How I “Read” My Way to Catholicism


I’m always a bit jealous of those who have amazing conversion stories along the lines of Saul’s transformation on the road to Emmaus. Like the modern day conversion of Scott Hahn – his may not have been the conversion of Saul – he didn’t get knocked off a horse and struck blind while hearing voices –  but it was a conversion that required courage to forsake a comfortable life. You know the kind of story I’m speaking of – the one that grabs your hearts and emotions holding you in rapt attention until the end of the account. My conversion was nothing like that. Not at all.

I recently read The Catholic Gentleman’s blog post where he described his conversion as one of “reading his way into Catholicism.” That description fit me like a glove and is exactly what I did. The deeper I got into my reading, the more incapable I became of denying the fullness of Truth found in the Catholic Church. I suppose I’m just a little tiny bit like Scott Hahn in that regard {chuckle}. After all he “read” his way into Catholicism. However, he already had a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ – maybe he even has a “conversion” story that relates back to the beginning of the relationship he has with our Lord. But unlike Dr. Hahn and others, I “lost” nothing to become Catholic. I didn’t lose a previous faith – well, not one that was a significant part of my life and certainly not one that was the source of my income. I didn’t lose friends. I wasn’t shunned by family. There was nothing I had to overcome – other than my own doubts – in converting to Catholicism. Perhaps I had to swallow a little bit of pride in response to the surprise of some – after all I had been a fairly vocal (albeit unread and ill-informed) opponent of Catholicism.

When I say I “read” my way into Catholicism, I literally “read’ my way straight through to a Master’s Degree in Theology. I needed direction in my reading. Without the discipline of a degree program I would simply have had a few towers of books in my office and next to my bed and no deadlines to read any of them. I needed some guidance in navigating 2,000 years of Christian thought. I consider myself a pretty clear thinker, logical and rational. I’ve never believed in fairy tales, never much liked cartoons as a kid, don’t believe in horoscopes, don’t really care for science fiction. I am self-sufficient, adventuresome, and have always had difficulty asking for help. So I’m invariably taken aback when non-believers – whether they be of the agnostic or atheist bent – are so quick to judge believers as those who must be weak and stupid to believe in a fantastical myth about a guy up in the sky. That depiction of me couldn’t be further from the truth – as to my character or as to what I believe.

The non-believers in my acquaintance don’t care enough about faith in God to even consider it for themselves – seriously, they refuse to even engage in a discussion (it’s a “waste” of their time). Some drop snide little comments now and then simply in an attempt to provoke. Others find it necessary to comment how they don’t need “religion” – it’s being “spiritual” that counts or all that matters is “being a good person”. I find most non-believers have not seriously examined their thought – they haven’t determined what it is they DO believe, only knowing what they DON’T believe (and that not very well). They can’t articulate a coherent system of thought that guides their beliefs or their actions. I believe that a lack of rigor and laziness is more to blame for this lack of belief (no matter what they call themselves) than anything else.

The fact that I “read” my way into Catholicism helps me refute the false statements made by non-believers. But I don’t have handy in my back pocket that emotionally charged conversion story that will hold a listener rapt. Sometimes I am glad I “read” my way into Catholicism, but other times I wish I had a more engaging story to share with others, a better hook to engage my listeners. I suppose we all have our talents and being that the work is much we need many workers of varying talents. But even St. Thomas in all his brilliance had his mystical experiences. And I sometimes wish I had a more “exciting” story to tell. But at the end of the day, I have what I learned through my reading to carry me forward in my Catholicism. Mine may not be the personal testimony that is grounded in an emotional and mystical experience of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, it is just as valid any other conversion – a conversion that began through a rationally conceived philosophy of being and then took the only leap of faith possible – straight into the arms of Catholicism. I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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