Testimony of Former Catholic:
Growing up in a strict pre-Vatican II Catholic household, I knew the meaning of
prayer and authority but it was prayer by rote and the unquestioned authority of
the church hierarchy. Let me explain.
Praying By Rote
As a Catholic, at a very early age, I was encouraged to pray the Rosary (a series
of beads). Such praying is quite tedious. At the beginning of the Rosary, a
Catholic will pray a prayer titled “Glory Be to the Father”.
After that, they pray a series of “decades” on the Rosary (the Rosary is divided up
into 10 decades of beads).
Each decade consists of one “Our Father” (the large beads)" ten "Hail Marys"
(the small beads), and one "Apostle's Creed" (to be said when your fingers come
to the Crucifix).
I understand that many of you may be confused. Let me simplify it for you. Each
time after I prayed the Rosary I had recited the “Apostle's Creed” once, the “Our
Father” ten times, the “Hail Mary” one hundred and fifty times, (yes, that’s right,
150 times) and the “Glory Be” ten times.
I was taught from my Saint Joseph Daily Missal that,
* If I pray five decades of the Rosary--on my behalf or on the behalf of a dead
family member or friend, I or the deceased one, would get 5 years off the
time we spend in Purgatory (praying the Rosary is viewed in the church as a
type of Indulgence).
* If I was to recite five decades of the Rosary in unison with others, publically
or privately, I earn ten years off of Purgatory.
* I was able to gain an additional 10 years off if I recited in unison the Rosary
with my family.
* If I was praying the Rosary while driving a car or doing housework, I was
guaranteed to get time off Purgatory, but there was a condition–I had to at
least have the Rosary hang around my neck or be attached to my person
(such as a sweater I might be wearing), while I was praying.
This was the type of repetitious praying I was involved in–especially during Lent
when a Catholic must give up something or do some sacrificial act. I really thought
of such praying as sacrificial because it took a lot of time to pray a total of 171
prayers each day of Lent (40 days of Lent x 171 = 6,840 prayers!). And, along with that
praying, came pride as I saw the benefit I could have on the dead person I was
helping get out of Purgatory (a temporary place of fire) and into Heaven (will
explain a bit more about Purgatory in a minute).
I was not only involved in repetitious praying on my own, but such praying was
done when attending Mass. I knew the Mass backwards and forwards. I could
recite it from beginning to end. The same exact words and prayers said during the
Mass are repeated week after week, year after year. Actually, century after
century. For well over 1500 years the same exact script has been said during the
Mass. The only change made, since the 1960's, is that the Mass is now performed
in English instead of Latin--the universal language for the church over the centuries.
One thing is certain, during Mass every Catholic, world-wide, knows when to stand,
when to sit, when to say “Amen,” when to make the sign of the cross, and when
to say the “Our Father” and the “Glory Be.” There doesn’t have to be any heart in
this at all. As long as you are at Mass going through the motions, then you are
seen as acceptable to God.
When praying the rosary, or when praying at Mass, Jesus is never included. Ask
most Catholics and they will tell you they do not pray to Jesus (unless they’ve
become born again, and haven’t left the church yet). The closest I ever came to
praying to Jesus was when making the sign of the Cross I would recite: “In the
name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
As a Catholic, I had a deeper reverence for Mary and the Saints than I ever did for
Jesus. This is true for many Catholics. They will tell you, for instance, that they
pray to Mary because she was Christ's mother; herself born without sin (called the
"Immaculate Conception"); and most importantly, that she intercedes for the
sinner. Since 1589 Catholics have prayed these words to their mediator--the
“Blessed Mother Mary,”
Hail Mary, full of grace! the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners
now and at the hour of our death.
This prayer (again, prayed 150 times when praying the Rosary) has become so
much a part of popular piety that it never occurs to the average Catholic that
exaltation of Mary is not found in the Bible.
If there are any Catholics reading this testimony, please do not be offended, when I
say in love, that Jesus has warned us against repetitious praying. When I came to
realize this, I wanted to change my prayer life completely! Listen to the words of
Jesus. He says, “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as
the Gentiles, do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words”
(see Matthew 6:7,8).
The Lord also tells us that He is against heartless and mindless praying:
...this people draw near with their words
and honor Me with their lip service,
but they remove their hearts far from Me,
and their reverence for Me consists of tradition
learned by rote. (Isaiah 29:13).
The Priests, and the Nuns
Along with having a deep reverence for Mary, I also revered the priests and the
nuns in the church. I had always believed that they were the only ones who could
really know God and be close to Him. After all, the priests were God’s
representative, and the nuns were the “Bride of Christ.”
In my father’s family line we have had (and continue to have) priests and nuns, a
monsignor and even a monk (a relative on my grandmother’s side of the family).
This monk went off to a monastery in New York and no one ever heard from him
again. What devotion! I thought.
I believed that anyone in the Order was “above” others. They live celibate lives
(considered to be more spiritual). They not only pray the Rosary more than most
Catholics but the nuns have their rosary with them at all times. The beads are on
their person, dangling down their habit (habit refers to the nun’s clothing).
These “holy people” are addressed by all Catholics by their given titles, such as
“Father”, “Sister,” “Monsignor”, “Bishop”, “Cardinal.” Even family members are
expected to address them in the same way. Without diminishing the respect and
honor I have for my family, let me share with you what I mean by this. At a family
reunion, for instance, one of our family priests had attended the gathering
(surprisingly). Cousin “Jim” (names are changed) was addressed by all his relatives
as “Father.” Never once did anyone just call him “Jim.” This is the same for the
nuns in the family. My own dear grandfather (who accepted Christ at age 90 and
is now in glory!) would have never called his nieces by their first name. He always
addressed them as “Sister.” My father’s uncle was a monsignor in the church and
was always addressed by the family as “Monsignor” (with last name), rather than
It has been said by former priests and nuns that when they entered
the Catholic Order they were advised by their superiors to become emotionally
detached from their family and friends. I would add that family members become
detached from them, as well, simply because the church becomes their priority.
When they enter the Order their new family becomes those whom they live with:
priests in the parish house, the nuns in the convents, and the monks in the
Because I had such a high respect for the Holy Order I told my grandfather, at age
seven, that I was going to become a nun. I too wanted to know God, or at least
find Him. Grandpa was delighted. As time went on my ambitions to become a nun
were no longer in my thinking, at least, not until I turned 21 years old. Just a few
weeks before I found Christ I went into an empty Catholic church (doors use to always be unlocked...I'm told it's different now), knelt at the pew, and told God that after my studies I would be
a nun if that’s what He wanted. I was searching more than ever. I really wanted
to know God, and if that meant becoming a nun to find Him, then I was willing to
Right here, I must add that in my search for God I never considered myself as a
sinful person--despite living a worldly life. As I saw it, I was a “good” Catholic–a
Catholic who not only revered the priests and nuns but I obeyed the Pope. I
believed him to be infallible and the only one who could speak for God.
An Unquestioned Authority: The Pope
Looking back, I can see how very close I came to worshiping the Pope. I listened
to his every word–believed his words to be divine. I would have bowed down
before him and kissed his ring if given the chance. Whenever I was able, I would
watch him on television performing the Mass and listened intently to his message
(usually on world peace).
I was taught since childhood that the Pope is the "...Vicar of Christ, and as pastor
of the entire Church he has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole
Church." Furthermore, it is the Pope that takes "upon this earth the place of God
Because the Pope is viewed as God Almighty on earth there’s no need for a
personal relationship with the One and Only God. Nor, do you need to go to the
God of Heaven to forgive you of your sins.
In Catholicism, a person doesn’t go to Jesus to ask forgiveness–they must confess
to the priest. The Bishop of Salzburg, Johannes Katschtaler, stated to all Catholics
...the Catholic priest has the power to forgive sins...
God has, as it were, to this end
surrendered his omnipotence
for this moment
to his representative on earth,
the duly empowered priest...."
I absolutely believed in the priest’s role to forgive my sins, although there were
many times I had wished I didn’t have to confess to him. I always entered the
confessional with much trembling.
Along with going to confession, and continually performing “good works,” I kept
the sacraments. They are a major part of getting to Heaven, and actually an
important activity required to attain salvation. In the Roman Church, Catholics
should perform all the sacraments that apply to them. Let me share with you
what these sacraments are and what the Church says about them. Notice for
yourself how each sacrament helps the Catholic gain salvation.
The church teaches that,
The Sacrament of Baptism (usually performed on infants), is "necessary
for salvation" because by it "all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins,
as well as all punishment for sins." It makes a person a member of the Body of
The Sacrament of Confirmation (normally given when a person is about
age twelve), completes the grace given in baptism.
The Sacrament of the Eucharist is performed through partaking of bread
and wine, which are said to be changed into the "very body" and the "very blood"
of Christ. The very presence of Christ in the bread and wine is therefore
"worshiped" and "adored." The sacrament is said to be "necessary for
The Sacrament of Penance is the "disclosure of confession of sins to a
priest." The priest assigns some good work (usually assigning the confessor to
recite specific prayers) in order to reestablish a good life. The church states that,
"The Sacramental confession of sins is ordained by God and is necessary for
Extreme Unction is for the seriously sick Catholic, who is anointed with oil
and is prayed over by a priest. Extreme Unction provides, "...the grace of God for
the supernatural salvation of his soul and often for the natural healing of his body."
The Sacrament of Holy Order is for those who want to be priests. The
Church says that the Order is to give sanctifying grace, to "imprint" the person's
character, and give spiritual power.
The Sacrament of Matrimony is for those who desire to marry in the
Catholic church. They will receive "Sanctifying Grace...and [it] is a means of
salvation against evil..."
No Assurance of Salvation
Salvation, according to the Catholic, is a combination of what God does for you and
your own good deeds (which of course include the sacraments).
Trying to be a good person, as a way of getting to Heaven, was a great burden for
me. No matter how hard I tried I just never gained the assurance that I would one
day be in Heaven. Most Catholics will tell you that “No one can know whether a
person will go to Heaven. It’s impossible to know.” That’s why most Catholics
believe they’ll go to a place called Purgatory first.
Although Purgatory isn’t in the Old or New Testament, Catholics do believe there is
such a place. As I mentioned earlier, Purgatory is a place of fire, but it’s not a place
as permanent as hell. In Purgatory you can get out only if you have some living
person on earth pray on your behalf. The living must pray the Rosary over and
over again. Why? Because no one–not even the Pope–knows how many
rosaries it takes to get a person out of Purgatory. Of course, in your lifetime, if
you’ve prayed a lot of rosaries for yourself it’s credited to your purgatorial account.
This was my life. A life of trying to get to God–but I was so far from Him. A life of
trying to get to Heaven–but it always seemed so out of reach. Fortunately, God
promises, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your
heart (Jeremiah 29:13, also see 1 Chronicles 28:9, 2 Chronicles 15:2). God knew
I was searching for Him, and He was reaching out to me, although at the time, I
didn’t realize it.
You Are Not A Christian
The Lord certainly had a plan when one day, beyond my control, I was a visitor in a
Christian church. How I ended up in that church is a story for another time. As a
21 year old who had never been in any church other than a Catholic church, I didn’t
know what to expect. What I did know was that I would need to go to confession
later that week to confess to the priest what I had done. I had always believed it
was a mortal sin to attend any church that didn’t hold true to the Catholic beliefs.
While sitting and waiting for the pastor to speak, my eyes moved all around the
church. I found it odd that there weren’t any stained glass windows of the saints or
of Mary, or at least, of the crucifixion of Christ. Nor, were there any statues of
Mary, Joseph, or others. I also thought it was strange not to see any candles
lighting or not to smell incense burning. And, where were the confessionals?
While I continued to sit in wonder, a guest speaker by the name of Pastor Chuck
Smith, came up to the podium. Amazingly, he was carrying a Bible. I couldn’t
believe my eyes–a Bible! As a matter of fact, everyone brought a Bible to church
with them. What an unusual sight!
While I can’t remember Pastor Smith’s entire message, I left that church impressed
by three things. First, that the Bible speaks to me personally, and is useful for
everyday life. Secondly, that Jesus Christ is alive. He hears our every prayer and
forgives our sins. Third, that it is only through Jesus, and not of ourselves, that we
can get to Heaven (John 14:6, Ephesians 2:8-9). These truths were foreign to
In the next few days, there was room in my heart for rebellion. You see, after
Pastor Smith spoke and the people ended in song, a few young men (who found
out I was a Catholic) approached me and told me I wasn’t a Christian. I was
furious at their remark. Certainly I was a Christian! I was a very good person, at
least I tried my best, therefore I had to be a Christian!
As the days wore on, the Holy Spirit took hold of my sinful heart and showed me
that I was not a true Christian. True Christians see themselves as sinners and in
need of Jesus. True Christians repent of their sins directly to Christ and ask Him to
enter their lives. True Christians are followers of Jesus and desire to live out His will
for their lives. True Christians can take the word “Christ-ian” and say, I Am
Nothing without Christ”. True Christians know–really know--that they are saved
not on the basis of their “good” works but they rest solely upon Christ for their
salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). True Christians feed upon and rely upon the Word of
God–it is their spiritual food. I had gotten “fed” from the words of men and
completely ignored the true manna found in the Bible.
The Words of Men
I had believed and trusted in the words of men, such as the priests and the Pope. I
never challenged their words of how one gets to Heaven. Yet, Scripture wants us
to question the things they say. The Bereans, in the Bible, did just that. They
challenged the words of an apostle! Imagine that. After Paul preached to the
Bereans, they examined the Scriptures to see whether the things Paul preached to
them were true. The Bible commended the Bereans calling them “noble-minded”
If Scripture commended the Bereans for challenging the words of an apostle, then it
would certainly commend us for questioning the words of the priests, bishops and
the Pope. We are to compare their words with that of Scripture–just to make sure
the things they say are true.
There are many things that were taught to me by the Pope, the priests, and even
the nuns (when attending a parochial school) that went unchallenged but later
proven wrong when I discovered truth in the Bible. For instance, I was taught that
Mary was a perpetual Virgin, but the Bible says that Joseph kept Mary a virgin until
she gave birth to Christ (Matthew 1:25). I was told that not only was Mary a
virgin, but that Jesus didn’t have any brothers or sisters. Yet, the Bible reveals that
Mary had other children, after the birth of Christ (Matthew 13:55,56). I was also
taught that Mary was sinless, but the Bible shows us something different. Like all of
us, Mary was a sinner (see Romans 3:23). She even acknowledged God as her
Savior (Luke 1:46). If Mary was sinless she wouldn’t have acknowledged God as
her Savior. Sinless people don’t need a Savior.
The words of men also told me that my salvation came through the Catholic
church, the sacraments and my good works (despite these things, salvation was
never guaranteed). Again, I discovered that these words were--and still are–wrong.
Jesus Himself proclaimed on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Christ
completed the sacrifice needed to cleanse us of our sins. The sacraments and our
good works cannot possibly do what Christ did on the cross for mankind (John
3:16). Again, “It is finished.” The Bible says that salvation is through Jesus Christ
alone (Acts 16:30, 31; Ephesians 2:8-9) and that salvation is guaranteed to all
who believe (1 John 5:11-13).
Committing My Life to Jesus
The young men at that Christian church were right. I was not a Christian. God
says, “...unless you repent, you too will...perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). And that,
“...whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord. But whoever fails
to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:35-36).
God sends no one to hell. We send ourselves through unbelief and by refusing to
turn to Jesus Christ and receive His free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). Despite our
stubbornness, God loves us and desires that no one perish (John 3:16).
Responding to God’s wonderful Word, and coming face to face with my utter
sinfulness and my need for Christ, I prayed--and did what many years of
confessions never allowed me to do–REPENT to Jesus Christ. Realizing He’s the
only One who can forgive my sins, I asked Jesus for His forgiveness, I thanked Him
for His love, and for dying on the Cross as an atonement for my sins. I
acknowledged Him for who He is–Lord and Savior. I then asked Jesus, on
September 10, 1980, to come into my life.
Since that momentous day, Christ has been with me each day of my life, and will be
with me to the very end (Matthew 28:20). I also have this assurance from God:
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you
may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13).
My new relationship with Christ brought instant changes. I began to pray my own
prayers rather than the prayers the church taught me. I came to discover, by
praying to Jesus, that the living Lord not only hears me but lovingly answers my
prayers as well. Obviously, as a result of communicating to the Lord who hears, I
no longer prayed prayers to Mary and other saints (who do not hear).
During this time, I also began to read the Bible for myself. This may seem
unremarkable, but the pre-Vatican II mind-set did not encourage lay people to read
the Bible. That was left to the priest, who on Sunday morning would read perhaps a
verse or a short paragraph of Scripture--not directly from the Bible, but from the
Catholic missile that is distributed to Roman Catholic parishes worldwide.
There are no words to describe what it meant to read the Bible for myself for the
very first time. I filled several journals just copying verse after verse of God’s
wonderful and profound Word. During those days the Word of God became so
alive (and still is!). It’s God’s love letter to us–how could we not want to read
something sent to us from above? In one of God’s letters, a question arises:
“What must I do to be saved?” The answer is, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you
shall be saved” (Acts 16:31).
There are no other conditions for the salvation of mens souls other than believing
by way of putting your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, rather than the words of men,
the sacraments of the church, and your own good works.
It is by confessing to Jesus our sins, and committing our lives to Him that we
become born-again and spiritual transformation begins to take place. Jesus said that we must become born-again to enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:7).
True Christians, as I discovered from the Bible, are born-again believers who no longer
live for themselves, instead Christ lives in them (Galatians 2:20); and that in Jesus they "live and move and
exist” (Acts 17:28). Because they are guided by Christ and His Spirit, it is absolutely
impossible for the born-again believer to keep quiet about their living faith. As the Scriptures confirm,
“we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). I hope this gives you a better idea as to why we just can't keep the good news of Jesus Christ to ourselves. We want you to have the same true blessings and joy that we have, along with the guarantee of eternal life. It's offered to you only through Jesus Christ. Why not embrace Him today? The Bible says, "it is time to seek the Lord" (Hosea 10:12) and "behold, now is THE DAY OF SALVATION" (2 Corinthians 6:2).
If you are without true living faith in Jesus Christ, and have questions, feel free to contact me at