Desperately Seeking Catholicism: A Jewish Convert’s Long and Winding Road into the Catholic Church
by Laura Evans
A year into my interminable journey to try to become a Catholic, I had this nightmare: I am trapped on the roof of a high rise building. Several people are stuck there with me. They are being rescued one by one until I am all alone. My terror grows as day turns into night. With no help in sight, I decide to take matters into my own hands.
My only hope is to climb down the side of the building. It is a treacherous descent, but somehow I make it to the bottom. I see the people who could have saved me. I walk over to them and, with tears in my eyes, ask plaintively, “Why didn’t you come to rescue me?” They look at me blank faced, with no answer. I wake up from the dream sobbing.
I desperately wanted to become a Catholic until I tried to join the Catholic Church. There I found endless bureaucracy and red tape that would make a day at the Department of Motor Vehicles look like a walk in the park. Rather than the enthusiastic support I encountered at Protestant churches, in Catholicism, I found a sluggishness that paid little heed to Christ’s proclamation that we swiftly make disciples of all nations.
In evangelical Protestantism, where I unexpectedly found myself in my early 50s, people would move heaven and earth to help me and others become “born again.” It didn’t matter if the church were closing for the day or if the hungry churchgoers were hankering for bacon and eggs. When a lost soul wanders into a church, business as usual comes to a screeching halt. If the building caught on fire, Protestants would still be evangelizing, despite the firefighters and flames. But Catholics? I found a starkly different universe, one in which rigid rules prevailed (even those that appeared to violate Canon Law) and receiving people into the Church seemed to be at the bottom of most people’s to-do list.
How did I even get into this strange, new world, me being the least likely person on the planet to want to become Catholic? My story begins in late 2009, when, after a lifetime of Jewish/Buddhist/paganism, I somehow felt moved to go to church. When people ask me why I became one of the rare Jews who converted to Christianity, I always say the same thing, “God only knows.” I haven’t the slightest idea why; it’s all God working inside of me.
Like many Jews, I absorbed since infancy an aversion towards Christianity. I didn’t have any Christian friends; I detested Christmas; and I’d never been to a church in my life. But somehow, for reasons only known to Him, God planted a deep hunger in my heart a few years ago to know Him and to do so in a Christian church.
I started out in Protestantism, where I remained for several years. This was a lucky move. Had I encountered the same roadblocks I later found in the Catholic world, I might never have become a Christian.
In Protestantism, I met friendly Presbyterians and welcoming Lutherans. I was particularly intrigued by the evangelicals and Pentecostals, who warmly invited me into their flock and spent hours teaching me information that I didn’t know, such as, who was Jesus Christ? What did a Bible look like and what did it say? I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior in early 2010, was baptized at a Bible-believing church a few months later, and never looked back.
But as wonderful as it all was, I felt a restlessness and hunger inside for something more, though I didn’t know what it was. Although I was having lots of good experiences at church, my relationship with Jesus wasn’t growing. And I wasn’t changing deep inside, as much as I was trying.
I searched for this ephemeral thing from one Protestant church to church, from the Baptists to the Pentecostals, until, one day out of the blue in late November 2013 (it turned out to be the first day of Advent), the thought suddenly appeared in my brain that maybe I should become a Catholic. This was a novel idea, one that I had never before considered, perhaps because nondenominational Protestants are so openly hostile to the Catholic Church.
It happened when I was reading the chapter on Martin Luther in a book by Mike Jones, Degenerate Moderns. When Jones described Martin Luther’s womanizing and boozing and his terrible manipulation of nuns and priests, a light went on in my head. Protestantism comes from the word, “protest” — I hadn’t put the two together before.
I didn’t like one bit the idea of being part of some radical, insurrectionary movement. Having by then rejected my own rebellious youth, I realized with horror that I had somehow found my way into yet another revolutionary movement — Protestantism. I resolved to start attending Catholic Masses and to learn as much as I could about Catholicism.
What I found made me want to run for my life as fast as I could back to the Protestants. I discovered Catholics who didn’t know much about the basic religious doctrines of the Church, and others who openly defied the moral teachings. I heard strange new terms, such as “cafeteria Catholics.” I discovered a multitude of people who didn’t read the Bible and who practiced indifferentism. I can’t tell you how many times people told me that I didn’t need to become a Catholic because being a baptized Protestant (or a Jew) was good enough. In short, I encountered today’s Catholic Church.
Despite my shock at the state of the Church, I started doing intensive research on the theology of Catholicism, which clarified and corrected many doctrines that concerned me in Protestantism. I also researched why the Catholic Church had become so disorderly and chaotic, that is, about the infiltration by many nefarious forces. But even more importantly, I became enchanted by the Mass and the Blessed Sacrament, which moved me to tears more than once. My relationship with Jesus grew by leaps and bounds, and I started making needed changes in my behavior. I had found what I was searching for all along, and it was Jesus in His one true Church, the Catholic one.
But after I had made my decision to join the Church, I came upon the biggest shock of all: that it would be a Herculean task to be allowed into the place. And what was the biggest hurdle standing in the way of me and eternity? The bane of my existence and so many others. I encountered RCIA.
Initiation for Adults
RCIA stands for Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults. It was conjured up post-Vatican II, that free-wheeling time of wild experimentation: altar girls, liturgical dancers, witches on the altar, couples locking lips during the Kiss of Peace, and Eucharistic Ministers. A few of the novelties have been jettisoned, such as the witches and the dancers (though one local church still showcases the latter). But, unfortunately, many of them have stuck, including the smooching and RCIA.
While RCIA was first introduced at a small number of parishes in the 70s and early 80s, it became omnipresent in every diocese starting in l986. Even though anecdotal evidence and a comprehensive study by a Bishops’ group have uncovered widespread problems with RCIA, it is still the norm for all adults, a gauntlet that everyone must walk to get to the Blessed Sacrament and to eternity.
The system prior to Vatican II was a relaxed, though efficient, one. Suppose a man, let’s call him, “Joe,” wanted to become a Catholic. Joe would have found a priest and told him of his desire to join the Church. The priest would have taken pity on the poor, hell-bound sinner, and would have relieved Joe of his suffering by meeting with him a few times and then baptizing him soon thereafter. The priest would have understood that Joe’s eternal soul depended on his being absolved of his sins and receiving Christ’s Body and Blood ASAP. And the priest would have also recognized that to fail to do his duty would put his own salvation at risk.
All of this changed in the 1980s as the accessible approach to becoming a Catholic morphed into the monstrosity we have today: RCIA. Now someone like me, eager to join the Church, is told to be patient and wait. Now there are countless hoops to jump through, rules to abide by, and feel-good bonding experiences to suffer through.
And if a person balks — if he doesn’t want to wait for months on end, and if he abhors a psychology-laden group experience with a bunch of strangers, and if he doesn’t want to stand up on the altar and undergo various Rites and rituals — well, then, he’s out of luck. That’s just the way it is, and no one has any interest in changing things. Even though a 7-year-old who is still nose picking and bedwetting can receive First Communion, today’s adult has to navigate a complicated labyrinth, a Catholic version of boot camp, until the anointed time, once a year, when he is allowed into the Church, the Easter Vigil Mass (that is, if he makes it that far).
Although there are supposed to be exceptions made for people who can’t or won’t do RCIA, locating a priest willing to do this is, I found, like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. The priests are too busy doing other, more important tasks. One priest told me bluntly that if he made an exception for me, than he’d have to do the same for others. Which invites the question: if a priest’s biggest problem is a stampede of people clamoring to get into the Catholic Church, is that really such a bad thing?
Anyway, these days, priests are only peripherally involved in the pivotal task of bringing people into the Catholic Church. The crucial responsibility for conversion has, in most parishes, been outsourced, delegated to laypeople. A small number are paid staffers, whose livelihood depends on the perpetuation of the system. But more often, volunteers run the show, usually retirees and empty nesters with time on their hands and the need for meaning and camaraderie.
A few of the teachers know their stuff. Many others are well-meaning but theologically misinformed. And then there are those with a progressive agenda to promote on the hapless participants, who are suspended in spiritual outer space for months on end, with the carrot of salvation dangled in front of them.
Proponents of RCIA describe it as a meaningful, evocative experience for both the potential Catholics and the whole parish, one that harks back to the rituals of the early Church. Centuries ago, prospective Christians had to have a sponsor, as they do today, and they had to undergo various public Rites. Then, like now, potential converts had to exit Mass prior to the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
But there were valid reasons for the sponsorship and the exiting hundreds of years ago. The new Church was under severe attack by a variety of enemies who were trying to infiltrate and destroy it. The Church instituted various complicated procedures to protect the church and especially the Blessed Sacrament.
A prospective member had to have a sponsor to vouch for his character, to ensure, for instance, that he wasn’t a spy. Public Rites were conducted in front of the church to make sure that the community knew and trusted the newcomer. And the neophyte had to leave prior to the Liturgy of the Eucharist to protect the Body and the Blood from harm.
Today, the need for a sponsor and elaborate public Rites feels archaic. But advocates for RCIA assert that the rituals are not only good for the participants but a breath of fresh air for long-term parishioners, who can get a bit misty-eyed watching RCIA members stand up on the altar. But, to me, if parishioners’ passion for the faith has grown so cold that they need wannabe Catholics paraded in front of them like circus monkeys, that is a sad commentary on today’s Church.
As for the practice of dismissing potential converts before the Liturgy of the Eucharist (to participate in — guess what? — more classes): How would an RCIA member learn about the Liturgy and experience the Real Presence if he has to exit before the centerpiece of the Roman Catholic Mass? And how does a potential new Catholic feel a part of the church if he is made to depart?
And here’s a relevant question: does RCIA actually work? Is it worth the many months of waiting and preparation, as well as the expense? Is the new system any better than the old one?
RCIA proponents say yes, and insist that the program leads to improved retention of the newly converted. They remind us that Catholics were fleeing the Church in droves prior to the introduction of RCIA.
While it is true that there was a mass exodus of Catholics in the 60s and 70s, it wasn’t because of the absence of RCIA; it was due to the seductive lure of sex, drugs, and rock and roll during that rebellious time. Prior to the 60s, however, churches were overflowing with the faithful.
Anecdotally, all over the Internet, survivors of RCIA gripe about a rigid system of poor catechesis and liberal agendas. But what does the research say?
The most extensive, nationwide study of RCIA, conducted in 2000 by the National Council of Catholic Bishops, paints a gloomy picture. They unearthed widespread problems, such as a high dropout rate, poorly trained teachers disseminating erroneous doctrine, and a promotion of unorthodox ideas, such as married and female priests.
And what about the claim that more newly minted Catholics are retained? Sadly, one to five years after becoming Catholics, about 40% of new Catholics are no longer attending weekly Mass. My opinion why is that the classes have sheltered the newbies and made them dependent on their little clique. Shorn of the feel-good experiences, hand holding, and potlucks, they confront the disarray and confusion that is today’s Catholic Church, and many can’t deal.
Given the plethora of problems found, did the Bishops suggest chucking the whole, misguided mess? No. Instead their solution was ... more classes post-conversion, something called mystagogy. With mystagogy, the new Catholics are cajoled back into the parish hall for another round of classes and group sharing.
If there are so many problems with RCIA, why isn’t the program disbanded once and for all? My guess is that there are several reasons why.
The first reasons are more benign, having mostly to do with human nature. People don’t like change. It’s just easier to do the same thing over and over again, whether it’s useful or deleterious. There is a, “We’ve always done it. Therefore, we have to do it,” attitude about RCIA.
Plus, there are turf issues and personal fiefdoms to maintain. If RCIA were scrapped, paid staffers would quickly lose their jobs, and retirees would be deprived of a feeling of purpose. RCIA is also a cash cow for the many companies that sell the videos, books, and curriculum. But along with being self-serving, RCIA reflects some pernicious forces that have entered the Church post-Vatican II.
One is a false worship of knowledge that is disturbingly reminiscent of the Pharisees. Rather than evangelizing based on the Gospel, the Church starts resembling an elitist club, where only some may join, but only after months of classes and accumulating vast amounts of knowledge.
This university-style approach leaves many out in the cold, for instance, those with limited intelligence; people who travel extensively and can’t attend classes for months on end; parents with kids to attend to; the chronically ill; the socially anxious; and anyone else who has limited physical or intellectual resources or who simply doesn’t want to attend a 1-1/2 to two hour weekly class, meet regularly with a sponsor, and endure public Rites for seven to nine months.
As for the other pernicious influence on the Church, many Catholics have become enamored with psychology and groups. Turn on Catholic radio most times of the day, and there will be an emotional Catholic spilling his guts out to a psychologist about family problems. Rather than turn to Jesus in prayer, receive the Sacraments, and crack open a Bible, many Catholics, like seculars, prefer psychological solutions to their personal suffering.
RCIA is a classic example of the psychologizing of the Church, with its group format, interpersonal sharing, and feel-good exercises. Participants disclose their joys and sorrows along the way. Hurdles in the road are confessed and dissected. The RCIA participant has his own counselor-type person in his sponsor. Just like the sick addict who needs a sponsor and an AA group to keep him afloat, the coddled RCIA member requires a group and a sponsor to spoon feed him into the Church.
And yet hasn’t the Church discerned how damaging psychology and groups can be? Weren’t hundreds of nuns, priests, and seminarians corrupted by encounter groups during the 60s and 70s, and didn’t many lose their faith and renounce their Holy Orders? Groups can be dangerous; they can lead to social control via group indoctrination and group think.
In my view, the main architect of RCIA and other misadventures post-Vatican II isn’t in human form; it’s not the often well-meaning people who design and run the programs. The mastermind is that old devil himself, Lucifer, because it is he who benefits when potential converts never make it to the finish line and are deprived of The True Presence of Jesus — and perhaps even of salvation itself. Unfortunately, I got to know the tactics of the Evil One well as I tried for over a year to make my way into the Catholic Church without RCIA.
As you may recall, God put it in my heart in November of 2013 that I should perhaps become a Catholic. I spent several months immersing myself in Catholic teachings, attending Mass, and meeting with priests and devout Catholics. Eight months later, I was convinced that the Catholic Church was the true Church of Jesus Christ. I felt ready, willing, and able to become a Catholic. But the problem was that RCIA hadn’t even started yet.
I wanted to enter the Church quickly because I was convinced that it was the only path to salvation. While I wasn’t planning to die anytime soon, the truth is, I’m no spring chicken. But there was another reason for my desperation: I was being dogged by demon spirits working overtime to ensure that I’d never become a Catholic.
They planted continual doubt and mistrust in my mind about the Catholic Church. I experienced nothing like it in the Protestant world, where the Enemy barely reared his head, much less his teeth. But as soon as I started going Catholic, there was an army of dark spirits tormenting me, which I think had a lot to do with my Jewish background.
I was mocked: “You’ll never fit in there as a Jew. You’re too different;” taunted: “See—they don’t want you there; you’re not welcome;” discouraged: “You’re wasting your time. You can’t trust any of them.” But the Evil One went further, terrorizing me with fears that I was betraying my ancestors. I had petrifying thoughts of God punishing me with an eternity in hell. It was like the whole demon world was launching a full frontal attack.
The Enemy knew my weak points, the fears that had been planted in me from childhood about Christianity. There aren’t a whole lot of sins in modern Judaism: abortion, promiscuity, drug experimentation — none of this is encouraged, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. The worst thing? Becoming a Catholic. So between my childhood programming and the demons that bedeviled me, I knew that I couldn’t tolerate nine more months of waiting and uncertainty.
I sensed this but couldn’t do much about it. I spoke to both the priest and pastor at my regular church, but neither one of them were willing to do one-on-one catechesis. So, trying to be a good sport, in July I attended the first RCIA group at my regular Church.
The experience was as untenable as I had thought. It was late at night, when I was already exhausted. While the group members were pleasant, none were devout Christians, and I worried about my fairly new faith being shaken by spending months with mostly nonbelievers. Looking at the curriculum (which, like most courses, began at the lowest common denominator) depressed me. After much prayer, I realized that I had to find an alternative way into the Church.
I composed a heartfelt email to the priest in charge of catechism at my church. I movingly shared my love for Christ and His Church. I reminded the priest of my faithful churchgoing, that after months of regular attendance, I had become a church regular. I explained that the uncertainty was targeting me for fierce spiritual attack, and that it would help greatly to have a plan for entering the Church, hopefully sometime soon. I waited anxiously for his reply. A week later, I heard nothing.
I tried to approach him at church, but he appeared to be avoiding me. A voice mail message wasn’t returned. I wasn’t above peer pressure so I wrote him again, but this time copied the two RCIA lay coordinators. The priest did reply this time, though he was noncommittal.
Going nowhere fast at my regular church, which I’ll call Church 1, I decided to contact some of the other local parishes. I called another church, Church 2, and got the priest on the line. Again, I shared my deep passion for the Church and my desire to join as soon as possible. The priest told me that there was nothing he could do; that I must speak to the pastor but he had just left on an extended vacation.
Not ready to throw in the towel yet, I contacted another local church, Church 3. I went straight to the top, and made an appointment with the pastor. At this point, I became armed with some powerful new information — a dirty little secret about RCIA, which is that how it is run may violate Canon Law. According to Canon Law, RCIA is only for the unbaptized. Baptized Catholics and Protestants are supposed to be brought into the Church quickly and without undue duress. And yet this isn’t being done, and, in fact, most of people nationwide in RCIA are baptized Catholics and Protestants.
The pastor at Church 3 was sympathetic to my plight. He acknowledged that people like myself, devout, baptized Protestants, were supposed to be received into the Church without RCIA. However, he wasn’t willing to get involved since I had already started at Church 1. He offered to call them to exert pressure on the priest. But given that I was already on the priest’s last nerve, I thought that this would be an unwise political move.
There was another local church: Church 4, but I decided not to try that one. My friend, Mary, was at the same time trying to become a Catholic there without RCIA, and was facing the same roadblocks as me. A shy and private person by nature, she attended one RCIA class and never came back, deeming it “like a cruel fraternity hazing.” She resigned herself to going to Mass but never coming into a full Communion with the Church. Seeing the distress in my dear friend’s face made me more determined to find my way into the Church — and to help Mary be received as well.
I had one final idea: I would email an affable priest from Church 1, who occasionally celebrates Mass there, though he mostly teaches for the Diocese. Again, I told him of my love for Christ and His true Church and my suffering in waiting. Can he help me become a Catholic?
The priest wrote back quickly, and he enthusiastically congratulated me for pursuing Catholicism. But, alas, he sent his regrets that his teaching schedule was so demanding that he could find no time to meet with me this year, though he wished me well.
Another rejection was more than I could take; I was by now suffering from vulnerability burn out. It wasn’t easy to keep pleading for help only to be continually rebuffed. Regrettably, I unleashed my frustration on him.
I told him that I was taken aback that everyone is too busy doing something else to help a struggling and desperate Protestant become a Catholic. I challenged him: either the Catholic Church is the true source of salvation, and priests should move heaven and earth to shepherd the lost into it. Or — it’s not the only vehicle for salvation, in which case, there is no rush for me to enter or for anyone to help me. It couldn’t be both. Which was it?
There was no reply. A few days later, feeling badly that I had unloaded my indignation on him, I sent off an apologetic email. He gracefully accepted my apology, though there was still no offer to help.
Fresh out of ideas, I was at the lowest point of an already stressful journey. I did not know what to do. I was now filled with constant doubt and mistrust of Catholics and the Church. I didn’t know if this was due to spiritual warfare or the Holy Spirit beseeching me to return to my old, Protestant church.
I got down on my knees and did the most fervent praying of my life. While sobbing, I begged Christ to reveal to me what He wanted me to do. After several minutes of pleading, a blessed calm swept over me. For the first time since pursuing becoming a Catholic, I felt at peace. I sensed Jesus saying to me, “You are my beloved daughter. Don’t worry; you will spend eternity with me.” I felt enormously grateful for this moment of grace.
It was now September, l0 months since I first started my exploration of Catholicism. I made a good friend at Church 1, who was determined to help me become a Catholic. On my behalf, she took the priest aside and shared her grave concern about leaving me alone during this process. At Mass the next Sunday, the priest surprised me by offering to meet with me one-on-one, But there was one condition: I would have to go through the first Rite, the Rite of Welcoming, in a couple of weeks. Reluctantly, I agreed.
My intuition was that standing up there with my sponsor in front of the entire parish, while being crossed all over my body from head to toe, would subject me to fierce spiritual attacks. I was right. I lost sleep before it; I felt weak in my knees during it and close to passing out. That level of public exposure, with still no plan for when or how I was going to be received, gave the Enemy free reign to torment me unmercifully. But I had adhered to my end of the bargain, and then had my first meeting with the priest.
I’d like to report that the meeting went well, and that he happily shepherded me into the Church soon thereafter. But unfortunately that wasn’t the case. His plan was my following the exact same curriculum as the RCIA participants for the next seven months, starting at the beginning, with a video entitled, “Who was Jesus?” I’d also have to participate in the rest of the Rites and rituals.
At this point, the months of strain unraveled me, and I lost my cool. Angrily, I told him that I did not need to start at the beginning; that I had intensively researched the Church for almost a year and attended more Masses than I could count. I bluntly told him that I had never been treated more like an idiot than my year in the Catholic world; that no one seemed to believe that I knew what was best for me — which was to become a Catholic, as soon as possible.
The priest got angry back. Clearly, the months of stress had taken a toll on us both: him, dealing with a parishioner who wouldn’t play by the RCIA rules, and me, ready, willing, and able to become a Catholic but not finding any open doors. At the end of our meeting, I apologized for my outburst; he apologized to me as well. We parted on an amicable basis, though I declined his offer to continue meeting.
It was now November 2014, the beginning of Advent. It also marked a year since God had put it into my heart to perhaps become a Catholic. I was worn out and worn down by it all. Although I had tried not to take the rejections personally, I felt emotionally brittle and wounded. And I was lonely; I missed the fellowship and sense of belonging at my old, Protestant church.
It was then that I made the saddest decision of my life. It was time to return to the Protestant world.
For the first time in a year of Masses, I didn’t drive over to a Catholic church that Sunday. Instead, I headed over to my former church. The churchgoers were happy to see me, though very surprised. And I saw something else in their faces: hurt, a sense of being abandoned because I had eschewed their kindness and friendship by leaving them. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who had been wounded in this process.
I sat in a pew and looked around my former church, which I once knew so well. The environs felt unfamiliar, foreign. What struck me most was the lack: the lack of the Crucifix, the Procession, the priests — but most of all, the absence of the Blessed Sacrament. I felt a wrenching pain in my gut of utter emptiness. I had spent my entire life looking for Something, for Someone, and I had finally found Him in His true Church. But now I was at risk of losing Him all over again.
I realized that I had to make a choice: Protestant or Catholic. I couldn’t have both. But I was no longer a Protestant. I had left this behind some time ago. Despite my status within the Church, I was now at my very core a Catholic.
Before the service was over, I gathered my belongings and stood up. I waved goodbye to a couple of people. And then I quietly left, sadly, like a young adult leaving a family that he has since outgrown. I knew that I would probably never see these people again.
At Mass the following Sunday, I thought of one final option. If this didn’t work then I resigned myself to continuing to attend Mass, but never becoming a Catholic. (And I hoped that the Catholic teaching on Baptism of Desire would be enough to get me into heaven.)
My idea? Contact Church 2, and see if the pastor who had been on an extended vacation had returned. I called over there and found that he had.
I met with the pastor soon thereafter. This is when the heavens opened up for me. For the umpteenth time, I recounted my intense, heartfelt desire to receive the Sacraments in Christ’s true Church. The pastor listened, riveted. Finally he said, “I have never seen anyone hungrier for our Sacraments than you. I have heard of people like you. But I have never seen it.” And, for the first time, he said it like it was a good thing.
He would consider bringing me into the Church prior to April. But there was a caveat: I would need to attend the RCIA classes at his church. I agreed.
The classes were much less rigorous than the other program — just an hour after Mass, no evenings, no field visits or homework assignments. Most of the group members were faithful Catholics who attended for the sense of community; and they inspired me with their love of the faith.
A few weeks into my new RCIA program, I was enjoying the fellowship. But it struck me one day that I was no closer to becoming a Catholic than I was a year ago. Now relegated to a spiritual no man’s land — no longer Protestant but not yet Catholic — the dark spirits were having a field day harassing me. It was the morning of an RCIA class when I had that nightmare about being trapped on a roof with no one rescuing me, and I woke up sobbing.
At class that day, the floodgates opened, and I started crying uncontrollably. I told them about the dream, and about my 13 months of trying to find someone to help me enter the Church. I explained my desperation to have my sins forgiven through Confession and to receive the Blessed Sacrament. When I was through, they stared at me in stunned silence.
After the group was over, the RCIA coordinator took me aside. He told me that it was his opinion that I was ready to become a Catholic, and that he would write to the pastor and recommend that I be received into the Church as soon as possible. I gave him a grateful hug. God had sent someone to rescue me.
A few days later, I met with the pastor, who asked something that floored me, “When would you like to be received into the Church?” He even offered to hold a private Mass for me. We picked a date (although the pastor needed the permission of the Bishop, another bureaucratic hurdle that kept me on pins and needles for several more weeks). The pastor and I also scheduled a time for my first Confession.
The Night Before
The night before my Confession, I lay in bed, eyes wide open and unable to sleep. I felt something that I never felt before, not happiness or joy— but way beyond that. I felt bliss. My body tingled blissfully at the prospect of receiving my very first Catholic Sacrament. Not only would I be finally absolved of the sins I’d carried around with me for years. But once I had my first Sacrament, “they” couldn’t keep me out: whether it was the bureaucratic rules that hindered me or the demons that plagued me.
I was received into the Catholic Church in early 2015, which was the most exquisite experience of my life. The pastor personalized it, talking about my love for Jesus and the Church. He celebrated a full Mass, although there were just a few people there.
Sadly, none of my Protestant friends whom I invited came. I knew that it wasn’t personal but that because of their misconceptions about Catholicism, they couldn’t support my conversion. They made their choice; and I made mine.
As I write this, another round of RCIA classes is starting in churches around the country. My joy at having finally become a Catholic is tinged with sadness at what I had to go through, at what the Church puts people through to come into full Communion with our Lord.
Like so many post-Vatican II debacles, RCIA needs to go. The Church must return to its obligation to swiftly make disciples of all nations.
If it doesn’t, the Body of Christ will continue to shrink, and many people who need Jesus and our faith will fall between the cracks. This will be bad news for the Catholic Church. But it will be good news for the user-friendly evangelical and Pentecostal churches, which are growing like wildfire all over the world. What those Protestants know — and which, tragically, many Catholics have forgotten — is that bringing people to Christ is what we are here to do. And the Protestants understand that, by doing so, the eternal soul they are saving is also their own.
“Laura Evans” is a pen name. Laura was received into the Catholic Church in early 2015. Shortly thereafter, Laura helped her friend, Mary, be received into the Church as well, without RCIA. Both are devout and faithful Catholic women, who attend Mass every Sunday. Laura would like to express her heartfelt appreciation to Mike Jones for his invaluable support during her long and winding road into the Catholic Church. “Thanks, Mike. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
This article appears in the December 2015 issue of Culture Wars.
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