Today marks the ten year anniversary of our return to the Catholic faith after spending most of our adult life as devout evangelical Protestants. I have been pondering what to write about for some time knowing this anniversary was approaching. I'm still scratching my head wondering how to summarize our experience of living our lives as Catholic Christians these past ten years. I think it will be easiest to say that it was the best decision, by God's grace, we have ever made for our lives here and beyond.
The graces we have experienced through the sacraments, the intercessions of our new friends- the saints, and the beautiful devotions of Catholic life have truly been life-changing and wonderful.
We have both felt closer to the Lord and have had a desire to share Him with others in a way that we had never experienced as Protestant Christians. As our first pope exhorted the early Church, we too have been more empowered to "sanctify the Lord Christ in our hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh us a reason of that hope which is in us."
Our growing devotion and love for the saints, especially the one "who all generations will call blessed" has not diminished our love for God, but quite the contrary. Discovering the immeasurable congregation of righteous people interceding for us to run the race with virtue and holiness has been priceless. Studying the lives of those who loved God with all their heart, mind and soul has been such a great joy.
We are so thankful for the recent opportunity to take a pilgrimage to Italy to pray at the tombs of Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Pio, Saint Francis of Assisi and the newest saints- John the 23rd and Pope John Paul 2. Being in Rome and walking in the steps of so many saints and sinners was overwhelming and affirming at the same time. Seeing the physical and historical evidence of the Church started by Christ himself was truly amazing for us. Learning more about our salvation history by reading almost 2000 years of the writings of the Church fathers, saints, popes, theologians and mystics has helped us develop a profound respect and awe for this Church built upon the one who received the keys from the Lord himself.
Yet, the journey over the past ten years has not been without its difficulties and disappointments. I still grieve over the loss of close friends who simply disappeared "off the radar" of our lives upon hearing of our return to the Church or those who stayed in touch to condemn and criticize us. I am saddened to discover those Catholics within the Church who are essentially still "protestant", criticizing the popes and magisterium sowing discord and distrust in this very Church who Christ promised to always lead in all truth. (This applies to "progressives" as well as to some, not all, of those who would call themselves "traditional Catholics.")
Would I ever go back across the Tiber? No, I would not, I could not. In the words of my much better half: "I could not live without the Sacraments....because they bring me Jesus."