I was born into a devout Catholic family and culture, knowing only one non-Catholic family until I entered high school. As a baby of just a few weeks old, I was baptized by sprinkling with water. My parents, who simply knew no better just as I did not for so many years, believed that this baptism meant that I was “ born-again.” I went to a Catholic school where I counted an old Franciscan priest as a dear friend. So devout was I that I consistently went to novenas, nine-day prayer vigils to honor Mary. On Saturdays, it was customary to go to weekly confession (now called the sacrament of penance) where I would confess my sins, whether venial (minor) or mortal (punishable by hell), to the priest so he could grant me absolution(cleansing). Normally, he would then have me say penance that my repentance would be deemed valid – possibly say two Our Fathers or 5 Hail Marys or say a rosary. Every Sunday would find me at Mass; every day of the 40 days of Lent period would also find me at Mass even if I had to get up at 5 o’clock to make my first college class. I wore a Miraculous Medal in reverence to Mary and a scapular so that Mary would rescue me from purgatory when I died.
Yet in spite of all my attempts at holiness, there was a lack of peace within me and an emptiness I could not fill though I tried to appease it with food and alcohol to a certain degree. My prayers to fill my emptiness and to give me peace were often accompanied with sobs as I cried out to a God who seemed always just beyond my grasp, behind a wall (a veil) I could not penetrate. Then one day, in His mercy, the Lord Jesus had a friend invite me to an evangelical prayer breakfast. For the very first time in 35 years, I heard the gospel of salvation, the gospel of eternal life. When the speaker asked those present who wanted to receive Jesus into their hearts to stand, my friend was amazed at how quickly I got up. I sobbed as peace flooded my heart and filled up the emptiness that had been in me all my life. Now, now I was truly born-again:
[Born anew] to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:4-5)
For over two years, I daily read this book called The Bible— devoured would be a more apt expression—and then the Lord led me to take a course on Catholic doctrine from a Catholic institution. Now, I could view Catholic doctrine through the lens of truth. (As the years went on, I read additional Catholic-produced books including the official Catholic Catechism, approximately 800 pages long). How amazed I was to discover what my former church believed! As an example, as a former devout believer in Mary, I had been told according to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception that Mary herself was born sinless. That would mean she didn’t need a Savior. Yet she herself proclaimed in the Bible that she did
My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. (Luke 1: 46-47)
And there were so many more conflicts. Had I really been led to believe all those years as a Catholic so many things at odds with Scripture? My only excuse? I just didn’t know. And I don’t think my dear Franciscan priest did either. Like myself and all my relatives he simply believed what he had been taught.
No one comes to the Father but by Jesus. All these years Catholics have been told it was through the Catholic Church, by Mary’s intercession, by going to Mass, and by receiving communion that they come to the Father. I trusted what I was taught and was told that the Catholic way was the way to eternal life. Yet, John 14:6 says there is only one way to eternal life. His Name is Jesus.
I rejoice in the fact that before they died, both my parents came to know the truth of eternal life. In fact, it was the very uncertainty of the Roman Catholic Church’s stance on eternal life and the absolute certainty of 1 John 5: 13 on the topic of eternal life (see below) that opened my mother’s eyes.
In reading this and sharing it with others, know that the information in it truly is a story of death to life—mine, yours, and others.
The Bible says, “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” With all my heart, I want to see those who are Catholic set free. Catholics need to know the truth of real salvation, and we Christians need to know the truth about Catholicism that we may witness to them meaningfully so that they may know the true love of Jesus and have eternal life.
In 1980, New York Cardinal O’Connor said:
(Catholic) Church teaching is that I don’t know, at any given moment, what my eternal future will be. I can hope, pray, do my very best—but I still don’t know. Pope John II doesn’t know absolutely that he will go to heaven, nor does Mother Teresa of Calcutta. (New York Times, February 1, 1980, B4)
In 1992, Cardinal Ratzinger, formerly Pope Benedict XVI, headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which is the watchdog of Catholic orthodoxy, otherwise known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition. In that position, he headed the commission that wrote the official Catechism of the Catholic Church. This Catechism was approved by Pope John Paul 11. In that Catechism, that same uncertainty of salvation and eternal life is stated. (Death of a Pope: Dave Hunt of The Berean Call; http://mmoutreachinc.com/cult_groups/pope.html)
Yet those of us who are born-again know with absolute certainty what eternity holds for us:
And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that ye [already] have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:11-13)