I would like to share a few reasons, some of which you might find a bit off-the-wall, on why I’m drawn to the Catholic Church. Many have asked.
First of all, I’ve been invited to fewer Protestant churches since I became “Catholic-friendly.” My encounters with the Catholic Church began in 2008. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve had many questions. In my life, I’ve also felt many of the same opinions of most of the Protestants I know in regards to Catholicism. When I told her of my draw towards the Catholic Church, a family member told me that she didn’t want to hear my garbage anymore because I’ve obviously been turned over to a reprobate mind. I expected such responses.
On Being a Bit Annoyed
Here’s what I mean by being annoyed: I’ve lost a handful of speaking opportunities to Protestant audiences since I began embracing Catholicism. I’m not sure why anyone would feel threatened by such things as the church I choose to attend. I’ve never been invited to your congregations to lecture on theology, but rather to share a unique perspective on pornography and how God brought me out of that business. I’ve been chosen to share a story of His grace, forgiveness and love. It’s a very impactful message of hope, and one that challenges the audience. Numerous people have left porn behind after hearing it. But some pastors have directly told me that I can’t be brought in to speak because of my thoughts on Catholicism – at least they have the guts to say so directly to me. Others do not, but I know anyway. If you’re a Protestant pastor, your church needs to hear what God’s given me to share. Shame on you if you let your prejudices towards the location in which I choose to attend services keep such an important message from your people. Seriously. I’m skinning my index finger, which is pointed at your face.
On Being Drawn to Catholicism
There are many reasons why I’m drawn to Catholicism. I was first invited to work with a Catholic group in 2008. A documentary was being made that included the topic of pornography, and they wanted me to share my views. The producer’s son is a priest. I began asking questions. Shortly thereafter, other Catholic groups began asking me to speak for them. Many priests – particularly Father Carlos Martins – and laypeople told me I should convert to Catholicism. I told them that would never happen, because there is far too much with which I disagree. That didn’t scare any of them away from having me speak to their people.
In my free time, I started visiting Cathedrals. They’re beautiful, and open to the public rather than just Catholics. I’d take my time, admiring the amazing artwork within. Much of it is incredibly detailed, and a lot of work. All of it was made out of love for God. That being the case, it’s impossible to be inside a Cathedral without feeling His presence. When invited to speak for a Protestant church in New York City, I used my frequent flier miles to bring along my best friend, John Hunt . We went to Manhattan a few days before I was to speak so that we could visit the city. While there, we visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral. John, who is an agnostic/atheist, insisted that he definitely felt something inside during our visit. I know what he means; there has never been a time when I’ve been inside a Cathedral without feeling God’s presence very heavily impressed upon my spirit.
Because of that, I began seeking out local Catholic churches in which to pray. Unlike many Protestant churches, the doors are almost always open for those who want to seek His face within the walls of the church. I’d sit inside, look at the artwork, pray and study my Bible. I’ve got over 3,400 books in my Logos Library, in which I’ve invested several thousand dollars, that I use to study nearly every day. I love God. I consume the Bible and related books like a Donny Pauling eats a hotdog (yes, I just involved myself in my own made-up metaphor). Theology fascinates me. It’s Bill Giovannetti‘s fault that I love the Bible so much. I used to think the Bible was boring and stupid, even after asking God to take control of my life in 2006. But I noticed that Bill loved the Bible. He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and I couldn’t understand why he’d like such a stupid book. I asked. He didn’t answer. He just asked questions in reply, which must be the Professor in him, and those questions made me discover my own love for scripture (no, Bill’s not really all that happy that I want to be Catholic, but I am his friend and that won’t change).
Rather than feeling the normal Protestant prejudices towards statues and artwork, I began studying the history of why Catholics utilize them in worship. I began imaging what it would be like to be an educated priest, trying to teach illiterate people about God. Maybe I’d start painting things. Maybe I’d create statues. Maybe I’d enlist all sorts of other visual aids. God gave us five senses; maybe I’d try to engage as many as possible of those five senses into the way I led people in worship of Him. Such things have a long history, and as I’d sit in beautiful Catholic Churches, I could imagine myself connecting to all those who had lost their lives defending the faith throughout the past 2000 years. I could imagine myself as a man who had dedicated my entire life to bringing people to Jesus. I could imagine myself being a layperson who couldn’t read, reliant upon a church to teach me.
Now, I’m not saying everyone should feel this way, because I don’t believe you should. But I started getting really annoyed that our Protestant churches ignore so much of church history. It’s quite common for Protestants to accuse Catholics of not spending enough time reading their Bibles. I’d like to propose to you that Protestants don’t spend even a fraction of the amount of time they should in the study of church history. Really, outside of the textbooks we probably didn’t read in High school, the vast majority of Protestants are incredibly ignorant of what’s happened the last two thousand years, and even more ignorant of church history. But it’s so fascinating to do so! I highly recommend it. But beware! Removing ignorance just might result in a few changes of opinion!
A side note on that whole “Catholics don’t read their Bibles” thing: every single Mass – which happens DAILY, I might add – has readings from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Psalms, and the Gospels. Every. single. one. Without those readings, there is no Mass. A person who attends daily Mass, as I do (I’ll get to my reasons in a bit) goes through the entire Bible every three years. Some Protestant churches can say the same. Most cannot.
A few years ago I met Matt Fradd. I worked together with him on porn-related ministry events. Later, he went to work for Catholic Answers. We recorded CDs together. We debated theology. He had the likes of Tim Staples and Jimmy Akin – Catholic apologists – call me personally. Those men asked me questions. I sought answers. Many of my thoughts on theology deepened and changed. Much of my ignorance of Catholic belief changed. I began to realize that most people, particularly Protestants, don’t hate the Catholic Church for what it actually believes, but rather what they THINK it believes.
I also started to ponder a few things:
- Why would God entrust the Catholic Church to canonize the Bible, yet deny it the power to interpret it?
- For more than 1,000 years, until the Great Schism, all Christians were Catholic. Luther split from the church in the 1500s. Since then, more than 40 thousand Protestant denominations have arisen, each with their own unique twist on this part of scripture or that part of scripture, each with their own unique interpretations, and each thinking their twists and interpretations make them a little more right than everyone else. Is God really the author of so much confusion? I don’t think so. If Sola Sciptura is as valid as I’ve been taught, why attend any church at all? Why not just sit home alone, reading my Bible, just me and the Holy Spirit interpreting it together? Maybe I can figure out a reason why the Donnyism Denomination needs to add to the 40k denominations already in existence
- I was surprised at the response I received when I’ve mentioned to a few priests that friends have told me things such as, “Many Catholics don’t realize they can have a personal relationship with Jesus. The Catholic Church is the biggest mission field in the world right now.” Father James Mallon from Nova Scotia replied, “Both I, and the Pope, would agree with that assessment. Someone needs to help teach them, right?”
- I could criticize what I thought to be wrong about the Catholic Church, or I could get in and be one of those who worked to lead people to a deeper relationship with Jesus. Should I sit back and take pot shots, or roll up my sleeves and get to work? I am thinking I’d rather do the latter.
This is already a longer article than I intended, so I won’t get into theological issues. I’ll instead tell you a few personal reasons I love the Catholic Church, a love because of which I’m currently in RCIA, and they’re really not all that deep.
On Being Donny
On my own, I’m a mess. There is nothing of value in Donny minus God. I’m not really very nice. I get grumpy. I get angry. I’m impatient. I want to insult people. I label others idiots if they don’t agree with me. I am selfish. Donny plus God equals a tolerable person. I want to be tolerable. I want to help people. I want to do what I’ve been put here to do.
When I spend time with Him, it is far easier to see others through His eyes. I feel like I love people. I feel like I want to listen to them. I feel like I want to ask God what He’d like me to share with them. I feel less grumpy. I love more, period. And because of Him, I have something to give to the world.
I have a habit of studying at home. I do so a lot. But due to my introverted nature and the one track mindedness that comes along with it, when I’m interrupted, I often will become a bit grumpy. “Leave me the heck alone, Bethany… I’m trying to study. Figure that geometry problem out on your own!”
Daily Mass changes this. My morning routine includes dropping Catie off at the charter school she attends, then heading to the local Catholic church for Mass. Mass, my friends, is a prayer to God. It’s beautiful. It’s ceremonial. It has meaning. It is saturated in scripture.
For some, Mass might be TOO formal. For me, it reminds me of why I’m here. It focuses me on God. It’s a great way to start my day. I make better choices for the rest of the day if I start it with this time together with my Creator. Personal study is great, and I often do so afterwards for 30-45 minutes before I leave the building. But in my life, I’ve found Mass+personal study to be exponentially more effective than just personal study alone. And it’s pretty amazing to realize that the exact same order of service, readings, and ceremonies are being observed by millions of others around the globe. It feels pretty awesome to be part of something so big. So HUGE.
I’ve met some incredible people who are very, very close to God within the doors of the parishes I’ve attended. Are there things with which I still struggle, relating to theology? Of course. I chew the meat. I spit out the bones. I’ve found a place of trust, however, and on many things I choose to simply submit, trusting that my questions and struggles will be answered by the very loving God I serve. I’ve reached a place where I am not in a hurry for answers, because I love and trust Him so much and, from experience, I know He’ll answer in His own time.
And I’m totally good with that.