The Devotion to Christ – From cult to Catholicism

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By Brian Cook

Disclaimer: I was never in a cult. I just thought Catholicism operated as “the largest cult in the world.” I said those exact words to my dad one day when I was at his house preparing to go deer hunting. I can’t remember what book I was reading, but it was one of a thousand anti-Catholic books that presents Catholics as lost and in need of “the real gospel.”

My assessment after reading the book was that Catholics worshipped Mary (or at least idolized her as Jesus’ equal), committed some sort of a spiritual felony in their “Mass” (which I thought was a stupid name for a worship service) and were bound for Hell unless underneath all their works they somehow knew that “salvation is through faith alone.”

My dad actually shushed me and said, “Don’t say that again. My wife grew up Catholic.”

My parents are divorced, and I was surprised to hear that my stepmother was Catholic, or at least used to be. Neither of them attended church regularly, but I suddenly felt sheepish in that my thoughts would have caused hurt or even conflict if I had said everything I was thinking.

But my curiosity was stoked, and I kept that moment “hidden in my heart,” as it were. By God’s grace, I later looked up how many Catholics there are in the world and realized that my denomination was vastly outnumbered. That was a big surprise. I next looked up how many Protestant denominations there are, which was big surprise No. 2. It made me feel even more sheepish.

Without really wanting or meaning to, I had become anti-Catholic simply based on the amount of information I had been exposed to. I grew up Southern Baptist. Catholics were not considered “real” Christians because they did baptism wrong, added books to “their” Bible and were stupid enough to believe that bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ during their Mass. Those poor folks were so deceived by the Devil and the “Whore of Babylon.” If only they took the Bible literally and studied it intently, they would understand.

Catholics did build beautiful churches, though.

I was, and remain, a choir boy at heart. Both my parents are naturally talented singers, and both could really sing. When my mom sang Sandi Patty songs or my dad sang “Beulah Land,” people would be moved to tears. As a kid, I was (and still am) so proud of them, because they have walked through hell and are still standing and still singing.

So, I grew into a singer myself and scored a Vocal scholarship to Jacksonville State University. While in college, I got an opportunity to go on a 16-day choir tour through several European countries. We got to see and sing in several astonishing cathedrals. My favorite was St. Mark’s in Venice, Italy, but I also saw astounding churches in Germany, Austria and France.

Of course. I was young and foolish and girl-crazy and therefore missed many important things during that trip, but those churches registered very deeply in my spirit. Catholic churches, which were centuries older than my Baptist church, not to my whole country, staggered my mind.

My only context was the little Catholic church in my hometown. It was cute, but nothing like these. Matter of fact, the little church is called Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church. I found the name silly and like something from King Arthur tales (to be fair, however, there is a large lake in Cropwell). But I’ve always loved churches, and that love increases with age.

My favorite thing about Catholic churches, though, is that on any given day, the doors are unlocked, the candles are lit and the stained-glass windows are gorgeous. It seems that the sanctuary is almost always open and ready for prayer. Peaceful and pleasant, that church is very much alive and already prepared.

By contrast, on any day other than Sunday, my Protestant church’s sanctuary was dark, cold and closed, and this particular point became a real catalyst for conversion.

To be continued…

A Cropwell native, Brian Cook is a graduate of Pell City High School, Gadsden State Community College and Jacksonville State University. He and his wife Hope have five children. A self-described “on-again-off-again bi-vocational part-time” Protestant minister for almost 20 years, Brian converted to Catholicism in April 2021. They attend Saint James Catholic Church in Gadsden. With no formal training (Acts 4:13), Brian active in the Catechetical training of children and adults. His book “The Devotion to Christ” can be found on Amazon. He is available for speaking and teaching engagements in any parish, church, or group setting. He may be contacted at thedtc@protonmail.com or thedevotiontochrist@gmail.com.

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