By Becky Carter
Crossing the Tiber. Journey Home. Coming Home. However you label that decision to go all in on Catholicism, the process is never without heartbreak and loss. After falling in love with my non-Catholic husband and subsequently falling away from my Catholic roots, we spent 17 years roaming the Protestant landscape. My everyday life friends were also deeply steeped in our schooling and faith community. Therefore, when we left that faith tradition, we inevitably had to leave behind some sweet relationships that just did not survive the departure.
The good news about God is that he redeems all things and blesses one hundred fold our obedience, eternally speaking. When our family left our Calvinist tradition and turned to Rome several years ago, these 5 books were most influential to me.
1. Unabridged Christianity, by Fr. Mario P. Romero.
My personal number one book, which coincidentally, had been give to us by my deacon daddy years before as an evangelization tactic. I likely rolled my eyes and then stuffed it in the cedar chest after scoffing a bit. Yet, during the initial phase of my reversion, we had friends concerned with this direction towards Rome and they were asking us some particularly deep theological questions. Basically, this book was a lifesaver when it came to apologetics. I was surprised that objections to Catholicism are mostly the same across the denominational spectrum. Conveniently, the verbiage in the book would match almost verbatim the arguments I was hearing from others and I was really able to start wrapping my mind around the main doctrinal arguments. This was just a great reference book when I was stuck on one apologetic point or another.
2. Rome Sweet Home, by Scott and Kimberly Hahn.
Just about every conversion story circa 1993 and on will likely mention this book. This conversion story written in tandem by Reformed Christian husband and wife, Scott and Kimberly Hahn, gave me the opportunity to relate to their struggles and to hear how two individuals uniquely accepted Church teachings. Having different objections and different time frames, this couple both gave up much but also eventually gave back much to the Catholic Church. What a moving testimony of human faith and trust. Today, you can find much God-sized fruit in the lives of converts and cradle Catholics alike as a result of this couple’s yes to Christ’s Church.
3. Surprised by Truth, by Patrick Madrid.
More stories of conversion…I love conversion stories. Hearing how people work their way from their Protestant understanding of Catholic teaching and into what the actual Catholic teachings are, was a formidable and affirming experience for me. Not only did I learn about other denominations and what they believe, but also how God lovingly pursues each and every one of His children desiring us to be unified in the fullness of Truth.
4. The Salvation Controversy, by James Akin.
Twenty years ago, my non-denominational pastor asked if I had been saved and wanted to know my “story.” That language was as new to me as was living in the Bible Belt versus my deeply Catholic roots in South Louisiana. When this pastor declared my baptism invalid, my faith took an almost fatal gut punch. Long story short, despite receiving my first sola scriptura inflicted wound, I agreed to be baptized in order to join that church. So, reading Jimmy Akin’s application of Scripture, Church history, Early Church Father writings, and logic clarified that salvation is a process. Seeing that “being saved” begins at (one) baptism and is perfected through our faith and works was profoundly pivotal in my turn to the Catholic doctrine of justification. Penance, indulgences, purgatory, monergism versus synergism, Akin works through many divisive doctrines and dogmas in a clear way and I found myself getting a little deeper into these Church teachings.
5. The Catholic Controversy, by St. Francis De Sales.
As my husband was processing the many different arguments about Catholicism, he would read this book aloud to me in the evenings. St. Frances De Sales was a priest sent to Germany in the early 1500’s and lived in a town among fallen away Catholics, the Calvinists. Fr. was not well received as you can imagine. No one wanted to be caught talking to a Catholic priest and he had to find a way to get his message to the people. De Sales began writing pamphlets and secretly putting them on city walls and under doors. Because of his ability to write the truth in very clear ways and articulate the logic that opposed Calvin's system of theology, more than 74,000 Catholics returned home. Praise be to God. This logical and topical book is compiled and articulated to clearly prove the solas' departure from tradition and logic.
That summer of conversion, as a I reminiscently call it, was so full of Holy Spirit led reading. The road to Rome is like any difficult pilgrimage; the Israelites needed a cloud by day and a fire by night and I needed these little books as steps toward the Catholic Church. God is so good to always give us exactly what we need to follow him and the grace to do so.
I will always look back on that first year of conversion as grace-filled and exhilarating, but also down right scary and filled with sadness. Though I experienced suffering and loss, I count it all a blessing as I gained Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. "To whom shall I go, Lord?" (Jn 6:68).