What was your religious background?
I was raised nominally Episcopalian.  I never went to church as a child.  In middle and high school, I became interested in the occult.  A friend of mine in high school was raised Methodist, but wanted to become Catholic.  His mother had been Catholic but left the Church because she couldn't get an annulment.  We would talk about religion and, because I was into the occult, would ask him different questions about demons apparently.  I don't really remember asking him questions exclusively about demons, but I remember him one day getting frustrated with me (he never had before) and asked, "Why do you always ask questions about Satan?  Why don't you ever ask questions about Christ?"  I remember thinking to myself that was a good question, so I made a point of starting to ask questions about Christ and Christianity.  So I ended up becoming interested in Catholicism and joined RCIA the next year.  He never became Catholic, became atheist for a long period of time, and the last I talked to him, he was into Norse paganism.  Like ships passing in the night.

In college, I became very angry with God and stopped going to church.  After a few months, I started to be drawn back, but had become very interested in Eastern Orthodoxy (I was even interested in it while I was in RCIA, though superficially so, and that is where I first learned of the Eastern Catholic churches).  So I started going with a friend to an Orthodox parish, and began attending every week.  It is an Antiochian parish that is made up mostly of Protestant converts.  The next year, I studied in Russia, and after I got my bearings there, I thought, "Oh, I was going to become Orthodox, what's holding me back now?"  So I started to attend an Orthodox parish in Moscow and became a catechumen.  At first, I attended a regular Russian Orthodox church, but the priest there thought I would do better if I went to the OCA metochion parish (A metochion is sort of an embassy church to the various autocephalous churches).  The priest was an American, so I would talk with him after liturgy each Sunday for my catechumenate.  They had a small library with English books, so I read a few of them.  One of them that interested me was the Orthodox position on the papacy.  I read it and felt very unconvinced.  I thought if this was the strongest argument the Orthodox have against the papacy, then it's not a convincing one (at least, it wasn't to me at the time).  So about a month before I was supposed to be received into the Orthodox church, I told the priest that I was not going to become Orthodox.  I started attending a Latin parish there on Saturday evenings for the few remaining months that I was in Moscow.  It is mostly an emigree church.  It had something like 20 masses every Sunday, several in each of traditional Catholic languages - French, English, Spanish, Polish, Lithuanian, Vietnamese, and one Russian mass with very low attendance.

When I returned to the US, I started going to a Ruthenian parish.  After attending for about a year, I requested to be transferred.  I wanted to become Melkite, as that was the counterpart of the Antiochian church, and I had intended to resume attendance at the Antiochian parish when I was a catechumen.  But the closest Melkite parish was too far for me to attend.  I believe providentially, I never heard anything back from the Ruthenian bishop.  I would ask the pastor each week if he had heard anything. "Nope, nothing this week.  Give it time, sometimes these things can take a while.  Eventually I gave up, and then moved closer to the Melkite parish I attend now.  I started attending, asked if I could transfer after attending a few weeks.  Even with having spent so much time in Orthodoxy and having tried to transfer to the Byzantine Catholic Church, the priest wanted me to attend for a year before transferring.  So I attended regularly, and asked the priest again a few months shy of a year so we could get the ball rolling.  Got the approval back from the Melkite bishop a month or two later, and I've been Melkite ever since.

I've gone back to the Antiochian parish a few times to visit.  Mostly just for liturgy, as I'm kind of shy and didn't really get to know many people there.  Every time I go there, or any other Orthodox parish, I always feel an inexplicable emptiness.  I attribute it to their not being in communion with Rome, but I don't know for sure.  I just know that it always feels like something is subtly, but profoundly, missing.  It's kind of sad for me to feel that emptiness in a parish that I loved for a portion of my life, felt like home and was (and still is) so full of life.  But that feeling of emptiness has never gone away.  Eventually I stopped visiting Orthodox parishes because everything I felt like Orthodoxy had that Catholicism didn't, I have in full at my Melkite parish.  I still feel drawn to Orthodoxy from time to time, and I would still visit an Orthodox parish if the opportunity arose.  But the draw is weaker each time.  Instead of thinking of it as trying to make time to go visit an Orthodox parish, now it's like "Maybe I'll go to an Orthodox parish if I can't go to my Melkite parish for some reason."  It's definitely something I see in my head as a back up, rather than to go to for something I'm not getting at home.  I don't know if I feel the draw to Orthodoxy anymore, when I do, because there is something I'm still missing that I haven't put my finger on, or if it's to reassure me that I'm right where I'm supposed to be and not missing a thing.

And that's my story.
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RE: What was your religious background? - by Melkite - 02-07-2020, 11:28 AM

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