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From Protestantism to Catholicism: Six Journeys to Rome | 1 | 2

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On Being Branded an Expatriate | Thomas Howard | Chapter One of Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome

To move from one religious neighborhood to another is to lay oneself open to all sorts of speculations from the bystanders. "He was swept away emotionally" this if one has made one's move in the flush of ardor that suffuses various revivalist options, say; or "He was looking for a dignity and sublimity in worship that seemed missing in his erstwhile world"--this if one goes from a rustic conventicle to one of the liturgical churches, most especially the Anglicanism that is so often borne to us on the thin notes echoing amongst the arches of the chapel at King's College, Cambridge; or "He was the type who needed authority"--this if one becomes a Catholic.

There is often a great deal of truth in these remarks. Indeed, one may have been swept away, or may have yearned for sublimity, or may have looked earnestly for authority. But to point that out is to leave unasked, much less unanswered, the question as to whether the move was ill conceived, or was at bottom made in obedience to light having been cast on one's itinerary. It is impossible, of course, to settle that question simply on the apparent merits of the case itself. The bystanders, most of them, will judge the matter according to views that they already hold, and go on about their business. A few may be bemused enough to undertake some scrutiny of their own notions.

At the age of fifty I was received into the Roman Catholic Church. The move occurred at the hither end of an itinerary that had begun for me in the trusty Protestant Fundamentalism of the 1930s and 1940s and had taken me thence through Anglicanism and eventually to the threshold of the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church". Such a sequence is far from being unprecedented: Cardinal Manning and Cardinal Newman, in the nineteenth century, followed not altogether dissimilar routes, as did Monsignor Ronald Knox in the twentieth century. To adduce these worthies is to place one-self in company so august that any analogy between one's own pilgrimage and theirs seems grotesque. I would venture only the point that dwarfs can follow in the footsteps of giants, albeit laboriously.

More about Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome
• Read an interview with Dr. Howard about his journey to the Catholic Church.

Dr. Thomas Howard was raised in a prominent Evangelical home (his sister is well-known author and former missionary Elisabeth Elliot), became Episcopalian in his mid-twenties, then entered the Catholic Church in 1985, at the age of fifty.

He is an acclaimed writer and scholar, noted for his studies of Inklings C.S. Lewis ( Narnia & Beyond: A Guide to the Fiction of C.S. Lewis) and Charles Williams (The Novels of Charles Williams), as well as books including Christ the Tiger, Chance or the Dance?, Hallowed be This House, Evangelical is Not Enough, If Your Mind Wanders at Mass, On Being Catholic, The Secret of New York Revealed, and , Dove Descending: A Journey Into T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets and The Night Is Far Spent, an anthology of assorted essays and talks. Visit his IgnatiusInsight.com author page here.

The Bible in Protestantism and Catholicism | Louis Bouyer, C.O. | From The Word, Church, and Sacraments

The Bible is the starting point of Protestantism, for the simple reason that Luther's religious insight came to him on reading the Epistle to the Romans. Justification by faith, the basic doctrine of Protestantism, before it was erected into a system of thought, was first an overwhelming religious conviction that grew in Luther's soul by devout reading of the Bible. As it was at this stage, no Catholic theologian can deny its basic truth. Luther, sorely troubled about his own salvation, relying, as he had done, solely on his own efforts, his good will, his works and merits, and in despair of ever attaining it, realized in a sudden illumination while reading the Word of God that our salvation is not our own work but God's, the gift of his grace in Christ delivered up to the Cross for us; so that, as Saint Paul says in the Epistle to the Philippians, while we must work out our salvation in fear and trembling, we must also find peace in the certainty that it is God who creates in us both the will and the deed. Thus what we can and must do to be saved is simply a consequence of salvation inasmuch as it is intrinsically pure grace, a pure gift of God; by faith, by faith alone, we must receive it from him as such, as Saint Thomas Aquinas had already emphasized; for in this matter everything comes from God, even the willing and doing of man, who has been regenerated by grace alone.

Catholic theologians may, and should, question the way Luther himself and subsequent Protestant theologians came to systematize this doctrine, which they did for a controversial end and with a therefore one-sided emphasis. But at the outset Luther's religious insight was undoubtedly a recognition, not just of one scriptural truth among others, but of the most fundamental truth of the Christian revelation, namely, that it is not we who loved God first, but he who loved us, who loved us when we were far from worthy of love, who sought us out and saved us when we had deserted him. Luther, indeed, gained a wholly new insight into the biblical teaching of the divine initiative--our God, the God of the Bible, is not just passive, letting man come to him; but he is the God who, of his own accord, has spoken to us, called to us, intervened in our life; not only has he made himself accessible to us, but in his Son made man, his living Word made flesh, he came down to our level.

So it is not enough to say that Protestantism is the religion of the Bible, in the sense that it is the religion of a book that holds all truth. It is the religion of the Bible, because it reads the Bible in the light of a living, central intuition of its content. Only in its degenerate forms, which do not express its real essence, is Protestantism reduced to the religion of a dead letter. Living Protestantism takes its life from its understanding of the Bible, not only by holding to it in a material sense, but by understanding the Bible in the light of the Spirit who gave it. Only when we acknowledge this can we understand all that the Bible means to Protestants, how it is and always will be for them a living source of genuine spirituality. In this light alone can we properly appreciate the efforts made by Protestants for the actual physical diffusion of the Bible.

More about The Word, Church, and Sacraments

Rev. Louis Bouyer (1913-2004) was a member of the French Oratory and one of the most respected and versatile Catholic scholars and theologians of the twentieth century.

A friend of Hans Urs von Balthasar, Joseph Ratzinger, and J.R.R. Tolkien, and a co-founder of the international review Communio, Bouyer was a former Lutheran minister who entered the Catholic Church in 1939. He became a leading figure in the Catholic biblical and liturgical movements of the twentieth century, was on influence on the Second Vatican Council, and became well known for his excellent books on history of Christian spirituality. In addition to his many writings, Bouyer lectured widely across Europe and America.

Woman in the Church
(with an epilogue by Balthasar and an essay by C.S. Lewis), was one of the first three books published by Ignatius Press, in 1979. Other Ignatius Press books by Bouyer include The Word, Church, and Sacraments in Protestantism and Catholicism, Women Mystics, and the introduction to John Henry Newman: Prayers, Verses, Devotions (Bouyer wrote a biography of Newman). Visit his IgnatiusInsight.com author page.

From "Homecoming," Chapter One of No Price Too High: A Pentecostal Preacher Becomes Catholic | Alex Jones, as told to Diane Hanson

This was it.

Finally, after three years of agonizing personal pain, I was holding the Real Thing right there in my hands. This was my Lord and my God.

I had first found him as a Pentecostal in 1958, at the age of sixteen, through a most powerful spiritual experience. Pentecostals and charismatics call it the "baptism in the Holy Spirit". In that amazing encounter, the resurrected Christ tenderly held me in his hands. Now, more than forty years later, I was gently holding him in mine.

And so there on my knees, I slowly and carefully brought the Bread of Life to my mouth, the True Manna, the Flesh of Christ, who so willingly gave his Flesh for the life of the world. As I took him into myself, I was overcome with both awe and joy.

My First Holy Communion--I will never forget that--that feeling that I had finally come the closest I could ever get to Christ in this life. Even to this very day, when the Body of our Lord is placed in my hand, I look at him with wonderment and awe, that he would actually give himself to me-offer himself to me as food. What incomprehensible humility!

Receiving Communion is no longer just a part of worship for me; now I see that this is my God who humbles himself to meet me in love and forgiveness. The Victim of Calvary; who takes away the sins of the world, actually offers himself as food and drink to me--a sinner--that I might eat and be nourished with life eternal.

I get very emotional every time I think about it. It is the realization of the spiritual impact-that this is not just common bread and common wine-this is the Flesh of our Lord and the Blood of our Lord. For this alone I was willing to walk away from everything I had worked for and held dear. I walked away from friends, family, ministry, leadership, livelihood--everything!

I had to do it. There was nothing else for me to do. How could I deny what I had come to know to be true? How could I look into the face of Truth and say, "That's nice history, but it will cause me problems"?

So I said Yes to God, and that Yes has cost me dearly.

You see, until 1998, I had never even entertained what would then have been the utterly ridiculous idea of becoming Catholic! I was happy as a Pentecostal Evangelical pastor and wanted nothing more than to finish my tenure as a pastor, pass on my work to a qualified minister, and retire to teaching or some other laudable work.

I had grown up with the understanding that Catholics were the most wicked people on the face of the earth. They were not even Christians. The Catholic Church was the great whore of Babylon, as revealed in Revelation 17. And the pope--with his tiara surrounded with Latin words that, when put into their numeric values, came out to 666--was the absolute beast.

While my views moderated considerably over the years, my entrance into the Catholic Church was still nothing short of a miraculous event--from my unquenchable desire for knowledge and truth to the people God placed along the pathway of my journey.

More about No Price Too High
• Read "My Name Is Alex Jones" Steve Ray's foreword to No Price Too High.

Alex Jones grew up as a devout Pentecostal, became a devoted Pentecostal minister, and later converted to the Catholic Church. Jones was the senior minister of two churches in the city of Detroit: Zion Congregational Church of God in Christ (1975-1982), the second oldest Pentecostal church in Michigan, and Maranatha Christian Church (1982-2000), an Evangelical/Charismatic church. Married with three grown sons and ten grandchildren, Jones is a graduate of Wayne State University (1965) with a B.A. in Art Education. He taught in the Detroit school system for 27 years. Today he is a Catholic deacon who speaks at many conferences each year around the country.

From Protestantism to Catholicism: Six Journeys to Rome | 1 | 2


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