It’s hard to believe that this Easter marks twenty years as a Catholic. When I first joined the Church, I was coming from a position of relative theological strength: I had been raised in a melange of Protestant schools and a great United Methodist church, had majored in religion in college, and was about to graduate with a Masters of Divinity from a United Methodist seminary (with an honors thesis on Catholic social thought). So joining the Church wasn’t a marker in a major Saul-to-Damascus conversion. It was more of a reasoned decision.
Besides the obvious factor that my bride and I wanted to worship together, whatever the denomination, and she was a devout Catholic, I had my reasons. They were mostly reasons of the head, not the heart: I was attracted to the universality of the Church, the thought that people across the world were reading the same readings and praying the same prayers. I appreciated the historical continuity of a Church who traced it’s start to Peter. More concretely, I preferred the style and schedule of worship: short homilies, services throughout the day and evening, getting to move around in worship a little.
Those aren’t terrible reasons, but they aren’t the reasons I have grown to love being Catholic. Over the last two decades, my faith has gravitated south, from my head to my heart. I still value the intellectual challenges that Church teaching offers, but I have grown to feel Christ’s presence in the Mass. I feel the power of the sacraments. I’ve adopted the universal Church as an extended family, with all the discord and dysfunction that any family of a billion people brings. The Church feels like home. Because I travel, I get to see it manifested in different communities across the state, and in other places too. I love learning about the strengths and the quirks of the saints who came before us; they are like distant relatives. When we travel as a family on vacation, mass in another community’s Church is a delightful mix of familiar and foreign. I love the sights, sounds and smells of each sanctuary.
I still love the back and forth of a rich theological tradition, particularly as it pertains to social justice issues. I hold those I agree and disagree with in true, personal, fervent prayer; they are my brothers and sisters. Lately I have gotten hooked on Vatican Radio’s newscasts, for the international news that gets short shrift in the local paper but much more for the reports on what Pope Francis is doing now, as well as what bishops, priests, religious, and regular lay people around the globe are doing to serve the same Lord. With no disrespect to my Wesleyan heritage, I can say: It is family. It is home.