From Catholic To Orthodox

By Thom Nickels

The word ‘orthodoxy’ can conjure up foul associations. There’s Bertrand Russell’s famous quote,

Orthodoxy is the grave of intelligence,”

which covers any sort of rigid or right thinking at the expense of creative thought.

Orthodoxy (lower case) implies a strict adherence to tradition against which Modernism doesn’t stand a chance. In Judaism, Orthodoxy is seen as that religion’s supreme, most traditional expression, its un-reformed essence. In Christianity, Orthodoxy which has never had a Second Vatican Council or anything approaching a Novus Ordo – Divine Liturgy with lay ministers and Protestant-style hymns – is a window into the ancient Church. In fact, you could search the world for a modern young Orthodox priest with a guitar and a penchant for humming “On Eagles Wings,” but chances are you wouldn’t find one. Priests like that never get a chance to bloom in Orthodoxy; or, if one was discovered in seminary, he’d be sent packing or be told to switch hit to the local Catholic Franciscans.

In the Orthodox Church there are no activist organizations of lay women clamoring to be priests (although Metropolitan Kallistos Ware admits that at some point in time the Church may have to consider the question). To date Orthodox women, however feminist their inclinations, haven’t splintered off and gotten themselves “ordained” by renegade bishops.

There are no Orthodox lay liturgists trying to reinvent or modernize the Divine Liturgy, either. In the eyes of the world, Orthodox Christianity has always been relegated to second tier status, taking a back seat to Catholicism’s power, even in this era of clergy sex abuse. As a box to be checked on applications and questionnaires, where religious affiliation means Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or other , Orthodoxy barely exists at all.

My first glimpse of Orthodoxy was at the 1964-1965 New York Worlds Fair. I’d gone to the Fair with my family primarily to visit the Vatican Pavilion, a modernist white building that had a futuristic look and that effectively mirrored the reformatting of Catholicism taking place in Rome at the Second Vatican Council. Inside the Pavilion was Michelangelo’s treasure, The Pieta, a major Fair exhibit that attracted people of all faiths. Inside the Pavilion there was also the modernist Chapel of the Good Shepard with its minimalist altar table, glass stained windows but not much else.

The chapel’s over-wrought simplicity made an impression on me. Not only did this new Catholic structure have a decidedly Presbyterian style, all the signature Catholic elements were missing except a crucifix. The intent seemed to be the creation of an interdenominational chapel where everybody would be made to feel at home. This was a Catholic chapel that didn’t want to offend Protestants by looking “too Catholic.”

At the time, I sensed that the chapel design hinted at coming changes in Catholic Church architecture.I was right. Most visitors, distracted by the media hoopla surrounding The Pieta (the Vatican Pavilion was the second most popular exhibit at the Fair, attracting some 27,020,857 guests) probably didn’t dwell on this fact that much. My sense is that many Catholics then excused minimalist, Protestant looking church interiors if there was enough stained glass to take the mind off what had been eliminated.

Not far from the Pavilion was a small log cabin church with a three-bar cross on top. I knew the cross to be Russian Orthodox. The chapel was a replica of the first Orthodox chapel in America built in the 1800s at Fort Hood, California. While the rustic exterior put one in mind of Lincoln Logs or Lewis and Clark expeditions, the interior – we had to peer through the windows because the chapel was locked – revealed something startling: a small chandelier illuminating a colorful iconostasis in the center of which were circles of electric candles and a replica of the framed (miraculous) icon of Our Lady of Kazan.

The beauty of that small log cabin church far surpassed anything in the great white Pavilion monolith with its cold and empty Chapel of the Good Shepard.

It was then that I asked myself: What is this thing called Orthodoxy? Growing up, I was taught by the nuns that only Catholics had the true sacrament, the actual Body and Blood of Christ or the Real Presence; Catholics were the only ones with saints, the Mass, priests, and churches that looked like real holy places.

Orthodoxy, I found, also had the Mass (the Divine Liturgy), canonized saints, monks, nuns, priests, vestments, miters—everything in fact that Catholicism had, even miracle stories, bleeding and myrrh streaming images, as well as visions of the Virgin Mary.

This was confusing stuff for a committed, 12-year old Catholic. If there is only one true Church, why would the Virgin Mary make alleged appearances over the dome of a Coptic Orthodox church in Zeitoun, Egypt in front of hundreds of thousands of people? These series of apparitions, lasting from 1968 to 1971, spontaneously healed many people who witnessed the lady in light move around the dome of the church. Why would the bodies of some Orthodox saints remain incorrupt in the same manner as Saint Catherine Laboure’s body in Paris? For every Catholic saint or miracle story there is an Orthodox counterpart.

Is the Orthodox Church the true “other” lung of the whole Church, and not the schismatic renegades they’re made out to be by some Catholic traditionalists? In the eyes of God, where the divide and conquer nature of human politics does not exist – to the chagrin of strict doctrinaire prelates, both East and West, steeped in charges of heresy or schism – are both Churches already really one and united “under the skin” despite the lack of an official agreement?

As the abbot of St. Tikhon’s monastery near Scranton told me last year:

“It was the Western, or Catholic Church, that began changing everything.”

These changes not only included the Flioque clause in the Nicene Creed but the way Christians crossed themselves. The original method of crossing oneself was the Orthodox way, right to left, but Rome changed it from left to right in the 8th century.

A change like this seems a small thing but it can also be indicative of something deeper, like a tendency to re-invent and denude until centuries later you get something like the Second Vatican Council, where the changes were so drastic that if a Catholic from 1947 could come back he wouldn’t even recognize today’s Catholic Mass as being Catholic.

When former Byzantine Catholic Hieromonk and theologian Fr. Gabriel Bunge converted to the Orthodox Church, it generated a lot of press. (Conversions work both ways and can be a lot like musical chairs: In 2009, Orthodox theologian and writer John Mack converted to Eastern Catholicism although shortly after this he divorced his wife and left the priesthood).

On his conversion to Orthodoxy, Fr. Bunge said:

“…Many people thought that the two Churches were moving towards each other and would eventually meet at one point. But as I was growing older and learning some things deeper, I stopped believing in the possibility of the reconciliation of two Churches in terms of the divine services and institutional unity. What was I to do? I could only go on searching for this unity on my own, individually, restoring it in one separate soul, mine. I could not do more. I just followed my conscience, and came to Orthodoxy.”

I see the wisdom in this statement, especially since my conversion to Orthodoxy on April 8th of this year. Prior to my first communion at an Orthodox parish in Northern Liberties, I had many conversations with members of the congregation in which more than several freely admitted that they often attend Catholic churches when they are away on vacation and when they cannot find an Orthodox church.

Not only do they attend Catholic churches but they receive communion in these churches, a fact which may be frowned upon by their pastor or bishop but a fact nevertheless. The Orthodox people I spoke with felt they could relate to Catholics because Catholics believe in the Real Presence. “It’s all about the Eucharist,” as one Orthodox lady told me.

“This is why I come to church, to receive the Eucharist. The Eucharist is not a symbol or a memorial, it is real.”

Comments like these bypass the usual East-West schism rhetoric having to do with the Filioque, or questions related to the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. It’s not that many or most Orthodox don’t think that these questions are important; many do. But for the ordinary people in the pews, ie. people who are not theologians, priests or monks, it is the Eucharist that stands out as the centerpiece of spiritual life. So yes, a certain strange unity of the heart between the two churches has already taken place.

I came to Orthodoxy from Catholicism partially because of its unchanged liturgy; because the Orthodox Church, in its wisdom, never embarked on a path of liturgical self-destruction. It was not enough for me to attend the Traditional Catholic Latin Mass once a month when the bulk of the Catholic Church remains in the Novus Ordo camp. Even while attending the TLM at beautiful Saint Paul’s church in South Philadelphia, one could not escape the reality that this Mass was a minority Mass, primarily a footnote to the Novus Ordo.

It pained me to realize that the TLM was seen more as a specialized event and not part of the regular lists of masses in most Catholic churches.

In the Orthodox Church there is always the traditional liturgy; the rubrics never wax or wane depending on the latest liturgical fashion. There’s no need for committees to advertise or promote tradition.Tradition is already there, and it’s not going anywhere. It is, as they say, the Church.

Since becoming Orthodox, gone are the endless personal narratives that would run in my head whenever I’d attend either a TLM or the Novus Ordo. Those narratives concentrated on what had been lost or thrown away.

In the Orthodox Church, tradition is not shuffled in and shuffled out, like a road show trekking onto Buffalo.



  1. Margaret says:

    I believe the author intended to describe the first Russian Orthodox Church in “Fort Ross” California. It burned a few decades ago, but has been rebuilt, and reconsecrated, and has an iconostasis. I have heard of services being held there. It is located within the Fort Ross California State Park.

  2. Boricua Orthodox says:

    Christ is Risen! Al Masih Kam! Cristo es Resucitado!
    There’s so much confusion outside Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is a safehaven for me, an Ark. When I was a Roman Catholic the only stability I found was with the writings of the pre-Vatican 2 saints. The more ancient the teaching, the better was the spiritual benefit. I was horrified at the “protestantization” of Roman Catholic practice. Once a the priest of the religious community I lived in asked me to help remodel the church interior by sledgehammering the confessionals and saint statues! The Mass became a “Baptist-like” service with testimonies from parishioners behind the lectern! Protestant songs with a robed choir swaying and clapping became central! The sermons were mostly about politics and social work (excessively so). Now as an Orthodox, I find the timeless atmosphere of the Divine Liturgy invigorating! The icons all around the church interior makes me feel I am in an embassy of Heaven not on Earth! The patristic fountain is thirst quenching (I get thirsty quite often…lol) and Christ is so ALIVE to my wife and I! CHRIST IS INDEED RISEN!

  3. It seems to me that being Orthodox has to be founded on more than just being the same. I hope it never happens, but there is no guarantee that the Orthodox Church won’t one day be challenged to conform to worldly forces in ways unimaginable to use now. I’m sure the folks in Eastern European countries never believed they’ d live to see an atheistic society either, so don’t be too quick to say the Eastern Orthodox Church will never change.
    When that happens those that joined to avoid the negative changes in the Catholic Church won’t be able to hang. Gotta go deeper than that to survive possible negative changes.

  4. Br. Vincent Nektarios says:

    Having been a life time Roman Catholic & a Monastic of 40 years in the Catholic Church. Thank God I am home. After much prayer & discernment, my Metropolitan Chrismated me June the 10Th & I am now in Full Communion with God’s Church. Soon I will enter a Greek Orthodox Monastery & be Tonsured a Monk & go to work for my Metropolitan. One has only to ask God to show them the truth & He will, Orthodoxy. The Seminaries are full of converts, reverts, sons & grandsons of Priests. A new resurgence of Orthodoxy is going to merge in the West. People are tired of watered down truth, scandals, & inclusive misrepresented interpretations of the Gospels. People are looking for the real truth now, & the Holy Spirit will lead them to Orthodoxy.Glory to Jesus Christ.

  5. Fr. John says:

    Fr. Vincent, you should allow us to publish your story too!

  6. Daniel Maher says:

    I was raised Catholic in the San Diego area. One time my father and I went into a church in Chula Vista ,St.Rose of Lima, the very first church I can remember. It was open but there was no service going on at the time.

    My dad saw an old Latin Mass missal there (this was in 1984, long after the changes of Vatican II),much to his surprise. To this day I don’t know why it was there but dad acted like he caught a glimpse of home-he had been an altar boy back in the 1930s,and he looked at the missal with both sadness and anger. “Here’s another prayer”, he told me as he showed me a particular passage in the text, “that they threw out”. He then said,” boy, in the old days, during Mass,you really PRAYED”.

    I really had no idea what he meant, as I don’t remember the Latin Mass at all (I turned 50 this year, so it was gone by the time I was 3 or 4). Now, I know exactly what he meant-and it angers me to this day: they had “thrown out” moments in the liturgy that were really important to him,and never gave him a vote on it, but expected him to still be a loyal Catholic and attend Mass( which he did,and the Mass still meant a lot to him despite the changes of Vatican II).

    I converted to Eastern Orthodoxy in 2003. There are a lot of things I admire about the Roman Church-her concern for the oppressed and the poor around the globe, her universality,her opposition to abortion and her willingness to stand up to power structures that destroy human dignity. But the liturgy should not have been changed in the way it was. The liturgy is the public worship of the people, and the Roman church had no right to do what they did to it.

    Orthodoxy has never made sweeping changes in the liturgy, and never will, because the liturgy belongs to the people,clergy and laity alike. It is a great gift from the Holy Trinity and the Holy Fathers of the Church, something to be cherished, not something to be altered in order to be more “relevant”.

  7. Kenny Earickson says:

    I am a Byzantine Catholic and I can attest to Thom Nickel’s experience with the Catholic Church
    The Catholic Church is very confused about liturgy and it seems to be very likened to the Lutherans and Episcopalians that parishes can individually decide how they want their liturgy either traditional or contemporary. I left Lutheranism for Catholicism thinking it was going to be more traditional, reverential, and less divisive boy was I wrong. I came into the Catholic Church becasue I fell in love the traditional latin mass but Mr. Nickel’s is right that the traditional latin mass is a minority and the Novus Ordo is the majority and the services are very much like going to Lutheran or Episcopalian church where it can traditonal but can also be contemporary where they have guitars, drums, clapping, and singing kumbaya. Catholic churches are not the same and can often have different liturgies. The reason why I became Byzantine Catholic is because the parish was very warm and welcoming more than the Orthodox Church but I realize now that it was a mistake and I joined for the wrong reasons as an Orthodox Priest once observed that if was looking for a “Nice, Friendly, and Family orientated church then why did’nt I become a Mormon?” Not say that we shouldn’t strive to become friendly or family orientated but we shouldn’t join a church based upon how good we feel or how good they make you feel but you join the church because of the proclaimation of the truth and it’s fullness of the truth. As I’ve learned all of us are sinners in need of God and His grace and we will disappoint and hurt one another. Therefore when we go to church we should not go because of others but for God and to honor Him. The Byzantine Catholic Church has been a good church for me but right now I will be working towards becoming Orthodox and to be in the fullness of the truth because Catholicism not trying to put it down or anything because they too are Christians is really confusing even the Byzantine Catholics are confused as to whether they are east or west and because of the many despondent catholic’s of the latin rite are now seeking the byzantine Catholic Church because they represent a prevatican II worship and feel to it. Therefore, the Byzantine Catholic Church becomes a via media between east and west but the sad problem in which they’re facing is that they really dont belong to either they become a small neglected minority. The problem of being a via media is confusion because as I’ve seen you get mixtures of east and west and it makes it difficult to which spirituality you practise and I feel for each spirituality to preserve it’s authencity needs to be practised to it’s fullest extent and expression. In other words if you’re going to be east then be fully east if you’re going to be west then be fully west and not mix them together because it creates confusion and disunity.

  8. Kenny, as a ByzCath also moving towards Eastern Orthodoxy, I hear you. Notice how priests don’t want to say anything to confuse or upset the Radtrads or the older Byzantine Catholics who were brought up in RC schools? Makes explanations of feast days, especially the Dormition, repetitive and tiresome.
    My parish was probably the most Eastern in the country,but even there that Latin emphasis on family is pretty strong, meaning that rather focusing on the unswerving monastic emphasis on Theosis as the model of Christian life, having a holy life on earth seems to be the goal, which in turn, leads to an overemphasis(fanaticism) regarding family, and abortion issues

    As far as I know, the Eastern Catholic churches have not produced any holy men ,and that tells me that something’s wrong. Sure there are saints, but they’re usually martyred for not betraying the faith under torture . That’s brave, I certainly can’t say I would hold fast to Christ in the same circumstances, but that’s not the same as a St. Seraphim or Sarov,St. John Maximovitch or Elder Paisos

    I visited many Eastern Catholic churches from the east to west coast and nothing was more jarring than hearing rosaries and RC litanies to the Virgin Mary, or watching a parish do the Stations of the Cross during Lent. Fine practices in themselves, but not appropiate in an Eastern Church..I’ve nothing against Roman Catholicism, but came to the same conclusion you did, I can be either Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, but not both
    But I gotta say, nobody sings like Byzantine CAtholics. I’m in a city where none of the Eastern Orthodox believe in parish participation and it is truly sad.

  9. CM – your testimony supports my definition of Eastern Rite Catholicism as “Catholics pretending to be Orthodox.”

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Orthodoxy is not a ‘rite.’ It is Christianity in it’s original form – it is THE Church.

  10. It’s a great comfort to know, as an ex-Protestant, that I am only ome very small part of a mosaic. That is all and that is enough.

  11. rev. radu says:

    for kenny,

    i am an orthodox prist from romania, in NW region of Romania, caled TRANSILVANIA, 300 years agou, the orthodox romanian have no privilige under austro-hungarian domination, the orthodoxy was not aloud to exist in transilvania, during thet time, the germans from transilvania were catholics or lutheran, the hungarian were catholic, calvinists, uniterians, or luthernas, the romanian were pover and orthodox, so an orthodox bishop caled ANASTASIOS (was nick name SATANASIOS) to to earn some rights for romanian orthodox, he signed a paper to unified with the CHURCH OF ROME, and bringhing all transilvanian orthodox folks in to that uniation with Rome, but reamaninig in byzantin traditions, for earning some material rigths.

    so in this political issue apeard the uniatism or greek-chatolics in Romania, offcourse in ukraine and in others orthodox countries the story was diferent, but the Roman Church broked parts from the eastern orthodo churches and oriental orthodox churches and uniated with her.

    from fr, radu from cluj, romania

  12. Anna Asher says:

    I am amazed at how a simple google search this moment has led me to an article which expresses precisely and exactly the current experience of my own heart in relations to being Catholic and yearning for Orthodoxy. I too, for several years, have sought to consider my own heart to be a unity between east and west that I could not visit in reality. I even searched for and have finally purchased an orthodox cross with a corpus – to me a symbol of unity of east and west – an eastern 3 bar cross and the corpus that is more common to the west. A beautiful and articulate piece – well written and well expressed – I am sending it on to family and friend.

  13. Fr. John says:

    Anna, let us know how we can help you out!

  14. Anthony Jesus Gonzalez says:

    I am and forever will be in the profession class of Mortician, I speak my mind currently as a Roman Catholic. With that being said, I wish for you all now to read into my thoughts of Orthodoxy and possible conversion. The first time I ever walked into an Eastern Orthodox service was due to Funeral Mass. I was assisting the Funeral Director in charge. When I noticed the structure, art, hymns, prayer, and tone of the service and church. I felt more compelled and spirited that leveled not just my occupation but my soul in all. I knew I will never forget but also knew I should return to learn more of what I had just experienced as practice and belief. Going back to a Roman Catholic Church after being born and raised into for 25 years of my young life. I wish to dig deep in all that is of God in his entirely. I am planning of engaging myself into a service mass in ORTHODOXY. At the same time learn all I can of my own CATHOLIC roots before I convert. I do this under the respect of both views because I am a man of unity in all of Gods creations. I seek Orthodoxy for further knowledge and understanding the true belief which I believe it is. I just want to make that choice fairly under the eyes, hands, light, and judgement of God himself for I may claim myself the way he envisioned me to be. I don’t want to be another person that because they found New Religion they jump on it, without understanding their own. My only question to all my fellow Spirited by Christ, BROTHERS! SISTERS! Would I be wrong seeking Faith and practice in this way. Please don’t judge me for the Lord can only do so but yes do speak upon the righteous path if I be wrong in this search for my forever commitment with God.

  15. Anthony, many of us have had the same experience. Please go to the nearest Orthodox Church and speak with the priest. It’s a wonderful journey, and you have only seen the tip of the Orthodox iceberg, so to speak.

  16. Anthony Jesus Gonzalez says:

    Thank you for the response Father John. I shall fallow direction and speak.

  17. Andrew McCombs says:

    This piece speaks volumes. For years I was convinced that the Roman Catholic Church was right. I was a traditionalist of sorts. After research, I now believe Holy Orthodoxy, and look forward to being formally received (God willing) into Christ’s true Church-the Eastern Orthodox Church.

  18. stephen says:

    Never felt, the Roman Catholic tradition represented truthfully the church… Spent many years (decades) in personal study of the Christians canons, ancient codex’s from the Didache to the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc… Writings from the early church. Come to the conclusion, Orthodox Christianity has followed faithfully what was handed down from the Apostles.

  19. Leslie J. Wetter says:

    I am a Catholic woman. My belief was strong yet waining. I craved tradition and scoffed at the Catholic Churches that seemed more Protestant. I love St. Francis however the priest talk and act so far beyond what I consider real Catholic. My love for Mary is strong but so many Marionites border on worshipping Her and putting Our Lord in second place.

    It was obvious I needed a change when I saw how spiritually slothful I’d become. I’ve recently attended services and bible study but my conscience is set on becoming Orthodox Christian. I feel refreshed, renewed, joyful, and at peace. This is the true church.

  20. Fr. John says:

    Welcome home, Leslie. It’s a well-worn path.

  21. Catherine Archer says:

    It’s a long, hard journey- it’s a completion. Welcome home, we’ve missed you.

  22. Socorro Pérez García says:

    Hello all! Hope all is well,
    I found this article/blog a nice read. I could relate from different angles…
    I’m Latin American, the youngest of 8. Raised Roman Catholic, my family is and have always been VERY religious. For over a year now I’ve been attending my local Orthodox church. I recently bought the new Orthodox study Bible, an Orthodox prayer book, and my first prayer rope. I can’t explain in words what Orthodoxy is for me, I’ve never felt so close to God and all I can say is, I’m happy God led me to THE church.

    My family recently found out of my new path if you will, and let’s just say my parents haven’t called me in over two months and I’ve had no one visit me either. Just a phone txt here and there from a brother but that’s it. They’re not happy but oh well, it’s unfortunate, hopefully my relatives will come around eventually… I’m not looking back though, I’m saved. Seriously =) Saved!! The Orthodox Christian church for ever!

  23. rev. radu says:

    hi, brother Socorro,

    i am glad that u come home in God’s Church. no worry your family will folow u, but they have to know more about orthodox church.

    whach on youtube about JOSE MUNOS CORTEZ, he is a marter of the church, originaly from Chile, u can ask his help in prayer and for your family to.

    in Christ
    fr. radu from cluj, romania

  24. Socorro Pérez García says:

    Thank you so much Fr. Radu

    I’ll definitely watch the YouTube video. I too am from Chile =) Valparaíso Chile.

  25. I am Roman Catholic since the age of seventeen. In my early childhood I was brought by my mother to a local Protestant Church (Seventh Day Adventist) and baptized there. I was baptized again in the Roman Catholic Church and confirmed very shortly after my conversion. For many years after the devastating liturgical changes wrought by the Second Vatican Council, I continued in the practice of my Catholic faith but felt disturbed and uneasy about the changes in the Roman Catholic Mass. After entering a Greek Orthodox Church one day with a desire to learn more about Orthodoxy, I felt an immense love and devotion to the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern churches but have hesitated to become Orthodox because of the dislike and aversion some Orthodox Christians have toward the Catholic Church Including Eastern Catholics. This was my own personal experience. After becoming familiar with Church history from both the Catholic and Orthodox perspectives, I can understand in many ways why many Orthodox are so distrustful of the Catholic Church but uneasy too about the intense bigotry I’ve encountered at times. Most Orthodox Christians I know are very loving people. Am I wrong to hesitate to enter Orthodoxy considering my heart and soul have been there for nearly 20 years? I don’t have any clear answer still even with prayer. Some gentle advice and thoughts would be so valued.
    Lord, forgive me a poor sinner.

  26. Fr. John says:


    Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, and then be willing to follow His guidance (He doesn’t contradict Himself). Also, if you have questions, find an Orthodox priest nearby and ask them. There’s no charge or obligation. Honest.

  27. Troy John Heffernan says:

    I am a convert to Holy Orthodoxy; I was
    CHRISMATED on Meat fare Sunday 2 March
    2003! I belong to St. Gregory of Nyssa
    Orthodox (Campus) Church on the campus
    of the Ohio State University (Columbus,
    Ohio.) In the past few years, I have
    been serving at the Holy Alter of God.
    Because of health reasons, I haven’t
    been able to attend and serve at St. Gregory’s. St. Gregory’s belongs to the
    OCA (Orthodox Church in America.) I would like to share something with you
    all; I’m Irish and the Orthodox Church
    is GROWING in Ireland and is the “fast-
    est” growing in Ireland and has doubled
    that in the past five years or so! God
    be praised for His Mercy! There’s the
    Russian Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox
    Church, Romania Orthodox Church and so
    on. Most of these Orthodox Churches are
    in Dublin; the capital Ireland and spread out. There is also an Oriental
    Orthodox Church there in Ireland (Dublin) I believe. This is a Copic
    Orthodox Church. From what I have read
    and understand, these “medical students”. On Facebook, one of the
    threads ask What is on Your Mind? AND
    my answer is always….ORTHODOXY!

  28. Interesting article. As a former Catholic I have left the ‘inter-faith’ church of contemporary Catholicism. I would not, if I were Orthodox, partake of a Catholic ‘Eucharist’; new rites of ordination for priests and bishops in the Roman Church were establised around 1970; many traditionalists have concluded the new rites are invalid as they represent a substantial change in the form and matter of the rite. If they are invalid, an entire new generation of Catholic ‘priests’ are nothing but laymen performing a new ‘Mass’ which itself is little more than a protestant memorial ‘meal’; pieced together from Rabbinacal prayers and Protestant theology.

  29. Thank you so much for this essay. As others have noted, it expresses well he confusion felt by so many Catholics who have witnessed the changes in the church, which above all seek to accommodate all aspects of the church to a modern, secular audience. I also plan to visit an Orthodox priest for guidance!

  30. As a former Tridentine Mass-attending Catholic who will be chrismated into Holy Orthodoxy tomorrow morning, this article resonated with me. Thank you so much for writing it!

  31. Welcome Home, Ryan.

  32. Matthew Carroll says:

    Hello and thank you for the article, my name is Matthew and I am a cradle catholic.
    I come from a very religious family, i cannot remember a time when I did not attend mass on Sunday and was taught in catholic schools throughout childhood.
    But I find myself very wanting spiritually.
    There are many things I find beautiful about the Roman Catholic church and do agree with a lot of the theology.
    But with my current profession, I travel ALOT (and I have lived traveling around America for many years now) like a new town or city every couple of months.
    As such I do not have one particular parish that I attend year round, usually I just go to the nearest Catholic Church (or churches) and attend while I’m in that town.
    Where I’m going with all of this is that over the years I have attended mass at a lot of different parishes, shrines, cathedrals ect. and have seen the mass offered very differently from place to place.
    Although I have seen much beauty and reverence in RC mass, I have also seen something greatly lacking.
    I find myself more and more interested in Eastern Orthodoxy. I am a little familiar with the divine liturgy, and find it truly beautiful.
    I am extremely interested in learning more about the theology of EO and finding out if I am compatible with EO spiritually.
    I was wondering if there were any good books or websites that I could use as resources.
    Thanks and God Bless.

  33. Fr. John says:

    Matthew, you’re on a well worn path. Start by reading the journey’s of the other Roman Catholics that have found themselves on your path.

    Then, contact your local Orthodox Church. Why? Because all the theology of the Church, every scrap, is in our hymnography. If you want to know our theology, it’s sung, not locked away in books. Start there, or you’ll go astray.

    Finally, let us know how we can help. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. After all, He doesn’t contradict Himself.

  34. Matthew Carroll says:

    Thank you Fr. John for your quick response.
    I am very much looking forward to getting in contact with a local Orthodox Church, God Bless.

  35. stewardman says:

    Sad and beautiful story indeed. I have several devout Rm Catholic friends who have defaulted to the Traditional Latin Mass in search of Holy Tradition. Yet is have a question directed to the article above…that an Orthodox Priest Father John Mack converted to Rome then divorced his wife and left the priesthood. From google there seems to be several Father John Mack(s) and I wondered IF…this particular one was the author of _Ascending The Heights_ and the book on strengthening Orthodox marriages…or yet a different Father John Mack. I very much pray he is a different one, as my local Priest loan me _Ascending The Heights_ to read during Lent this year and I found it wonderful…and put his book on Marriage on my Amazon Wish List. Can someone clear this us for me, please? Lord have mercy.

  36. Fr. John says:

    Stewardman, the last I heard of Fr. John Mack, the author of “Ascending the Heights” was that he can gone back to the Roman church. After that, I have no information. Obviously, it sounds like there were some personal issues going on. Pray for him, no matter what his circumstance.

  37. Brigitte Matthias says:

    I was baptized in an “high” Episcopalian Church 35 years ago. I entered the Roman Catholic Church one year later. I knew I needed to join the historical church. I actually had never heard of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. I didn’t understand I was seeking valid orders and thus valid sacraments, but that is what it was. My ancestry was largely Irish, so it seemed that Catholicism was in my DNA. However, I had been reared with no religious training at home and considered myself an agnostic or atheist, although I was always seeking spiritual truth. When I finally turned to a God I did not believe in, He answered my prayer. Over the years, I have visited Orthodox churches. I was drawn to the reverence and piety. I studied the splitting of the churches in the 11th century, and there is no doubt in my mind that it was caused by the Western church, however, I always felt intimidated by the prospect of a conversion, which seems very complicated! However, recently my daughter at age 21 was confirmed in the Catholic church, and the parish we attend, where we attend the single Latin mass, is troubled. A house divided cannot stand. I really don’t know what to do. I am reading Orthodox books, and we have several Orthodox Churches in or near our town. We also have an Orthodox bookstore, with a beautiful ‘icon room’ at the back, where I was invited one day to enter by the clerk. I nearly fell over when I entered. It was so beautiful. Anyway, I have more than myself to consider. My daughter has a deep faith, but our relationship with our denomination is bent, if not broken. We confess monthly, we go to mass on Sundays, we pray, read scripture. I guess I am writing mostly to find out 1) would a Catholic need to be rebaptized? 2) could I make a confession to an Orthodox priest if I am not Orthodox? 3) Since my last confession was just over a month ago, would I need to reconfess my many sins, including prior to my baptism? 4) What is the best way to explore the Orthodox faith, other than reading and visiting a Church again?

    Thank you,

  38. Fr. John says:

    Brigitte, the answer to all your questions is – see a local Orthodox priest right now.

    If you have trouble finding one, contact us and we will put you in touch with a good priest asap.

  39. ” (Conversions work both ways and can be a lot like musical chairs: In 2009, Orthodox theologian and writer John Mack converted to Eastern Catholicism although shortly after this he divorced his wife and left the priesthood).”

    I don’t think the “conversions work both ways” statement holds up to scrutiny. What I have noticed is that Roman Catholics who convert to Orthodoxy can usually give a very thoughtful explanation for their conversion, with many references to the Fathers, Church History, etc. For instance, the conversion of Fr. Placide (DeSeille) in the book “The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain.” When Orthodox convert to Roman Catholicism, rarely is such an explanation given. They often just convert quietly, without fanfare, giving only the most vague reasons, not wanting to really discuss the issue. John Mack is an example of this, where he posted an “explanation” online about his conversion to Catholicism saying that he did so to overcome his own personal sectarianism, which he said is not natural to Orthodoxy but an anti-Catholic holdover from his Protestant days. His explanation makes zero sense from an Orthodox perspective.

    Here we see advanced Catholic monastics and patristic scholars like Hieromonk Placide and Hieromonk Gabriel convert to Orthodoxy. Where have we seen Orthodox patristic scholars convert to Roman Catholicism, or monks on Mt. Athos decide to go under the Pope? Again, I do not think conversions happen in both ways in the same manner. Often, the explanation is that Roman Catholic churches are more prevalent, or one’s spouse or family is Roman Catholic, or it was too hard to be Orthodox due to language or distance from parish.

  40. I agree, and this has been my experience also. Pray for John Mack, please.

  41. I come from a traditionally Roman Catholic. However, they haven’t been practicing since my mother was a young girl. I was never baptized, and my childhood and teenage years were spent in a completely secular environment.

    Somehow, by the grace of God, I discovered a bible around age seven or so and read it for a short time. It left a certain impression on me, which unfortunately vanished, only to return when I was fifteen.

    Between then and now (I’m twenty-six), I’ve flirted with the idea of becoming Christian. At certain points I was studiously reading the bible and trying to live according to the Sermon on the Mount. When I was nineteen or twenty, I decided to visit a Catholic church. Being a very shy introvert, this was a huge leap of courage for me. I didn’t realize the doors and windows were boarded up until I got close. When I turned back around and started walking home, a white pigeon landed on the sidewalk before me and stayed put the whole time I walk past it. (Maybe it was a sign? I like to think it was, but who knows?) Between then and now I’ve sort of floundered between belief and agnosticism.

    This past week, though, I’ve become filled with an intense desire for God. I honestly don’t know why. I’ve often struggled to discern whether the Orthodox or Catholics possess the true faith. Intellectually, I feel it’s the Orthodox, but emotionally I lean toward the Catholics. I’ve been stuck between these two churches for the past several years and I feel perfectly conflicted. To be honest, part of it is fear; I think about a certain Catholic teaching that says those who knowingly reject Her for schism or heresy have no hope for salvation. And I’m conflicted in general about going ahead (once I do decide which church) because my entire family is not only lapsed regarding their faith, but somewhat hostile towards it. I feel extremely burdened.

    It’s a funny coincidence that I live near Scranton. (I’ve lived in Northeast PA my whole life.) I was never aware of the history of Orthodoxy here until recently.

  42. Contact our local church there, and attend Vespers this Saturday night. Then tell us how it went!

  43. Inquiries says:

    “To be honest, part of it is fear; I think about a certain Catholic teaching that says those who knowingly reject Her for schism or heresy have no hope for salvation. ”

    This too.
    I don’t know what to do.
    I agree with Catholicism on contraception, abortion, divorce, and I think the Popehood.
    I agree with Orthodoxism on original sin, immaculate concept, purgatory, order of sacraments,
    I’m stuck.
    I don’t know what I’ll do. I just hope God forgives me if I join the “wrong” church.

  44. Fr. John says:

    That is the silliest thing I’ve ever read.

    Orthodoxy’s positions on abortion, and divorce are the same as the Roman Church – with the understanding that the Church exists for the salvation of sinners. (Regarding divorce – remarriage is the issue, not divorce. We don’t play a legalist fiction and defer to ‘annulments’ as if our clergy don’t know how to properly perform weddings) We reject ‘popehood’ as not part of the Apostolic Tradition, and therefore not part of Orthodoxy.

    The reality is you are attracted to Orthodoxy, but have forgotten your first love – what is the Holy Spirit saying to you? Guess what? He doesn’t contradict Himself, and He doesn’t change His mind on things.

    Our best suggestion is to visit a local Orthodox parish, get to know the local priest, and learn the Orthodox faith not from books, but from living, breathing, flesh-and-blood Orthodox Christians. It’s a living faith after all. You don’t get it from documents.

  45. Inquiries says:

    I didn’t mean to offend.

  46. Fr. John says:


    Forgive me, I meant no offense. I meant to convey that your concerns are understandable but very simple actually, and many have trod the path you are on.

    It’s really a matter of deciding which Church is faithful to the original, and still doing the same things.

    Forgive my poor use of a sentence. No offense was intended.

  47. Inquiries says:

    What about contraception?

  48. Fr. John says:

    Again, let me remind you that this isn’t an issue of ‘who agrees with me’ – it is an issue of ‘who is THE Church’.


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