Over the next several Mondays I want to focus on some topics that were key in my journey into the Roman Catholic Church. A week ago today Charlotte and I were interviewed by Marcus Grodi for the “Journey Home” program that will air on EWTN, Monday, September 10, at 8:00 p.m. “A Sense of Belonging” was one of the things I talked about.
Early on in my journey, in December 2013, I picked up the book How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in Ninety-Five Difficult Steps by Christian Smith. I read it once, read it again to Charlotte, and then read it for a third time. I began to interact with his statements. The first statement was “Begin to feel rootless.” This I recognized as having to do with a sense of belonging. What I will share here is my journal entry on December 10, 2013 as I wrestled with that sense of belonging and something I will develop more deeply on the “Journey Home.”
To begin with, on a general level, I have always sensed rootlessness. I am a “third culture kid” (TCK), having been taken by my parents from our Midwest (Indiana) culture to the jungles of Suriname, South America at the age of six. I spent the next five years there before coming back to Indiana just before my twelfth birthday (in 1968!). I never felt that I belonged and didn’t understand why, until many years later after I had settled in New York City. I thought it strange that in 1987, at the age of 30, as I traveled to Costa Rica for language school I felt in a sense I was “going home.” Yet I never felt completely at home in the Latin culture, only more comfortable. While in college I took interest in my family history due in part to a feeling of rootlessness. I longed to know where I came from; where my family came from and what was their story.
I love history, especially church history and it was in my church history course at Asbury Theological Seminary that I first learned about Apostolic Succession. My professor, a United Methodist expressed some pride that he could claim “apostolic succession.” I wasn’t really sure what that meant or even if it was all that important, yet I wondered if I could claim the same. I pretty much figured out that I couldn’t. So, yes, even ecclesiastically, I have felt rootless.
This has increased even more as I no longer serve in a denominational setting, but as part of a non-denominational church that is a hybrid of many Protestant evangelical traditions. While I appreciate the openness to and practice of liturgy, it seems we constantly need to identify ourselves and find roots in the shallow sands of non-denominational Protestant evangelicalism. I have felt this acutely as we wrestle through issues such as homosexuality, women in ministry, membership requirements and even our preaching topics and schedules.
One of the great gifts that coming into the Catholic Church has given me is a sense of belonging–a deep sense of history–being part of the Church that Jesus founded upon his Apostles. Blessed John Cardinal Newman is often quoted, but it is very true: “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” A sense of history and belonging was a key component my conversion to the Catholic Church.