The Remedy For Cafeteria Catholicism

Former Protestant, now newly ordained Catholic Priest from Oregon coast reveals antidote to doubt concerning Catholic Truth…


Signs of Springtime…

EDITOR NOTE: Archbishop John G. Vlazny will ordain seven men as priests for the Archdiocese of Portland on Saturday, June 13 at St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. This will be the largest ordination class for the Archdiocese since the early 1970’s. But, there’s another newly ordained priest from Oregon, Dominican Father Raphael Mary Salzillo, and his conversion story below is excellent in revealing the constant work of the Spirit of Truth within our lives, our families, and the Church…

H/T AND STORIES : Catholic SentinelWestern Dominican Province 

I was born in Eugene, Oregon in 1976 and spent most of my life in a small town called Florence just an hour west of Eugene on the coast. My family raised me with a strong Christian faith and a very clear sense that Christ should be the most important thing in my life. Through the influence of my mother (who was actually raised fundamentalist) my family became Catholic in 1991, when I was about fifteen. I was old enough to know clearly what I was doing, and to choose to be Catholic, but my faith nevertheless remained very Protestant and generic so to speak. I was not fully open to the truth that the Catholic Faith has to offer.

Dave Visit III 018At sixteen, I had a spiritual experience in Mass that gave me the very strong feeling that God was calling me to the priesthood or religious life (at that time I didn’t know the difference). This was something I was not open to at the time and so I put a good deal of time and energy into convincing myself that it was my imagination (never fully succeeding).

I went to college at Caltech in Pasadena, earning a Bachelors degree in applied physics. Then I went on to graduate school in that field, although I wasn’t really sure if that was what God wanted for me. I enjoyed graduate school very much and it was there that the Lord started to work on me to bring me into the center of His Church, and make my vocation clear to me.

I wrestled for several years with my Cafeteria Catholicism. I believed very strongly (as many do today) that my own intellect and judgment should be the ultimate criteria for what I would believe and not to believe. It was later that I learned that the word heresy comes from the Greek word to choose. I wanted to choose my own religion rather than accepting the Catholic one as a coherent whole. In a way, choice had become a God for me, as it has to so many in our society. It was through my study of Church History and theology and through a deepening prayer life that my own intellect and judgment finally brought me to the conclusion that they alone could not get me what I yearned for. On my own I could not know religious truth with certainty and could never have more than an egocentric personal (and seemingly very subjective) confidence in the truth of my beliefs. It should have been no wonder to me to discover this since God would not have needed to reveal Himself to us had we the ability to derive divine truth on our own! That is why He gave us the Bible and established His Church, so that we might know the essential truths of the faith with certainty. It was through submission of my power of choice in matters of faith, that I came to know Jesus Christ in a much deeper way.

The final part of my faith that I finally accepted (though not without a fight) was Mary, the Mother of God. Having been raised Protestant, and mildly anti-Catholic, it was a hurdle just for me to accept the Church’s teaching on Mary’s maternal intercession. Taking it to heart and making Mary a part of my life was something else altogether! And yet, eventually I did, and that (more than any thing else in my life, save the Holy Eucharist) taught me to love Jesus. It was Mary who brought me to finally accept my vocation, and it has been her that has sustained me in this life for the past few years, with all its joys and challenges. As a wise priest once told me, when we say Hail Mary she says Hail Jesus and she can say it quite a bit better than we can!

Once I knew that God was calling me to a religious vocation and started doing research on different orders, the Dominicans with their emphasis on doctrinal preaching and study, as well as their strong community life with a streak of monasticism appealed to me immediately. After spending a year checking out other orders, and doing a lot of discernment with a spiritual director, I finally became confident that this is where God wanted me. And all I can say is that His grace has gotten me this far, so I continue to trust.


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