want to hang out with him. I imagine he was a lot of fun. He makes me scratch my head a lot, and then laugh because what he said hit me a little too late. Chesterton converted to the Catholic Church later in life, I think he was fifty.
To become a Catholic is not to leave off thinking, but to learn how to think. //G.K. Chesterton
G.K. Chesterton made a rational argument that was an “ah hah!” moment for me. He calls it the obvious blunder: let’s imagine we’re standing in the street and we witness a procession of priests go by carrying objects of worship under a canopy. Some of them are wearing high head-dresses and carrying symbolical staffs, others are carrying scrolls and sacred records, others carrying sacred images and lighted candles before them, others sacred relics in caskets or cases and so on. Chesterton says he could imagine the spectator (that’s us) saying, “This is all hocus-pocus”; he continues to argue that he can understand him, even if that person rejects the whole thing. However, what Chesterton can’t understand is how that frame of mind could rush in and select a particular scroll of scriptures of this one particular group (a scroll that had always belonged to them and been apart of their “hocus-pocus”) and declare that this one particular scroll is holy, but everything else is nonsense.
I love that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ. Bishops and priests can trace their authority, historically back to the apostles. Catholic tradition is beautiful, and I’m so happy I wasn’t entirely freaked out attending my first Mass. I had no idea what was going on most of the time. You stand a lot and kneel more. There’s incense, holy water, and priests in robes. Then there’s the Eucharist, which to a Protestant is strange x1000.
Why did I keep going back? These traditions are undoubtedly Christian. They’re ancient, and the Church has safeguarded Catholic tradition so beautifully throughout the ages. I wanted to experience Christ like my Christian brothers and sisters did in the early church, and now as a practicing Catholic, I do.
For as bats eyes are to daylight so is our intellectual eye to those truths which are, in their own nature, the most obvious of all. //Aristotle, Metaphysics
Throughout this entire time, I didn’t own a Catholic Bible. In fact, I’ve been Catholic for nearly a year and recently purchased my first Catholic Bible two weeks ago. I was attached to my ultrathin Holman Bible; if I was going to convert, it would need to happen with the Bible I was most comfortable with. I wasn’t going to accept the Deuterocanonical books to exclusively convert me. Turns out there’s plenty of proof without reading all the books of the Bible.
“There are only a handful of people who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions who hate what they mistakenly think about the Catholic Church.” //Fulton Sheen
For me, the Deuterocanonical books weren’t the biggest hurdle. I was looking through the lens of a skeptic, which was tainted with misconceptions and fiery conclusions. I had to work out my skepticism and misconceptions about the Catholic Church, or else I wouldn’t be able to see clearly. In his book The Catholic Church and Conversion, G.K. Chesterton says the first step to conversion is the decision to be fair to the Catholic Church. Most of the things I had heard about the Catholic Church weren’t actually true, it took me six years to work out my misconceptions.
“Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.” // St. Vincent of Lérins
The radiant beauty of the Mass and the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharistic elements, connect us with all of Christian history—past, present, and future. The structure of the Catholic Church is also appealing to me. I love that when someone asks me what religion I am, I can say Roman Catholic and they know exactly what I believe. The Catholic Church has been unmovable throughout history on social and moral issues; not veering away from Biblical exegesis.
There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” //J.R.R. Tolkien
Finally, in 2016 I began RCIA class. I converted quietly, in a way it felt like an elopement. On April 15, 2017, my husband attended the Easter Vigil Mass with me and witnessed my acceptance into the Catholic Church—it was a very happy day. Afterward, I called one of my dearest friends and we went out for cocktails to celebrate! It was one of those moments I’ll never forget, celebrating becoming a Catholic with two Protestants who were genuinely happy for me! The next day was Easter; Stephen and I hosted a dinner party on the roof of our building, you can read about that here.
I shared my decision with a few friends but mostly kept my conversion to myself for a couple reasons. First, my conversion was deeply personal; it took years for me to finally admit that the Catholic Church may be on to something, or rather they never left anything behind. I was in every sense the most reluctant convert; it took me nearly ten years to finally convert to the Catholic Church. The trouble here is, I was so private about my journey when I told friends and family I was converting or had converted it seemed like I made a snap decision. Another reason I kept my conversion to myself: I had no idea how to bring the subject up! Hah, can you imagine? “Oh, and by the way, I’m converting to the Catholic Church.” That would most definitely change the atmosphere of any room.
Okay, so I should probably wrap up. One last comment, please ask me questions. I won’t always have an answer, but I love to discuss Catholicism. Even if you’re a Protestant, let’s talk about our differences—chances are we will find more things in common. And even if we don’t, I’m okay with that if you are. I LOVE
debates friendly debates. I have one last quote to share, and I think it’s appropriate.
The difficulty explaining why I am Catholic is that there are 10,000 reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true. //G.K. Chesterton
P.S. If you read all of this, pat yourself on the back :)
¹ By the way, I am very happy I attended Liberty University—my conversion to the Catholic Church was a product of my own study and personal conviction.
² I’m also indebted to J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, Peter Kreeft, Bishop Robert Barron, St. Augustine, and my patron saint St. Thomas Aquinas.
† Why I Am a Catholic by G.K. Chesterton