Looking for Home Chapter 22-28

                        Chapter 22

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying; I’m grateful to God, and my parents for the Christian influence that was around me. I’m thankful for my Southern Baptist heritage, that encouraged me in personal growth, through scripture study and a personal relationship with Christ, through study and prayer. I was able to learn from others, examples of what this all looked like in real life, not just how it should look like from a book.

I honestly believe that, the more you study scripture, the deeper you go into it, not just surface stuff, the more you seek to know, love and serve Jesus…….. you will become Catholic! You may deny it, you may think that Satan himself is trying to trick you. Go on, test the spirit. Don’t be afraid of the truth.”You CAN handle the truth!!”(picture Jack Nicholson here!)

Well, I’d learned that the Church that Jesus had founded, through His Apostles and through the sending of the Holy Spirit was indeed, the Catholic Church. So what do I do now? I’d heard so many negative things about the Catholic Church, everything from it’s being a cult, to it’s worshiping of Mary and praying to saints. Their denial of the priesthood of the believer and worst of all, it was a salvation based on works.

How did I overcome all this? First, I began in history; The Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D..The Council condemns Pelagianism which denied original sin and claimed man could attain salvation by works. The Council also defined Mary, Jesus’ mother, as Theotokos, “bearer of God” to show that Jesus has only one nature that is fully human and fully divine. That put that to rest.

Then, I went to Books-a-Million, and purchased a copy of The Catechism of the Catholic Church. I started reading it and studying it, using all the Biblical and Council references. If I wanted to know first hand what they taught, I needed to hear it from them! It took me a year to do that.

In February of 2004, our family had only been members of “our new” Baptist church for a short time. The pastor was gearing up for revival services in early March, and had informed the congreation that the sancturay would be open for prayer, the week prior to the event. He wanted us to come by and pray for the event, and for our church to be ready and for the people to be ready for it. So I did. The Tuesday morning after our Bible study, I stopped in to pray. I went in and knelt at the altar, I turned to Psalm 85, this was my prayer, for myself and for our church. As I was praying, the Spirit whispered in my spirit,”Go to St. Bede and pray.” I questioned it for a moment. I wanted to finish my prayer without distractions. Someone else then entered the sanctuary and the Spirit whispered again,”Go to St. Bede to pray.” So, I picked up my Bible, got into the car and drove to St. Bede.

As I walked into St. Bede’s sanctuary, I was taken away by the crucifix. So many years of looking at the empty cross, imagining Jesus hanging there, suffering for my sins. Now, it was before me, bigger than life. I walked down to the first row and knelt down. I started to pray again, for personal revival, to be the kind of person, man, husband, father, teacher, friend, employee, brother, son, servant and leader He wanted me to be. When I finished my petition, I prayed,”God I don’t know why You lead me here, but I pray You will guide me where I need to go. If it’s just to pray, or to talk to someone here, I pray, that You would make it clear to me.” After a moment of silence, I stood and left the sanctuary, leaving  from the opposite side I had entered.

 When I walked out the door, I could see the parish office. I walked in and saw a man standing in the hallway, talking to someone in an office. Not wanting to interrupt, I stood there for a moment and the man turned to me. He smiled and said,”Can I help you with something?” When he had turned toward me, I could see his collar, so I knew He was a priest. I said,”Well, I’m a Baptist guy and God told me to come here to pray, and, maybe to talk to someone. I probably need an appointment though.” He looked at his watch and said,”Really you do….but I have,” he looked at his watch again. “I have a few minutes, let’s go to my office and talk.” We walked upstairs and sat down. “Alright, what would you like to talk about?” ” Well, I think God is calling me to be Catholic.” I continued on, telling him of my journey thus far, and when I had brought him up to date, he asks,”What does your wife think of all this?”

                        Chapter 23           

“She tries not to, I think”, was my response. I could tell by his reaction to that answer, that he didn’t want to get into the middle of some sort of family dispute. Particularly involving religion. He gave me a 100 page booklet,”Handbook for Today’s Catholic” and told me after I’d read it, if I had any questions, I could call, come by or email him. That night I read the book(it was quicker than reading the Catechism) and the following Saturday night, I went to my first Mass.

When I got home from my visit with Father T., I told Deanna I had gone to St. Bede to pray. That during prayer at our church, I had sensed the Spirit’s moving me to do that, and that I’d talked with a priest there. I said I told him what I’ve been going through lately and he gave me this booklet to read. She seemed unimpressed. Then I told her,”He asked me what my wife thought of all this, and I told him, I didn’t think you tried to.” We just kind of smiled at each other.

Deanna will have to tell you exactly how she felt in the beginning. I mean, I could tell she wasn’t thrilled with the idea of me being involved with anything Catholic. She didn’t seem to mind the reading so much, but when I started watching Bible studies on EWTN and listening to Catholic radio online, that was the limit(I think) but now, going to Mass, that was just too much!

She didn’t say to much at first, it was only one Mass right? How much could one Mass effect him?

Well, as I left the Mass that Saturday night, I took a church bulletin. As I read it, I noticed they had a Thursday morning Bible study. So, I emailed the Pastor and asked him if it was something I could participate in. He replied, “Sure, it’s open to all.” From then on, my off day Thursday’s were set. I started going to Mass every Thursday before Bible study. I satrted going to Mass, every chance I got. Before work, off days. The Pastor even sent me an email about how faithful I was about Thursday mornings. He then personally invited me to events. The first was a special memorial Mass for Pope John Paul II, then a couple of ecumenical services with Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopals even a Jewish Rabbi.

All this got things rolling a lot faster toward discerning whether or not this is where God was leading us. I mean if there was any false teaching going on, I could spot that in a second! Then we’d be done with this and I could move on, I was on a quest for truth afterall!

I had poured through many pages of studies, historical and biblical but, it was time to start experiencing and participating, as to fully understand the Catholic faith.

Here is the word picture I use to discribe this journey for our family: Like in the days of the early explorers, there were no roads or trails, only thick brush and forest. I was the leader, the front man chopping back the brush with “the sword of the Spirit”. Making a safe path, free of danger for the rest of the family to pass through. I was leading them home. Although God had initiated this journey with me, it was a journey I couldn’t take alone. It would have to be done as a family, or it couldn’t be done at all.

The moment of truth quickly approached. As I left work one Saturday afternoon, I heard the news that Pope John Paul II had died. I knew that I should go to Mass that night, as to give my love and prayers to the people he had Shepherded for over twenty years. When I got home, I told Deanna of my plan. To which she replied,”They are not your people!” That was the first time I had truly sensed that she wasn’t happy with this one bit.

From that moment on, my prayer was: “Father, if this is the way you want us to follow, I pray You would bring unity to this situation. You put us together and You would not seperate what You had joined together. If I am wrong about this Father, show me the error and change my heart, so I can move us along. If this is Your way, reveal your truth to Deanna and change her heart, so we can do this together as You’ve called us to.” I said this prayer, praying over her every morning before leaving for work. I also prayed a similar prayer over the kids before I left. That God would reveal His truth to them, in a way that they could understand.

                     Chapter 24  

Somewhere in between studying early church history, scripture, leaving one Baptist church for another, teaching Sunday school and participating in two Bible studies, I managed to find time for one more study!

Deanna had encouraged me to go through a Bible study for men who had been involved in an abortion. It was a nine week study that brought forgiveness, healing and closure to an area of my life, that affected every other area of my life; my heart.

I was angry and bitter and acted out in very unhealthy ways, that were dangerously close to destroying our family.

This would be the second time Deanna would literally save my life. The first time, if you recall, was when I was going through deep spells of depression. She wanted to help me so she got help for me. That was really the first step in this journey. But, in this study, I had to face exactly what I had done; not only to my first child, Jacob (see Jacob’s Heart in songs for my family) but to my wife, children and myself.

The “Anne Sullivan” (miracle worker) in this situation was, Sherry. Sherry is the President and Executive Director of Sisters in Christ,Inc.(www.sistersinchristinc.org ). It is a ministry of helping women after abortion. Sherry is a good friend of Deanna’s, the friend that helped Deanna transition into our last Baptist church. Sherry made herself available to me, and took me through this study because of her love for Christ and His passion for healing those who are sick. There was also no other group of men or a group leader in our area to help me through this study. She was patient, kind, understanding, sympathetic and painfully honest. That is exactly what I needed!

I finished the study a changed person. As I had mentioned, back when our oldest daughter was born, I had fallen on my face before God and asked forgiveness for that awful sin, and I knew I’d been forgiven. But, at that moment in my life, I didn’t know I needed healing, too. I just thought you “sucked it up and moved on!”

I was healed through the power of the Holy Spirit, the ministry of Sherry and the prayers of a faithful and loving wife. Through them I was able to forgive myself and realized that the abortion was the source of my anger and depression.

As the study ended, we had a private memorial for Jacob. Deanna had done one for him when she had gone through her study, but we wanted to do this one together. We prayed, asked for forgiveness from Jacob, read scripture and I played and sang the song I’d written for him.

One day, I will see him again. I will hug him and kiss him and introduce him to the rest of his family. What a reunion that will be, in the presence of the Trinity, all the angels and saints, truly a day of rejoicing!

                     Chapter 25       

The differences in a Southern Baptist worship service and the Catholic Mass are night and day.

The Baptist sanctuary held no reverence; the loud talking and laughing, all things that could’ve (and should’ve) been done in other places, were being done in what should be a holy place. It just didn’t seem right now.

It was because I was starting to understand that in the Catholic sanctuary, Jesus is always present; Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the consecrated host in the Tabernacle. This is why there is silent reverence, kneeling and bowing before the Tabernacle. Jesus is truly present in His house. You knew it because you could see Him. It wasn’t just a super-spiritual thing. It was the visible sign of the spiritual truth. In the Baptist tradition, the mind-set was, “Where two or three are gathered, there I am in the midst,” but there was no physical evidence He was there.

Also, the focus is different. In the Baptist tradition the focus of the worship is on the word preached. The pastor who preaches, has center stage for 25-30 minutes. As he preaches,” What God laid on his heart”, he relays his interpretation of the truth, and his interpretation could be different than the Baptist preacher around the corner, and even from your own! Is that unity? Anyway, he preaches to challenge the faithful to deeper growth, and the unbelievers to accept Christ as their personal Savior. An “Invatation” time proceeded, for those decisions to be made public.

Whereas, the Eucharist is the focus of Catholic worship. The renewal of the Covenant. A chance as a Christian, to participate, at the foot of the cross, in Christ’s sacrifice and to renew your commitment to Him, through His Body and Blood. This draws upon the imagery of the first Passover, where the lamb had to be eaten. Jesus, as our new “Passover” Lamb, bids us to partake of Him (John 6:53). He is our deliverence from the bondage of sin and death. This was the missing element for me.

What I hadn’t noticed, but was beginning to experience was a shift in my theology. Oh, I still believed in God the same way I had before, only more so. I was starting to embrace Sacramental Theology.

The best way I can describe this, is the realization that God gave gifts to His Church and He still works through those gifts. These gifts are the seven Sacraments of the Church; Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. God’s purpose for these gifts are to sanctify men, to build up the body of Christ and to give worship to God (CCC 1123). Again, a visable sign to a spiritual reality.

As a Baptist, there were no Sacraments. We had ordinances. Two to be exact. Baptism (by emmersion only) and the Lord’s Supper (once a quarter). The ordinances were only symbols. They confered none of God’s grace on the faithful, so it couldn’t bring about the sanctifying grace for us, or the building of the Body of Christ, or in the worshipping of God through these gifts.

I was falling in love! Falling in love with God, in a new and exciting way! The more I went to Mass, the louder I heard Jesus calling me home.

His truth was being revealed all around me, and I had a decision to make. After six months of participation in the Catholic Church, it was time to commit to the next step.

                 Chapter 26        

By this time, Deanna had become more accepting of my journey. I know this to be the work of prayer, not only was I praying for her, but all the ladies in the (Catholic) Bible study were as well. I was not going to be “pushy”. Sometimes she would ask me questions, sometimes I’d share with her something I’d learned. As she tells me now, she looked at what the Church taught, and said well I already believe that.

Deanna also had a friend, who had a very powerful conversion experience, who was Catholic. After her conversion, her friend was concerned that the Catholic Church was heretical, and she had to get out. She recieved council from another friend that asked, “What about your husband?” (who was a devout Catholic). She then started her own investigation as to what the Chuch taught and why. So Deanna would ask her questions, I guess to kind of test me or to see if the teaching was consistent. So Deanna had really been investigating the Catholic Church herself.

The only “pushing” I ever did, was to ask her everyday,”Do you want to go to Mass today?”.  After a myraid of no’s and I don’t think so’s, she finally said,”Yes”.

We went on a Thursday morning, and I was as nervous as she was. It felt almost like a first date where you just wanted everything to be perfect. And it was. Isn’t that what the Mass is, taking that which is broken and making it whole, that which is not perfect and making perfect?

It changed the way she viewed the Church. She heard the Scriptures read and taught. She heard the prayers asked in Jesus’ name. And, though she didn’t know it, she felt the presence of Christ Himself in the Eucharist.

From then on, gradual as it was, she was own her way. She started going to Mass more and more, sometimes she’d even ask me to go.

There was a predicament that presented itself while going to both the Baptist and the Catholic church. That predicament was Communion. Of course, since I wasn’t Catholic, I couldn’t participate in the Eucharist. I could only pray for Christ to unite my soul with His, until I was able to partake of Him in the Sacrament. Meanwhile, the Sunday was fast approaching, at the Baptist church, where we would be celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

My predicament? Whether or not to participate in Communion at the Baptist church.

Communion is not only uniting with Christ in His sacrifice, renweing our covenant vow, or reflecting on all He’s done for us. It’s also a participation in unity with His Body, the Church. I knew the Baptist tradition was not the church that Jesus had founded, so if I participated in Communion with them, I would be uniting myself with a “body” I wasn’t unified with. It again went back to the idea of the Passover. It was celebrated by family, unified in belief. I didn’t want to betray the Lord with a lesser substitute.

I sought council from both priests at St. Bede, they both told me the same thing; it was a decision I was going to have to make for myself through prayer.

I chose to wait. Like the husband and the bride who have waited to present themselves to each other, I decided to present myself to Christ, unified in belief with His Body, upon entrance into His Holy Catholic Church.

My next step was to go through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). This is the starting point for those who are interested in becoming Catholic, or for those who are just curious and want to know more about the Catholic faith and what they truly teach.

St. Bede’s RCIA program, ran August through May (with the school year) and it met on Wednesday nights at 7:00 pm. I expressed my desire to Deanna, to attend these classes and she was OK with that. So on Wednesday nights, we (the whole family) would all go to the Baptist Church for prayer meeting at 6:00 pm. It was over by 6:40, so while Deanna went to choir practice, and the kids to their activities, I went across the street to RCIA.

We did this until the end of October, when something wonderful happened!

                         Chapter 27  

We were able to take a trip to northern Mississippi for the occasion of my grandmother’s 80th birthday (October 2005). It was nice to see most of the family again, some for the first time in twenty years!

Anyway, as we packed up things to leave for this trip, I brought a book I had been reading. It’s a book called, “Rome, Sweet Home,” by Scott and Kimberly Hahn. Deanna had been given the book by her Catholic friend. Deanna had started reading it, but put it down for one reason or another, so I started reading it. We set our on our trip and Deanna started reading the book. I asked her when she got to the page I was at, if she would read it out loud, so we could kind of read it together.

The Hahn’s story was so much like ours, well except for the fact I wasn’t a Presbyterian Pastor. But, what I mean is, he started the search for truth and stayed with it, even though it lead him where he didn’t want to go, because he knew it was God leading. His wife Kimberly, was totally against it. Man, could we relate to this!! As we read the book together, it was almost as if we were reading our story. Where we had been and, we sensed, where we were going.

We finished the book on the way there, so we had all week-end to let it sink in. Thinking and praying about it, turning it over in our minds, asking God to make clear His direction.

At the birthday lunch my aunt, Carol (grandmother’s oldest daughter) made a speech that really touched me. She talked about how her mother had passed on to her, a legacy of faith. That no matter how bad things got, God was in control, and He would see you through. I really wanted to be able to give, not only my kids, but my wife as well, a leagcy of faith. A faith that had stood for over 2000 years. One they could trace all the way back to Jesus and the Apostles. A faith that would last, and could provide an answer for most of their questions. A faith built on the Rock.

As we came back home that weekend, Deanna said she was ready to convert to Catholicism. She asked if it would be to late to join the RCIA program. I didn’t know if it was too late or not, but I was sure gonna ask!

After two and a half years of taking this journey alone, I was finally going to be joined by my family. I couldn’t wait to walk into the parish, family at my side, praising God for all He had done in our lives. It had been a tough road, and it may get tougher still, but we were together. Ready to take our next steps to follow Christ into His Church.

Since I was a co- teacher of a Sunday School class at the Baptist church, I felt I had to tell the Sunday School Director, Pastor and the Music Minister (since Deanna was in chior and I played with the praise band) that we were leaving. I was scheduled to teach the class Sunday, so I felt obligated to. They were surprised to say the least. As a matter of fact, the Pastor, thought I was coming to tell him we were going back to our old church, since that pastor had left. I said, “No, we are going to become Catholic.” He told me he’d been a pastor for over 20 years, and no one from his church family had ever said those words to him. I said, “Well, they have now.” They tried to talk me out of it, they raised the usual concerns from their mis-information. I finally asked him, “Would you rather me not teach class this ( last) Sunday?” He looked at me, real seriously and asked, “Will you teach the truth?” I said, “I have tried to teach the truth, every week, to the best of my ability.” He said, “I don’t mind then.”

We sat the kids down, and told them that since people knew we were converting to Catholicism, they may treat them differently. Thankfully, it didn’t happen on their level.  So we said our goodbyes and started down that “Roman Road!”

                    Chapter 28   

We started attending Mass together on Thursday mornings as well as Sundays. It was so awkward at first, for all of us. We didn’t know the prayers or the songs and we felt really out of place for awhile, but we managed.

To be honest though, I felt in some way, I should be Catholic already. I mean, after two years of personal study, these last nine months of going to Mass, Bible Study and RCIA, I felt more than ready! But if God had taught me anything on this journey, it was patience. Patience and the quality of friendships we had.

The newest of these friends is St. Bede’s wonderful Religious Education Director, Joan. If ever I had met an angel, it was her! From the time I joined up with the Bible Study, she made me feel welcome. She seemed more interested in my journey than I did at times, and the tradition I was coming from. She always asked about Deanna and kids and I know she was the prayer warrior, leading the prayers for Deanna’s conversion. So when it finally happened, she was the first to be told.

She truly has a servants heart. She does so many things, many of the smaller things are often overlooked, or even unknown. So I wanted to share one of those overlooked things, in my story, because it meant alot to my family.

Every Thursday morning after Mass, Deanna and I would go to Bible Study and Joan would take the kids to another room, and teach them about the Sacraments. She was preparing them for their First Communion and teaching them more about their new faith. She didn’t have to do this, she wanted to. She asked if she could. She gave them all a book, that explained the different Sacraments and we would go through it with them during the week. She took them on tours of the parish, showing them where things were and what they were there for. The kids just love her, and so do Deanna and I.

Joan was the one that I went to, to ask if it was to late for the rest of the family to join me in the RCIA program. She told me (with a big smile on her face) that the up-coming Wednesday was giong to be the cut-off, so they had just made it. I think though, had it been the following week, she would have found a way to get this done. She, and all the ladies in the Bible Study were excited with the news!

It was great to have their support, because the next step was to tell our families!


3 Responses

  1. I love the insight of the Southern Baptist view on the Catholics (Cat-licks). My dad was raised Methodist, but never dismissed any faith. I will tell you however, my mother has done some ‘Get out of my house’ to anyone who had ever questioned why she had Icons of the Virgin.

    Maybe it was the way we were brought up, but I feel that if you need to partake in the Blood and Body of Christ, you should not have to ‘become’ Catholic in order to do so. In my opinion, Jesus wouldn’t have cared.

    However, you are a church going person, but I have to ask why you were always a ‘church-goer’? Is it because of finding like-minded individuals and finding friends through the church?

  2. Harlequin, there was a long stretch of time when I didn’t go to church at all. It wasn’t til I met Deanna and we decided to get married that I started going again. I knew that I would have to put God in the center of our marriage for it to last. There have been times when I wanted to give up, but I didn’t want the kids to see their Dad be a quiter, especially in the matter that determines your eternal destiny. So, it’s never been about the fellowship or friendships, although (at times) both have been great. But til this day, my best friend, practices some type of yoga, far eastern religion, I’m not sure what it’s called.

    I just knew that going to Church was the right thing to do.

  3. Is your best friend a Taoist? Oh, I need some yoga lessons!

    I have never been an avid church goer. We go to the Carmelite Nun Convent in Mansfield, put in our Petition for a Novena, pray and leave. My mom has quite a number of Iranian friends that donate a lot of money to the Convent. A lot of people don’t understand that Muslims believe in the Virgin, and Jesus…they just have a different prophet.

    Sometimes I attend Mass, but only at the Convent. Oh, the Christmas story…now that puts in my mind a good blog.

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