What was your religious background?
When I was younger, I always thought a Catholic Mass would be very lovely with the candle-light and the old-style architecture. But I grew up non-denominational. It was a mixture of Pietist and Evangelical doctrine. I struggled a lot with faith growing up. They never gave a direct answer as to how to save and I would read Scriptures that suggested one thing and then they would insist because of my intellectual profession (which wasn't strong to begin with), I would be saved. Even still, in my senior year in high school I developed strong anti-Catholic and fundamentalist sentiment. That's because I discovered a lot of commentaries to the book of Revelation which weren't very nice toward the Church.

In university, I took a religions of the world class my first semester. That class led me to question my views on the Trinity. I explored modalism, Arianism, and Socinianism.

My dad had been heavily involved at my non-denominational church but that one was going through some massive changes. He and my mom also had some sort of house church thing set up which eventually fell apart as well as some of our friends who began developing more fundamentalist beliefs stopped going. I ended up in an Evangelical Covenant Church but never believed a single one of its doctrines! Soon, I began exploring the occult with the influence of a lot of death metal and black metal I'd been listening to.

But somehow, I felt a pull to try and understand the theology. One of the pastors at the Evangelical Covenant Church introduced me to an interest in theology. I began exploring different doctrines in the Protestant world and theological opinions. I wanted to understand more and began reading about church history and ended up on a forum where I had heard about Eastern Rite Catholicism. I'd never heard about that before. I assumed it was just the Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox.

Any way, one day, I ended up in a Byzantine Catholic Cathedral in Phoenix, AZ. It was the Sunday before Halloween in 2013 and I heard the archpriest give an homily about the Gadarene Demoniac. Keep in mind, I arrived there after a heavy exploration in the occult. I didn't have a license then and my mom was my chauffer so she searched out a closer parish. I ended up in that Byzantine Catholic parish the next Saturday and I said to the priest that I had been called to the faith. I'd been going regularly, and attending Eastern Christian Formation classes but in January of 2014, a huge wave of depression took over me. I struggled to attend church on Sundays, barely made it to the Vesper Divine Liturgies the parish had, and eventually ended up missing church all together. Faith became hard.

The priest wasn't a very effective preacher either. I recall the archpriest's homily on a regular basis though. The priest at the other parish had come from a fundamentalist background, he was very anti-Protestant, and not as Gospel-centered. Of course, becoming Catholic means accepting the tenets of the Catholic faith but I still felt the rigorous anti-Protestantism was beginning to get in the way of learning the Catholic faith. I got into an argument with the priest one day. I remember calling the archpriest and telling him about my argument, the archpriest telling me if I have any problems to call him and let him know, and to keep attending the Eastern Christian Formation classes. That understanding wasn't necessary. So I went back and ended up developing a relationship with the deacon there.

One day, he presented me with an icon of the Archangel Michael and said that he had spoken to Father and that if I was absolutely certain about entering into the faith, I could be received into it in just a few weeks, that a chrismation could be arranged and be done in private. (He did not know I was not baptized at that point though he did the next Sunday.) I wasn't certain then at that point. I felt a pull toward the West again. I ended up in a Continuing Anglican Mission in the Anglican Church in America. I had been attending for a month and the rector asked me one day why I didn't take communion. I told him I wasn't baptized. He told me he'd fix that. The next month, I was baptized in the Anglican Church in America--October 26, 2014.

I still met with the Ruthenian Catholic deacon regularly at his university office. I would attend his parish on occasion too. Even though I had this Western pull, I also felt pulled toward the East. I began to feel that even the Anglo-Catholic faith I was in was becoming deficient. But I continued with it until my family moved across the country. I explored several different parishes. Two Anglo-Catholic parishes--a Diocese of the Holy Cross parish, and a parish in the Anglican Catholic Church. The Diocese of the Holy Cross parish is still the most Traditionalist Catholic-looking parish I've ever been to. I went to a Western Rite Orthodox parish too. I visited a Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish and a Melkite Greek Catholic parish.

I told the Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest I wanted to convert in his parish. I had been going there for about a year and a half. I attended the Melkite Catholic parish whenever they had holy days and for Vespers. I developed strong relationships with the people there. The Ukrainian Catholic parish had no full-time priest, they only met on Sundays and for certain holy days such as Christmas, Holy Thursday, and Great Friday. But I attended the Melkite parish to witness many other holy days.

When the priest at the Melkite parish passed in November, I met the man who would be appointed the interim pastor by the bishop. There was something about this man. I felt as if he'd be instrumental in my salvation but I didn't see it then and I tried to bury it and insist it couldn't be.

Even with the paperwork submitted fully and my Ukrainian Catholic catechist testifying I was ready for chrismation, the priest insisted I still go through more classes. I was becoming frustrated, tempted extraordinarily by Satan to despair and despondency. I was cutting myself in the narthex of the Melkite parish one day. A lady saw me and my godmother's (another lady who had just recently been declaring me to be her godson) husband came out to my aid. That eventually led to a discussion with the deacon about my exasperation, I felt the Church had rejected me, and the deacon asked if I had considered being chrismated at the Melkite parish. I decided to surrender at that point. The deacon and I talked with the priest afterward and he said, "How about I chrismate you right now?" That lady who had been calling me her godson and her husband had left to pick up their oldest from work. I asked the priest if he could have those two serve as witness. So he held off for that moment.

I told my catechist and the Ukrainian Catholic priest I would be completing my religious instruction at the Melkite parish. The next week I was chrismated. The deacon and my godparents and my priest all knew I would be at the Ukrainian Catholic parish the next day so I didn't receive Eucharist immediately. The Ukrainian Catholic priest became angry and hardened of heart when I showed him my certificate of chrismation. He demanded to know why I was there and why I wasn't with the Melkites. His demands intimidated me. I wanted him to bless the icon that my godparents had given me the previous night. It was only when I kept pestering him and mentioning their names (they attended another parish of his previously), that he finally resigned to doing that.

I didn't receive the Eucharist that day. Afterward, I asked the priest if I could receive Eucharist in his parish and he told me "technically yes, but I want to question you further" and he claimed that my coming in through the Melkites was "tricky" and that I should be with them. I was despairing and nearly despondent all week but God had put the right people in my life. The next Sunday, I attended the Melkite parish. I asked my godmother if I could go up and receive it with her and she said to me that she couldn't carry me (she has a five-year old and a three-year old). I said, I don't want to be carried. I followed her in line, it was crowded, I kept my hand on her shoulder to let her know I was behind her. Just before it was her turn, she took my forearm and sent in front of her and I communed then.

So now I am a Melkite Catholic and maybe when tensions between the Ukrainian priest and I heal, I'll go back there. As it turns out, I sent a complaint to his bishop's office about the situation from that Sunday and heard back on Wednesday from the Dean of the Ukrainian Catholic Protopresbyterate of Washington informing me that the Ukrainian priest is aware I belong to the Melkite Catholic Church and am eligible to receive Holy Mysteries at his parish. So perhaps I will go again some day in the near future but for now, I'll be attending my home parish on Sundays with more regularity.

And that's my story.
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RE: What was your religious background? - by newenglandsun - 02-07-2020, 08:52 AM

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