Here the story moves along so quickly that I know I will skip things, either on purpose or accident. In my desire to get to the happy ending, I have the urge to, in the words of Prince Humperdink, “skip to the end,” and thereby gloss over some pretty important, but pesky details.
I’ll pick back up where I left off—with two overwhelming questions that were gnawing away at me:
1. Why bother going to church at all? Why not just take my newfound comfort with Christ and Christianity and just be at peace with it? What did the act of going to church provide that couldn’t be obtained in other, less organized, areas?
2. If there was a reason for consistent church attendance, which church should it be? Which one was right?
With growing misery and irritation, I returned to the intergoogleweb to try and find answers. I started with the denomination of my youth, Presbyterianism, but immediately came up against not only the issue of Predestination, but the fact that Presbyterians themselves couldn’t agree on what it meant.
I halfheartedly sifted through what the Lutherans and the Methodists and the Baptists understood about themselves and God.
It just got worse.
One day, I ran into the first anti-Catholic Chick Tract of my entire life (a happy little number called Are Roman Catholics Christians?). I’d never seen anything like this. Flipping through the pages, I remember feeling both repulsed and physically dirtied by contact with that thing. The reactions were so strong and so unexpected that the incident is firmly fixed in my mind.
Growing up, I had friends who were Catholic. My godfather is Catholic. Our neighbors were Catholic. I’d been to Catholic funerals and Catholic weddings.
None of it was enough to inspire me to learn about Catholicism. In fact, I had myself a nice, smug little set of preconceived notions about the Church that I summed up in one of my favorite phrases, “The Catholic Church is going to crumble under its own bloated weight. Maybe in our lifetime.”
Oh my gosh, readers, can you imagine what it takes for me to admit this? How vicious and gleefully ignorant I was about an institution that I never bothered to learn about? I figured I knew everything I needed to know—the Church hated women, sex, non-Catholics, and science. In fact, despite my growing appreciation for Mary’s faith, Catholicism never even appeared on my radar during my spiritual searches. How could it? How could I possibly consider a religion that was so out of touch with the world, so angry, so patriarchal?
And yet, reading through that ugly little tract, which vomited a level of hatred for the Church that exceeded my own stupid complaints, my reaction was one of indignation. I was offended, on behalf of a Church I knew nothing about, but still cared nothing for. For no other reason than to disprove the wild accusations of a poorly executed religious comic, I found myself turning my internet searches to Catholicism. Not to explore the possibility that it held answers to my questions, but simply to stick it to Chick Publications.
The first thing that comes to mind was learning that the Catholic Church understood two things about religions in general and itself in particular: one, that all religions contained some aspect of the Truth. Even if it was nothing more than a memory of a shred, there was still some Truth there. Two: that the entirety of what God has revealed about Himself to human beings has been entrusted to the Catholic Church. They even had a phrase for it; “the Fullness of the Truth.”