Brianna Heldt is a writer, speaker, and radio show host. She blogs at www.briannaheldt.com, has been a featured guest on BBC Radio, and her work can regularly be found in other online publications as well. A convert to the Catholic Church, Brianna explores topics ranging from faith and social issues to adoption and large family life. She and her husband make their home in Denver, along with their eight children.
Six years ago, my husband and I were received into the Catholic Church. It was, ironically, Reformation Sunday.
Having been raised as Protestants—my husband a Lutheran, and I of the non-denominational variety—we found no small amount of humor in the timing. The day on which the Protestant world celebrates Martin Luther’s 95 Theses is now the day we remember our own conversion.
When people ask why or how we came to be convinced of the Catholic faith, I always tell them that it began with our discomfort with birth control, which led us to seek out the Catholic approach to marriage and children. We had seen that our Protestant paradigm for viewing contraception was no different than the world’s at large, and wasn’t it strange that God wouldn’t have said anything about something so relevant to married couples? What I had thought would be a quick internet search for “reasons why Catholics don’t use birth control” (they were the only Christian group I knew of that had a cohesive belief system on the subject) turned out to be, instead, the start of a long journey toward the truth.
In some ways, the Catholic Church’s position on marriage and children was admittedly a strange thing to lead us into the Church—because it’s also the very issue that turns a lot of people off to it. But when something is true, it also tends to be logical. And the papal writings and addresses were so incredibly beautiful, rich and profound. So while I may have initially bristled at the idea of someone placing limits on my freedom, as I thought more about it I saw that it also made very good sense. We’d had a baby, and we had seen not only how much closer she’d drawn us together but also the way it was Very, Very Good for our marriage. We’d started to notice the negative messages the culture was sending about families and children, which were very different from our own experience. We’d begun to marvel at how quick other couples were to resent, limit, or permanently diminish their fertility. Something about the way Protestants approached family planning seemed off.
The collective wisdom reflected in the encyclicals, Catechism, and writings of the Church Fathers was something we simply couldn’t ignore. And once we embraced this view of marriage, we knew we owed it to ourselves to give the rest of the dogmas a fair hearing—if Catholics were so right about marriage, what if they had good reasons for the rest of what they believed?
Book after book drew us further into a faith that seemed, if nothing else, to be at the very heart of Jesus. Having been naturally suspicious of Catholics (I had always erroneously assumed they didn’t believe in having a relationship with Christ), I was astounded to see the depth with which so many saints had walked with the Lord. Saint Teresa of Calcutta, in particular, was inspiring to me. Her heart for orphans (we have four adopted children) had certainly always been compelling, but it was her singular devotion to and love for Jesus that ultimately changed the way I saw the Catholic approach to God.
In the end, we converted because we came to be convinced that the Catholic Church is the one and only Church founded by Jesus Christ. We decided that it is the fullness of the faith, that the Eucharist is the greatest union with Jesus that we can have, here on Earth, and that apostolic succession is real. Catholicism is supported by Scripture and rooted in history, and far from being an empty display of ritual, it is a rich and meaningful faith dedicated to cultivating friendship with God, and the making of saints. It is, in a word, true.
We Christians have an incredible legacy and practice of faith available to us, if only we believe. It is profoundly wonderful news that God did not leave us here without hope or a plan. He gave us His Church. I am so glad that the Reformation was not the end of the story.