Growing Discontent

I quietly listened to the radio for months, never once mentioning my thoughts to my dairy. Distraction had come in the form of a small health scare over the summer. The first mention of my Catholic curiosity is a short entry on September 10, 2013:

“Had a beautiful experience this morning with music. As I drove to piano lessons I listened to recording of nuns singing hymns. This was inspired by the discovery of the Dominican Sisters of Mary from Ann Arbor Michigan. They recorded their mass and hymns. I turned the choral music up loud and went on my way. My car was no longer a vehicle getting me from point A to B in crazy traffic. It was a space of beauty and worship. Suddenly I felt as if I was no longer in the traffic and yet I could see it, the chaos of the morning commute all around me. It was very special and so incredible. I relayed this to my mom, she suggested quite seriously that I become a nun. Honestly I sometimes wish I could. We both laughed as I am quite independent and not Catholic.”

I had discovered the Dominican Sisters because the Austin American Statesman had written an article about their music and their plans to build outside of Austin. Being a musician and lover of classical music, I started to listen to their CD. The beauty of the music, the Latin, the reverence filled a hole that had long begun to grow inside my heart.

An incredible discontent with the Protestant church had been festering inside of me. Festering is the only word appropriate for the issue. I was increasingly angry with the trend chasing, constant changing, and Millennial obsessed churches. Music was loud and obnoxious and not all that different from pop music. Church life seemed to be more focused on becoming awesome for God and going on grand adventures, than being the humble servant the Bible calls us to be.

I began to bemoan the loss of the neighborhood church, cracks of Catholic ideas on Tradition peeking through in my personal writings. “Everything is constantly changing because in this set up [modern worship/mega church styles] you have to be cutting edge in order to keep the people coming. In a liturgical neighborhood church model the format is soaked in decades, even centuries or millennia of traditions. That constant beauty and ordinariness and freedom… I’m positive this model is not perfect, none are, but I strongly believe it produces a healthier environment. They are grounded in their tradition and do not need to ‘market’ church or Jesus.” (Oct 25, 2013).

The next day I got honest with myself in my hunt for the right church. “I don’t always know what I want but I’d rather agonize over finding it than settle. I think I am in this period of my faith. I am not sure what kind of church I want but I’ll know it when I get there. At least I have a rough idea of the denomination I want to be apart of. Anglicanism is full of rich tradition and history… I am not worried that there will be a sudden change in format. Plus, from what I understand, the theology is Biblical. Hopefully I don’t find something theologically off base that throws me off the course. But I have to admit that deep down I want to be Catholic…I am very ‘Catholic Curious’ but I do have issues with theology about Mary and the Saints. But their institution intrigues me. I love the idea of priest and monks and nuns. I love the security of their history. There’s no change they would suddenly veer off track. Until end times of course. From what I understand, the False Prophet will be a bad pope but I am not 100% positive about that. I  think the Anglican Church will do. We will see.”

The rest of the fall was a struggle to commit to church. I agonized over it – flipping back and forth between a Mega Church and the Anglicans. The Mega Church was passionate about Jesus and talked a lot about missions, but the pace, the music, the search for “relevance” exhausted me. I longed for beauty but not at the expense of Jesus’ call to the hard stuff – the mission work, the sacrifice, the Bible Study.

The desire for community and connection with not just my fellow worshippers but also the leadership of the church lead me to the Anglicans. I was able to meet the pastors and have conversations with them and not feel like I was imposing on them or keeping them from the thousands of other members who wanted their attention. I admitted a little of my struggle to the pastor and he recommended I read Beyond Smells and Bells , a book explaining various liturgical practices.

I read it in a few days and thanks to Amazon, I quickly downloaded two or three other recommended books, including a book explaining the liturgy from a Catholic perspective, written by a former Protestant. Suddenly I was reading Catholic Apologetics. Downloading them to my kindle (I prefer actual books) in order to hid my secret longing.

On January 1 I wrote – “Life is strange. Jan 1 finds me devouring book on Catholic apologetics. I have read 2 both written by former Protestants, in 3 days. Ever since Pope Emeritus Benedict retired I have had an increasing fascination with the Catholic church. I cried when I saw the white smoke at the Vatican a few weeks later. Something in my heart stirred. But I am a Protestant and quickly remind myself that Catholicism is seeped in superstition and idol worship. During all of this I found myself listening more and more to Catholic Radio – mainly because they talked authentically about sin and grace and works. They were honest and reverent. I felt that most evangelical radio was cheesy and often silly. Unusually upbeat no matter what. I also started listening to the recording of some nuns from Ann Arbor… I found as I listened to the priest and lay Catholics that much of the ‘heretical’ ‘works based’ Catholic teaching I had been taught by Protestants were actually not true. I found the Catholic to be honest, grace-filled, Christ focused, sin acknowledging, hard working, good works doing people. I was intrigued. Then on Dec 30 I randomly felt a strong urge to learn more about Catholic theology. I also randomly found a cheap book on Amazon called If Protestantism is True. I downloaded it and read it within 36 hours.”

In this book I had answers to questions I had always had but was never able put into words. It lit a fire and I began to read constantly, searching and searching and searching.

Catholic Radio

In September of 2011 I had purchased a barely used sports car. My Mini Cooper had died on me. I had it towed to the local BMW dealership and traded it in for a sleek, light blue sports car with less than 20,000 miles on it. It was one of three used cars on the lot. The previous owner had purchased it but then decided she wanted a Mini instead and traded it in. She must have prepaid for a couple years of Sirius XM radio, because I had it long after the typical “trial period”.

At the time I didn’t think much of it, but discovering “The Catholic Channel” on Sirius XM would end up become a key player in my spiritual journey. Another small, seemingly trivial moment that carried with it eternal consequences.

I was flipping through the news channels and scrolled a few channels too far. In reality, I landed on just the right station and heard a priest reviewing the news. If I remember if it was Fr. Jonathan Morris, who was a program director for the station. I don’t even remember what they were discussing, but I listened. And listened. And listened. Every moment I was in my car I was listening, analyzing, and wondering why the pope resigned. I would listen on the way to work and while I ran errands and on the way home.

Looking back over my journals, I did not write at all about the start of this journey. I barely mention the resignation. But I will never forget the feeling of embarrassment I felt after weeks of listening to the radio.

In between the announcement and the actual resignation, I realized that a lot of the Protestant myths surrounding Catholics were incorrect. I do not believe these myths were necessarily taught by Catholic hating heathens who wished to do harm (though I have encountered a few people like that), but I had a feeling that much of what was passed along to me had been merely passed along by the previous teacher, and to them by their teacher. Maybe intellectual laziness prevented people from really diving into the information they had been given. I know I swallowed it whole, without any outside research, and I proudly proclaimed it as fact.

And now, this radio station was destroying my world view. Each day I heard scripture read, the Gospel proclaimed, and Jesus glorified. My previous understanding had been that Catholics really only care about Mary and the Saints and that they never read the Bible and that they only care about their traditions and institutions, putting their ritual above all else. What I found was quite the opposite!

The truth was unnerving. It is a horrible feeling to realize that you have strongly believed something so grossly incorrect. My mind raced to my few Catholic friends – how sad I was to have misunderstood their faith. And how patient and graceful they had been with me.

This experience did not immediately lead me into the Church – the discovery of the Catholic’s love of Jesus and Scripture did not instantly negate the misunderstandings I had about Mary, the Saints, and the Pope among other things. But it began a quest to correct my misunderstandings.