Among other books, I have been reading Crossing the Tiber by Stephen Ray. His book relates his journey into the Catholic Church from Evangelicalism. But it's less than that and more. The book is divided into thirds. The first third is his conversion story. The remaining two-thirds give a somewhat overwhelming portrait of Baptism and the Eucharist and the unified witness of Sacred Scripture, the early Fathers, and current Church teaching concerning these two sacraments. Their testimony is astounding.
Of course, my heart is torn when I read such books because of where I am and where my family is. But let me be forthright and say that I don't believe that my family is in sin being Protestant. I do believe that they're wrong. And (regardless of how little I'll be believed) that is not to say that I do believe that I'm right, by the way. However, I do believe that the Catholic Church is right. My becoming Catholic is not the reward of my intellectual labor, not even my doing. It was not an intellectual discovery on my part, not an intellectual decision with which I rigorously struggled through in study. I did not chew my nails down to the quick wrestling with Catholicism. Some have. No, my becoming Catholic was very much accidental, like falling in love. I was longing for it. When I willingly walked into my first Catholic parish in 25 years and breathed in the smell of the place, I was home. I knew it. Deep calling to deep. My study of the Catholic Church was not to see whether she was apostate, but to see whether she was orthodox. I wasn't researching for a way to keep me from her, but researching to find a way into her. At that point, I already knew I wanted to be Catholic, I just needed to be certain that to be so would not be faithless to Christ. Little did I know that it was Christ who called me. Little did I understand that Christ and the Church are the whole Christ. There is no separating Christ from his Church. He is the Head and we are His Body.
The Catholic Church is populated with imperfect people, and such have populated her throughout history. But she is perfect in her faith. There is wholeness here. And so we pray during our liturgy, "Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church."
Section 760 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says,
Christians of the first centuries said, "The world was created for the sake of the Church." God created the world for the sake of communion with his divine life, a communion brought about by the "convocation" of men in Christ, and this "convocation" is the Church. The Church is the goal of all things, and God permitted such painful upheavals as the angels' fall and man's sin only as occasions and means for displaying all the power of his arm and the whole measure of the love he wanted to give the world:
Just as God's will is creation and is called "the world," so his intention is the salvation of men, and it is called "the Church."
Recently I was listening to Aimee Milburn speak about evangelization and Catholicism. She speaks of how we need to respect others' faith and others' place and journey with and toward God - as Pope John Paul II said, to respect others' "spiritual timing and tempo." I've not respected this "timing and tempo" in others at various times. I probably will fail to do so in the future. And I apologize for my failings, my overstepping of this sacred boundary. I am sorry that I have made others feel as if I do not respect their faith, that I have made you feel as if I do not respect yours. Because I do respect your faith. Deeply. I know that you know and love God, that you are known and loved by Him. And yet my heart aches wanting you to discover this country I have unwittingly stumbled upon. This beautiful place.
But I am learning to be patient. I am learning to be quiet.
I scribble proudly on notepads while others breathe life onto canvas and carve human bodies from marble. Forgive my simple scribblings. If I am proud of them, it is only because they are all that I am capable of.