Donny's Ramblings

On Being a Bit Annoyed, On Being Drawn to Catholicism, and On Being Donny

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I would like to share a few reasons, some of which you might find a bit off-the-wall, on why I’m drawn to the Catholic Church. Many have asked.

First of all, I’ve been invited to fewer Protestant churches since I became “Catholic-friendly.” My encounters with the Catholic Church began in 2008. It hasn’t been easy.  I’ve had many questions.  In my life, I’ve also felt many of the same opinions of most of the Protestants I know in regards to Catholicism.  When I told her of my draw towards the Catholic Church, a family member told me that she didn’t want to hear my garbage anymore because I’ve obviously been turned over to a reprobate mind.  I expected such responses.

On Being a Bit Annoyed

Here’s what I mean by being annoyed: I’ve lost a handful of speaking opportunities to Protestant audiences since I began embracing Catholicism.  I’m not sure why anyone would feel threatened by such things as the church I choose to attend.  I’ve never been invited to your congregations to lecture on theology, but rather to share a unique perspective on pornography and how God brought me out of that business.  I’ve been chosen to share a story of His grace, forgiveness and love.  It’s a very impactful message of hope, and one that challenges the audience.  Numerous people have left porn behind after hearing it.  But some pastors have directly told me that I can’t be brought in to speak because of my thoughts on Catholicism – at least they have the guts to say so directly to me.  Others do not, but I know anyway.  If you’re a Protestant pastor, your church needs to hear what God’s given me to share.  Shame on you if you let your prejudices towards the location in which I choose to attend services  keep such an important message from your people.  Seriously.  I’m skinning my index finger, which is pointed at your face.

On Being Drawn to Catholicism

There are many reasons why I’m drawn to Catholicism.  I was first invited to work with a Catholic group in 2008.  A documentary was being made that included the topic of pornography, and they wanted me to share my views.  The producer’s son is a priest. I began asking questions.  Shortly thereafter, other Catholic groups began asking me to speak for them.  Many priests – particularly Father Carlos Martins – and laypeople told me I should convert to Catholicism. I told them that would never happen, because there is far too much with which I disagree.  That didn’t scare any of them away from having me speak to their people.

In my free time, I started visiting Cathedrals.  They’re beautiful, and open to the public rather than just Catholics.  I’d take my time, admiring the amazing artwork within.  Much of it is incredibly detailed, and a lot of work.  All of it was made out of love for God.  That being the case, it’s impossible to be inside a Cathedral without feeling His presence.  When invited to speak for a Protestant church in New York City, I used my frequent flier miles to bring along my best friend, John Hunt .  We went to Manhattan a few days before I was to speak so that we could visit the city.  While there, we visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral. John, who is an agnostic/atheist, insisted that he definitely felt something inside during our visit.  I know what he means; there has never been a time when I’ve been inside a Cathedral without feeling God’s presence very heavily impressed upon my spirit.

Because of that, I began seeking out local Catholic churches in which to pray.  Unlike many Protestant churches, the doors are almost always open for those who want to seek His face within the walls of the church.  I’d sit inside, look at the artwork, pray and study my Bible.  I’ve got over 3,400 books in my Logos Library, in which I’ve invested several thousand dollars, that I use to study nearly every day.  I love God.  I consume the Bible and related books like a Donny Pauling eats a hotdog (yes, I just involved myself in my own made-up metaphor).  Theology fascinates me.  It’s Bill Giovannetti‘s fault that I love the Bible so much.  I used to think the Bible was boring and stupid, even after asking God to take control of my life in 2006.  But I noticed that Bill loved the Bible.  He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and I couldn’t understand why he’d like such a stupid book.  I asked.  He didn’t answer.  He just asked questions in reply, which must be the Professor in him, and those questions made me discover my own love for scripture (no, Bill’s not really all that happy that I want to be Catholic, but I am his friend and that won’t change).

Rather than feeling the normal Protestant prejudices towards statues and artwork, I began studying the history of why Catholics utilize them in worship.  I began imaging what it would be like to be an educated priest, trying to teach illiterate people about God.  Maybe I’d start painting things.  Maybe I’d create statues.  Maybe I’d enlist all sorts of other visual aids.  God gave us five senses; maybe I’d try to engage as many as possible of those five senses into the way I led people in worship of Him.  Such things have a long history, and as I’d sit in beautiful Catholic Churches, I could imagine myself connecting to all those who had lost their lives defending the faith throughout the past 2000 years.  I could imagine myself as a man who had dedicated my entire life to bringing people to Jesus.  I could imagine myself being a layperson who couldn’t read, reliant upon a church to teach me.

Now, I’m not saying everyone should feel this way, because I don’t believe you should.  But I started getting really annoyed that our Protestant churches ignore so much of church history.  It’s quite common for Protestants to accuse Catholics of not spending enough time reading their Bibles.  I’d like to propose to you that Protestants don’t spend even a fraction of the amount of time they should in the study of church history.  Really, outside of the textbooks we probably didn’t read in High school, the vast majority of Protestants are incredibly ignorant of what’s happened the last two thousand years, and even more ignorant of church history.  But it’s so fascinating to do so!  I highly recommend it.  But beware! Removing ignorance just might result in a few changes of opinion!

A side note on that whole “Catholics don’t read their Bibles” thing:  every single Mass – which happens DAILY, I might add – has readings from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Psalms, and the Gospels.  Every. single. one.  Without those readings, there is no Mass.  A person who attends daily Mass, as I do (I’ll get to my reasons in a bit) goes through the entire Bible every three years.   Some Protestant churches can say the same.  Most cannot.

A few years ago I met Matt Fradd.  I worked together with him on porn-related ministry events.  Later, he went to work for Catholic Answers.  We recorded CDs together.  We debated theology.  He had the likes of Tim Staples and Jimmy Akin – Catholic apologists – call me personally.  Those men asked me questions.  I sought answers.  Many of my thoughts on theology deepened and changed.  Much of my ignorance of Catholic belief changed.  I began to realize that most people, particularly Protestants, don’t hate the Catholic Church for what it actually believes, but rather what they THINK it believes.

I also started to ponder a few things:

  • Why would God entrust the Catholic Church to canonize the Bible, yet deny it the power to interpret it?
  • For more than 1,000 years, until the Great Schism, all Christians were Catholic.  Luther split from the church in the 1500s.  Since then, more than 40 thousand Protestant denominations have arisen, each with their own unique twist on this part of scripture or that part of scripture, each with their own unique interpretations, and each thinking their twists and interpretations make them a little more right than everyone else.  Is God really the author of so much confusion?  I don’t think so.  If Sola Sciptura is as valid as I’ve been taught, why attend any church at all?  Why not just sit home alone, reading my Bible, just me and the Holy Spirit interpreting it together?  Maybe I can figure out a reason why the Donnyism Denomination needs to add to the 40k denominations already in existence
  • I was surprised at the response I received when I’ve mentioned to a few priests that friends have told me things such as, “Many Catholics don’t realize they can have a personal relationship with Jesus.  The Catholic Church is the biggest mission field in the world right now.”   Father James Mallon from Nova Scotia replied, “Both I, and the Pope, would agree with that assessment.  Someone needs to help teach them, right?”
  • I could criticize what I thought to be wrong about the Catholic Church, or I could get in and be one of those who worked to lead people to a deeper relationship with Jesus.  Should I sit back and take pot shots, or roll up my sleeves and get to work?  I am thinking I’d rather do the latter.

This is already a longer article than I intended, so I won’t get into theological issues.  I’ll instead tell you a few personal reasons I love the Catholic Church, a love because of which I’m currently in RCIA, and they’re really not all that deep.

On Being Donny

On my own, I’m a mess.  There is nothing of value in Donny minus God.  I’m not really very nice.  I get grumpy.  I get angry.  I’m impatient.  I want to insult people.  I label others idiots if they don’t agree with me.  I am selfish.  Donny plus God equals a tolerable person.  I want to be tolerable.  I want to help people.  I want to do what I’ve been put here to do.

When I spend time with Him, it is far easier to see others through His eyes.  I feel like I love people.  I feel like I want to listen to them.  I feel like I want to ask God what He’d like me to share with them.  I feel less grumpy.  I love more, period.  And because of Him, I have something to give to the world.

I have a habit of studying at home.  I do so a lot.  But due to my introverted nature and the one track mindedness that comes along with it, when I’m interrupted, I often will become a bit grumpy.  “Leave me the heck alone, Bethany… I’m trying to study.  Figure that geometry problem out on your own!”

Daily Mass changes this.  My morning routine includes dropping Catie off at the charter school she attends, then heading to the local Catholic church for Mass.  Mass, my friends, is a prayer to God.  It’s beautiful.  It’s ceremonial.  It has meaning.  It is saturated in scripture.

For some, Mass might be TOO formal.  For me, it reminds me of why I’m here.  It focuses me on God.  It’s a great way to start my day.  I make better choices for the rest of the day if I start it with this time together with my Creator.  Personal study is great, and I often do so afterwards for 30-45 minutes before I leave the building.  But in my life, I’ve found Mass+personal study to be exponentially more effective than just personal study alone.  And it’s pretty amazing to realize that the exact same order of service, readings, and ceremonies are being observed by millions of others around the globe. It feels pretty awesome to be part of something so  big.  So HUGE.

I’ve met some incredible people who are very, very close to God within the doors of the parishes I’ve attended.  Are there things with which I still struggle, relating to theology?  Of course.  I chew the meat.  I spit out the bones.  I’ve found a place of trust, however, and on many things I choose to simply submit, trusting that my questions and struggles will be answered by the very loving God I serve.   I’ve reached a place where I am not in a hurry for answers, because I love and trust Him so much and, from experience, I know He’ll answer in His own time.

And I’m totally good with that.

12 thoughts on “On Being a Bit Annoyed, On Being Drawn to Catholicism, and On Being Donny

  1. Madd Fradd informed me:

    “Just so you know. It’s a myth that Catholics hear almost the entirety of the Bible in 3 years if they were to attend daily Mass.

    Over a three-year cycle Sunday Masses include 3.7% of the Old Testament (plus Psalms) and 40.8% of the New Testament. If you add weekday Masses you’ll hear 13.5% of the Old Testament (plus Psalms) and 71.5% of the New Testament.

    see http://catholic-resources.org/Lectionary/Statistics.htm

  2. By the way, if you’re a reader who would rather post a comment on Facebook, feel free to do so here:

    https://www.facebook.com/donnypauling/activity/10152482198898782

  3. Welcome home Donny!

  4. Isn’t it amazing how God never gives up on us?!! Welcome home, Donny, and may God bless you!

  5. Donny, I plan to invite you to my parish as I have already stated regardless of where you end up and yes, to tell your story and not to promote “theology” (but isn’t God’s love theology?)….I wish you well should you land in the RC church. . .I have often wondered where would I go if I wasn’t a Lutheran. My guess would be a charismatic Roman Catholic church…for me (for me I said) I would miss the Sacraments too much if I went into an evangelical camp although there is some movement in some towards the sacraments and liturgy. . .maybe a charismatic Episcopal church.

    If you ever get down to Texas there is a great Episcopal church with Kemper Crabb who was once a big name in Contemporary Christian music years ago.

    Blessings to you my friend!

    (Rev.) John Hohe

  6. Really great article! We need more agitated, annoyed men coming into the Church! 🙂 God bless you Donny, we are so glad you are part of the body of Christ! Side note…Matt Fradd is such a blessing to this nation, I love that Aussie! He came to Northern Mn and we got to listen to him for two days..just fantastic!

  7. I love, love, love, hearing others’ conversion stories; how He calls each of us in such a deeply personal way. Welcome home and God bless you and the wonder tasks He’s set you out to do!

  8. I highly encourage you to attend the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (commonly known as the Tridentine Mass). If you do go, please ensure that you go with the right mindset and to attend this form of the Holy Mass with someone who attends on a regular basis. It will surely elevate your spiritual senses and edify your faith in the Holy Catholic Church!

  9. I understand you’re frustrated right now but I just wanted to offer some other thoughts on what you’re experiencing. I grew up in a Pentecostal background and always believed and was taught that Catholics go to hell. Since attending University and studying Church History, I’ve changed my beliefs abut the Catholic/Orthodox church and numerous other denominations. However, I just wanted to sort of push back on this comment: “I’ve lost a handful of speaking opportunities to Protestant audiences since I began embracing Catholicism. I’m not sure why anyone would feel threatened by such things as the church I choose to attend.”

    I love the Pope, I love my Catholic brothers and sisters, but even they would confess that there are some serious differences between the Protestant and Catholic faith traditions. Many honestly see issue with certain aspects of the Church and there are going to be some serious distinctives. The history of the Catholic church (pre and post-schism) leaves a lot to be desired. Heck, even Papa Francis agrees that there are some fundamental issues here. Interesting to note that while you were wondering ‘why it’s such a big deal’, even some of your commenters on this post seemed to believe that you weren’t “home” until you were part of the Catholic church so where did they think you were before then?

    I hope I didn’t come off as rude, this is your home after all. I just ask that you treat those old Protestant friends of yours with some grace. The theology aspect may not be important to you, but it is very important to many of us. Especially those of us like myself who come from certain parts of the world where the Catholic missionaries persecuted indigenous Christians and pushed their own beliefs.

    PS: I really really love your old stuff, I’ve been reading through it all day. Curiously, I found it very difficult to navigate to the other sections of the site, what am I doing wrong?

  10. I understand you’re frustrated right now but I just wanted to offer some other thoughts on what you’re experiencing. I grew up in a Pentecostal background and always believed and was taught that Catholics go to hell. Since attending University and studying Church History, I’ve changed my beliefs abut the Catholic/Orthodox church and numerous other denominations. However, I just wanted to sort of push back on this comment: “I’ve lost a handful of speaking opportunities to Protestant audiences since I began embracing Catholicism. I’m not sure why anyone would feel threatened by such things as the church I choose to attend.”

    I love the Pope, I love my Catholic brothers and sisters, but even they would confess that there are some serious differences between the Protestant and Catholic faith traditions. Many honestly see issue with certain aspects of the Church and there are going to be some serious distinctives. The history of the Catholic church (pre and post-schism) leaves a lot to be desired. Heck, even Papa Francis agrees that there are some fundamental issues here. Interesting to note that while you were wondering ‘why it’s such a big deal’, even some of your commenters on this post seemed to believe that you weren’t “home” until you were part of the Catholic church so where did they think you were before then?

    I hope I didn’t come off as rude, this is your home after all. I just ask that you treat those old Protestant friends of yours with some grace. The theology aspect may not be important to you, but it is very important to many of us. Especially those of us like myself who come from certain parts of the world where the Catholic missionaries persecuted indigenous Christians and pushed their own beliefs.

    PS: I really really love your old stuff, I’ve been reading through it all day. Curiously, I found it very difficult to navigate to the other sections of the site, what am I doing wrong?

  11. Thank you, thank you. As a cradle Catholic (one who has been Catholic since birth), many non-Catholics believe that I have been brainwashed into my religion and never question why I believe it is the one true Church. I have questioned my faith, and have come to the same conclusions that many Protestants come to when researching the Roman Catholic Church with an open mind to the Holy Spirit. It is nice when a person who was not raised Catholic comes to the realization that it is the same church that Christ began so may years ago. Yes, there have been some problems with PEOPLE in the church (which reflected upon their teachings during a specific period of time), but the Church itself has always been the same and will endure forever. Welcome, brother. We’re glad to have you.

  12. Donny–Welcome home. I’ve been a Catholic for 10 years and I have no regrets. The number one obstacle for me to seriously consider the Catholic faith as a viable choice was overcoming my own pride. The first step was to decide to be “fair” to the Catholic Church. Everything I had ever read up to that point was from critics of the Church. Once I studied the Catechism and understood what the Church really teaches I realized the critics all fall into two camps. The first camp focuses on all of the bad actors in the Church. The Church only claims to be protected by the Holy Spirit in teaching the right thing, not doing the right thing. The second camp claim her theology is wrong (based on their personal subjective “infallible” interpretation) but the more I studied her theology the more I fell in love. She teaches 2 critical essentials that made my fundamentalist evangelical heart sing–everything is grace and our response to God’s grace is surrender.

    I was always a Sola Scriptura guy. The Bible is the Word of God and therefore has to be our sole or (at least final authority), right? 10 years ago for Christmas my wife gave me a book, Rome Sweet Home by Scott Hahn. He pointed out that Sola Scriptura isn’t scriptural, historical or logical. He also demonstrated that when we remove the Bible from its proper context of apostolic tradition (which is scriptural) and the Church’s teaching office (which is also scriptural), what we are really saying is “our interpretation of the Bible” is our sole or final authority. Spiritual truth is no longer objective. Spiritual truth is now subjective. This explains the problems of the multiplicity of Protestant denominations.

    Hahn also demonstrated from scripture the real presence of the Christ in the Eucharist, which is the focal point of the Catholic faith. Scott Hahn convinced me of the sanctifying graces we receive from the Eucharist—our spiritual food. The next book to rock my world was By What Authority by Mark Shea. He talked about the New Testament canon and asked the question, “How can a fallible Church define an infallible canon?” After those two books I was really in trouble.

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