I read a few amazon reviews of books aimed at “saving Catholics” who are sadly without knowledge of the gospel. It’s amazing how people resort to rhetoric snatched from the blurred edges of their memory, mindlessly repeated half-baked lies and flipping from one learned talking point to the next when challenged. I knew a girl when I was young who although her faith was sincere, she didn’t think about it much or question what she was told. She instead memorized and repeated “spiritual” language like a pro, neatly boxed up for every occasion. It really used to annoy me. When I read the lingo-ridden block paragraphs lamenting the dead faith of Catholics, flippantly deriding the Catholic “works driven” salvation, tossing a bone in the form of a half-hearted “God help them” prayer, the voice in my head is always the one of the girl I used to know. Bizarre.
I get discouraged when it seems like no one listens, no matter how many times you repeat that you do not worship Mary and the Saints and that the Pope is not the Anti-Christ (Seriously, have they read the Bible? Do they even know how the Anti-Christ is described?). I wish that I could explain things better and help people understand what the Catholic Church teaches and see her for the beautiful and spotless Bride of Christ that she is. I can’t stand the insults and blind hatred; people throwing her human failings in her face, abandoning her when she adamantly calls sin a sin, criticizing and deriding her. People call Catholics idolaters and morons. They call the Church at best an obsolete antiquity or at worst the whore of Babylon. A raging war is constantly swirling around the Catholic Church, and at times that’s all there seems to be. I feel helpless to even lift my voice in protest, since “they have ears but they do not hear”.
When your eyes have been opened, it’s hard to remember what it was like to be blind, and there’s no chance of forgetting the truth you’ve seen. Chris has told me, while I anguish over the attacks on the Body of Christ and the stubborn souls who lack understanding, not to forget where I was five years ago. It’s hard to keep in mind. My journey to Rome has been unpredictable and fraught with landmines. I was so stubborn, so lost, so ignorant and willful. Neither Chris nor I ever imagined my conversion, and the only explanation is the grace of God. I thank God that Chris obeyed Him and married me. I thank God for answering my desperate prayers throughout my life and showing me His truth. It truly was an act of God that my ears were opened, that I heard the corrections to my misconceptions after the five hundredth time.
I remember the flip in my mind, when I saw that succession from the Apostles was important, and I was angry that I had been wrong. I didn’t want to admit it, or listen further. I told Chris, “I’ll be so mad at you if you’re right.” and he said, “Why?? Don’t you want to be united as a family?” I didn’t really. I wanted to be right and for him to change his mind. But more than that, I wanted God’s honest truth. After so many arguments, repeated over and over, God touched me that I might hear, and there was still a long, hard road to go down, accepting the authority of the Church and its many hard teachings. What do I expect from my family and friends and strangers on the internet? Do I expect after I was so mired in the Protestant paradigm that they can easily hear the words “Catholics believe we are saved by grace and we can’t earn our way to heaven!!!”? (My mom has finally assented to that in conversation. Thanks be to God!)
Looking back, I wasn’t convinced of the truth in Catholicism, I was drawn into it. I told Chris I would marry him only three days after meeting him because his faith drew me. He was assured of its truth, but more than this I saw from the way he spoke that God carried weight with him. I knew Chris was someone who would seek the heart of God, face His truth, and follow His will. I wanted a husband like that. Chris continued to surrender to God’s will and live a Catholic faith that was attractive and very different than any stereotypes I had heard passed around. That was the reason I listened, and maybe that is all that we can really do. We can’t convince anyone with a good argument or change their minds by showing them how every Catholic belief has Biblical support. We can live a life committed to doing God’s will and allow Him to draw people through His work in us. Maybe that’s why Mother Teresa didn’t try to coerce anyone into converting. Doesn’t work anyway.
The battle rages and silent victories are won. Non-famous people join the Church in obscurity living quiet lives of servitude and piety. But I have to thank the commenters on this blog and writers of others for not being so silent about their faith. When I’m up against a wall of resistance, I am encouraged thinking of the evangelical professor who cared more about the truth than his career, the one wife who also listened to her husband, the other wife who prays for hers, the pilgrim who visits area churches with his daughter, the cradle Catholic who proves the stereotype wrong with a well-informed and fiery faith, and everyone who shares a glimpse of their Catholic heart for Christ. It’s good to know that not everyone is crazy and to witness these small miracles.