Robin writes: St Paul Pilgrimage – preface
I wanted to begin this blog with my conversion story. For some of you, you may stop reading here but I encourage you to continue. This is my second pilgrimage with Steve Ray and his wife Janet. I choose to travel with him because I would not be a Catholic today if it were not for him.
I was raised a Catholic but I never understood my faith; I thought it was boring. My best friend was a Lutheran so I started going to Protestant churches as a youth. I had stopped going to Mass when my father got tired of trying to wake up a young girl who feined sleep every Sunday morning.
I went to a weekend retreat with my friend and got “saved” around 12 years of age, and during my young adult years went to various churches, including Assembly of God. After I got married I took the kids to Sunday school, at times changing churches to find one I liked.
I drifted away from church throughout my life but returned to stay about 13 years ago. My drifting days were over and I knew I would always be a Christian. But I still could never find a church that I really felt was perfect for me, always trying to find the right sermon or right pastor to follow.
Several years ago I started a new job in an outpatient facility. I was pleased to find out that I shared in common an interest in religion with a co-worker. I asked him where he went to church, and he told me he was a Catholic. I was disappointed, and told him I was once a Catholic but left that church. He asked me why, and I mumbled something about Catholics worshipping Mary and praying to saints. “None of that is in the bible” I told him.
Well, was I in for a surprise!! He loved being a Catholic and for the next two years I worked there he invested much of his free time teaching me the truth; I had absolutely no knowledge of the beauty of the Catholic faith. In short, I learned that Christ appointed Peter the vicar of His church (the first Pope) when he named him Petros (Peter) and said “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” Matthew 16:18.
I learned that the Catholic church teaches both tradition and scripture because the bible wasn’t compiled for a few hundred years after Jesus was resurrected; in fact at least 60 years after Jesus left nothing was written down, which is why the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 “So then brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter”.
I learned that the Body and Blood is called the Eucharist and is not a symbol, but is transformed during the mass into the actual body and blood of Christ. Jesus states in John 6:52 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; ? he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. ?For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. ? He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him”.
When Jesus taught this to the disciples, many walked away disgusted. If he had meant it to be symbolic, He would have corrected himself and gone after them. Instead He turned to the remaining 12 disciples and said “will you leave also?” Which is when Peter said “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”. I wondered why no one in Protestant circles noticed this obvious passage?
When I questioned under what authority priests can hear confession and forgive sins, my friend had the answer for that too. He pointed out to me the words of Jesus to his apostles on Easter Sunday in John 20:22-23 “Peace be with you!” Then he breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained”. Confession is one of seven sacraments through which we receive God’s grace in the Catholic church.
He taught me many other things, more than I can write in this preface. That Catholics do not worship Mary, they simply revere her as the Mother of our Lord and we can pray for her intercession. Likewise we do not pray to saints in lieu of Christ, but we can and should ask a favorite saint to pray for us, which is no different than asking your friend to pray for you but much powerful because the saints are in heaven and “the prayers of a righteous man availeth much”.
Revelation even testifies to the fact that the saints are in heaven praying for us and that their prayers go up as incense before God ? Revelation 5:8 “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints…”
I was leaving for the summer to spend it in Utah and my friend gave me Steve Ray’s book “Crossing the Tiber” which is his conversion story written to his parents. He and his wife Janet were evangelical Protestants and his Dad was a Baptist deacon. He had spent much of his adult life trying to convert Catholics to Protestantism, convinced they were going to burn in hell for their heresy. I took the book but I never intended to read it; I still wasn’t sold on this Catholic thing, although I was starting to have doubts in my heart.
I read that summer during my free time and after the intro I started crying, and cried through much of the book. He wrote the book to explain to his father why he had decided to join the Catholic Church, knowing how it would literally kill him. But after hours, days, months and years of studying the early church fathers he could not deny that the church Jesus founded was the Catholic church and that it is the only surviving religion dating back to Christ, virtually unchanged as taught by the apostles to their disciples, who are the early church fathers.
I could not believe that you could actually read their writings today (Jerome, Ignatius of Antioch and many more) and that all the writings confirm what the church teaches today about baptism, the Eucharist, Saints, the order of the Mass, the sacraments and more. I was astounded and also angry that the Protestant church had twisted the words of scripture to deny the truth. Even Martin Luther himself revered Mary and said at his death that it was not his desire to start a new religion or start schism.
So that is my story. I went to RCIA and was accepted into the church at Pentecost. I no longer have to search for a church, the mass is celebrated in every Catholic Church around the entire world with the same prayers and readings every day of the week. You can go to Mass daily if you wish; the doors are always welcoming you. In fact, the entire bible is cycled throughout a 3 year period so if you do the daily readings you will read the bible several times in you lifetime. Whoever said Catholics never read the bible?
Recently I was blessed to travel to the Holy Land with a Steve Ray pilgrimage where the origins of the Catholic Church cannot be denied and look forward to sharing this St Paul pilgrimage with you, where I will have the opportunity to see more holy sites and grow in my faith as I journey with fellow pilgrims following in the footprints of St Paul. Thank you to my family for allowing me to go on this journey and blessed be God forever.
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