10 Years a Catholic

On November 16, I celebrated the tenth anniversary of my reception into the Catholic Church. In view of that landmark, I would like to offer some reflections on my experience as a Catholic. It has been a wonderful ten years, full of joys, sorrow, and even some surprises. Above all, it has taught me the value of hope.

I joined the Catholic Church (by God’s grace) because I wanted to be in relationship to Jesus Christ. My Christian experience before then was emotionally rich, spiritually and intellectually stimulating, but years of study had taught me that it was also fraught with difficulty. Key elements of my Protestant Christian identity could not be reconciled with Scripture, history, or logic. Catholicism, by contrast, had none of these problems. I saw that if I were to continue as a Christian – to be faithful to the teaching and example of Christ – it was Catholicism or nothing. I became a Catholic because it was literally the only way for me to be a rationally fulfilled, faithful Christian.

st. thomas aquinas

But my motives for conversion were not purely negative. I also began to see the intrinsic beauty and goodness of the Catholic Church. One of those good things, and one of my first great surprises, was the incredible sense of belonging, of connectedness that I received. As a non-Catholic, I had grown accustomed to interpreting Christian history through the narrow lens of a small denomination. Inevitably, this meant separating myself from the vast majority of what had always and everywhere counted as Christian. All the great accomplishments and contributions of Christianity to human culture belonged to “them” and not to “us.” But when I joined the Church, I suddenly saw myself as part of this vast and glorious history – not just some rarified version teased from history – but the actual, flesh and blood, real history of Christianity down through the centuries. It was (and still is) an exhilarating realization.

Nowhere did this realization come to me with greater force than in my first Holy Communion. St. Paul says, “We, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.” (1 Corinthians 10:17) When I went forward to receive communion for the first time I said to myself, “My God! I’m receiving communion in a Catholic Church. I really am a Catholic!” I had already come to accept the Church’s teaching on the nature of the Eucharist. But I was delighted by the sense of connectedness it gave me – to be sacramentally one with all the great saints throughout time.

Another great surprise was my experience of reconciliation. I already understood and accepted the doctrine. But nothing could have prepared me for the sheer awe and joy of hearing those words for the first time: “Through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Once again, I was struck by that sense of connectedness and belonging. Reconciliation comes through the ministry of the Church, that Church to which I now belong.

In my life, only a few words have ever rivaled those words of absolution. The other life-changing words are “I do, and “Daddy.” And here, again, I was in for surprises. Sometime after I was received into the Church, a good and holy priest advised me to have my marriage convalidated in the Catholic Church. At the time, canon law was ambiguous on whether this was necessary, but my wife and I decided we would rather have more grace than less and agreed to follow this priest’s advice. We spoke those words – “I do” – again, and this time before a minister of God’s Church. I could never have anticipated the grace and blessings that followed for my marriage and family.

I would love to tell you about more of the surprises I have had as a Catholic. I would especially like to talk about the blessing I have received from Catholic philosophy – especially St. Thomas – and how this has increased my faith in the reasonableness of Christianity. But space requires me to be brief. I shall say, instead, that ten years have taught me that the Catholic faith works and it works because it is true. At the end of the day, our motive for Catholic faith and life is supernatural transformation – to partake in the divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4) In my ten years as a Catholic, I have witnessed this kind of transformation in the lives of my family and friends.

I know that some people have left the church. Many criticize it. Many cannot believe that a society so human, so riddled with sinners, could possibly be from God. I understand that line of reasoning. But I find another point of view. How can something so human, so full of sinners, so many personal missteps – how can it do so much good? How can it be so beautiful? How can it continue to change lives so meaningfully? It can only be from God.

When you belong to the Catholic Church, you know that you are hooked up to the divinely ordained source of supernatural life. You have tangible assurance that God loves you and is at work in you. You can say with St. Paul, “Being confident of this very thing, that he, who hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

8 thoughts on “10 Years a Catholic

  1. Reply
    tom whelan jr - December 24, 2013

    i saw you on Marcus Grodi Journey Home I was impressed by your humility and exccitement you have for the Catholic Church. I also was taken by your knowledge of the Early Fathers and your special use of the Scriptures. Welcome Aboard to the Ark of Faith Sincerely in Christ Tom

  2. Reply
    David Anders - December 24, 2013

    Thanks Tom!

    Merry Christmas

    -David

  3. Reply
    James F Heffron - December 24, 2013

    I also saw you on EWTN and was impressed with your knowledge of Catholicism and scripture. You reminded me of another Christian scholar, Scott Hahn, who interviewed on EWTN many years ago. He too was a convert to Catholicism. I like many was born into Catholicism and only now appreciate the trueness and oneness of Jesus’ church which can be traced through the unbroken papal hierarchy to St. Peter. The Catholic Church provides the faithful with so many gifts toward salvation: the sacraments, sacred scripture, tradition, communion of saints and our Most Blessed Mother Mary.
    Unfortunately todays’ Catholics are not knowledgeable in their faith and do not appreciate the beauty and trueness of their faith and thus lose their way. May Christ be With You, Jim

  4. Reply
    Dan Kahlig - December 27, 2013

    Dear David thank you for your account of 10 years as a Catholic. I totally agree with you, and I’m so glad you and your family made the conversion. I’m sure you agree that we have a Great treasure in the Catholic Church and it must given away so others can know the beauty and truth of our faith. Unfortunately even my best efforts most times are not enough to lead friends and family to the church. It’s at these times that we must be reminded that even Jesus had people walk away from him.
    Keep up the good work David, I’ll be looking for more inspiring words from you in the future.
    Yours in Christ,
    Dan

  5. Reply
    Benjamin - December 27, 2013

    Hi Dav, I thank God for your life, your wife and children…I watched you on EWTN-Journey Home repeat programme this morning, and I reminded myself again that, I will remain a catholic and die a catholic. Why am I saying all these, most of the youth are turning away from the church in my country, Ghana and we need people like you to come and teach us the richness of our Catholic faith.Thanks.
    Benjamin.

  6. Reply
    Maria - December 31, 2013

    Jesus did promise… “Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.”
    You are God’s powerful tool because you have been to the other side and now you’re home. Most of us, craddle Catholics, do not know what the Protestants think of us. Everytime Protestants talk to me, they accuse me of doing something that are untrue. “You, Catholics, do this, do that… you worship Mary!” Now I understand why they are so misguided, misinformed. They might not like this but I will pray and offer 5 decades of Rosary for their conversion.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences and knowledge. I guess now, you feel that all that studies bear much fruit. Fruit that you can eat, that you can swallow. God bless.

  7. Reply
    Kathleen - December 31, 2013

    Hi David, I too saw you on Marcus Grodi’s “Journey Home” program and I too was reminded of Scott Hahn. I am looking forward to finding out more about your article’s and (books’s?) and speaking engagements. You explanations of church history and the reformation was made easy to understand.
    I have a dear protestant friend who frequently likes to say “as long as we love Jesus that is all that matters;” as though truth itself is not important. I think it could be a way of shutting down any further discussion. (Just in case). What would be an appropriate response to that comment? I noticed on the Journey Home program you mentioned that kind of thinking from protestants as one of the five beliefs that they cling to. Thank you for any insight into this you might have.

  8. Reply
    Matthew McCormick - July 1, 2014

    Dr Anders, thank you for your courage and integrity. Ut unum sint.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *