One of the big questions that has been routinely asked me by non-Catholic friends and family is, why become Catholic, especially now? It would seem that my conversion comes as a predicament due to its timing, given all the scandals. To most, it seems as if it’s quite obvious for everybody to avoid the Catholic Church like the plague. However, I made that leap for faith without compromise, and I would not have made it if I had thought it was even remotely possible for Catholicism to be wrong. Stefanie Nicholas summarizes this quite well in her own detailed conversion story, the reason why we converts are Catholic: “I am a Catholic because the Catholic Church is Christianity as spoken of in the Acts of the Apostles. Not some weak, hazy concept of Christianity like what so many cling to today, but something tangible and solid and unwavering.”
I grew up in a non-denominational Christian home, with both of my parents ensuring that God was — at least somewhat — integral to the family life, despite the fact that we never really attended any service or church together. We barely read from the Bible and talked about God, and there was little if any substance for me to remain spiritually healthy. I had been taught to always find Truth, no matter where it may lead me, and this pursuit of reason would prove both humbling and enlightening, as it took me through the great many stages of my crossing the Tiber.
In the Protestantism of my youth, I was ill equipped to deal with suffering, death, and sorrow, as the version of Christianity I was quite familiar with at the time did not deal with it. This would lead to my eventual fall from faith. The Christianity I thought I knew at the time was a hollow shell, devoid of history and theology. When the fallen world came knocking, my faith crumbled, and I caved in to the doubts, the temptations, and the emptiness that slowly filled my heart.
By the time I had graduated from high school, I had adopted a mentality that held Christianity so offensive that I would have laughed in anyone’s face if he had told me I would experience a conversion to the Catholic Church merely a year later. I was a militant atheist, and I was especially disgusted by Christianity. I had come to hate something, wrongfully believing I knew everything about it, while the opposite was true: I knew nothing about Christianity, and my crusade against it would ultimately convert me.
So how exactly did an atheist become a faithful Catholic?
My investigation into the history of the Church was primarily in search of pieces I could use to attack Christianity, especially Catholicism. However, the more I researched, the more walls I hit. Eventually, I had to ask myself: Had I been raised and taught to believe demonstrably false things about the Catholic Church and of the origins of the Christian faith? Most of the things I had been constantly told turned out to be not only wrong, but outright lies, especially concerning the Crusades and the supposed “suppression of science” under the Catholic Church. I would devour sections of history books as I searched for the truth, and eventually I would see that the Catholic Church is a remarkable specimen in human history, not only for lasting nearly two millennia, but also in being the same Church Christ founded in the thirty-third year of Our Lord.
After all of this digging, a spark was lit in my soul — a longing to find my home and people. A hope had been rekindled within me to find my faith once more, but it frightened me. I didn’t initially want to actually answer that call, as I remembered the trauma I had faced previously, and I made that commitment only when I was certain that the Catholic faith was one-hundred-percent truth. In order to make that leap, I would have to understand the real identity of the Blessed Sacrament — and God knew this.
During Sunday Mass, I entered doubting the Real Presence of the Eucharist, and I left knowing full well Who it truly was residing in that host. God took this opportunity to instill in me this knowledge and allow it to transform me.
Despite how deeply broken I was internally, I was allowed just a glimpse at the beauty and joy of God’s divine love. That glimpse was enough to make me want more, to develop a thirst for theology and philosophy in the same way I devour historical texts. I would read enough by the season of Lent in 2018 to decide to be fully received into the Catholic Church on March 31, 2018, receiving the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and my first communion. I will forever cherish that day.
Even though I am the only living Catholic in my family, I do not truly feel alone, as I had for all the years before. I have a legion of spiritual brethren — both living in this world and in Christ — to pray for and with me. They will always be there for me, no matter what. I have a wealth of the Church’s knowledge at my disposal, and I can find real answers to questions I have, whether it lies in history or theology, and I could never turn back from the Church founded by the true Logos: Jesus Christ.
In a large part, I must thank the truly holy people in my lives. Although they will go nameless, they have played an immense part in helping me understand how to live as a Catholic. In all thanks to them, I now know that it takes to live the Catholic faith, not just to believe it. They have always been there to provide me with spiritual advice; prayers; and, most of all, friendship. They serve as examples of how Christ lives through individual people, and how we are all called to live as models of Christ.
“Strive for justice for thy soul, and even unto death fight for justice, and God will overthrow thy enemies for thee.” —Sirach 4:33