Friday, May 9, 2008

My conversion story

My story isn’t as extravagant as some converts. I grew up in the Mennonite faith tradition. It was about as far away from the Amish Mennonite you can get. We had TVs and tractors. I was happy there. What I experienced felt normal to me. Looking back I can remember sitting in the pew at the Kidron Mennonite church saying a little prayer like “thank you God for putting me in the right church”. “We don’t have any of the weird stuff like all the ritualistic tradition.” As I grew more I began to think well the Mennonite probably isn't the true church but such a thing probably didn’t exist anyway. This was about in the late intermediate school time period. When I was a sophomore my dad, mom and I decided that we would triple our dairy herd size. We went from 100 to 300 milking cows. We were farming about 420 acres at the time.  With everything going on we were so dead tired that by the time Sunday came around that we spent most Sundays sleeping. We didn’t have a church that said if you don’t go to church they you are sinning. So after a couple years of missing all but a few Sundays of worship, I had something in my mind urging me to read the bible again. This was about 1 or 2 years out of high school. I had read the whole bible once through before I got in high school but like many people it was boring, I was getting distracted when reading, and I didn’t get much out of it. After a month or so of this feeling to read the bible, I had an idea. I was too busy to read the bible and I never really liked reading but this idea was to download an audio bible. I had just gotten an mp3 player the Christmas before and I was sure with the technology around that I should be able to find something. I looked on the internet and I found one and it was at a very good price, free. I would listen to books at a time. It wasn’t boring and I was absorbing so much information. When I finally got finished with the audio bible I then thought. I have the bible now but now I need someone to explain it.
One night I got in late from working and I just turned on my tv for no reason. I didn’t plan on watching anything. I was tired and was going to go to bed but I decided to go through the channels anyway. That is when I ran across the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). I didn’t have cable so I didn’t get EWTN. I had been through all of the channels before and I never saw this station before. So I started watching a lot of pastors preach and I was getting fired up for Jesus. I knew that I couldn’t watch these pastors all day like I wanted to but I watched what I could. One day I was sitting in our feed mixer truck waiting for the silos to run out enough feed for the batch I was mixing. The feed was running unusually slow that morning. Sitting there listening to radio an idea came to mind. I wonder if there is something like TBN on the radio. So I started going through every station. I found one protestant station but it was playing music. I didn’t want to hear music I wanted to learn. So I kept looking and I went clear through the FM stations and then through the AM until I heard Catholic Answers Live for the first time. My first thought was ah Catholic, well, close enough. The questions they were asking weren’t all catholic anyway and I just loved the way the program was set up. I thought well maybe I can learn a little bit about Catholics since my aunt married one.
I really didn’t like the Catholic Church. I thought out of all the denominations that one should just cease to exist. They did such weird stuff. In my own words “the Catholic church is a whole other dimension of weird.” I got a call from an army recruiter one time and I just plainly said I’m not going to join the army. He asked why and I replied I’m a Christian I don’t believe in war. As a Mennonite that is what we believed. He replied well I’m Catholic. I just thought to myself, oh gee another one of those.
I never thought Catholics worshiped Mary but I knew they gave her way to much attention. I knew Catholics were wrong on confession because I thought at the time that there wasn’t anything in scripture even close to it. I never thought Catholics were going to hell. I never thought the pope was the antichrist. I never thought that the church was a cult or the whore of Babylon. I just thought they were Christian with a lot of stuff messed up.
As I started listening to Catholic radio I disagreed with a lot of things. I never intended to become Catholic. The thing that picked the church off the floor and put it on the table for serious investigation was John 20:23 “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained." Right there in scripture, support for confession. Where was that verse the last time I read John?
That verse was just the beginning. Was there any other possible interpretation? That was when I was introduced to the fathers of the church for the first time. I never thought of using the writings of the early Christians to see how they interpreted scripture. In fact I didn’t even know they existed. I started to discover that confession was being taught in the second century. I began to understand by the writings of fathers of the church the importance of the chair of Peter, the pope, and apostolic succession.
Understanding covenant theology was also key in conversion. It was the understanding that so many things in the old testament were fulfilled in the new. I always knew the new testament was fulfilled from the old but I never understood how connected they are. Confession was done in the old testament in Leviticus 5:5-6. Baptism was the fulfillment from the old testament circumcision. The Eucharist was the fulfillment of the old testament Passover. Mary is the ark of the new covenant. The chair of Moses was fulfilled in the chair of Peter.
All of these puzzles pieces were starting to fall into place. Things were making sense now. In my Mennonite tradition we had baptism and communion but they were pretty much pointless. The only reason we did them was because Jesus is so insistent in scripture to do these things. Why would he be insistent in doing pointless things is what I wondered in the pew at Kidron Mennonite years before I found catholic radio.
Once I realized that the Catholic Church was the church from the beginning, the rest of the church's teaching fell into place. If I disagreed with it then I would say “well if the Catholic Church teaches it, it must be right”. They have the authority to teach from Jesus himself passed on through the laying on of hands from Peter and the apostles to the current pope and the bishops. Once I learned more about the things I disagreed about I was no longer in disagreement.
I joined RCIA in January of 2007 and was recieved into the Church on March 22, 2008. It was the best decision of my life.

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