“One who seeks the Church seeks Christ.” Saint Ambrose of Milan wrote and it has had a profound impact on me in my journey to seek Christ within his one, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. From my youth, I sought Christ but I never searched for His Church until I was in my teenage years. It is then that I started off on a journey for, what was in my mind an abstract idea, the “Church.”
I had became disillusioned with Protestantism and all the division and separation between denominations. One can look in any size town and find at least two different protestant churches and both (and for that matter all protestant churches) claim to be the “church”. So my idea of what the “church” was had been shaped by the various divisions of Protestantism. So when I started searching for the Church of Christ, I had this idea in mind; the Church was divided and I needed to find a Church that was as close as possible to the original Church. Of course I had no idea what the original idea of the Church was and I doubted the it still existed.
I happened on day on a beautiful Episcopal Church, Christ the King. I found within Anglicanism a Church that claimed to be part of the catholic Church. It claimed to be a descendent of one of the original Churches and it was part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church (along with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches).
The idea of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church was new to me and in it I found the original Church of Christ (or as I thought then, a branch of it) It is within the Anglican Church that I was baptized. I learned the Creed, what a sacrament was, how to pray to saints, and what Holy Tradition meant from the Anglican Church. I am grateful for the Anglican Church for introducing the wider Christian tradition to me.
Yet, within Anglicanism I found all sorts of division. Who was my in communion with? Who we were in impaired communion with? Can women be priests? How many sacraments are there? I started to see that to be in the Church meant the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and that this Church couldn’t be divided. So I searched out this unified Church.
I read Saint Cyprian of Carthage, “There is no Salvation outside the Church.” So I needed to be in the Church for the eternal salvation of my soul. Jesus Christ can be found in His Body, the Church. From me rearing in the branch theory, I knew that Orthodoxy and Catholicism were other “branches” of the Church. So, I knew that I needed to look there for the Church.
I discovered the Christian East and I was received into the Orthodox Church. I fell in love with the Eastern Liturgy, Spirituality, and ethos. I had also thought about the Roman Catholic Church but felt more at home in the Eastern Church.
Yet, my search for unity within the Church again hit some of the same stumbling blocks that I had found in Anglicanism. Old Calendar, New Calendar, ecumenism and the divisions that this has caused within the Orthodox Church lead me to rethink the Catholic Church.
I found that in the Pope, as Universal Head and Shepard, that the Unity of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church was intact and encompassed all of the Liturgical rites of the ancient Church. I could in fact practice my Eastern Orthodoxy and be in communion with the Holy See and at the same time Latin Catholics could be in communion with me. So I had to become a Catholic, I needed the unity that only can be found in the Catholic Communion. I needed to proclaim with Saint Clemet of Alexandria,
O wondrous mystery! One is the Father of all, one also the Word of all, and the Holy Spirit is one and the same everywhere. And there is only one Virgin Mother; I love to call her the Church.
Christ built His Church and we must seek Unity within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. For me, that Unity can be found in the Catholic Communion of Churches in communion with the successor of St. Peter, the Pope of Rome. Glory to God for all things!