Owen W. Swain at Luminous Miseries is one of those writers who at times makes you feel like you a sneaking a peek over his shoulder and looking at his diary. His deeply gifted personal writing style and artistic talents makes his blog a must read. In one recent post he says:
The honeymoon has been short. Baptism into the Catholic Church via the Internet can be a place of briny hot water. I should not have been naive about the unity of the Catholic Church. It’s a testament to Jesus’s grace that He loves us and we can only be glad that His Mom is not at all like the old women in the shoe. If it’s possible I covet her prayers to her Son for His help to be like her in example of loving all those who Christ has won for the Father.
I also once was pretty naive about the unity of the Church and that of Christendom. Though in my case it was Christian radio that was a place of briny hot water for me. My love of traditional Christmas carols drove me towards Protestant radio stations. Listening to the preaching between Carols was the sparked that moved me from an amorphous theism towards Christ. I was such a theological virgin that it was a while before I started to pick up the contradictions of what was preached one hour compared to another hour. The internet was not as much of a source to me in 1995 since content, searching, and connecting via a 14k modem was not ideal. As I devoured books in the religious section of the library again I started to really see the disunity of Christendom., though on many fundamental points I also saw the unity of Christianity.
My selections for reading was pretty hit and miss. At first it was mainly driven by Protestant preachers I had heard on the radio and later developed to whatever titles sounded interesting in that section of the library. So I cut a wide swatch through various denominations since I had no inherit bias towards any particular Churches other than my bias towards Christianity itself. Though over time I started to form a disposition towards books by Catholics. Reading St. Augustine one day and Pat Robertson another might not be a fair comparison, but it seemed to be the general trend I was spotting. There was a consistency in Catholic books that I did not find in Protestant writings. It seemed at times that you had to relearn Christianity from one author to another. Now of course I also found some bricks when it came to Catholic books. I actually read through books like Fr. McBrien’s Catholicism and some of Fr. Greeley’s books. Though luckily at this point my theological spidey sense started tingling and I realized that there was something amiss there. So began my introduction into the disunity of the Catholic Church. Soon after reading "Catholicism" I happened to pick up the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This for me put everything into perspective. The hit and miss theology I had been running up against fell against this cohesive whole of the actual teachings of the Catholic Church in one place.
Soon after this my family moved when I retired from the Navy and for the first time I had access to both EWTN and Catholic radio. I was still listening to Protestant radio and watching channels such as TBN, but again the differences between the two had me moving towards Catholic media yet again. Catholic Answers Live which had just started at that time was also a great help to me. Book references helped me to be more discerning in what I read. I only wish I had run up against authors like Frank Sheed and G.K. Chesterton in my library blitzkrieg. Though it was the recommendation Peter Kreeft’s Handbook of Christian Apologetics that really put a spike into my atheist skepticism and helped my intellect to catch up to where my heart was being lead. I found that Blaise Pascal’s "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing." to be very true.
That book by Peter Kreeft and another one of his called "Yes or no" was a real help since the majority of Catholic apologetics is aimed at answering objections by Protestants and not atheists. This is understandable of course though I must admit after hearing and reading so many Protestant converts it seemed that I needed to join a Protestant Church first before going to RCIA. Going form atheistic skepticism is both a blessing and a radical leap. From denial of anything supernatural to accepting not only the power of prayer, but indulgences, relics, and everything else that puts the modern rational mind on edge. Though of course some of these things also put the Protestant mind on edge also. When I was a kid I learned how to play tennis with other neighborhood kids. In high school I took a class on tennis and the instructor told me it would take longer since I had to unlearn what I had taught myself. So it is a blessing that I was able to enter the Catholic Church without having developed religious prejudices that had to be unlearned and overcome. Though there was plenty of secular prejudices and habits of skepticism to overcome. I have nothing but admiration for those converts who come out of other churches since I realize how difficult this can be, especially member of clergy who make the jump.
Introduction to Catholic radio especially Catholic Answers and EWTN’s Catholic Q&A showed me the internet’s "briny hot water" that Owen talked about. It didn’t take long to find out about the liturgical wars and the rampant dissent within the Church. I am glad though that my reading had fortified me in ecclesiology and the guidance by the Holy Spirit of the Church before I would have had a chance to be scandalized by disunity. From the outside it is easy to see why our sometimes petty bickering serves as an excuse for others not to enter the Church. Luckily God is not limited by our nonsense since he can write straight with crooked lines. My own crooked path was from wannabe hippie->bleeding heart liberalism->political agnosticism->materialistic conservatism->Randian Positivism->theism->Catholic Church.
I do wonder what I would have thought of Catholic blogs and religious blogs in general if they had been around when I was in my theistic search phase?