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.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Christian Conversion in the Early Days

I am still reading Thomas Howard's book, On Being Catholic. His chapter "Are Catholics Saved?" poses an interesting question. How did a person become a Christian in 2nd century Symrna? Here is a conversation that Thomas imagined:

"What! You want to be a Christian? Ah, well now...It's an immense business, really. You'll have to turn around and head 180 degrees in the opposite direction. But, if you're serious-and you can mull it over for awhile if you wish-I'll take you to Polycarp, our bishop here, and he will no doubt talk to you and then turn you over to some of the elders in our Christian assembly, and they will take you in hand and instruct you and bring you to our weekly liturgy (you'll have to leave half-way through though: they won't let you stay for the Lord's supper; and if, over a period of months, everyone, and most especially Polycarp, is satisfied that you are whole hearted in your desire to be a Christian, and that you understand all that it will entail, then Polycarp will baptize you at liturgy, and you will then be a Christian."

Conversion in the early days of Christianity was intimately related to Christ's saving actions through the sacraments of the Church. (Note: this is the normative path to conversion and does not preclude the possibility that God can work outside the Church.) Conversion to Catholicism to this day is a process that does not differ much from the early days. The process that took almost three years then now takes 9 months in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The Catechumens still come to Mass for the Liturgy of the Word and leave before the Liturgy of the Eucharist. When they leave, they are accompanied by a parishioner who then leads them in continued teaching of the Catholic faith for the remainder of the time of the Mass. There were no lone ranger Christians then. To be a Christian meant a person would not forsake the gathering of the saints but continue to receive their "daily bread" in the gathering of the believers.

From Vatican II's
Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity : "The mission of the Church is carried out by means of that activity through which, in obedience to Christ's command and moved by the grace and love of the Holy Spirit, the Church makes itself fully present to all men and peoples in order to lead them to the faith, freedom and peace of Christ by the example of its life and teaching, by the sacraments and other means of grace. Its aim is to open up for all men a free and sure path to full participation in the mystery of Christ."


Blogger Scott Lyons said...

I love this book. It's beautifully written. I've considered buying a copy for everyone in my family (all Evangelicals), but I'm not sure how they'd respond. I don't imagine the book would be offensive to most Protestants, but some would still recoil because it says "Catholic" on the cover.

June 08, 2007 11:41 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

I had the same thought Scott.

June 09, 2007 8:26 AM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

Sure sounds an awful lot like my RCIA experience to me.

Of course, in the early church, with the possibility of martyrdom being an everyday reality, the formation of believers was a pretty serious business.

June 09, 2007 7:18 PM  

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