Today is the Feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. In honor of the holiday I’m going to participate in yet another link-up (so many link-ups out there I may never have to think up an original topic for a post!), 3 Reasons I love Catholicism, hosted by Micaela at California to Korea. Mine is more like “3 Reasons I Became Catholic.”
1. The rosary
My journey to the Catholic Church began 13 years ago with this rosary.
A friend and convert to the Church who volunteered with me at an outreach ministry asked me one evening if I would like to pray the rosary with him while we walked the streets of Chicago. I thought, why not? and said yes. He gave me this rosary and a small photocopied booklet with directions for praying it. Once a week, he led me through the mysteries. At the time, I was an Evangelical Protestant with some detached curiosity about the Church. Within 6 months, I was a Confirmed member of the Roman Catholic Church. The rosary taught me that the primary purpose of prayer is meditation on the humanity of Jesus Christ. It is a powerful prayer.
2. The whole story about the Blessed Virgin Mary
After we’d been praying the rosary for a few weeks, this friend of mine invited me to attend Mass with him and his fiancee. He encouraged me to bring my boyfriend. After Mass, they suggested we tag along with them to the RCIA (catechism) class. His fiancee was also converting in preparation for their wedding.
The topic of the class was the Blessed Virgin Mary. The teacher began with the story of the Miracle at the Wedding at Cana. “It was Jesus’ mother who noticed that the wine had ran out. She brought it to Jesus’ attention. Jesus didn’t realize that it was time for his ministry to began, but Mary did. In her quiet, humble way, she made it clear to Jesus that he was to act, and she directed the servants to follow him without question.” The teacher went on to emphasize that every detail in the Gospels had been written for a specific reason and carried deep theological significance. The Holy Spirit had not inspired any random details for context or anything like that. This passage, the RCIA teacher explained, describes the role the Blessed Mother plays in salvation history through all eternity. She brings our needs to Jesus, and she directs us, as she did the servants through whom He would work his miracle, to “do whatever He tells you.”
I was shocked. I had studied the Bible since childhood, and read through the entire thing twice, yet I had never noticed this detail. Never had it been mentioned in a single sermon in any Bible-based church I’d attended. I assumed Catholics had made up all this stuff about Mary praying for us and was sure the Catholic emphasis on Mary only distracted from Jesus.
I still didn’t understand why, but from that day forward I believed that God had given Mary to serve some important purpose in my life that I needed to figure out.
3. The Sacrament of Matrimony
Now that my convert friend had my (and my boyfriend’s) attention, he passed on to us one more gift: a set of cassette tapes by Christopher West explaining the Theology of the Body, which is the theology of marriage and human sexuality as described by then-Pope John Paul II. Just as every word of Sacred Scripture carries deep spiritual meaning, so do the realities of our human bodies, and none more profoundly than those that make us male and female. As we listened and read more and more, it just got better and better. John Paul II taught us that the meaning of all human existence is to be found in the life and humanity of Jesus Christ. As Christ gave himself as a gift for us, we would only find meaning through giving ourselves as a gift. Marriage was a Sacrament, where we could experience God’s grace through the gift of ourselves to each other.
That did it. The two of us joined the Church the following Easter, got engaged that summer, married the following summer (11 years next month!), and have been doing our best to live out these ideals ever since.