I admit that I, and my family, can get frustrated by the Catholic Church. By all accounts, we are in a diocese that is none too friendly to former Protestant Clergy converts. As a result, my main qualifications that I spent almost fifteen years of my adult life building are null. Times being what they are in the rest of our nation's economy, being a former Protestant Clergy gets you about as far as being a former, unrepentant axe murderer. So it's with a certain amount of irritation that we struggle to make it month by month knowing that opportunities exist in the Church just down the street, and knowing that, at least in many avenues throughout our diocese, no one cares. Or if they care, it's to make sure that folks with a back story like mine remain on the outside looking in - at least employment-wise (this is not true when it comes to various annual financial appeals).
So why stay? Why remain when we are barely eking by, watching savings dwindle, watching our children's lives pass before us knowing there are so many things we had hoped to do with them but can't? Well, because in the end, I believed that the Catholic Faith was true. That's what brought me in. I didn't come in because of the job prospects. Truth be told, I only knew that priests had any jobs at all, couldn't be married, and since I was married to a wonderful wife of almost seventeen years, could not get a job in the Church. So I didn't expect anything anyway.
Did I hope something would happen? Sure. Did I expect to make this major life-altering move on the eve of the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression? No. That's why I don't gamble. That's also why I came in when I did. I merely followed through on a decade of growing difficulties believing in the Protestant approach to the Christian faith. As a former agnostic, I put aside the narcissism and hedonism that defined so much of modern American life. I wasn't willing to go back because I had an overwhelming belief in God as revealed through Jesus Christ. But the Protestant essentials - faith alone, Scripture alone, the existence of a thousand different denominations - all made me question the basis of the faith in which I found myself. Was I believing in something that had eternal roots? Or was I just following this or that religious leader who had the most charisma and the best arguments?
When I released the answer to the questions, I was given a choice: leave the Christian faith, or look for alternatives. Well, outside of Protestantism, the options for continuing in the Christian faith are limited. Either make my own denomination - which is becoming increasingly popular in a post-denominational landscape. Or look back young man. Look to the past. Look to, of all things, the historic faith as manifested in the Catholic/Orthodox traditions.
Obviously I did. And obviously I came to the conclusion that the historic faith is what was missing in my Protestant experience of Christianity. A faith rooted, with documents and proof to back it up, in more than just modern American life, historic American life, post-Renaissance Western Europe, or any one thing. It found its roots at the beginning, at the feet of Jesus who told Peter 'Upon this rock I will build my Church.'
Realizing that, I made the crazy and stupid decision to drop everything and come into the Church. Now, had I known a little more about how many full time pastors actually become Catholic (versus part timers, or non-pastoral ministers with outside incomes), I might have handled things differently. But I wouldn't have changed much, for I wanted my children to grow in the faith along with my wife and me. So no matter what, no matter how frustrating, I have to pause and remember why I came into the Faith in the first place. Not because of promises of wealth and prosperity. Not even because someone said I might get a job. But because I believed the Catholic Faith was True, the Truth, the prism through which reality is properly interpreted. Therefore, I must be patient, and prayers will be appreciated.