My Journey into Catholicism
It is not very common to see someone that grew up as a Protestant converting to Catholicism. In fact, I only noticed this when I started my initiation process by observing people’s reaction to my decision.
“You’re becoming Catholic?! How did that happen? What has changed?”
Well, this article is my attempt to register in, hopefully, not many words this one-year long journey until my Confirmation into the Roman Catholic Church.
It all started with liturgy. My interest in liturgy began when I, still Protestant, found out about and started using the Lectionary as a daily devotional tool. I wrote a previous article(in Portuguese) about this. It was the very beginning of the liturgical Year B (2017–2018), starting with the Advent season. Every day I would do my daily prayer time (or daily office) using this resource. As the weeks went by, I started noticing a few changes in my spiritual life. I liked it and I wanted more of it. So I began reading more about the lectionary and liturgy in general. One thing that hit me was that, although the use of liturgical tools certainly had a great impact in my devotional life, it really was meant to be used in a communal sense, in worship to God as the Church gathers every Sunday. It is as if my daily reading of the Scriptures would prepare me better for the communal liturgy. Reciprocally, the communal liturgy would better prepare me for my daily devotional prayer.
After failed attempts to implement this type of liturgy at the community I as part of at that time, I began searching for other Protestant denominations, initially, that had that connection between devotional and communal faith. Not surprisingly, I caught myself reading about the Anglican Church and its Book of Common Prayer. The more I read about it, the more I wanted to try it. Eventually I attended an Anglican service in my home town and I felt that connection I was looking for. At that point, Lent was about to start.
After attending the Anglican liturgy, I could not stop thinking about how it reminded me of a catholic Mass. (I had only been to a Mass once at that point in time, and it was by accident, but that’s a whole different story). I mentioned that Lent was about to start, and I had plans to attend the Anglican Ash Wednesday service, but because of schedule conflicts I would not be able to make it.
Then a thought crossed my mind: “why not attend the catholic Ash Wednesday Mass? The liturgy is so similar anyways… I could at least try, even it is just so I can cross it out of my list…” As a good Protestant at the time, I was concerned about it because of the “demonizing” picture that is painted of Catholics, especially in Brazil.
The day was February 14th, 2018. I intentionally went to a Roman Catholic Mass for the first time in my life. It was Ash Wednesday, and I chose to attend Mass at a parish far from where I lived so not to cause scandal in my former Protestant community. So I went to the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in the heart of Belo Horizonte.
I grabbed a bulletin with the order of the Mass and found a seat in the middle of the church next to a tourist (a very kind old lady that somehow reminded me of my deceased grandma, may she rest in peace).
The Mass was taking place and I was surprisingly not worried about the images of saints or any other peculiar Catholic feature there. Suddenly, after the consecration, it was time for the communal recitation of the ‘Our Father’. At that point, I felt completely at home, as if I was meant to be there. I felt an incredible sense of peace, as if God had indeed led me to that place (of course, now I believe He did).
After that, I continued doing the lenten reading and daily office at home. During this time, I also began reading and researching more about Catholicism, its origins, history, doctrines and, of course its liturgy. I also prayed to the Lord about it in the hope that He would clarify to me what that experience on Ash Wednesday meant and how should I proceed. Finally, during Holy Week, I went back to that same parish for liturgies of the Paschal Triduum. It was an amazing experience and after the Easter morning Mass, I had it somewhat clear in my heart that the Lord was leading me to the Roman Catholic Church.
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)
After attending the Easter Mass at St. Joseph’s, I decided to become Catholic. So, I promptly looked for the formal initiation process, which in the Roman Catholic Church is called the “Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults”, or RCIA, and it prepares adults from various backgrounds to receive the sacraments of initiation, namely, Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. The process itself consists of learning about Catholic dogmas, doctrines, sacraments, moral teachings, liturgy, and how to pray. Though I started the RCIA back in Brazil, at the same parish, in which I had all the aforementioned experiences, I concluded it here in the U.S.
Part 1. Baptism (St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Belo Horizonte)
From April to July of last year, I had weekly RCIA classes and learned about various catholic topics, especially in order to be (conditionally) baptized. I had a really great time there and it was there where I received and learned how to pray my first Rosary!
Part 2. Confirmation (St. Olaf’s Catholic Church, Minneapolis, MN)
Two weeks after my baptism, I moved to Minneapolis for my doctoral studies and had to continue the RCIA here. So from September of last year until last week, I attended the RCIA classes, which went in depth on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, highlighting how the commandments, sacraments, sacramentals, and other aspects of the Catholic theology impact our lives.
Finally, after a whole year of preparation, today I received the last sacrament of initiation, which is Confirmation, sealing me with the Gift of the Holy Spirit and empowering me in my walk of life as a fully initiated Catholic Christian. What a journey!
However, this is not the end, but the beginning of a cycle, in which I will experience more and more of Christ’s love for me. Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ!
Ad majorem dei gloriam,
Leo Rander is Roman Catholic passionate about liturgical theology and choral music.