I was brought up in Catholicism by way of schooling and an independent decision at age 10 to formally enter the Church. As a teenager, a desire to grow more deeply in my faith, knowledge, understanding, and fellowship with other believers led me to drift away from Catholic circles. In the 10 years since then, I’ve been a part of a Southern Baptist church, participated in an Orthodox parish, was received into the Anglican Communion, became a postulant to the Episcopal priesthood, ultimately left and fellowshiped in Pentecostal circles (picking up the gift of tongues and a strong understanding of demonic deliverance) as well as very small corners of Protestantism, until I was recently led to reconcile myself to the Catholic Church.
I have pages and pages that I have written detailing my spiritual journey, and the thoughts and experiences that ultimately led me to return. Each item on the list could be the length of a book chapter. I wouldn’t say that the list is in order of importance necessarily–all the reasons ultimately created a critical mass of assurance that it was time for me to pack up and head home.
1) I ultimately concluded that I could trust the Church’s teachings to most effectively lead me into a deeper knowledge of God and a life of obedience and virtue.
2) After leaving, I only became increasingly more Catholic in reflecting on God, mankind, and the world, despite being out of communion with the Catholic Church.
3) I believe division in the Body of Christ is inherently scandalous; the interminable fracturing of the Body both burdened and wearied my spirit.
4) Both the fruit and power of the Spirit have been made manifest in my life through distinctly Catholic concepts and teachings, namely receiving the Sacraments and praying the Rosary.
5) Increasingly, I began to see a certain light and quality of virtue in the lives of some around me, and *almost* invariably, they were Catholics.
6) I believe that the prevailing understanding of “sola scriptura” has much more to do with adherence to modern epistemology than with faithfulness to God.
7) I believe that the prevailing understanding of “sola fide” gives young believers a strong religious ideology, but an incoherent spirituality.
8) I believe that every believer is following a final authority of some sort, even if it is simply one’s own reason. I became increasingly skeptical of the idea that I should be the ultimate arbiter of doctrinal truth, regardless of how sound I find my own arguments.
9) I do not believe it possible that the Lord left His Church without a means to preserve the faith and authoritatively settle questions of doctrine. The most prevalent mode of preservation of the faith across denominations is to further fragment in response to disagreement; and the most well-known, historically Protestant institutions of learning have by and large dropped the torch.
10) I became increasingly concerned that most denominations were putting the ball on the hard pastoral questions, even where those questions have serious spiritual implications (e.g., When do divorce and remarriage constitute adultery?)
11) I believe Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:11-15 indicate that the Body of Christ is to be growing in its unity and knowledge, meaning that Christendom should have stronger ties and deeper spiritual insight today than it did 100, 500, 1500 years ago; I believe the Catholic tradition enables the Church to grow without having to continually reinvent the theological wheel.
12) I came to understand that the emptiness of theological education and spiritual formation in Catholic schools and parishes had a lot more to do with the lack of catechesis after Vatican II than with deficiencies in the Catechism itself.
13) I realized that even in Scripture, moral defects in leaders did not undermine their authority unless and until God saw fit to dispose of them in judgment (Saul, Eli’s sons, the Pharisees—Matt. 23:1-3). Peter’s sin, neither before nor after the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, disqualified him either from apostleship or authoring Scripture.
14) Whenever I was done with the debates and wanted a definitive answer, I would turn to Catholic sources and see them as offering the most coherent explanation and depth of insight, regardless of whether I believed in the Church’s authority.
15) I refuse to allow my faith to be scandalized by scandal. As a fellow believer returning to the Church told me, “I can outlive him. I was baptized before he was a bishop, and I’ll be Catholic longer than he’ll be an $!?%*#&.
Postscript: I received many blessings in my time away from the Catholic Church. I fellowshipped, learned, and grew with some wonderful believers. I would hope that nothing I’ve said suggests otherwise. Like I mentioned, the fracturing of the Body of Christ was a significant part of my thought process in returning, and I wouldn’t do anything now to intentionally alienate myself from fellow Christians. It’s time to mend the broken pieces.
The Way of the Lord Jesus by Germain Grisez
The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi
Return to Rome by Francis Beckwith