My whole self — mind, body, and spirit — was drawn toward the Catholic Church. To explain how God wooed me into the Church, here I give you a brief list of the main factors that influenced my conversion:
- Centrality of Jesus Christ: In Mass through the Eucharist and in the theology of the Church as articulated in the Catechism.
- Love for Scripture: In every Mass I get to hear the Word of God from an Old Testament, New Testament, and Gospel reading.
- Liturgy of the Hours: Through this scheduled prayer life of the Church, we fulfill our call to pray without ceasing. It also teaches us to pray the Scriptures, which I love!
- Humility of the Church: Instead of the service being an entertaining show, Mass is a time where we humble ourselves under the Word of God and even kneel before his Altar.
- The First Church: If I had lived during the first 1,000 years of Christianity I would have been Catholic along with every Believer because the Catholic Church was essentially the only Church.
- The Church affirms rather than avoids history: the Creeds, Saints, Councils, etc. continue to be valued and built upon in the Catholic Church.
- Apostolic Succession: Jesus appointed the Apostles, with Peter as the visible head, to hold the keys and be the foundation of the Church, with Christ Jesus as the Cornerstone and supreme head. Peter and the other Apostles passed down that authority to their successors and the line continues, unbroken to this day. Therefore, the Catholic Church can rightfully claim that it is the Church that Jesus started.
- Authority of Interpretation: Anyone, including Satan, can twist the Scriptures to say anything they want. How do we know if we are seeing Scripture through the proper lens? If two people, both filled with the Holy Spirit and having the same Scriptures, come up with two different interpretations, how do we know who is right? The Church’s Magisterium, along with the Pope speaking ex cathedra (i.e. from the authority of his office as successor of St. Peter), gives us the infallible interpretation as built upon the original deposit of faith handed on from the apostles. We can rest in the fact that the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church into all Truth.
- Typology (seeing Old Testament characters and stories as prefigurements of Christ): This method of reading the Scriptures has unlocked the Bible for me in profound ways. It’s the method Jesus, in Luke 24, and the Apostle Paul, in Romans 5, and other Apostles used to explain the Scriptures, and it is the method the Catholic Church utilizes in her teaching.
- Either/Or vs. Both/And: The Protestant mindset can tend toward a more “either/or” perspective on issues; it’s either Scripture or Tradition. The Catholic mindset tends toward a more “both/and” approach; the Sacraments are both signs and instruments of grace.
- Seven Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation/Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. Growing up, I didn’t even hear the word “sacrament,” let alone lived with a sacramental worldview. Seeing the world sacramentally, where everything has meaning in Christ, enlivens the world.
- Early Church Fathers: The Apostolic Fathers of the Church (those before the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD) are particularly interesting to me. St. Ignatius, a co-worker and disciple of the Apostle John talks about the Eucharist truly being the Flesh and Blood of Jesus and about the structure of the Church made up of bishops, presbyters (elders/priests), and deacons. St. Clement, St. Polycarp (my patron saint), and St. Irenaeus also affirm the catholicity of the early Church.
- The Church Calendar: Celebrating the Saints, Martyrs, special seasons and feasts help in journeying through the life of Jesus on a yearly basis.
- Global Community: I get to be a part of the catholic (universal) Church that encompasses every culture and is unified in its mission to bring the Gospel to all people.
- Relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is at the core of Catholic teaching.
The list could go on and on, but these are some of my favorite things about the Catholic Church. At the end of the day, the Lord has used many things to draw me into the Church. His leading has been the main impetus for my conversion to Catholicism.