I didn't join the Catholic Church because she won the contest in the "Best Rules and Regulations in an Institution" category. I didn't submit because I was eager to give up birth control. I didn't rush to the front steps of my local parish because I thought that if I checked off all the right boxes I would be admitted to Heaven with a perfect score.
I was received into the Catholic Church because when I searched for the meaning of life, I found Jesus.
When I found Jesus, I wanted to follow Him.
When I followed Him, He led me -- not without protest, I might add -- to the Catholic Church.
I submitted to the Church because I believe it speaks for Him. That's why I accept it. Out of love for Jesus.
That's not to say that I didn't have intellectual curiosity. I did. I've written about the intellectual arguments that I needed to address (though I'd love to write about that in more detail.) I had common sense questions and I was looking for common sense answers. But it always came back to a relationship.
"To whom shall we go, Lord? You have the words of eternal life." St. Peter said that (Jn 6:68) when Jesus asked (after His disciples heard the particularly hard teaching about eating His flesh and drinking His blood) if they, too, would turn their backs on Him.
But where else would they go? Where else would I go? This is the best answer I'ver found. Ever. Anywhere. And, as C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity:
Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.
When we Catholics talk to the world about our rules, we're often scoffed at. If we were to say we follow those rules out of a fear of hell, we'd not be taken very seriously, and rightly so.
It's like a marriage: if you asked a man why he was faithful to his wife and the only answer he could give was, "Because I'm afraid of getting caught if I cheat," you'd find him severely lacking in love. If, on the other hand, he shook his head in disbelief, gave you a look that said you were insane, and replied, "How can you ask that? I'm faithful to her because I love her! Is it always easy? Do my eyes ever stray? Am I perfect? Of course not. But I love her. Everything else flows from there. Love makes the relationship worth the work."
And so it is with Jesus and His Church. My spiritual director recently shared this quote, from Fr. Cantalamessa, with me, and it sums up what I've believed since I said yes to Catholicism:
If Christianity, as so often and so rightly has been said, is not primarily a doctrine but a person, Jesus Christ, it follows that the proclamation of this person and of one's relationship with him is the most important thing, the beginning of all true evangelization and the very condition for making such a thing possible. To reverse this order and put the doctrines and obligations of the Gospel before the discovery of Jesus would be like putting the carriages in front of the railway engine that is supposed to pull them.
... Insisting on the importance of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ is not a sign of subjectivism or emotionalism but the translation, on to the spiritual and pastoral plane, of a dogma central to our faith: that Jesus Christ is ‘a person.’ ~~ Fr. Cantalamessa
(And, um, can you imagine preaching to the Pope?)
I'll close today with a final quote, this one found at Intentional Disciples:
"To holy people the very name of Jesus is a name to feed upon, a name to transport. His name can raise the dead and transfigure and beautify the living."
~~ Blessed John Henry Newman
I don't consider myself a holy person, but I do consider this every day: the name upon which I feed, the Person who transports me, the transfiguration I need is found in Jesus.