Note: I have had requests to republish my story on other sites/blogs. I have no problem with this, as long as the text is not altered and is properly attributed to this site.
I know that I was not the first Protestant to learn the truth about the Catholic Church; I am sure that this is a story you could probably hear from countless other people, changing only the names and places. I know that many have walked the road that I have; that road which leads home, to Rome!
I was born in 1975 to two God-fearing Southern Baptists in Dallas, Texas. My father had grown up Methodist, but became Baptist when he married my mother in 1968. From what my father has said, his family was mostly Methodist. His father and his paternal grandfather were both Thirty-Third Degree Masons. My father’s paternal grandfather’s father was even the founding pastor of the First Methodist Church of Dallas. Though I have heard the history of my father’s family, I myself knew only a very few of them. A great majority of my mother’s family was Baptist, with a smattering of Methodists here and there. I am fairly certain of one thing, however: there were no Catholics.
Since a very young age, I can remember going to church and Sunday school on Sunday mornings to listen to the preacher and my Sunday school teachers talk about Jesus, and how He would save us from the fires of Hell. Every Sunday morning, my parents and I would sing in church and listen to the sermons. Though we didn’t usually attend the Sunday evening services, I knew that once a month on a Sunday evening, an event called The Lord’s Supper would happen. At this Lord’s Supper, the preacher would begin passing around large round trays made of chrome. One of the trays had tiny crackers on it, and the other one had little cups of grape juice. I can remember that before I was baptized I wanted to take part in this event, but my parents would not let me. They did not explain why I shouldn’t, other than I hadn’t been baptized yet. Just as it is in the Catholic Church, Baptism is an initiation of sorts into the active life of the church community. (Of course, to a Catholic, it is that and much more. I would not know this until much later.) A few years went by, and when I was about eight years old, I decided that I wanted to be “saved” and get baptized. To get “saved,” you would pray a little prayer like, “Dear Jesus, please come into my heart and forgive me of all of my sins. I ask you to become my personal Lord and Savior. All these things I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.” From a Baptist viewpoint, being baptized is only a symbol, and nothing more. In other words, for a Baptist, baptism isn’t really necessary for salvation. After I got baptized, I was able to partake in the Lord’s Supper. I asked my father what the Lord’s Supper meant, and he said that it represented the body and the blood of Jesus. That is to say, it represented the sacrifice that He made for us on the Cross. My father then read the passage from a King James Bible that told about the establishment of what we called The Lord’s Supper: “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:19-20, KJV)” I asked why it was that we only did this once a month, and even then at the evening service (most people went to the morning service). My father thought about it for a minute, then he said that the Catholics do it every Sunday at all of their services. (In actuality, most Catholic churches have at least one Mass every day except Good Friday; Catholics are bound to attend Mass only on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.) He said that perhaps we do it less often so as not to imitate them. As you can imagine, I did not understand this for what it was. The Baptists, and many other Protestant groups, were concerned that the “Lord’s Supper” would become the focus of the church service rather than the sermon. Though there are some Protestant churches that have communion every Sunday, none of them place the same importance on the Eucharist that the Catholic Church does.
My father had nothing personal against Catholics; in fact, of all the people in my family, he probably liked them more than anyone else in our family did. My mother had a problem with the Catholic Church, but if you asked her why, she really couldn’t tell you. She would give the same rote answers that many Protestants had been giving for centuries. “They worship the Pope, Mary, and the Saints.” “They think a person can forgive their sins rather than God.” She couldn’t explain why she believed these things, or in the case of the last statement, she couldn’t explain why a person couldn’t say that your sins are forgiven. When I finally asked her why she thought a person could not forgive sins after the Bible said that Christ gave that power to the Apostles, she said she’d just rather confess directly to God. I believe that the real reason that she did not like Catholicism was because her father did not like it. I really believe that was the main reason. For some reason, my maternal grandfather (whom we always called “Smittie”) had a fairly wide streak of anti-Catholicism in him. Even as a child, I remembered him complaining every time the Pope was on television or in the newspaper. Whenever we were at a restaurant or shopping and we saw someone with a large family (four or five kids or more), he would often joke that they must be Catholic. The ironic thing about his dislike of the Church is that virtually all of his friends (excepting those from his church) since he became an adult were Catholic. I don’t think that he had anything personal against individual Catholics; it was the Church that bothered him. Smittie was in England during World War II, and he found many friends there, all Catholic. He always spoke highly of them. He missed them all very much, too; all but a few of them had been killed in the war and those few survivors had died since. To this day, I do not know what made him think that the Church is somehow diabolical or at the very least, misled. I’ve often wondered if it had something to do with his association with Freemasonry. He was a Third Degree Mason (Master Mason), though he had not been an active Mason for many years before his death in 2009.
Now you can see where I came from. A Southern Baptist upbringing with lots of anti-Catholic influence from just about everyone in my family and my church, with the possible exception of my father. If, when I was in high school, someone had told me that I would one day become Catholic, I would have literally laughed in his face. By the time I was fifteen, I had truly learned to have contempt for the Catholic Church. Not Catholic people, you understand, just the beliefs of and possibly the clergy of the Church. I figured that most Catholics were simply misled, and too ignorant to realize it. After all, “everyone knows” that Catholics are forbidden to read the Bible, right?! [a common Protestant myth]
I entered high school and turned fifteen at about the same time, and high school was a much bigger place than the middle school where I had attended. I decided to get involved in some of the clubs in school to make friends, and one of the clubs was called Raiders for Christ (the Raiders was the school mascot). This club was made up of mostly Protestant and “Evangelical” Christians of various denominations. In the meetings, we talked about “witnessing” to people, getting “saved,” and how we should carry our Bible around as a good example to others. I decided that I would try to talk to people in classes and invite them to church with me. From some people, I got a fairly good response. Some would say they had already been “saved,” and currently attended another church. Some would say that they had been “saved” and that they felt that church was not necessary because they read the Bible often anyway. I had no problem with these people. However, I ran into some that caused problems. As you can guess, these were the Catholics.