My Personal Testimony
I knew the basics of my faith from my Catholic upbringing. I didn't know the details, just the basics-one God; Jesus Christ's birth, life, death, resurrection, and return; the Holy Spirit; one holy, Catholic, apostolic church; the sacraments; communion of saints; forgiveness of sins; resurrection of the dead. I did not know much about any of these doctrines, only that they existed and as much as I could absorb in my mentally-absent state during CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, or Catholic Sunday School for those non-Catholics who may happen to read this).
The Church was the source of all rules and regulations for righteous living. No reasons were given, or sought, for why the Church preached what it did. The assumption I made was the Church would periodically determine, on an as-needed basis, what rules to instigate and enforce. The impetus was what the Church in general, and the Magisterium in particular, thought was "good" or "holy".
At one point, we could not eat meat on Friday. Then we could eat meat on most Fridays, just not during Lent. At one point we had to fast from midnight the night before to receive communion at Mass. Then we had to fast for just an hour before Mass. At one point the Mass was in Latin, and then it was in the vernacular. It all depended on what the Church felt was good or holy, and they could change their minds as society matured.
In my early adult years, I had a curiosity for more details, but I was lazy. I did not want to do my own research. There was just too much to absorb from too many sources. Who has time to do in-depth theological study? If I didn't get it from the Church, I wasn't going to get it at all, and I had stopped going to church.
In my early thirties, I met some Christians who were ready, willing and able to feed me information. They weren't priests or even Catholic, they were laymen, just like me. They introduced me to concepts I had never considered (like those in the first paragraph of the Preface). They showed how to make Christ more personal to me, how there were like-minded individuals that were discovering Christ on a whole new level. It was quite enticing. I thought it was unfortunate I had to discover this from non-Catholics.
I had never read the Bible. In fact, I was quite astonished to discover most of what was read at Mass was from the Bible. I went back to Church, read the Bible, fellowshipped and prayed. I explored many faiths, adopting some of their doctrines along the way. I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and developed an intensely personal relationship with Him. I was living a pseudo-Christian lifestyle, worshipping God in private and trying not to sin (which was not so difficult after I redefined what constituted sin). I never felt a compulsion to leave the Catholic Church, but neither did I have a strong tie to it.
Despite my wife's reluctance, I allowed our kids at an early age to explore other faiths. In the process, they were drawn away from the Church. After several years, they challenged me to defend the Catholic faith. I restated much of what I had learned over time, and some of what I invented, but it was soon apparent I was not well prepared. They shot back with a plethora of questions I couldn't answer, for which they had solid responses. They recited what they learned from their Protestant friends in a well-reasoned argument. I was out-gunned.
The net result was my kids' adopted faiths became stronger, and mine weaker. What irony! I saw myself as the spiritual head of our household, yet not only did my teenage kids learn their faith from others, they could win any argument I presented in rebuttal.
I started to question myself in earnest. I developed a burning desire to know the truth, not the truth according to any of my existing notions; I needed to learn THE truth. I decided to begin by exploring Catholic answers to the kinds of questions my kids presented.
Perhaps because of my association with the Christians who got me started in my spiritual renewal, I had an inherent distrust of anything except the Bible. People were only human, the Scriptures were divine. Although I didn't know there was a name for it, I embraced Sola Scriptura. I made it a point to challenge everything, and accept only that which could be proven, or not disproved, in Scriptures. I read books, I heard tapes, I explored the internet, I read the Bible and I prayed. I revisited many of the questions my kids posed earlier and produced a few of my own. I tried to remain objective and altered my perspective as needed each time I would discover something new.
After being unable to respond to well-reasoned points offered by my kids, I honestly did not expect to stay with the Catholic faith. I was reluctantly certain my kids were right about most things, but even if they were right about only a few things, it would be difficult for me to stay Catholic. To my surprise, there were answers, lots of answers, lots of good, solid answers that supported the Catholic position.
I had not realized how well the Catholic faith was supported in Scripture. Literally, every argument my kids made against the faith, previously unchallenged by me, could be proven incorrect in the Bible. Every other anti-Catholic argument I heard was likewise unsupported in Scripture. In contrast, every Catholic doctrine was supported.
From a Biblical perspective, the Catholic Church is on solid ground. I now have a much greater understanding and appreciation of my faith, and it grows stronger daily. The best part is I still have an intensely personal relationship with Jesus. It's the best of both worlds.
I am disappointed with my Catholic upbringing. Many Protestant faiths, particularly fundamentalist faiths, appear to have little trouble instilling a love of the Lord in their youth. As I saw in my kid's friends, there was a great passion for something to believe in. It consumed them. They had a joy of living that, as a natural consequence, eschewed drugs and alcohol and pre-marital sex. Growing up Catholic, I had impressions of the need to do "good", but there was no central focus in life, no understanding of the divine. I didn't do drugs because I was afraid of the consequences, not because I knew it was wrong. I didn't participate in pre-marital sex because I was unpopular, not because I knew it was wrong. Although I obtained righteous results, I did not have a righteous mindset. How much better it would have been if I knew the Lord intimately, from my youth.
My parents never taught me the love of Christ, and I never taught it to my kids. Not even realizing there was that void in their lives, when their fundamentalist friends presented them with the concept, my kids embraced it with a passion.
Their friends taught them the Catholic religion and all other formal religions were wrong. My kids came to me to confirm that truth, and when I could not respond, they made the natural jump to the fundamentalist philosophy. I was ready to make the jump myself, but I went to other sources to confirm that truth. What I discovered is contained in this site.
Not only have I remained Catholic, I now have a deep, comprehensive love of the Church. I no longer accept Church doctrine just because the Church says so; I now understand the reasons behind the doctrines, and it strengthens me. I've come to realize if the Church preaches a doctrine, there will be a solid foundation for it somewhere, especially in Scriptures. I have come to trust the Church's teaching as truth.
I only wish I could have known it sooner. I wish there were some way the Catholic Church could have instilled that in me and my kids at an earlier age. I wish people didn't have to leave the Church in order to discover why they should remain. The Church needs people like me, who are ready, willing and able to believe the truth. The Church needs kids just like mine, who love the Lord and seek to live the righteous life. The Church needs people like you, who are thirsting for answers.
The search for truth never ends. As you read this, I am discovering more truths. If you are unsure of the defense of the Catholic faith, I encourage you to begin your own search--and you can start with this website. You can challenge what is written herein and decide for yourself. Indeed, if you challenge something, or remain unconvinced, please tell me! It will help both our searches.
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