by Reeza Joaquin on Friday, July 22, 2011 at 10:56pm
“I am a former Protestant minister.” The words sounded as if someone else had spoken them. I was in the office of the pastor of the local Catholic parish. At that moment, I realized that my whole life was defined in terms of what I used to be.
I had given heart, soul, mind, and strength to trying to make sola scriptura work. That pivotal doctrine of the Reformation proved to be a cruel mistress, seducing me with the promise of a pure and spotless Bride that never materialized. The pursuit of this phantom had occupied the best years of my life and drained the life right out of my family.
We Protestants had turned worship into a circus. There I was shipwrecked by the principle that if you want to stay pure, you have to keep splintering. But you can’t sail a toothpick. I found denominations as small as six churches that were splitting.
We were dealing with the authority of the risen Christ and His infallible Word. Thus if there were different confessions of faith that kept churches apart, someone had to be wrong.
I had to become an expert on other churches’ deviations from the Word of God; to avoid the sin of schism, I had to make them be the sinner. But on the other hand, I had to declare at least tacitly that my church did not deviate. Thus I became condemning and self-righteous, which I despised in others but could not see in me.
As an Evangelical Protestant, you typically define home as a place without repetitious prayer, without images and statues, without prayers to saints, without devotion to Mary, without priests, without an altar, without purgatory, penance, and confession. When you break free of that and begin searching for a home with all those things, you are left with almost nothing but arguments.
I felt like the prodigal son who grew tired of eating with the pigs.
I finally called Monsignor Laurence Higgins and explained that I was a Protestant minister seriously considering converting.
He cleared a space for me on his busy schedule and met me with a broad smile and arms wide open as I walked into his office. Earlier I had met with Father Philip Scott, who had his whole religious order pray for me. And through Monsignor Higgins, I was introduced to Bishop Thomas Larkin.
It took all three of these men of God to keep me in one piece while taking classes, working at nights and trying to find a new vocational direction for my life. During this time, I found great solace in the Mass, even though I could not yet partake of the Eucharist. I learned to pray the rosary. And I frequently went to sit before the Blessed Sacrament in any church I happened to pass.
When most of the dust had settled, Bishop Thomas Larkin took me through a condensed RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) program and arranged a private Mass for me to be received into the Church. On May 14, 2002, on the Feast of St. Matthias, I was welcomed into the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.
Monsignor Higgins sponsored me, and Father Philip Scott concelebrated with them this holy Feast where I first tasted what my soul had ever longed for: the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. I had earlier attended an Easter Vigil. It was the first time I had ever heard the Litany of the Saints. That tune is ever in my head.
I am not alone. I never was. And I never will be. I am home.
Our Lord told a parable about a man who found a treasure hidden in a field (see Mt 13:44). He sold everything he owned to buy the field. He was a wise man. I was a fool. He willingly sold all he had. I had to have everything stripped from me to realize the value of the treasure in that field.
Anyone who reads this, please understand. I have not lost anything. I have only gained. What the world sees as a little round wafer, I recognize as a treasure worth more than all I have. And as long as I live, I will ever praise my God for loving me enough to chase me into His kingdom.
Father Thomas Hickey, a former Baptist Pastor, was ordained a Catholic priest for the Diocese of Hartford, Connecticut, on May 16, 2010.