By Michael Snellen
Originally from Catholicism for the Modern World publication on Medium
I can’t say that there was a moment in my life where I called myself an atheist. There have been moments, of which I am sure the firmest believers experience, where I have questioned if God existed.
In high school, I was interested in science — very interested. I watched many videos about the vastness of space, the big bang, and evolution. All these things contributed to a feeling of coldness where God was so far away and thus unknowable. I believed in the mechanical world of modernity— a meaningless world.
When I graduated from high school, I was on my own. The structure provided to my life by school and home was gone. I was free to explore the world by my own initiative. But I was lost in the abyss of choice.
It took many months before I was drawn to the ideas of self-improvement which got me out of the stagnation of inaction. I read Ecclesiastes, a book with much wisdom. I had never experienced the wisdom of the Bible before.
Reading the book of John convinced me that Jesus was God in the flesh. That was something I vaguely knew in my youth but didn’t accept until I was able to experience the “Meaningless! Meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes 1 NIV) of life. It is hard to know Jesus unless you know of hopelessness.
Also, reading the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations exposed me to a devout man. It was my guide to becoming a man; I learned that the road to becoming a man is not one of years, but responsibility.
For a year, I choose to remain outside any church. During that time, I still called myself a Baptist. The Baptist faith was the faith of my childhood, even if I rarely went to church during it. It was a faith that believed fully in the Jesus of the Bible, but lacked any tradition or authority. Luckily, my college roommate dragged me to Mass a few times. I am not responsible for my conversion. I know that only the presence of Jesus in the Mass could draw me towards the church; that and other Catholics.
The reason for my reluctance to join an organized religion was because I was defensive against the misuse of dogma. I believed in the God in my heart and in the Bible, not the religion of the falsity of men, so I would say. During this time, I was a Christian, I read the entire Bible, but I was not experiencing Christianity to its fullest extent.
That is what Catholicism is. Christianity to its fullest extent.
Finally, last summer, the summer of 2021, when I returned home from college, I began to look for a church. I researched extensively all the different denominations. Quickly, I realized that there was no depth to the Baptist denomination.
For a week, I called myself a Lutheran. Compared to the other Protestant denominations, they had some sense of tradition. If I had not heard of something better, perhaps, that would have been where I would have settled for good.
Then, I discovered the church that existed before the 1500s. It was the church of my fathers.
The Protestant denominations, which are protesting against the Catholic Church, are products of their times. They grew through the age of the enlightenment, but even before that, they were supported by humanism of the 1300s.
Martin Luther himself originally never sought to separate from the church. He knew that the Roman Catholic Church was the church Jesus founded. He knew the importance of that.
Many people don’t understand that the Bible didn’t just fall out of the sky. It was ratified by the Catholic Church. And because a thousand people can read the same thing and potentially come to a thousand different conclusions, the Bible must have a sole interpreter, if there is such thing as objective truth. That authority falls under the power of the Church. They have the right to determine what the Bible means.
Minus Orthodoxy, for 1500 years, there were not thousands of sects of Christians, there was one sect who were called Christians. Those who believed things that were not what the church taught were called heretics. Many sects of dangerous lies were eradicated because they were threats to the truth.
The thing about the Protestant Reformation is that it happened when the Catholic Church was at its weakest point. The Crusades had just ended. Abuse was widespread. Reform was needed. But separation was supported by monarchs who wanted the power that the church had in their countries. Henry VIII founded a church just because he wanted to get rid of his wife. 85 million people today follow that denomination which is called Anglicanism.
Christianity prospered during this time of unity underneath one banner. The Church is inseparable from the history of Europe, even more so, it is inseparable from the history of man. Scholastics, art, medicine, and countless other things originated from the church. The prosperity of the church that once existed as the pinnacle of Europe still exists today because, as Jesus said, not even the gates of hell could prevail against it.
Tradition is not just vindicated because it is old but because it is true.
While Luther sought to reform a few things, others continued along a path of destruction. Teachings that the first Christians believed in were disregarded. The heritage of the Christians of the first 1500 years of Christianity was lost.
The important sacraments were replaced by a vague sense of salvation. The reason for that comes from Luther’s fear of whether or not he was going to heaven. He hated the uncertainty. But by seeking to simplify, to say that salvation is a one and done thing, just for assurance, the life of a true Christian is lost.
A Christian should always seek penance, rectification, and supplication. That is why salvation is a process that lasts an entire lifetime.
Perhaps the biggest thing that drew me to Catholicism was the land on which I live. I am an American. America is the opposite of a Catholic country. It is a country founded on the principles of the enlightenment. America is individualistic to the highest degree — individualism and Protestantism go hand in hand. Protestantism can not withstand modernism. Is it any surprise that many Christians in America are inseparable from heathens?
True Catholics are outsiders to America. They are hated. They are mocked. The critics of Christianity don’t go after John Doe’s Protestant Church, they go after the Catholic Church. Because the spirit of Satan mainly goes after the Catholic Church, is it not obvious, then, that it is the Church that stands as the biggest threat to him?
Individualism has many problems that strip happiness from the individual. I don’t even want to spend time on explaining the problems of individualism; just look at the problems of America, most all of them stem from rampant individualism.
How often do we hear: “Speak your truth.” No. There is no such thing as “your truth“ because there can only be one truth — Truth is God.
I think many in my generation, who see the consequences of the Godless generations before them, turn back towards our religious tradition, in a term Oswald Spengler calls the “Second Religiousness,” because we realize the need for it. For too long have they been demoralized by the coldness of science and secularity.
Catholicism is like a forgotten home to us. It is sacred. The churches are grand. The prayers have power. There are thousands of saints and fathers of the church that we can gain wisdom and guidance from. Through the sacraments, and active redemption, the Catholic faith is not dead but living.
I do not want a secular religion that conforms to this world. I want the religion with authority, structure, and mystery. I want the religion of the first Christians. I want the church that Jesus promised wouldn’t fail. I want the church that is not of this world.
Michael is the founder and editor of Catholicism of the Modern World, the fastest growing Catholic publication on Medium