This is the first Catholic by Grace article - published in 2005 in The St. Louis Review. Since then, Catholic by Grace articles have appeared in over 43 diocesan papers in the United States.
There is such wealth in the writings of both early and recent Church fathers.
I am the daughter of a Protestant minister, a recent convert to the Catholic faith, and it saddens me that the lives of these holy men and women never reach the eyes and ears of Protestant laity. I must ask myself why these treasures are kept hidden?
The only answer is that the Protestant founders wanted to close all doors that might lead Protestant laity back to the Catholic faith. Until 24 months ago, I had never been exposed to anything written by any saint – I didn’t even know their names!
Each of us is born into a faith culture; each of us inherits a pool of theology by the lottery of birth. Protestants are taught to be faith seekers – but within the limited pool of truth in which they are born. By limited, I mean not only within the Protestant branch of Christianity, but also within the denominational splinter to which their family clings.
How can we reach Protestants who are confident that their pool of faith is complete? Specifically, how can we get them to be willing to swim for a while in the pool of Catholic faith?
If we give them a day pass to Catholic waters – through the writings of such converts to Catholicism as G.K. Chesterton, David Currie, Marcus Grodi, Scott Hahn and Cardinal John Henry Newman (now Blessed John Henry Newman), among others – it is doubtful they would ever want to go back to their swimming hole. We may also suggest they read Confessions by St. Augustine as well as The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross, writings that were especially meaningful in my conversion.
A year ago, a member of my parish invited me to accompany her to perpetual adoration. I found myself wondering what might have happened if a Catholic friend had invited me to pray in this manner years ago.
It may have broken through my Protestant self-righteousness. I might have realized that Protestants had no corner on the market in the area of prayer. Perhaps I would have questioned my own prejudice, realizing that Catholics do have a very personal relationship with the Lord.
Would I have asked myself if I was willing to give up the hour between 11 and midnight every Monday night in order to make my way to the church just to sit in the Lord’s Real Presence?
A few months later, my RCIA leader lent me a book, Father Elijah, by Michael D. O’Brien. It might be the best work of fiction I have ever read – no hyperbole intended. I have a master’s degree in literature, and prior to my conversion published an article on Christian fiction – of the Protestant variety. Nothing I’ve read in the past, secular or spiritual, compares with the treasure I found in Father Elijah. Consider lending it to a Protestant friend, and tell him it’s better than the Left Behind series – because it is.
An invitation to perpetual adoration and handing a Catholic book to your separated brethren might be two of the best ways to help your Protestant friend begin wading in Catholic waters. The true seeker, even though he was born into Protestantism, will naturally be drawn to the deep end of the pool of truth. He just needs to get his feet wet.
You can help.
(If you're Catholic and you've never told anyone how great it is to be Catholic, that's worse than having a closet full of new clothes and being unwilling to share one shirt with the poor. We have no right to keep the Good News to ourselves. Lent will be over in a couple of weeks. Make a point to tell just one person how blessed you are to be Catholic!)