One Sunday I made a decision I still do not understand: I decided to pray the Rosary every day for a week to see if I would receive any illumination in my struggle. I had never prayed a Rosary and was still uncomfortable with Marian devotion … I prayed the Rosary the next day, and again the next. At the end of that third Rosary, my “week-long” prayer had been answered: I knew that I should become Catholic. After two years of arguments and struggle, it took Mary only three days to show me the path to her son: the Catholic Church.
by Eric Sammons
GAITHERSBURG, MD (Catholic Online) -- Manicured lawns, kids playing in the streets, and dads barbequing in the summer: I grew up in the quintessential suburban American neighborhood. Each family was similar to the next, having the same values and outlook and each relatively the same size. One family on my street, however, broke the mold. Instead of the standard two or three children, this family had seven. I remember asking my mother why that family was so large, and her simple answer was, “Oh, they’re Catholic.” Knowing little of Catholicism and even less of how children were conceived, I figured that these “Catholics” must have a better relationship with the stork than the rest of us.
Though I’d learn soon enough how babies came to be, my ignorance of Catholicism persisted, mingled with some minor, usually stereotypical, details. I knew that Catholics took a different view of alcohol than the folks at my church, and I heard rumors that they had even added a few books to their bibles, but in general I was woefully ignorant of this church -- it may have had over a billion members, but I personally knew very few of them.
My own religious upbringing was garden-variety American Midwest: membership in a conservative Methodist church with Evangelical leanings. In my sophomore year of high school I made a public decision to accept Jesus as my “personal Lord and Savior”, and although this led me to abandon my nascent flirtation with partying, in general I grew in my Christian faith as most do: slowly and with a lot of missteps. But by the time I got to college I recognized the inadequacies of an immoral lifestyle, and a passion for the Bible had given me a deep, if narrow, appreciation for theological topics.
Up the Exposure
In college I became involved in Christian groups like Campus Crusade for Christ which I figured had the same outlook on life and the faith as me. In my naivety I assumed that all “real” Christians had basically the same theology. I took for granted that what I had been taught growing up was the same faith held by the apostles and most Christians through the centuries, including such luminaries as Martin Luther and John Wesley. Instead of fitting comfortably into a homogenous group, however, I got to know a broader range of Christians than I had ever experienced. I met people who professed Christ but who held a wide ranges of beliefs: traditional, progressive, “high church,” “low church” and everything else imaginable.
But my exposure to committed pro-life Christians impacted my life like nothing else. Until this time I had considered opposition to abortion simply another political issue, joining a list that included support for supply-side economics and the need for a missile-defense system (hey, this was the late 80’s). Suddenly I realized that legalized abortion was absolutely antithetical to the Christian Gospel. The full implications of this truth would dawn on me slowly, but I dove headfirst into pro-life activities, determined to do my part to end the scourge of abortion. Political campaigns, prayer vigils, demonstrations and even Operation Rescue events -- nothing was too much for me when it came to working against abortion.
My pro-life activities also exposed me to fellow Christians with intense prayer lives and deep theological knowledge. My Christian upbringing had had a bit of a social club feel: you join a church because that’s what respectable people do to hang out with like-minded individuals. But now I met Christians for whom following Christ wasn’t always comfortable (picture standing on a freezing sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic while people call you a fanatic or worse).
Following Christ meant a radical reconfiguration of their lives. Yes, they were flawed and limited human beings, but they were not Christian to be respectable, they were Christian to be saints. And one thing I began to notice was that the majority of these people -- and all of those with a deep prayer life -- were Catholic.
Thus began my education into the reality of the Catholic Faith.
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