I am a Catholic.
I spoke these words, out loud, to myself 5 days ago; and now I'm really beginning my journey. But as the song (and Roman philosopher Seneca) says - every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.
Though really I don't think or feel like anything is ending. Rather, I feel more like Jewel - the unicorn from The Last Battle.
I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now... Come further up, come further in!
I hope and pray that this step in my faith draws me further up and further in to God, just as my past steps did ...
I grew up Evangelical, at Grace Fellowship (now Grace Church) and Woodlake Assembly of God Youth Group, until I was about 18 or 19, and then became a "ronin Christian" for about a year or two. After my wife and I married, my best friend invited us to go to Agora - an "Emerging" church. We loved it - the small personal environment, the open-ended discussions, and the emphasis on *living* the faith rather than just intellectually believing it. We've been going there now for about 2 or 3 years I suppose, and we're on the leadership team.
While my mind began to open up more at Agora, a converted Catholic co-worker of mine gave me a book, By What Authority, in which Mark Shea describes his intellectual conversion to Catholicism - fueled in large part by an investigation into Sola Scriptura. So I went on the same investigation and arrived at many of the same conclusions. I began to wonder about some other Catholic doctrines and teachings - some of which I'm still investigating and wondering about.
But quite recently, I had a few of personal experiences that pushed me to make more sure-footed steps towards the Church.
The first of which was a personalized intellectual challenge to Sola Scriptura, and resulting teachings. Tiffany and I got a visit from some very nice Jehova's Witnesses, Joe and Trisha. When they first came by, they left a pamphlet entitled, "What does the Bible really teach?" After thumbing thru most if it, I couldn't deny the scriptural evidence contained in the book, but I also couldn't deny the totally errant interpretations. The thought really struck me personally at that point - "So, *this* is what can happen when we establish our own traditions on our own authority of private interpretation of Scripture."
My next experience actually came soon after. Early on Tuesday morning, I dropped Tiffany off at the airport; she was going to visit her brother in Rhode Island for 5 days. After work that evening, I felt the impending loneliness of the next few days hit me, so I resolved to go check out Theology on Tap. I walked into McNellie's expecting to look for a table of 5 or 6 young adults who "looked Catholic." When I walked upstairs, I was overwhelmed and amazed. The entire upper floor was packed full. Now I go to McNellie's every Wednesday night when it is equally as full, but instead of feeling surrounded by strangers, I felt like I had walked into a room full of family members I had simply never met before. To top it all off, not 2 minutes into the door, I was approached by (unknown-to-me) family friend. "You're a Crouch, aren't you?" ... I was amazed at how personally it seemed that God was accepting me home - by name even!
Finally, the following weekend, I had picked up another book, Crossing the Tiber. In which I read this passage:
A spiritual transformation was taking place in my mind and heart and I knew it; a struggle between my Evangelical Protestant tradition and the ancient and universal tradition of the Church was raging in my soul. ... After a few moments' reflection and a deep sigh of relief I calmly declared, "I am a Catholic." My sense of joy and relief can never be described. The mental turmoil and searching were over. I was home.
But it didn't hit me until the following day, when I actually spoke out-loud, to myself, the same words - "I am a Catholic." I experienced the same joy and relief and knew that God was calling me to step closer to Him in His Church.
And that's where I am now - hoping and praying to draw ever-closer to God as I prepare myself to be accepted by His Church. Like I said, there are still, intellectually, some doctrinal challenges for me, but I think that none of them out-weigh the pulling force I'm feeling to the Church.
There's so much more to write, but I've already delayed this post by a couple extra days, so I need to close this one off. I'll be writing in the future about telling my family, and my first Mass.