Interview on May 28, 2021 with Andy, 25, who is receiving instruction in preparation to enter the Church next Easter.
What is your faith background?
Andy: I went to a Catholic school kindergarten through fifth grade. Then, for several reasons, I switched to a public school when I was in sixth grade, primarily because my dad became a school teacher. So I went to public school sixth grade all the way through high school and college. I made the decision to get baptized in a non-denominational church my senior year of college. That would have been in the fall of 2017 and that was the furthest that I took things. I’m glad that I made that decision, but some things still sort of laid dormant in me.
When I went to Catholic school, I always really appreciated the faith and I know my parents did. Although they are not Catholic, they have a high regard for the Church and that’s why they put me in that school, not only for the good education.
When I first showed up to Santa Barbara, I attended a few different churches but wasn’t particularly attracted to any of them for various reasons. I found myself drawn to tradition, order, authority, history. It wasn’t until about a year and a half ago, December 2019, that I was at a Christmas service when I was back home visiting my parents and it dawned on me, who gives this pastor the authority to say what he’s saying? What sort of instruction does he receive to teach the congregation, et cetera. It got me thinking about the Catholic Church again.
So the following week, when I was still home, I went to a local Catholic store, bought the Catechism and a rosary, and I convinced myself I needed to be perfect before I joined the Catholic Church. So I spent literally a year just reading. I read the Catechism, I read lots of stuff online, and never really had the guts to take the next step until just a few months ago. I had some lingering questions. “If I’m going to commit to this, do I really believe this? Did Jesus, the man, exist? What is the history surrounding the foundations of the church?” I stumbled across some stuff online about how there are secular Roman historians that wrote about Jesus, a Jewish man being crucified. There were two things that pushed me over the edge, so to speak.
One was, I watched a movie called “The Case for Christ,” which is about Lee Strobel. It’s a true story. Lee Strobel is a journalist in the 70s or the 80s. He is an atheist and his wife is joining a Christian Church and he’s really upset about it. And so he goes kind of on a witch hunt, looking for evidence of the early foundations of the church. And it talks about how we have so many textual documents from the first century A.D. about Jesus, even more than we have of Aristotle and the Greek philosophers. So why do we believe that the Greek philosophers existed, but some people don’t believe that Jesus existed? So that was the journey that I went on.
And then I have a good buddy that goes to St Mark’s, the local parish. I was chatting with him about my fears of joining academia as a conservative Christian and living out the faith. He turned to me, he said, “Listen, Andy. You can have a great family, a beautiful family, a great academic career, but none of that really matters if you don’t die with the faith.” That really stuck with me and it told me that I’ve been doing a lot of reading, it’s time to take the next step. So I started meeting with Fr. Love, and that’s the path that I’m on now.
Did you have biases against Catholicism?
Andy: I was very open because I was fortunate to go to that Catholic school for six years. When I was going to that school, I was already attending Mass every Wednesday as a student there, so I was familiar already with the basics. Deacon Chris Sandner actually asked me this question a few weeks ago, he said, “What’s the one thing that attracted you to the Catholic Church?” I thought about it and I realized it’s the reverence. I don’t very much like the over-reliance on emotion to make decisions. Catholic Mass is very reverent, particularly for the Eucharist. It’s very solemn and I appreciate that because it’s the real representation of the sacrifice of the cross. The other services that I’ve been to in the local area – just something didn’t sit right with me. I just didn’t connect with them the way that I do with Catholic Mass. I realized that more as I continued going to Mass at St. Marks. I recently went to a traditional Latin Mass for the first time and found the same experience.
Why did you decide to get baptized in the nondenominational church? What brought you to that point?
Andy: I think it was because my life was changing so much that it forced me to reevaluate what I wanted out of my life. I was in my senior year of college, I was applying to graduate schools. Several months prior I’d gotten out of a long-term relationship, and I played soccer in college, but I got medically disqualified because I accumulated too many injuries. That was a period of a lot of change for me because I no longer had my college soccer. I still had my teammates and my buddies, but all the extra time forced me to reevaluate what sort of trajectory I wanted my life to be on. I knew that I needed some sort of foundation or a set of irrefutable moral principles that man should not be so proud to make for himself.
Did you have any specific hurdles that held you back from entering the Church?
Andy: Definitely. First and foremost, I’m a graduate student, I work with a lot of people that loathe the Catholic Church or Christianity. I’m terrified when a lot of people find out, but at this point it doesn’t matter to me. That was probably one of the biggest hurdles because it very well could hurt my academic career, but I’m willing to take the shots at this point, because this is more valuable to me than any sort of academic success.
Were any of the teachings of the Church difficult to swallow?
Andy: The realm of the just war and what commensurate actions or retaliation involves is something that was a hurdle for me, just because, I guess from my own bias, I like to think that everything that America has done has been justifiable, but there are strains of thought that say otherwise. There’s that and the use of advanced interrogation techniques, things like that, I’m still working through. But I would say that the main principles of right to life and many of the core tenets, I was already familiar with just from growing up and so they weren’t particularly difficult for me to swallow.
Indulgences. That was something I was wary of. Another thing was, should I only go to traditional Latin Mass or should I only go to the Novus Ordo? What’s the deal with Vatican II? What about Eucharistic miracles or Our Lady of Fatima? I like that there’s this structure in which you need to accept the dogma and the core tenets of the faith, but there are a lot of different shades of Catholicism and outlooks, so that it lends itself to a very rich and diverse church. There’s so many different orders and things like that. That’s also what attracted me to the Church, but I can’t off the top of my head think of any major concepts that were sticking points for me.
How can Catholics better evangelize non-Catholics?
Andy: I think for me, it starts with an approach from our purpose in life. If you ask others what they think their purpose is, why they may in fact have a soul, why is it that humans appreciate beauty, can be moved to tears, construct societies built around common goals, why is it that humans are like that? And why do we thirst for something even beyond that, something even more beautiful? I think that sort of thinking caused me to question why it is that I wanted to join the Catholic Church. So perhaps something with that approach that forces others to think about what they want to do with their lives. Seventy years from now, what do they want to be able to say that they have accomplished and what sort of relationship do they want with others? That would be the advice that I have, or what attracted me to the church.
Why join the Catholic church as opposed to just generic Christianity?
Andy: One thing that’s really stuck with me is there was the apostle that replaced Judas and that 11 of the 12 apostles all died for their faith. Why is it that so many men around that time period were willing to die for something that they claim that they saw and they believed, et cetera? We know where St. Peter was buried, we know where St. Paul was buried. What is the deal with this historical evidence of all these men dying for their faith right around that time period? We have the evidence and the historical data to suggest and to know that the original foundations of the Catholic Church were established by Jesus Christ with the 12 apostles. Any sort of derivation from that authority and that tradition to me seems a bit incomplete. With the help of the Church fathers and all the saints, it’s a solid tradition that I think is rooted in very concrete historical origins.
Not to mention the authority, I appreciate this sort of hierarchical structure. When you look at a football team, there’s the quarterback calling the plays, you don’t have all the linebackers calling the plays. There has to be some sort of ordering to the church and not only that, but also the universe. That’s why I appreciate the Christian tradition.
California Catholic Daily writer Mary Rose is interviewing young Catholic converts as part of our Inquiring Minds series. If you are a young convert to the Catholic Church and would like to share your story, please contact us.