In the Catholic Church, the Easter Triduum is approaching. It includes the three days immediately preceding Easter: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. All of them are important, but Holy Saturday has personal significance for many converts to Catholicism, as most have entered the Church during that night’s Easter Vigil Mass. Almost five years ago, I was among the Easter Vigil converts. So here, I want to explain why I am now Catholic.
Before my conversion, I was a non-denominational Christian. But I began to see Christianity anew in the seventh grade (of all times) when I started attending a Southern Baptist K-12 school. My teachers were devout Evangelical Protestants with a knowledge of Scripture that you don’t find in many Catholic circles. They routinely challenged their students to read the Bible faithfully and incorporated Scripture into classroom discussions.
During one such discussion in literature class, there was a debate about whether Catholics are Christians (some Evangelicals believe that they aren’t). “Catholics worship Mary and pray to saints,” my Evangelical classmates confidently asserted. But I knew that that was nonsense: My grandmother is Catholic and my aunt has taught at Catholic school for years—both helped raise me to believe in Jesus.
I knew that the debate was absurd, but I was curious and had to ask my aunt and grandma about it. My grandma eventually gave me a catechism, which I read with my Bible. As I dove into the New Testament, the pages of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Catholic apologetic resources, I began to realize something: The Catholic Church claimed to be the true Church established by Jesus Himself and the New Testament backed up its claim. When I was convinced of this, I decided to become a Catholic.
At the Easter Vigil of 2012, when I was ending my first year of high school, I was baptized, confirmed and received my first Holy Communion. I’ve been a Catholic ever since, and I regularly pray that my non-Catholic family and friends would do the same and discover the treasures of the faith.
There are innumerable reasons why I became a Catholic. But I would like to highlight two reasons particularly. First, Catholic stability. The Catholic Church, in contrast to the more than 30,000 Protestant churches here in America, has been historically consistent. It has taught essentially the same doctrines for two millennia. Sure, there have been some rough patches and weird spots where church teaching has developed and unfolded with time, but if you read anyone from Paul to Augustine to Anselm to Aquinas to Chesterton, you notice a continuity. Catholicism’s meta-narrative has been preserved and enriched in the life of the Church. That narrative runs like this: Humanity is God’s family, but has fallen from grace to sin, the elevation of the ego above God and others. So God chose a people, Israel, to save humanity from itself and restore it to its original splendor. His redemptive work culminated in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. This strange Jesus, is God in the flesh, full of paradox and mystery. He has entrusted His paradoxical and mysterious teachings, to a church that is guided by His Holy Spirit to guard the truth as we await His Return. Of course, that’s just basic Christianity. But Catholicism has kept an exceptionally continuous way of telling this story: maintaining an unbroken line of successors to Christ’s apostles, keeping the Chair of Peter intact, upholding ancient practices like the Mass, etc.
In contrast, many Protestant churches have changed beliefs and practices with the wind. Despite the controversy around its teachings, the Catholic Church has been consistent. Whether we’re talking about women’s ordination, contraception or sexuality, the Church has held firm to ancient beliefs since it has Rome to look to for guidance. You don’t find many of those same beliefs in much of Anglicanism anymore. Rome claims to be the guardian of truth, while Canterbury permits its members to give into the time’s mores. As people search for truth, a quest that all humans naturally go on, they want stability, consistency, continuity. If a church says one thing one day and reverses its teaching the next, chances are it isn’t very reliable as a pillar of truth.
My second reason is Catholicism’s concreteness. Much of Protestantism has discarded integral parts of the biblical story and imagery: a belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the sacrament of Confession, a ministerial priesthood, vestments, chants, candles, oil, etc. The sacramental imagination of New Testament Christianity is all but extinct in Protestantism. But the Jesus of the New Testament isn’t a ghost. He’s flesh and blood, consuming fish and honeycomb after His Resurrection. In remaining faithful to the sacraments, the Catholic Church has given its members a tangible reality that much of Christianity has lost. Items like incense, vestments and candles as well as sacraments like the Eucharist utilize our senses. They appeal to our bodily nature and make Christ’s presence more than an abstraction. Christ isn’t merely present in heaven or your hearts (though He certainly is) but is bodily present here on Earth.
Of this information alone doesn’t prove that Catholicism is true. My personal exploration has found it to be so. But I would encourage people who are searching for truth to look for consistency, stability and concrete reality in a religion. The truth is a statement that corresponds to reality. Eternal truth must be unchanging. A religion that claims to be the truth had better be grounded in unchanging reality if it is what claims. Catholicism is that exactly.