The Rise and Fall of My Faith, Part I: Looking for God in all the Wrong Places

Whenever I do something, I have to do it 110 percent or not at all. I think this helps to explain why Catholic traditionalism seemed appealing to me. I was always (and still am) a fundamentally lonely individual who spends most of my time living in my imagination or elsewhere in my head. I had always been raised in a secular home, but towards the end of my undergraduate career I had it in my head that if I could only be theist in some way that it would make it easier for me to make the kinds of social connections that were so difficult for me. Churches were places where it was easy to find large groups of people with whom to socialize. Presumably, if I could find the “right one,” the process of socialization would be that much more easier.

At this same time, I took a class on the history of Early Christianity, one of the last classes I would take as an undergraduate. The class was taught from a secular perspective, but the personal ideology of the professor was high-church Anglicanism. For the first time, Christianity seemed to make sense to me as something I could and ought to believe in. During the course of the class, we studied the apostolic fathers like Irenaeus, Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Alexandria, and the like and the description of the church that they gave sounded an awful lot like the Catholic church, so it made sense to gravitate towards the institution that most resembled what the earliest Christians described.

I need to re-interate that belief never really came easy for me. It was an act of will and not an act of love. I was never able to believe things like a literal six-day Christian or some of the nuttier miracles described in the Hebrew Bible. I rationalized away the global flood described in Genesis as a local event (perhaps a tsunami caused by the catastrophic volcanic eruption on the Island of Thera) that made it into the Bible. But nonetheless, I was on the road to trad-dom.

In any case, my first step was to examine the local Catholic parishes that were located near my house. My first impressions were that of confusion, since they didn’t seem to resemble the Catholic church that I had read about, especially the use of gospel music rather than Latin. I had been a “Latin nerd” since elementary school, and I wasn’t too happy by it’s absence. Nevertheless, I choose a parish to go through RCIA with, chosen mostly because I really liked the Gothic architecture. While I did the RCIA thing, I continued my own studies about the Catholic church, and that’s how I began to learn about Catholic traditionalism.