Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Clarification.

To be technically corrrect, I am a Revert rather than a convert. That means that I was baptized Catholic , left the church as a young teenager, and thirty years later have returned to the Catholic Church. So it's not a conversion as much as a reversion, though it certainly feels like a conversion to me. I believe our lives are a series of conversions and though the "Damascus Road" experience is often profound and life changing, the conversion doesn't stop there but hopefully continues. Often times, our own conversions are more like Peter's: fraught with painful starts and stops, ecstatic "Eureka moments" , then flat out denials and turning away before eventually becoming what God intended.
How did my conversion start? The Bible says that the waters of baptism is what "doth save us" and Jesus and Peter both insisted on Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. So, I now believe my journey of faith technically started when Mom and Dad brought me down to the church as an infant for a 2000 year old sacrament that God used to confer His grace to me in. I later chose to walk away from that grace as a young teenager, but alas, He had already started a work in me through the grace imparted in those waters of baptism. John 3:3 has a very special meaning to me now when I understand Jesus to mean being "born of water" implies baptism. The Ancient Church had always understood that to represent baptism.
The operative word here in all this is Grace. We are truly saved by grace. "Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification." (Catholic Catechism(teaching)) Wow, you mean I received God's grace without anything I could do on my own part as an infant? Yep. You mean I didn't even say the sinners prayer and ask Jesus into my life? Nope. Too young, you didn't talk yet. You mean there was nothing on my own that I could have done to receive God's grace? Nope. He just poured it out on you! Well, that's truly amazing then. Yep! Amazing Grace.
If this whole concept is disturbing to you, try to put yourself in the sandals of a pre-first century Jew who knew that the only way for his child to become part of the tribe was to have a small section of redundant skin removed from a sensitive part of his body as an 8 day old infant. Hey , that's not fair, what if he doesn't want to become a Jew? He doesn't have free choice in the matter? He doesn't even get to say the Jewish Sinner's Prayer? Nope, God conferred citizenship into the people of God on the young tike through a physical act. Wait, there is something spiritual that happens through a physical action? Yes, that is a picture of what a Sacrament is. God conferring His grace through a physical means. The Jews were sacramental people and so is Jesus. Mud, spit, water, blood, oils, foreskins etc. Very messy things the Jews did. Yet our ancient faith was born from this. In conclusion, the early church didn't struggle with the concept of receiving God's grace (unmerited favor as an old evangelical would say) through the waters of baptism. I recently noticed for the first time when I reread the Book of Acts, that Peter's first speech after receiving the Holy Spirit included baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
He didn't ask the people to recite a prayer. He said "repent and be baptized everyone of you for the forgiveness of sins.. The promise is for you and your children..."


Anonymous Your Wife said...

I love your description of a Sacrament. As an Evangelical, I would raise my hands in worship and go to prayer meetings, retreats, Bible studies, and home groups, (good things, mind you) all in an effort to get close to my Lord Jesus. I never once considered that Jesus, my Bridegroom provided a physical means of communing with me, His bride. I knew that Catholics believed it but just thought "How could it be true?" John 6 says it, but somehow it just seemed too simple, too profound that the God of the Universe would so humble Himself under the appearance of bread and wine in order to be consumed by me! That His desire to be intimate with me, so far outweighed my desire to be intimate with Him that he would submit to the words of His servant in every Catholic Mass, and wait in the tabernacles of every Catholic church just for the chance to be with his bride.
No charismatic worship service, no lively prayer meeting, not even a profound revelation from the Holy Scriptures can compare with the indescribable privilege of participating in the timeless sacrifice, the heavenly banquet, the simple gift of Jesus made present by a descendent of the apostles and so graciously given to me.

"What creature under heaven is so favored as the devout soul to whom God comes, to feed her with His glorious flesh? O unspeakable grace! O wonderful condescension! O love beyond measure, singularly bestowed upon man! What return shall I make to the Lord for this love, this grace so boundless? There is nothing I can give more pleasing that to offer my heart completely to my God, uniting it closely with His. Then shall all my inner self be glad when my soul is perfectly united with God." Thomas A Kempis (1379-1471)

April 30, 2006 1:40 PM  

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