Because of a Call . . . or Not

Yesterday’s post—a question really about why you have converted, fallen away from the Church, reverted, or are considering any of the above—drew detailed responses. I offered the hypothesis that many YIMC readers find themselves near the banks of the Tiber, and throughout the day yesterday, people were shouting back and forth across the river!

This leads me to imagine a new function for this blog, as a forum for those moving in and out of Catholic Land, a sort of virtual brochure rack for those waiting for the ferry, in either direction: “Vatican City on $25 a Day,” “The Papacy for Dummies,” and so on. (Don’t know about you, but I can imagine this movie poster thumb-tacked to the wall of the ferryman’s shack.)

YIM Catholic began last August as a personal soapbox for yours truly. I was uncomfortable standing outside my church shouting conversion stories, so I took my soapbox on-line. If anyone wants a good summary of why I converted, it’s right here. Frank joined up in November, and his personal story of trying to prove the Catholic Church wrong—only to find that it is right—continues to unfold in the series “To Be Frank.” Chapter 1 starts in the oddest of places, the Harvard Five-Foot Shelf of Books. Most recently, Chapter 7 credits a more common conversion link, Thomas Merton’s The Seven-Storey Mountain. For Frank’s story, click on “2BFrank” in the list of topics to the right.

By the time Frank was on board, I had begun to develop a new phase in my own YIMC writing. I was moving beyond answers to “Why RU Catholic?” (I mean, how many reasons do you want from me?!) to an ongoing meditation on my daily life as a Catholic: what I heard at Mass this morning, the crazy things guys said at men’s group, the innocence and eagerness of my fourth-graders in CCD, books I’m reading, stuff I want to share—always through the lens of the fundamental question, why Catholicism makes sense.

To go through your day, every day, pondering just why you are Catholic is a blessed exercise, as I am finding.

But now a third chapter in the life of this blog suggests itself: While remaining a double-wide soapbox for Frank and me, it can be a forum for you as well. At least, that’s the message I take from yesterday. Your comments suggest so many interesting questions that concern and sometimes plague “Tiberians.” So, beginning right here and right now, I’m going to begin tweezing out some of these questions and posing them to the YIMC community at large (we few, we happy few).

Michael Halbrook wrote:

I’m intrigued by a question you didn’t mention, that I see my father (born, raised, and still Southern Baptist) wrestling with as he considers coming into the Church: How do you finally discern ‘THE CALL’? That’s his biggest hangup right now. He feels he WANTS to be in the Church, and he is at peace with the doctrinal and liturgical questions, but he says he’s still waiting for a bolt-of-lightning-like call. Did one or both of you have that moment when you really felt the call? Or was it a slow evolution that eventually made the need for the bolt of lightning less important? How did your discernment impact you, and vice-versa?

I’ve got to run to early Mass, so I’m going to resist the temptation to answer this question now. (You know I could.) I will comment later today. As I hope Frank will. And you . . . ?

  • Michael

    The internet and technology revolution harms the protestant sects. More and more, people who are Christian, but not Catholic, can access the great thinkers of the Christian faith. As a person with many protestant family members I have been informed that to the Protestant world, this is ALARMING. Thirty years ago, you had to seek long and hard to find a book on Aquinas, Augustine, or any of the great ancient fathers of the Church. Now you can find them at the click of a mouse. People who are seeking to deepen their faith historically, end up running into the great thinkers of the Church. They find these writings to be especially valid today; and, that is not what their respective Protestant churches have been telling them all these years. Once someone realizes that they have been held back from the beauty of the Roman Church, it's Art, architecture, Charity, Logic, Theology, and Joy… they find themselves at the banks of the Tiber, staring at Michaelangelo's dome. The Holy Spirit will work on each person in It's own mysterious way, but the free will to cross is left up to each person.Thank God for this technology, that opens the door of the history of the Christian faith, to all.

  • Fred

    Michael's father is right that doctrinal agreement and wanting to be Catholic are insufficient: a call is needed, which is to say the voice of Christ, his face. Growing up Catholic, I heard a lot about vocation (the call), and I also thought of St. Paul being struck blind on the road to Damascus. But the call comes to us through all things: through our desire and the needs of others, through our personal history and heritage, and through the tiniest details of our situation. If I were to make an analogy, it wouldn't be lightning but the current of a river (or a gravity well, to draw upon the little I know of time-space physics – LOL). It can be gradual at the edges but closer to the center… it's irresistable.

  • Webster Bull

    Michael, What a beautiful image, “staring at Michaelangelo’s dome”! How can anyone deny the enduring beauty of Catholic culture. Human history has never seen its like. And Fred, when I dashed out to Mass this morning I was thinking of writing what you wrote, only I'm not sure I would have expressed it so well. My call came, as you say, "through all things, heritage, history,and through the tiniest details." That's what my first 100 posts were mostly about. The littlest of becauses that answered the big why. Thank you both.

  • Frank

    I got the call, a wake-up call. It started with the Five Foot Shelf of Books (which includes Dante's Divine Comedy as well as Augustine's Confessions), led me to the public library reading through Mertons books as well as the Ancient Christian Writers series. When I read the Didache, it was all over. Written around 79 AD the Didache is "The Teaching of the Apostles" and is one of the first writings showing how the early Church actually conducted business. Baptism, the Eucharist, etc. All very Catholic, which is Christianity.

  • Anonymous

    Didn't comment yesterday because I couldn't put choice #5 into words succinct enough for the comment box. Standing on the edge of the Tiber, for reason #5, after a journey much like both Webster and Frank. One family member is in RCIA and so excited to join the church in April. I am praying for God's grace through the Holy Spirit to call on remaining members of my immediate family. (I've already heard the call, my #5 reason has to do with other family members.) I've been reading YIMC regularly for the past month and really enjoy it. Keep up the good work! God bless.

  • Walt

    I don't think a call is a prerequisite. If you've become convinced that the fullness of truth subsists in the RCC, that it is the authentic continuation of the 'ekklesia' founded by Jesus, then, according to what's taught in CCC 1776-1794 about making moral decisions, no further call is necessary in order to be confident that it is God's will for you.

  • Frank

    Here is what Walt is referring too:CCC 1776-1794

  • Ceile De

    I am between two minds. I live in Los Angeles so that may colour things. I grew up Catholic in Ireland and was an altar boy there, knowing only the OF. I gradually became estranged from the Church as bit by bit everything that was distinctively Catholic was removed – altar rails gone, saints' statues gone, barren church interiors, tabernacles gone, genuflection gone, Communion on the tongue gone, kneeling gone, vestments replaced by day spa robes – there was so little left by the end that it wasn't a big move – I didn't feel there was much left to leave!I attended the EF 2 years ago with my wife, who, under the influence of BXVI & the EF is now converting to the Church. It was at once strange (Latin, ad orientem) and familiar (reverent, Catholic). It took a while attending to get into the rhythm and silence but I feel I participate more actively in it now than at an OF with selected lay people running around everywhere 'ministering' and making lots of noise. There are, of course, some orthodox reverent OF's but I can never relax at them as I never know when or if (usually, when) the liturgical abuse will begin. At an EF, you get, as they say, exactly what it says on the tin: a reverent, orthodox Catholic Mass by the rubrics. So, thank you, BXVI, for Summorum Pontificum – it brought me back to the Church!

  • Michelle

    What first threw me off my protestant balance beam was an argument against sola scriptura that I couldn't answer. What made me first, officially desire to become Catholic was by reading the early church fathers – specifically this selection of Daily Lent Readings: Ignatius of Antioch's words sucked me in, completely baffling me in my (then) view of Christianity. Specifically, his words about unity with the priest/bishop and the eucharist. The Didache is also included in that reading, as the first reading, which is incredible to read especially given it's history (see Frank's post).

  • Michelle

    One of my husband's biggest concerns is the nature of the Eucharist – why can't we take it even though we believe in the church? We know what the church teaches, but why? This is probably the biggest thing keeping him in the Anglican church.

  • Laura R.

    Michelle,I think that the short answer to your question is that the Catholic Church's doctrine of the Eucharist differs profoundly from what is taught in Protestant churches, including Anglicanism. If you look in the Thirty-nine Articles at the back of the Book of Common Prayer, you'll find that the Anglican reformers specifically rejected transubstantiation, along with reservation and adoration of the Eucharist. Protestantism in general treats the Eucharist basically as a symbol — an important one, but still only a symbol. Catholics believe it is far more than that.I'm a former Anglican now in RCIA, and having to refrain for 9 or 10 months from receiving Communion after years of receiving it once or twice a week was a concern for me also. But I have to say that in my experience of the past few months, it has not been a problem for me. Ironically, I have found my sense of the Eucharist deepening as I have had to grapple with the Catholic teaching on it and have watched the reverence and devotion with which I see priests and laity approach it. Also, you can participate in Adoration even while you cannot communicate. Meditating on this great mystery at the heart of the Church while one waits for reception into the Church only adds to the sense of the greatness of what is involved.I hope this helps –

  • Frank

    Well put Laura. Like the Tom Petty song, the waiting is the hardest part. I waited 18 years, so a few more months wasn't gonna hurt. In a way, the waiting was a cross to bear, a dying to self because it wasn't my time to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist until the Easter Vigil. It was something I really looked forward to.

  • Webster Bull

    Laura, Thank you for replying to Michelle's question and her husband's concern. I didn't know how to answer her question. One of the beauties of this blog is that a community is developing around it (a small one, granted) in which individuals can help each other. Especially if we remember that we're all in the same boat–the one working the Tiber!

  • Janet

    Also Michelle, the Church teaches that when one receives the Eucharist, it is a statement that one is in union with the Church and the Holy Father. It's one thing to believe what the Church teaches; it's another to make that commitment that brings us into complete union.AMDG

  • Sandy

    I have been fretfully busy these past two days, and missed the original post. I can tell you these conversion stories, these stories of heart and soul about what draws or repels people, is why I come to this site. I hear passion and love for God behind your posts here.. and that is why I come. I am one who left the Christian church, Lutheran model, some years ago. I had to go to Eastern religions to find God again, it had become so blighted and twisted a picture of the Divine for me after fundamentalists and social conservatives took their time recrucifying Jesus and generally wounding the Church.I have not as yet returned, because I find my walk with God fruitful now, and can meet and commune whereever I may roam. And yet, as I have told all my friends, if I was to return, it WOULD be as a Catholic. To explain why would require several pages, but I find the leadership, the devotion of the members and the representation of the Divine Feminine to be the main reasons, in a nutshell.Anyway, keep doing what you're doing. It feeds this wanderer's soul.

  • Janet

    To get back to your dad's question, Michael, what IS the Call? You say he is waiting for the bolt of lightning, but that makes me think about Elijah. God wasn't in the wind or the earthquake or the fire, but in the still small voice. You say he WANTS to be in the Church. Well, I live around a lot of Southern Baptists, and if one of them WANTED to be in the Church, I'd say that was the still, small voice.AMDG, Janet

  • Sal

    I, too, missed the original post. As a life-long Chiristian, my problem was eccelsial. Specifically, were Anglicans Catholic? I finally decided that, no, we weren't- ending an interior debate that lasted seven years.It may sound fundamental in the extreme, but one of my deciding factors was that no one in my research could give me a satisfactory refutation of Matt 16. And by satisfactory, I mean an answer that respected grammar, syntax, common sense, history and didn't devolve into some variant of "Shut up-that's why!". So, my motivation was primarily intellectual and also a desire to obey what I saw as a clear directive from Jesus. I wanted to be a Catholic because not to be one was eating a hole in my conscience. I didn't want to be one because it would ruin important personal relationships, and it did. But there was nothing else for it.