4 Books That (Helped) Lead Me to Catholicism.

From the moment I “thought-up” this blog, I knew this was a post I wanted to include.  This blog has really reinvigorated my yearning for a deeper and more thorough understanding of the Catholic faith. When I went through RCIA two years ago, I had only intended to go in order to better understand my then fiancé’s (now husband-aka Andy) Catholic faith .  I had so many questions (that is a nice way for me to say- I had accusations).  I was a staunch believer of ‘sola scriptura’.  I had attended a non-denominational online church on Sundays (when I remembered) but had also attended mass for the previous three+ years with my at-time boyfriend so that we could worship together in some capacity. I won’t go too much further into this story (maybe someday down the line I will write out my full testimony) BUT suffice it to say, I did NOT agree with what I thought the Catholic Church stood for.  I was constantly battering Andy with questions and accusations.  I kid you not, one time I said to him in frustration, “So if the Pope told you to jump off a bridge, I guess you would?!”  I was ready to walk into RCIA with an open mind, simply for the love of my future husband, but I was equally prepared (if not more) to walk in with my Bible thumping sword ready to cut through all of the ‘falsehoods’ that the Church taught.  I was ready to debunk everything about the Catholic Church. While there are MANY other factors that led to my decision to convert, one factor that I cannot overlook, is the role that these books played.

I attended RCIA every week and soaked up every bit of knowledge I could.  I asked the ‘tough’ questions. I made accusatory statements at times.  I got sufficient answers, absolutely, but I needed more.  I had deep theological issues that honestly took way more explanation and understanding than I could ever get in a once or twice a week class. For those who have grown up in a Catholic family, it may be hard for you to truly understand that for those coming from a protestant background,

Catholicism is a radically different way of conceptualizing Christianity and its relationship to the Church.

It goes directly against (to an extent, of course) what you have been brought up to understand.  It takes 20 minutes to give an overview of ‘sola scriptura’ (not meant as a negative comment-just highlighting differences), it takes hours/days/weeks to give a brief overview of all the facets and intricacies of the Catholic Church and that just barely touches the surface.  I credit a fairly large part of my conversion to these books.  For cradle-Catholics, it may seem that the Catholic Church is the obvious answer, but it isn’t obvious, I promise you that.  These books are deeply theological and philosophical and they directly addressed a lot of my deep-rooted misunderstanding.  I devoured these books, every word of them. They helped begin to re-shape my understanding of Christianity to something much larger than a single book.  Conversion was not an easy decision, and I fought tooth and nail at almost every crossroad but these books helped break down those barriers for me. I recommend these books to Catholics who want to learn more Catholic apologetics, to Protestants who may want to know what Catholics actually believe and why they believe it (rather than what an individual Catholic tells you they believe), or those with no faith background who are just curious!

1. Home Sweet Rome

    By Scott and Kimberly Hahn

Okay, so this book.  This book will always hold a special place in my heart.  It was the first time I had read something and I went… “Oh my gosh, he gets it! He understands what I believe and where I am coming from!”  One of my biggest obstacles for my conversion was that I really needed someone in the Catholic faith who understood exactly what it was that I believed.  Someone who could “speak my language” so to speak.  Scott Hahn speaks my language y’all.  To this day, I am a huge fan of all things Scott Hahn! I consider him my theological spirit animal.  For those who don’t know who Scott Hahn is, Scott Hahn was a Presbyterian minister and top biblical scholar  who vehemently opposed the Catholic Church who, alongside his wife, ended up converting to Catholicism.  In this book, Dr. Hahn discusses his and his wife’s conversion to the Catholic faith. I highly recommend this book to everyone, including cradle-Catholics. I remember when my husband, who is a cradle-Catholic, read this, he looked at me and told me, “I get it now. I have a new respect for what you have gone through and I have a much better understanding of where you came from.”  That right there, is exactly why I recommend it to everyone!

2.  Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith

    By Fr. Robert Barron

You may have seen me quote this book in past posts (I am currently re-reading it 🙂 ).  This book is not a quick read.  It is dense and packed full of information.  It is a great book for a ‘one stop shop’ for an overview of the Catholicism (hence the title).  It really touches on almost every facet of the church yet highlights what is at the core of Catholicism-Jesus.  The book does an amazing job in that it covers a wide array of subjects but is still able to go below the surface on each subject matter.  Fr. Barron is exceptional at packing a lot of really deep subject matter about large topics into a single chapter in a way that leads to deeper understanding. This is a great book to start with if you are unsure about where to begin!

3.  Behold Your Mother: A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines

   By Tim Staples

If you come from any other Christian denomination, the subject of Mary is going to be a hot topic.  It just is. It is a contradiction of what you have been brought up to understand (NOT because we worship Mary – FYI).  Trust me, an entire book dedicated to understanding the concept of Mary isn’t quite enough, but this book is a really good start.  This was the subject that I most vehemently disagreed with and had the most accusations and questions around (confession was a close second).  I would also say, that many in my RCIA group who came from other denominations struggled with it as I did. I definitely needed an entire book dedicated to the subject (on top of countless conversations with my sponsor, our RCIA leader, multiple Deacons, and others Catholics). This book is awesome in that the whole purpose around it is, as the title suggests, defending the concept and clarifying the understanding of Mary.  It really addressed every question and every misconception that I had. It did a great job defining exactly who Mary is and what she is not.  I think every Catholic should have a deep understanding of the theological implications of Mary because I believe it is the most widely used accusation of Catholicism (just my personal opinion).  If you want to venture deeper into your understanding of Mary OR just want to know why we crazy Catholics have a special reverence for Mary, this a great book!

4. Reasons to Believe: How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith

   By Scott Hahn

Scott Hahn strikes again! What is interesting about this book is that it is written for Catholics.  When I read it, I was obviously not Catholic yet.  However, I wanted to read a book from a “Catholic” perspective (I know, I am odd).  This book is pretty amazing because it is basically Catholic apologetics 101.  It is not a terribly long book but it absolutely hits the high points in a logical/detailed way.  This book was huge for me in that it was written for the purpose of apologetics and hit on ALL of the ‘hot topics’ (i.e. Mary, confession, the Pope) and Dr. Hahn is awesome at helping you understand the common misconceptions.  If you want to learn Catholic apologetics and don’t know where to start, this is where you begin!