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Swimming the Tiber, Part II

What’s a nice Jewish boy like you doing in the Roman Catholic Church?

(I have been asked more times than I can remember about my journey from Evangelical Christian to the Roman Catholic Church.  Although I’ve often doubted whether anyone else would have the least interest, I will present that journey – well, parts of it anyway – here.  This is not an apologetic.  It’s a narrative.  To say that it was a struggle for me would be an understatement.  So would it be to say that I still struggle.  If there is any encouragement, any help, any edification to be found here, I hope you find it.  I am, after all, only a beggar telling other beggars where to find Bread.  This is Part II of that narrative.  Part I can be found here.)

From juice and bread to Real Presence.

I was aware of the Catholic Church’s long standing defense of life. But I also learned that there were other things that the Church was right on too; guided, of course, by my own infallible lights. I then made a fatal mistake: I started reading Church history. In the words of Newman, “to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.”

But I remain grateful for the family from whence I come. To have two parents who both love God and love each other is something more precious to me than words can adequately describe.

We have the distinct privilege and blessing to have a wealth of information and history at our fingertips. We are indeed surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. For the last two decades, I have been a reluctant traveler on a path looking at some of that history. When I try a case, I often say, let’s seek out the truth and see where it takes us.

So that is what I’ve endeavored to do. I think of that great line from Chariots of Fire when Eric Little was asked if he had any regrets. His answer was, “Yes, but no doubt.” And so it has been for me.

The short of it is that after twenty years of internal – and sometimes external – wrangling, my wife and seven of our thirteen children became Catholics.  After years of reading, praying, and seeking, I could protest no longer. The family created by marriage is an organic unity. Husband and wife share the mutual pledge of their lives, live together under one roof, raise the same children, and share the same food. I certainly could not bear the thought of living separated from any of my family. I could no longer live apart from most of my Christian family.

There were interim stops along the way. There was a long stay in conservative Presbyterianism where I enjoyed some of the intellectual rigor; Reformed Episcopal, with its liturgy and appreciation for the Sacraments; and, then Orthodoxy with its valid Sacraments, deep liturgy, and mystery.

I deeply appreciate the beauty and consistency of the Eastern Rite in the Catholic Church. As the Catechism notes, the Eastern Church more consistently reflects the unity of Baptism and the Eucharist. Except for the sage advice of a priest friend, I was inclined to go there. Sadly, there is, it seems, an impenetrable cultural divide that keeps outsiders, well, outside. Perhaps it is this mentality that has spared much of the Eastern Church from the scandals and innovations that are all too familiar to us in the last half century.

My decision to enter into communion with the Catholic Church is the culmination of a journey begun in earnest when I was working full time in the pro-life movement. In this journey, I feel a fulfillment of my years of desiring a truly comprehensive and consistent Christianity. Along the way I was particularly drawn by two unavoidable truths.

First: jurisdiction. While I think I’ve always appreciated that reality, being in law school catapulted me in my journey. In the law, jurisdiction is everything. And underscoring the importance of jurisdiction in law school highlighted the futility – and ultimate disintegration – of protestantism. There is no real mechanism for resolving disputes or determining what God has to say about anything. Every debate eventually ends with, “Well, I just don’t see it that way, brother.” And if that doesn’t work, I’ll just go start my own church. Indeed, protestantism has within itself the seeds of its own destruction.

Second: the Eucharist.  One of the chief criticisms I’ve heard my entire life is that “Catholics don’t believe the Bible.” Yet it is precisely at that place where the Church adheres most closely to Sacred Scripture that there is the sharpest divide: This is my body. I am no grammar scholar.  Thankfully, you don’t have to be to diagram that sentence.  If the Church is wrong about everything else but right about the Eucharist, I wanted in.

I have not and will not repudiate my upbringing. It is precisely my upbringing – this relentless pursuit of Truth – that has led me to where I am today. I have come to see that the Catholic Church provides the coherent foundation for an unyielding commitment to the sanctity of every human life, of marriage, the family, and respect for all the seasons of life.

And it’s not just about being right, but about being made right . . . with God.  I am a sinner.  I have offended a holy God, who is all good and deserving of all my love.  I have caused injury to others.  I need salve for the wounds, mercy for the wrongs, and food for the journey.  These I found in the Catholic Church.

In becoming a Catholic, I leave nothing behind and forsake nothing but division. I am born-again to new and living hope.  I am Bible believing.  I am filled with the Holy Spirit.

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