First, some background…

Alright, here we go. One of my primary purposes in creating this blog is to reflect on my spiritual journey over the past couple years, from Fundamentalist Evangelical Protestant to Orthodox Catholic, and all the twists and turns that led me to where I am now, and where I am going. My goal is not to stroke my ego, nor do I think that my experiences are especially unique. From the start, I want this blog to be an offering of prayer, that my words might bring glory to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I hope to accomplish two things here: 1.) Better understand what I have gone through by going over it in writing, and 2.) Explain to others what exactly I’ve gone through, as best I can.

So, dear reader, let us begin. My father was raised in a small Presbyterian family in 1950’s Oakland, California, on the wrong side of the tracks. By adolescence, he had become an atheist, deducing that as there was no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, and no Tooth Fairy, there must be no God. This appears to be common reasoning for certain mathematically inclined people, interestingly enough. Sometime during college, he softened to a more agnostic point of view, becoming slowly convinced that he did not know everything in his early twenties (a humility I do well to follow!). Later, in his early thirties, he had a powerful conversion experience, becoming a Bible-based Baptist with non-denominational leanings. This is belief system he maintains to this day.

My mother was raised in a large German Catholic family in Random Lake, Wisconsin. She was a goody-too-shoes kind of kid, until she went off to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she found sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. At this point, she stopped going to church entirely. After college, she wanted a change of pace, and moved out to California to work as an operator for the Bell corporation in Sacramento. When she got to Sacramento, she was at a loss as to how to make new friends, so she made the natural choice: she went to a local Star Trek convention. There, she met a guy and started dating him (not my father). He took her to his Baptist church, where she heard the Gospel, and gave her life over to Jesus Christ.

A few years later, my parents met in a singles group, and my father eventually proposed to her after they watched Star Wars on his new-fangled home video system. They got married, and a couple years later I came along, followed closely by my sister.

For the first several years of my life, church was just another place my parents took me, and I really wasn’t paying attention. I did learn the basic Bible stories, due to heavy use of visual aid by Sunday School teachers over the years. Never paid attention in service, though the normal practice in the churches my parents frequented was to shuttle children off during the actual church service so the adults wouldn’t be bothered.

As I was home schooled, church was fairly important socially as the place where I primarily got to play with other children, and there usually good toys in Sunday School, which was appreciated.

My parents are prayer warriors so there was always a healthy prayer life at home, and as a result I was always surrounded by an awareness of the presence of God, for which I am grateful. They did a good job of explaining the meaning behind the major holidays, like Christmas and Easter, my father substituting popular ideas of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny with rational examinations of the scripture. He was afraid his children would make the same logical jump to atheism he had, so we led a rather demystified childhood, as far as American culture goes. My sister and I made up for this by having an extremey active imagination in out personal play times, which hardly hurt us.

It wasn’t until I started actively reading, around second grade, when I really started to get something out of church. I read the Bible voraciously after a Sunday Schoolteacher gave me a nice black leather New King James Bible, which I continue to do to this day. Old Testament, New Testament, the whole package was an adventure that entranced me and continues to fascinate me. I have been reading the Bible for over 15 years, and I continuously find new insights, new horizons to explore. The Bible is truly the most remarkable work of literature ever written, befitting the inspired Word of God.

This was also around the same time my parents began a sort of nomadic churchgoing lifestyle. We’d go to a church for a few years, before something offended my father, so we’d start going to a new church. Living in the same house in Hayward for 16 years before going to college, I ended up attending 6 different churches regularly at different periods, with several interim periods where the family would try out different churches for a few months. The church I was baptized in when I was 12 actually collapsed due to internal dissension because of an argument over whether “Highland Baptist Church” should have been changed to “Highland Community Church”. For this, an entire community disintegrated, and the people involved dispersed to various other churches.

It always broke my heart to move on to a new church, and every time that some doctrinal dispute would drive my parents away from a church I wondered why couldn’t Christians seem to tolerate each other, let alone show the absolute love that Christ commanded?

As I grew older, I increasingly had the feeling that there was something off about the Evangelical tradition. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but Evangelical churches usually seemed more like social clubs for the righteous than hospitals for sinners, as I increasingly saw that the Church was called to be. I was frustrated that people would pay lip service to loving Jesus, and even do good works in his name, but the actual pursuit of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful seemed to be out of people’s minds.

I had faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Bible, the Holy Trinity. I felt there was something wrong with the way he was being worshiped, but I didn’t know what it was. I saw Christians more worried about appearances than by the Good news, interested more in personal pleasure than the Kingdom of Heaven.

Over the past couple years, a series of encounters started to lead me to a very strange conclusion that made me uncomfortable at first: that the Catholic Church is in fact what it claims to be, the Apostolic Universal Church founded by Jesus Christ. An alien idea at first, I have come to joyfully embrace this in love as the Gospel of Jesus Christ has flowered before my eyes through the testimony of the Saints both living and dead. For the first time in my life, the Truth I have always been dimly aware of has embraced me and called me to follow Him.

This post has become exceedingly long, and I feel I have accomplished most of what I set out to do with it. In the coming days and weeks, I hope to tell of the encounters and thoughts that led me to start my journey towards the ancient Church of Rome. I hope you will join me, dear reader, as I look back over this path, and that my words might in some small way lead you closer on your own journey to the infinite love of God the Father.

¡Viva Cristo Rey!

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~ by Sam Urfer on June 10, 2008.

2 Responses to “First, some background…”

  1. Have you ever had the opportunity to drop by St Albert’s Priory in Oakland? If you have not consider this an invitation to come for mass and/or The Divine Office anytime.

  2. Indeed, I visited St. Albert’s for Mass on Pentecost Sunday. Three friends and I shared breakfast afterwards with Br. Corwin and Br. Dominic David before going a brief tour of the grounds and the library. It’s a beautiful church, and one of my close friends is a regular attendee of Mass, so I will undoubtedly attend Mass there in the future. Thanks very much for the invitation!

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