During Holy Week and Easter Sunday Mass, in Catholic parishes throughout the world, many pilgrims will be received into the Church. Most will have gone through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), a six-month study of the Church’s teachings and practices. This year I have the privilege of being part of the RCIA team at St. Peter’s Catholic Student Center at Baylor University, where as many as a dozen men and women will soon be entering the Church.Because it was five years ago this week that my wife, Frankie, and I decided to seek full communion with the Catholic Church, I have been reflecting on my own journey and the degree to which my own misunderstanding (and subsequent understanding) of Catholicism and its teachings were instrumental in both my departure to Evangelicalism in my teens and my return to the Church at forty-six.
Although I had attended Catholic schools from first through twelfth grades (1966-1978), my knowledge of Catholic thought was grossly superficial. Everything that I would come to believe substantively about Catholicism during my years of intellectual and spiritual formation as an Evangelical would come from Protestant authors, some of whom were deeply hostile to Catholicism while others were critical though appreciative.
I did earn my Ph.D. in philosophy at Fordham University (1989), a Jesuit institution, where I studied under the great Thomist philosopher, W. Norris Clarke, S. J. It was Fr. Clarke who helped fully convert me from a peeping to a convinced Thomist, though it was St. Thomas’ metaphysics and ethics, rather than his commitment to the Church, to which I gravitated.