How the Catechism Made Me Catholic

I remember looking down and seeing blood on my hands. My head was still spinning from the line of cocaine that I snorted in the bathroom. The prostitute I just had sex with was face down on the bed, murdered. Did I do it? I couldn’t remember. I heard sirens outside and footsteps running up the stairs to my apartment. That was the moment that I realized I needed a Savior. I needed Jesus.

Okay, none of that is true.

Truth be told, I have a very boring conversion story: I always loved Jesus. And then I loved Him more.

I was the good kid. Never drank. Never did drugs. Knew to save sex for marriage. In fact, I lived in fear of letting others down: my parents, my teachers, or even God. I was a straight A student and prayed every night.

So it might not be a surprise when I tell you that one of the most exciting moments in my conversion is when I did something that many consider boring:

I read the Catechism.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but the English translation was released in the spring of 1994. I was living in Orlando, Florida bouncing between two jobs. Some evenings I would play in bars with my band, “The Crowd.” Other evenings I worked at an improvisational comedy club. No matter what I did I was usually out until one or two in the morning, followed by a late night/early morning snack at the only restaurant in the area opened 24 hours—IHOP (which is where I often encountered a young Shaq and his entourage, but that’s another story.)

Getting home at 3 AM I’d turn on the TV and watch CNN, the only thing that was on. And one evening/morning they reported that the Catechism of the Catholic Church was coming out on Tuesday, the first time the Catholic Church had a universal catechism in 500 years. I didn’t know what a “catechism” was, but apparently it contained all the official teachings of the Catholic Church. I knew I wanted it. No, I knew I needed it.

You see, though much of my family was Catholic and I attended Catholic schools, I never really felt like I knew for certain what Catholicism was all about. The only time I heard about the Eucharist was in a Humanities class when the teacher asked, “Do you realize that the Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Christ, not just a symbol? How many of you believe that?” And none of us raised our hands because we had never heard that before.

I had been blessed to have many friends who were Protestant, all of whom professed at times to know what Catholics believed. “You Catholics worship Mary,” one would say. “You think you’re saved by what you do, not by God’s grace,” would say another. This didn’t sound right to me, but I didn’t know how to defend it.

So to finally get the low down on what the Church actually taught was really exciting. I made sure on Monday night to set my alarm to get up early and head to my local Christian bookstore to get the Catechism.

But here was the thing—my local Christian bookstore didn’t carry it. “You should try a Catholic bookstore,” the woman at the counter said.

There are Catholic bookstores? This shows you how out of the loop I was.

So I drove around in haste to find my local Catholic bookstore. I was worried, assuming that every Catholic in Florida watched CNN and would buy up all the Catechisms before I could get one.

I eventually found “The Abbey Catholic Bookstore” in a strip mall squeezed between a pharmacy and a party supply shop. It was so small it felt more like a closet than a store. I remember lots of dark wood, crammed shelves, and no windows. But there on the counter was a stack of the book I coveted… The Catechism of the Catholic Church. I was clearly the first person to get one that day.

Immediately I bought it and took it home. I couldn’t wait to read it. I sat on my couch and looked through the index. There were some immediate questions I wanted to know the answer to: Was the Eucharist really the body and blood of Christ? (Answer: yes!) Do we really worship Mary? (Answer: not in the same way we adore Christ.) And what does the Church actually teach about sex? (Answer: Uh… you should just read it yourself!)

The answers made a lot of sense to me. It was like this book could articulate the things I always believed but never could explain. But once I had my questions answered, it started asking me things: Why did the Word become flesh? What is the purpose of life? Why do our prayers go unanswered sometimes?

As I read the answers, I grew deeper in my faith and fell more in love with the Catholic Church. If you asked me what I believed before the Catechism came out, I would have said I was a Christian who happened to go to a Catholic parish. But after reading the Catechism, I was Catholic.

I’ll never forget going to a Holy Thursday Mass a few weeks after I began reading the Catechism. They processed the Eucharist around the Church and reposed it in the Eucharistic Chapel. I followed it, fell to my knees, and wept. All I could say was, “You are God, You are God, You are God…”

And it was all because of the Catechism.

I know some people only use the Catechism to get answers to things they’re confused about. That’s not a bad place to start. But don’t just use the Catechism to get your questions answered—let it teach you about the faith.

At the end of every section is a summary of what it just taught titled, “IN BRIEF.” Start there. Make it a habit of your daily prayer to read just one IN BRIEF, and watch how your understanding of the faith deepens.

Speaking of prayer, many people suggest that you should start reading the Catechism at the last part, the one titled, “Christian Prayer.” I used to just make up prayer as I went along. But the Catechism gave me the wisdom of two thousand years of saints on how to grow more intimate with God, and my life has never been the same since.

The whole purpose of the Catechism isn’t to fill your head with religious trivia about what Catholics believe. It’s to help you experience “the love that never ends.” (CCC 25) John Paul II said that the aim of catechesis is “to put people, not only in touch with, but in intimacy with Jesus Christ.” And Cardinal Schönborn, who was one of the primary editors of the Catechism, said that Catechism was “a blueprint for the heart of Christ.”

Thanks to some wonderful Protestants who reached out to me in High School, I already had a deep love of Scripture. But reading the Catechism side by side with the Bible (70% of the Catechism’s footnotes are Scripture) transformed me and has made me the man I am today.

I know that my life was never the same after reading the Catechism. And I’m confident, if you start to read it, your life will never be the same as well. It’s a great thing to do during this Year of Faith.

8 Comments on “How the Catechism Made Me Catholic

  1. Small correction: Today is the 50th anniversary (1962) of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary (1992) of the promulgation of the Catechism. You are right that the English text was not published until 1994.

  2. Reading the entire Catechism is one of my goals for this year. I’ve read many sections of it, but never the whole thing.

    God bless.

  3. How much to you enjoy silence? Have you had any lately? In today’s world we are bombarded with noise and distraction from the time we wake up, until the time we collapse in bed for a restless sleep. IPods, I Pads, Computers, TV, Radio and a multitude of other forms of electronic or printed media keep us so enamored with all this “white noise” it is no surprise that we can’t hear the still small voice of the GOD within the silence within us. Yet I believe that HE is there, patiently waiting for our attention.

    The good news is that for whatever reason, maybe because the employment rate is off the charts, our national debt is in the trillions, many have declared bankruptcy, many are receiving food stamps when they thought they never would, our families are literally falling apart, and our sons and daughters are giving their lives for this country. People are hungry to find some different answers for their lives.

    Maybe they are tired of having what they know in their heart as being true, that GOD is a reality and is being shut out of their daily lives. They don’t want to hear anymore that is it is politically incorrect to discuss GOD except at church or in their homes, not in the marketplace. In fact, we have allowed our faith, morals and GOD to be taken away one small step at a time. No Bibles in public institutions, no prayer in public schools, no Ten Commandments in offices, no Pledge of Allegiance and now we are permitting killing the innocent and unborn by the new HHHS law. When is this madness going to stop?

    The movie “Last Ounce of Courage” illustrates beautifully how “We the People of the United States of America have failed to uphold the Christian principals our nation was founded on. We, as a nation have let the “spirit of darkness” take over our minds and lives through constant noise.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that all this noise has taken away our ability to evaluate what is really important to us. It tells us what “they” think we need. The noise tells us to buy the new fangled gadget that will make our lives easier. It says that both parents must work outside the home so their family can obtain all the things or experiences of this world. That our children must have the latest electronic toys, being driven to rock concerts in limo’s, dance lessons, travel sports teams, music lessons, and closets filled with the latest fashions, or they won’t know how to survive in the real world. That marriage is no longer a sacred union and our bodies have no value. We feel it necessary to burying our troubles in alcohol, food or drugs and other dysfunctional behaviors.

    The dark times we are currently experiencing with high unemployment, massive debt, government debt, as well as personal bankruptcy was caused by our desire to satisfy the darkened words, “What’s in it for me?” We have turned away from the one who is of true value and is waiting to hear from us, GOD.

    It is now time, at the threshold of this election, to turn off all the noise and experience a totally free gift, thoughtful reflective silence. What is the value of this silence? Silence is truly powerful. It helps you to be reflective on things that are of GOD, not yourself or your next high. It tunes you into HIS word and HIS way to live your life. Your eyes will be opened to the many blessings you have already received but you could not see because of all the media telling you that you were not happy and needed one more thing.

    My prayer is that we as a nation will wake up before it is too late. That we all spend some time in silence asking GOD what HE wants for this nation. In the silence ask for HIS direction on how you should exercise your privilege of voting. Ask GOD to show you how to vote as HE would have you vote, in a spirit of HIS direction not “what’s in it for me?”

    I titled this writing the “Silence Crisis” because we have become silent about our belief in GOD. Let us crush this silence and let GOD know that we will be silent no longer.

    By Betty Joyce Dietzel
    Concerned Christian Believer

  4. Hey Bob, this may come a bit out of left field but…

    Club nowhere? Ring a bell? I’m sure it does! This is Rocky, your old sound guy there. Anyway, I’m glad to see you are doing well.

    So, someone decided to do a club nowhere reunion event and as I was going through my old cd box from then I came across the cd cover for gathering…BUT THE DISC WAS GONE! My disappointment was so great that I decided to google a bit and that led me here.

    I don’t suppose that those songs are available anywhere? It is not noted on the insert but monsters may be my favorite local band song of all time.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

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