St. Peter Claver (my favorite saint) encountered many that opposed the Catholic church while he served as a missionary/priest in Cartagena, Colombia during the early 17th century. However, his ability to persuade those back into the Church went unchallenged by those who he encountered.
English and Dutch traders frequented Cartagena and neighboring cities during that era. One day after meeting with some English crew members, convinced by his personality and manner, one of the members invited Father Claver to speak with their prelate aboard their ship.
As the two men sat down and discussed differences between Catholics and Protestants, the Englishman could see the truth of Catholicism but didn’t convert due to difficult obstacles relating to resources that supported his family.
As Peter Claver sat across from him, he noticed the Englishman wanted to dedicate himself as a closeted Catholic, but upon his deathbed reveal his allegiance to the Church. He would be walking around outwardly as an Anglican, but internally Catholic.
Father Claver left the conversation feeling uneasy about the situation. Suddenly, he realized the feast day of St. Ursula, a saint from the Englishman’s country, was on the exact date of their conversation and he made a phenomenal connection about the Catholic church and Church of England, particularly Henry VIII’s split from the Chuch by making himself the supreme authority of the Church of England. This event helped spur the English Reformation.
Some of St. Peter Claver’s words to the Englishman in regards to his hesitancy toward the Church were as followed:
“What then induced him to forsake the ancient religion and establish a new one? Was it not to contract a scandalous and adulterous marriage with Anne Boleyn, after he had repudiated his lawful wife, in defiance of all laws, both human and divine? These were the abominations that produced your religion: judge then the effect of the cause. Ah! how can a sensible and conscientious man prefer a law, the offspring of adultery, to that announced by the Apostles, and confirmed by the blood of so many martyrs”
Father Claver paints the image of two paths, similar to Jesus Christ (Mat 7:13-14).
One of truth and the other of deceit.
One ancient, while the other was only decades old at the time.
One testified by the history and Tradition of the Apostles, while the other is founded on the breaking of the 5th Commandment.
This conversation between Father Claver and the Englishman made me think of my own conversion to Catholicism for a small brief period. When I read over his words, I felt as if he was speaking directly to me a little over about 16 months ago.
I too was confronted with this same dilemma as the Englishman. I too wanted to somehow remain outwardly Protestant, but internally find peace in the Church. What eventually happened was I realized that I wasn’t being authentic to myself. No matter how I tried to gloss over my own preferences, the Holy Church wouldn’t allow me to be double-minded. I knew I had to make a decision on how I wanted my life to be simply because “who do you say that I am? (Mat. 16:15” is the fundamental question we all have to answer.
Moreover, for me to fully know the Catholic church was the source of salvation and to ignore it would be damnable. In fact, Lumen Gentium section 14 from Second Vatican Council states, “Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.” As a result, I was faced with a hard decision either join the Catholic faith or stay a miserable feeling Bible-alone Protestant.
Eventually, I had to go where my conscience compelled me to go. I too, like St. Paul, had to count all things that were gain to me as a loss for the sake of Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:7). Especially me wanting to be a pastor or have some sort of clergy role In my local church, which had long been a hope of mines since 2009.
Now, countless hours studying theology, and biblical studies will eventually play a role one day. Perhaps as a Deacon (when I’m 35 and be admitted into a program at 33) or assisting in Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at the local parish level in the summer.
With that said, what happened to the Englishman? After Father Claver spoke the words of truth, the prelate was moved. He asked Peter Claver to pray for him and of course, he willingly did. After a few weeks, the Englishman came back to Father Claver saying, “It is time, father, it is time for me to accomplish the promise I made to God and to you. I wish to embrace the religion of my ancestors, — the faith of the Holy Roman Church.”
Exactly, the “religion of my ancestors” is what the Catholic church claims. Not a claim that’s baseless, but one that history validates when one examines the early centuries after Christ. In fact, one quote I’ve frequently heard is “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant” and it became true when I researched how the early church practiced its faith. The Catholic church is not one among many, but indeed the one Church founded by Christ. That one unique Church that maintains St. Peter’s authority given to him by Christ himself.
As “Amazing Grace” stated, “How precious did that grace appear..the hour I first believed.” Thank God for the grace given to cross the Tiber.
Follow me on Twitter @Menny_Thoughts
Source: John R. Flattery’s St. Peter Claver: Apostle to the Negroes (Kindle Version)