There I was, discovering my brand new "personal relationship with Jesus." I knew that I was on to something. Something unorganized, uncluttered, and unrestricted. It was just me and Jesus. Or was it? I thought that it might be a good idea to find out what other people who followed Jesus, without all the rules, believed.
It was time to get down to brass tacks. I would start asking around about doctrine. "Baptism is regenerative," some said, while others were saying "baptism is only symbolic." On purgatory, few said "there is a purgatory, see verses x,y, and z," while most said "purgatory is found nowhere in the Bible." Pretty much everyone I talked to agreed on one thing...Sola Scriptura. Okay, now I was getting nowhere. Back to the same old confusion that drove me away from Christianity. I prayed and I prayed.
I cruised right on through life. Whenever anyone would ask about my religion, I would say that I had been "raised Catholic," and change the subject quickly. Don't get me wrong, I was somewhat spiritual. I prayed and contemplated what was and was not God's will, and tried to live accordingly.
This actually worked for me for a while. It worked just fine, until someone started trying to really, really evangelize me. At first, I took it with a grain of salt. I would let the objections to Catholicism go in one ear, and out the other. Then, I heard an objection which I was certain was based on a premise which was entirely false. "Why do Catholics worship Mary? Don't you know that Mary is not God?" I was flabbergasted. I had never heard anything in all of my Catholic education supporting this. All that I could say was "We don't believe that Mary is God, and we don't worship her." The conversation ended abruptly and uncomfortably with that.
I needed some facts. I needed to know just what The Catholic Church teaches. Well, I ran an internet search, and wasn't satisfied. I changed the words around in the search bar, and tried again. I repeated this formula several times, checking all the links that returned. Finally, I found one that I was sure would be comprehensive, and authoritative: The Catechism of The Catholic Church. I began researching the validity of the basis for all of the objections to Catholicism which I had heard. Many of them, if not all, appeared to be straw men. What's more, this Catechism, had references to Scripture, in support of it's doctrine! Why hadn't I seen this document in my education? What other aspects of Catholic faith had I missed in my years of faith formation?
I found myself, for the first time, excited by The Catholic Church. One day, while doing a lot of driving, I accidentally found a Catholic station on the radio. I was thrilled. I started listening to E.W.T.N. radio whenever I was alone in the car. On one call in show, the host, John Martignoni, was talking about answering objections to the Catholic faith. He said that he had a website for his ministry the "Bible Christian Society," dedicated to explaining the Catholic faith and how it was indeed found in the Bible.
I began downloading the mp3s that were offered on his website. I listened to them, over and over again. I began checking the information in them against multiple translations of the Bible. It was all adding up, and much more fully than the verses that were being presented by those who objected to Catholicism.
The next time someone asked me a question which challenged Catholicism, I grinned, took a deep, confident breath, and began to explain why I believed what I believed. After that conversation, a couple of things were certain. I would go to confession as soon as I could, attend Mass, and take the Holy Sacrament, The Eucharist.