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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Fr. John says
Fr. Vincent, you should allow us to publish your story too!
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”.
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.
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.
Fr. John says
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.
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.
rev. radu says
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
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.
Fr. John says
Anna, let us know how we can help you out!
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.
Fr. John says
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.
Anthony Jesus Gonzalez says
Thank you for the response Father John. I shall fallow direction and speak.
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.
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.
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.
Fr. John says
Welcome home, Leslie. It’s a well-worn path.
Catherine Archer says
It’s a long, hard journey- it’s a completion. Welcome home, we’ve missed you.
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!
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.
fr. radu from cluj, romania
Socorro Pérez García says
Thank you so much Fr. Radu
I’ll definitely watch the YouTube video. I too am from Chile =) Valparaíso Chile.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
Ryan M. says
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!
Fr. John says
Welcome Home, Ryan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
” (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.
Fr. John says
I agree, and this has been my experience also. Pray for John Mack, please.
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.
Fr. John says
Contact our local church there, and attend Vespers this Saturday night. Then tell us how it went!
“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. ”
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 don’t know what I’ll do. I just hope God forgives me if I join the “wrong” church.
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.
I didn’t mean to offend.
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.
What about contraception?
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’.
Constance Thomson says
Greetings in His Most Holy Name!
I notice that there is evidence of a split (1940s) in the Orthodox Church in my area. I did a little research online and became aware of the OCA and the ROCOR.
Personally, I converted to RC at age 40 (12 years ago) from Protestantism (in it’s many forms). Once Catholic, I quickly turned to “Tradition” once I figured out the whole Vatican II protestantism in the RC Church. Presently, I have run out of rope in the area of the Latin Tradition.
So, in short, the whole idea of trying to figure out the most recent breach in Orthodoxy is nauseating to say the least!
I have sniffed out the Catholic Byzantine Church and I found the Vatican II modernism has poisoned their worship despite the use of the Divine Liturgy.
Truthfully, the little bit I am able to learn about Vladimir Putin and his apparent faith and desire to lead his country in Christian Orthodoxy has me yearning to know more about that particular faith.
Perhaps my own filial Russian ancestry also plays a part, but we have been 4 generations in Canada and my personal faith was always a nuisance to my parents and grandparents. I do feel a bit of an orphan!
Thank you in advance for any assistance
Fr. John says
Constance, you’re not alone. You can write us at frjohn (at) journeytoorthodoxy (dot) com and we can answer your questions as best we can.
It’s a well worn path, and you’ll be one of thousands on this journey at this moment. We’re here to help.
Anne Dunphy says
For reasons I cannot explain, I think more and more about the Orthodox Church. I was raised Roman Catholic and still continue to attend the Catholic church, but there has been a tugging of my heart in this direction, particularly in the last few years. Truth is very important to me, and it is constantly on my mind. I have always believed that the RC and Orthodox churches were the only ones with apostolic succession. Where and how do I start this journey?
Fr. John says
Anne, check your email.
Catholic but questioning says
I find myself drawn to Orthodox Church. I am a life-long Catholic who has been interested in the Latin Mass community in my area. The more I study about Orthodoxy, the more I am intrigued.
Fr. John says
It’s a long line. Write us, and we’ll help as much as we can.
Christine Sanchez says
Dear Fr. John,
I was raised Roman Catholic and I received a Catholic education. I remember mass as a child in latin, and I was a little disappointed when it was changed into English. I loved the ceremony of the latin mass. It just doesn’t feel the same. There have been so many changes in the Roman Catholic church that I don’t feel comfortable with it any longer. Further research led me to Orthodoxy and I was very interested to learn that the teachings have not changed since the beginning, and I would like to learn more. I am getting on in years and I pray for Our Lord to lead me in the right direction. I am very confused. I would like to know how I can convert to Orthodoxy, which is still part of the Catholic church. I live in Central Florida and I don’t know of any churches in my area, is there any list of parishes I can check out? I would be very grateful if you could give me some advice. Thank you so much for your valuable time
Fr. John says
Happy Feast! We do indeed know of many Churches in your area, but we need to narrow it down. Can you use our CONTACT FORM to let us know what city you live in? Then we will connect you with some flesh-and-blood Orthodox clergy and people right near you.
Ryan Dape says
I’m a 20 year old Theology student from the Philippines. I was born and raised a Catholic I discovered Orthodoxy when I was 15. I made my research and now that I am 20 I am ready to be converted. However the Only Orthodox Church here is 6-7 hours drive from where I live. Do you have any suggestions?
Fr. John says
Ryan, let’s get you in touch with the mission there and introduce you to the priest. He will guide you through the process and help you start a local mission. We will help in any way we can, so let’s stay in touch.
Two of my adult friends (English speaking) were Chrismated last week in a Greek Church. Many among them commented that they had never seen an adult Chrismation. Worst yet, they weren’t ashamed or saddened by this. Very tragic state of this Church (in Canada).
Fr. John says
Don’t give up hope. The Holy Spirit will make up what’s lacking.
This is fascinating! I too feel like I’m on a journey towards the Orthodox Church. Currently, I’m Catholic and I’ve tried the Novus Ordo but that liturgy is so watered down that I feel it’s a detriment to me. I’ve been to the TLM but I just can’t handle the juridical view of everything. I’ve also tried the Byzantine Churches but I can’t do it either. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of historical research and it’s opening my eyes to the reality of what the Fathers really taught. I just have so many questions. How can I begin this journey?
Fr. John says
Jorge, check your email. We’ve reached out to you to begin the process!
Stephen Nelson says
I am a long-time Protestant who thought I had found “home” about 2 months ago, after being exposed to “the journey home” on EWTN. I fell in love with the Catholic church for a whole month- and then I learned about the Novus Order. I found it so strange that the Priest had to leave just before the Eucharist to get the wafers from a side chapel where the altar was!? And I wondered why this very large auditorium looked so “Protestant” and not like the ornate Catholic churches I had visited in Quebec while on vacation with family when young. I knew that being in Japan would mean that there was no traditional Latin mass available. Somehow I came across a Youtube talking about how God was going to use Putin/Russia/Orthodoxy to bring a restored faith back to the earth! What is this about? Then after a bit of study, I learned that Rome is the one who “went their own way” and that side of the church has been busy dividing ever since! I have found a local Orthodox group that meets in my city once a month- and the next time I can go is in July! Can’t wait! I am grateful for my month as a “Catholic” for teaching me about honouring Mary, but I am so relieved that I don’t have to deal with apostate popes! At first, I felt that in being from an English background, my roots have no connection with the Eastern Church! Then the Holy Spirit reminded me, “What did your parents often call you as a child?” Of course! “Stephanos!!” I am coming home! 🙂
Fr. John says
Welcome home, Stephen. Let us know how we can help!
Stephen Nelson says
Thank you Fr. John!
I suppose the one of the first things I need to do is study. What are “must have” books for my library? What English Bible do you recommend?
Would you happen to know which form of Orthodox the Japanese churches are a part of?
Fr. John says
The Japanese Orthodox Church is an autonomous church in the Russian tradition as they were evangelized by the Church of Russia.
As far an English Bibles go, get yourself an Orthodox Study Bible. There is also an excellent Bible Survey for the Orthodox Study Bible called “Called To Serve” you can get also.
I’ll send you an email shortly with a short list of books that are good for beginners and that will be most useful to you.
Sanu Cherian says
The concept of original sin is unique to Roman catholism. When was this conceived who was responsible for coming up with this idea? I believe the Orthodox do not believe in this concept of original sin. Why is this? Your response will be highly appreciated.
Fr. John says
Actually, though we define it differently and often call it “Ancestral Sin”, Original Sin is an Orthodox theological concept. These links might help enlighten the topic:
Ancestral Sin vs Original Sin
On Ancstral Sin by St. Theodoret of Cyrus
East West – Fundamental Differences, Part One, Part Two
Thank you Father. That was indeed very helpful. Those links provide a very thorough read. So, it seems that Augustines mistranslation of the Greek word ‘ephho ‘ is what caused the west(RC) to misinterpret the concept of Adams sin? What a catastrophic error! This error has ultimately lead to such a big rift between Orthodoxy & Roman Catholism. It seems this wrong interpretation of original sin is ultimately what led Thomas Aquinas to invent the concept of immaculate conception of the mother of God. Another fatal error causing yet another reason for a schism! According to the Orthodox fathers, what was passed onto humanity is the consequence of Adams sin which mainly is death. Not the actual sin i.e. humanilty is not born with sin just because he/she is a descendant of Adam. As humans we can choose to sin or not to sin, just as Adam & Eve had this same choice. The mother of God chose not to sin during her life & hence she was worthy of bearing the son of God. She didn’t need to be immaculately conceived. She was born like any of us but yet she was not like any of us as she chose not to ever sin. Am I right so far with this interpretation?
This leads me to another question:
If the mother of God was born with the consequence of Adams sin(ancestral sin) i.e. Death, DID SHE DIE? The Roman Catholic belief is that she didn’t die but was taken upto heaven. What is the orthodox belief regarding this?
Thank you for taking time to reply.
Fr. John says
Of course she died. That’s what ‘falling asleep’ means in the Bible – remember the feast is called “Dormition” in Orthodoxy. To discover what we believe about that feast, all you need to do is either attend the Dormition services this August (you will hear it all in the hymnography) or read it from the Festal Menaion.
We don’t have to go through the logical contortions that the RC does about Mary, creating solutions to problems that don’t exist. Mary died just like we all will.
She’s not the Great Exception, she’s the Great Example.
Hi. I’ve gone through a lot of religions. Grew up S Baptist in the South memorizing scripture. Then a slew of different Prot churches as an adult (often as pianist/organist jobs.). Then after watching the Journey Home on EWTN, I converted to Catholicism and was later even a guest on an EWTN show about women who’ve regret their abortions. Becoming increasingly disillusioned with “pope” Francis, I began attending a sedevacantist traditional LatinMass chapel that was beautiful but it seemed like they were making up rigid rules about how to live like no women in pants–EVER no natural family planning –EVER, no TV –EVER, etc.
Then a bunch of online sedevacantists told me I should try an Eastern rite Catholic Church. Most sedevacantists believe that the new ordination and bishop consecration rites of Vat 2 are invalid and so most of the priests of the Novus Ordo are invalid. They believe most Eastern rite priests and patriarchs to be valid since Vat 2 didn’t mess with their sacraments and they go there despite the Masses being in union w Francis. I believe they are probably correct about the invalidity of the new Novus Ordo priests and bishops due to the way Paul VI mangled up the sacraments.
So I’ve been going to a Byz rite Catholic Church and loving it so much except for the part where we have to pray for the pope whom I don’t believe in anymore. But I fell in love with this ancient Liturgy of St John Chrysostom.
There is a Serbian Orthodox Church close to me and I am drawn to trying it, but I am clearly not Serbian and am afraid it’s there more to serve the Serbian community of the Seattle area. Do you think they would be open to a non-Serbian newcomer sitting in the back row on Sunday? I feel so worn out with religious searches.This will probably be my last stop.
Thank you for your answer.
Fr. John says
Kimzef, yes, but I also think that a parish with many converts already is the place to start. I’m going to email you, and see if we can help connect you with local Orthodox Christians and clergy. Don’t worry. There are many around you. Welcome home.
Scott FORESMAN says
I was an Episcopal priest for nearly 30 years. Converted to the Catholic faith in 2013. How distressing to discover that the same liberalism that infected the Episcopal church is also in the Catholic Church. I could say more, but suffice to say I’ve begun attending a local Orthodox parish. At age 63, I do believe I’m FINALLY home.
Fr. John says
Fr Scott, please check your email.
David E. Rockett says
Wonderful Fr. Scott…welcome home at last. It is curious why God allows us to linger for decades in heterodox communions before finding the true Faith. I had not the slightest care or interest in Orthodoxy…until weeks after my 57th birthday. Twice a Ref. Elder I read and argued with my young Orthodox friends who’d chided me gently for six months before I began to think, “This might be true!”…only to be received into The Church by Chrismation Holy Sat almost 4-yrs later. Countless other stories recount similar “delays” far past our physical prime, and our families grown and remain in heterodox communions. There’s a reason for this ‘later-age’ phenom that escapes me. Of course, God is merciful and in all His works…and I know you will be increasingly thrilled to have found The Church, imperfect as She is, at last. Lord have mercy.
I have been RC since I was 9. I am in my 50’s now and have seen so much change since then that I am not sure I am in the right church. People treat the church like a community hall….no respect for people praying and meditating. Even the church itself does look more and more like a Protestant church or just a space with a crucifix in it. I have a friend in the RO church and we have talked in the past. I have considered the move in order to regain a deeper spiritual connection that I seem to have lost in the Roman Church.
Fr. John says
Stephen, if you have perused the section on Catholics who have converted to Orthodoxy, you will see that they are an impressive bunch. In my own priesthood, they have told me things like “In order for me to remain Catholic, I must become Orthodox,” and “This is the Church I thought I belonged to.” j
It’s a well worn path. Do let us know if we can help you out. You’re not alone.
John Smith says
I have been attending devine liturgy at a local Greek Orthodox church for several months now and loving the highly organized ritual reminiscent of the masses and nun’s teachings from my RC youth. I’ve even attended — and fully participated in — an informational day at the church intended for both Orthodox and non-Orthodox. I’ve been made to feel very welcome and feel comfortable in this special community in all aspects except one. I’m gay. I’m at an age where the descriptor of gay refers more to who I am than what I do … and it took me a long time to understand and accept that being gay is really not about sex despite what many think. And that’s not going to change. I finally accept myself, and that is a foundation for me. Something I didn’t have in my younger days, consequently holding me back from making choices appropriate to me and my circumstances. But I have to ask, would the Orthodox accept me if they knew sexual orientation? My own church has been hypocritical about the subject. Would I get better treatment from ‘the other lung’ of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic church?
Fr. John says
John, we aren’t the ‘other lung’ of the Church, we ARE the Church. As for the treatment you may get – who can tell, but I can tell you this – unless you’re willing to live our way of life, and that means sacrifice and chastity, you won’t be happy. You can’t become Orthodox because you think it is the ‘best’ choice. You can only become Orthodox when you realize that it is the ONLY choice.
I strongly recommend you speak to your local Orthodox priest if you haven’t already, and decide whether or not you wish to be one of us. That much is up to you, but, and I mean this in the kindest, most generous way, our way of life is not easy. Orthodox Christians aren’t perfect, but we strive to overcome our passions. That is the Orthodox way, but it is not a comfortable way.
If, however, you want to save your soul, welcome home.
John Pelican says
I was more than disenchanted with the RC Church after V-2. I was fortunate to have served Holy Mass as a young boy and like most young Catholic boys I suppose considered a vocation. Liturgical abuses notwithstanding what I have witnessed since that time has saddened me. I also mention even as a youngster I felt something really amiss with the Sacrificial nature of the Mass. I felt it. I have a very dear friend who is a Hieromonk who was formerly (years ago0 a seminarian in a Catholic Seminary. He converted and has been answering my questions now for several years. Initially I knew being disenchanted with the direction RC was going was not the reason to go East but as of recent the more I read, study, and pray I find myself being drawn to the East. Make no mistake, I am very disappointed in what is coming out of Rome. would appreciate some/any encouragement. Pax tecum
Fr. John says
John, let me start by encouraging you – you are not alone, and we are here to make it easier for you to progress and get back some of your hope. There’s no perfect church, but there is THE Church, and we await you! Let us know how we can help.
K J says
I am a Catholic that has been converting for 20 years! Starting when I was a young man, I spent many weeks in Orthodox monasteries. I then went back and forth from TLM to Orthodox for years, not sure of what to do, and turned off by the phyletism. Now, I want eagerly to convert to Orthodoxy, but all the local Churches serve non-English liturgies. And the one OCA church that does serve in English, the Priest seems checked out – I can never get a meeting with him. Why is converting so intensely difficult? I give up and go back to Catholic church, get sick, and go to an Orthodox liturgy I can’t understand. Rinse, repeat. It’s a terrible ordeal! Any advice Father John?!
K J says
“Our best suggestion is to visit a local Orthodox parish, get to know the local priest,”
But what if they don’t want to be known? They are not all Father Johns! No, not quite!
Fr. John says
KJ, check your email and let’s set up a time to talk by phone (if you don’t mind). Converting IS intensely difficult precisely because God puts these obstacles before us as a test. Not so we can fail and be punished, but so that we can succeed and be rewarded with a crown.
Fr. John, please pray for me. I am a Catholic and was married to a Greek Orthodox woman. We separated after a year and got both an Orthodox and a Catholic annulment. While I have always been attracted to the Divine Liturgy I found that most Greek Orthodox I know don’t practice the faith. My former wife and her family only went to Church on Easter. I got the sense that Greek Orthodoxy was more of a cultural thing and a way to make them feel close to their roots to Greece, not to Christ. I recall my former mother in law telling me that when my former wife and I have kids they need to be “baptized Greek”. That’s when I knew these people didn’t believe. I didn’t want my kids to be baptized Greek, or baptized French, or baptized Italian, or baptized Polish. I wanted my children to be baptized Christian. Anyway this was just my experience of Orthodoxy, and yet I do see the beauty of the faith.
Fr. John says
Jerry, we often hear stories like this, and we are here to confirm your vision that not only is the faith a thing of beauty, but we don’t judge the medicine by those who pour it down the drain.
Write me if you’d like to talk! And be assured of our prayers for you!
There I was, just this weekend, thinking once again about Orthodoxy and feeling that I don’t want to go back to the Roman Church, when I got an update on this thread! I haven’t had one in ages!!!
I’m a cradle RC and spent time as a nun. I’m trying to get my head around living as a lay person with ME and feel quite lost and undisciplined co.pared with how devout I was.
My concern is that my nearest church is 30 minutes away and that is difficult due to my illness. I don’t want to feel abandoned, as I do in my current church, nor to be scared of not fulfilling my duty either. I have developed fear about not being good enough and become scared to pray.
Nevertheless, I am hoping to attend a Come and See series of talks in the UK. It is a fairly newly established Antiochian church in a non-Orthodox church. On the other hand, I’m wondering whether to visit a Greek Orthodox church. I know nothing about how these differ…
I’m obviously restless and dissatisfied in the RC church and now at a point where I feel there’s no return. The update I received by email seems like a prompt at the right time!! What do you think?!
Fr. John says
I don’t disagree. Email us, Michelle, if you want to talk. We can help.
Thank you for this thread, Fr. John. I was baptized high church Episcopal as a child and converted to Roman Catholicism about 40 years ago. I was very active in my parishes – served in choir, as a lay lector, helped start a Bible study, worked in the bookstore, and participated in prayer groups. I read books about mysticism of the saints and some of the works of the early church fathers. I feel that RC and protestant (I attended some of these with my friends who wanted to convert me) both stressed more of the intellectual study of God, when I am more into experiencing God’s presence both in the Eucharist and in prayer, I was impressed by the Jesus prayer and Orthodox writings, but a little confused about essence and energies. I like to read information online also.
I have been terribly saddened by not only the evil abuse scandals, but also by the rather apostate direction of the “pope” (who wanted to change the Our Father and who said Jesus was a failure – this pope never even mentions God or Jesus during his talks, and I think he might be the “false prophet” of Revelation who is turning the RC church into the “whore of Babylon” like my protestant friends say). How very sad, because the RC church had Apostolic Succession and Real Presence in the Eucharist – and it was part of the original church Our Lord Jesus Christ established. I believe the RC church split off from the original (Orthodox) church and since then has been splitting (thousands of protestant denominations) and adding false doctrines. I have read several books about Orthodoxy and talked to two priests – Greek and Antiochian. I am an older woman who has just retired, and I am concerned about leaving my sacramental RC church because my family doesn’t have longevity and I don’t want to die without sacraments or Christian burial. I got the feeling it takes a long time prior to chrismation. I keep my obligations in the RC church and the RC priest doesn’t really mind that I am also attending Orthodox Divine Liturgy. Do you have any suggestions for how I could possibly speed up the process of joining the Orthodox church, where I feel at home – or just continue as I am doing. Thanks for your help.
Fr. John says
Diane, yes I do. Let’s talk. Check your email for a message from me.
JOHN T says
Fr Peck – What specifically does a Catholic have to renounce to become Orthodox?
Frank Sirignano says
Hello Fr John,
I’m a convert to the Russian Orthodox Christian Church on January 7, 2001 , I had first come with Orthodox Church in the years 1992. My family left the Roman Catholic Church back in 1973 so I wasn’t raised in the Catholic religion no real teaching of the religion. When I started to get older back the late 1980s I tried to attend a Catholic Church I tried it for less then a year left didn’t like at all to protestant for my taste and after that I tried Orthodox Christian faith and I worshipped and truly loved the Divine Liturgy and in my time with the Orthodox Christian Church I came very close to converting, but my Italian culture was a struggle for me. So I tried after the Orthodox Church a Latin Tridentine Mass at a Catholic Church in Boston called Holy Trinity German Catholic Church. I stayed for three years and dropped out of the Church because of a run in with a Novus Ordo Nun who was very offensive to me, I believe it was time for me to go back to the Russian Orthodox Church because it was where I truly felt that I belong in the first place. I the Russian Orthodox Priest and asked him if I could come back to the Orthodox Christian Church. He told me that Divine Liturgy was at 9:30 am and just on in, when I walked in I felt like the Prodigal Son who had just returned home from a lifelong struggle. The rest is as you know now as my converting to the Russian Orthodox Christian Church and reconciled with God’s true faith and Church.
Fr. John says
John, one must renounce all teachings which are heresy – Papal Infallibility and Supremacy of course, but some others as well. Orthodoxy is not Catholicism lite (I mean that in the best way).
Speak to your local priest for more information.
And remember, you can’t become Orthodox because you think it is the best choice.
You can only become Orthodox when you realize it is the ONLY choice.
Frank Sirignano says
Hello Fr John,
I did renounce papal infallibility and supremacy as a heresy, and I truly believe that the Orthodox Christian Church is the one true faith. I just to give you background infrmation on my travels to the Orthodox Christian Church. Please forgive me if I mislead you on what I said. I truly believe that the Orthodox Church is the One True and Roman Catholic Church has many errors in its teachings.
Fr. John says
Frank, I believe you may have misread my comment to John as applying to you. Let me know if we can help you also!
Frank J Sirignano says
Hello Fr John,
I doing fine, I jusy want to tell about my story of my conversion to the Orthodox Christian Church. Roman Catholics would be better off converting to the Orthodox Christian Faith. They would have peace of mind and heart. I truly believe that.
I left a comment a few years back about being Byzantine Catholic and realizing that it’s neither fish nor fowl.
I’ve now been Eastern Orthodox for 5 years and it was the best thing I ever did. My spiritual life has deepened so much and I feel much closer to God and His saints. Byzantine Catholicism is not the same thing, not by a long shot. I feel like I’ve gone from the kiddy pool to the ocean, from training wheels to a motorcycle. Hieromonk Gabriel Bunge is correct, the two churches are too far apart in worldview and mentality to be the same. It amazes how eastern Catholics really think reunion with the EO is just around the corner and differences are just technicalities; that the mean, bad anti-Catholics Protestant converts are the main problem in America. Frankly, I don’t know any EO, and I’m talking cradles, who have the slightest interest in joining Rome, none.
I ran into a Byzantine Catholic from my past who attends attends EO churches often but has no interest in converting, she sees the liturgy as the same and says that’s all that counts. She asked me if I’d been to some new eastern catholic church in the region and said I’d be more than welcome. my mouth just fell open; why in the world would I do that?! Why go from a full, hearty soup to broth?! Not to say there aren’t problems and difficulties, or that all EO aren’t like liberal Catholics in some ways. Definitely not perfect.
Though I respect my former parishioners and other Catholics, there’s no going back…ever. The Orthodox Church is Christ’s church on earth. We’re not a missing lung, we’re the real deal,’THE only Spiritual hospital in town. This is it!!!
Jodie Moreno says
Greetings Fr. John,
Thank you for this blog – reading others’ comments has brought me a measure of comfort. I am Roman Catholic and float between TLM and NO Mass in Spanish. My spouse is “culturally Catholic” (which is very common in our ethnic group) but is not overly interested in practicing the faith.
With that being said, I came across some videos on YouTube about the “Great Schism” and I ended up watching it several times. I felt as if I had found a long lost brother/sister that my parents never told me about. For several months, I’ve been reading, listening to EO podcasts and got connected with a local, Greek Orthodox parish.
Our first visit to the parish was disastrous and my husband announced that it is highly unlikely he would ever join me again at that parish. Problem is, none of the other parishes nearby have ever returned my calls or emails. Perhaps I need to be more insistent? I pray that his heart is softened…
I’m already nervous about the inevitable “shunning” from my family when I finally make the plunge. Please remember me in your prayers and if you have any guidance for me, it would be greatly appreciated.
I know this is an old post, but I hope my words can be of help to anyone looking for direction in these crazy days.
I was raised Catholic, but I’ve been in and out of the church most of my adult life. I discovered Orthodoxy many years ago, but not being ready to make the leap, I settled in at a Byzantine Catholic church. I’ve only started going to church again recently following last year’s lockdowns, but my first stop was at an Antiochian Orthodox church about 45 miles away. (Nothing closer to home, unfortunately.)
But I kept wondering if I should give the Byzantine church another try. “Communion with Rome” still means something inasmuch as I am a child of the Western world and I still have great reverence for the ancient church and many of its post-schism saints. But is that enough of a reason to remain Byzantine Catholic?
Following Pope Francis’ soft cancellation of the Traditional Latin Mass, I’m finding less and less of a reason to maintain ties to Rome. It strikes me that the Orthodox never would have had to deal with tensions between traditionalists and modernists, precisely because the Orthodox reject the impulse to be “relevant” to a culture that’s increasingly hostile to their very existence in the first place. So why placate the culture? That’s exactly what Vatican II and the Novus Ordo Mass seem to have done. And to what end? By Protestantizing the faith, and by reorienting the Mass from a reverent sacrifice to God to one of a casual conversation and a picnic between priest and churchgoers, we’ve ended up with a Catholicism in which most people don’t even know what their own church teaches anymore. And those who run the church seem to prefer it that way.
But taking a wider view, I think my struggles with Christianity all along have resulted from the overly legalistic and rationalistic way that both Catholics and Protestants approach their faith. I take a very logical view toward the world. I’m the one who picks things apart and finds the plot hole. So you’d think the scholasticism of Catholicism would be the perfect fit for me. But I think the problem is that it hasn’t allowed me to break out of that mindset, precisely because it encourages that mindset. And it’s created a barrier. I go as far as my logical brain will take me, but no one has ever encouraged me to look beyond that Aristotelean/Thomistic mindset and make a leap of faith into the unknown.
And it seems to me that Orthodoxy holds the key. Theosis is a tremendous teaching that orients us into striving toward a goal of imitating Christ, not just neurotically following rules to stay out of hell. I think the nous of Western Christians is underdeveloped because of how the Western church has evolved. And I feel like that’s why so many seem to miss the point of what it truly means to be like Christ, what the Incarnation truly meant, and why eternal truths are just that and need be “updated” to fit modern times and its passing trends.
Being Eastern Catholic should be the best of both worlds. Instead, it feels like sitting on the fence. I think I’m finally ready to make the leap. Thank you for your wise words.
I wrote something recently but don’t think I ever hit the send button. I just wanted to thank you for your website, and for your thoughts on Orthodoxy and Catholicism as expressed here. My two main stumbling blocks with Western Christianity have been the overemphasis on rationalism, as if God can be defined or put under a microscope, and in particular the Catholics’ tendency toward development of doctrine, as if eternal truths can ever change. If the Catholic church could resist the urge to keep trying to make itself “relevant” to the times, Vatican II would never have been necessary, and the current dust-up over the Latin Mass would never have happened.
I’ve been attending a Byzantine Catholic church for many years, but now that I’m coming back to church for the first time since last year’s lockdowns, I think I’m ready to get off the fence (which is what being Eastern Catholic often feels like) and finally make the leap into Orthodoxy.