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  • Writer's pictureCofComCat

We've come home to Rome

Last week, we spoke with Nicole Scheidl, Executive Director of Canadian Physicians for Life. Her organization's mission is as follows:


"We promote healthcare in the Hippocratic tradition that situates the patient’s good at the heart of all medical practice. We believe that the proper goal of medical science and, therefore, of its practitioners is to preserve and protect human life, to relieve suffering, and to promote healing."


Nicole and her team are on the front lines of educating on and advocating for pro-life issues in Canada. Our expansive conversation with her (listen here) spanned a variety of issues, including how Catholic Christians committed to the fight against abortion can convince non-Catholic Christians who are less convinced than they need to be (I was one of these non-Catholic Christians once upon a time) about the importance of this issue. Indeed, as Nicole notes, the fight against abortion is Biblical (i.e., required by an intelligent reading of Scripture). It is also historical.


How so?


First, in the Gospel of Luke (1:40-45) we read that though he is an unborn child John the Baptist leaps in his mother's womb upon the arrival of Mary who is carrying Jesus, the (also unborn) Savior of the world. Were modern pro-abortion arguments licit from a Christian perspective then on what basis would someone argue against either the mother of John the Baptist or the mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (i.e., the Blessed Virgin Mary) being able to simply terminate their pregnancies? Any argument against aborting these specific lives while otherwise making "pro-choice" arguments boils down to (at best) some form of hindsight bias.


And second, in the Didache (also known as The Lord's Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations) we read as follows: "You shall not murder a child by abortion, nor kill a child at birth." The Didache is a very early Christian text written in Koine Greek likely within a few decades of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The writer(s) and place of origin are unknown and the work itself was discovered only at the end of the nineteenth century. Considering that the first recorded instance of Jesus's followers going by the name "Christians" occurs in the New Testament texts (in Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16) which were likely written around the same time or even after the Didache, it is possible that Christians were condemning abortion since before they were called Christians.


Which implies a binary choice between being "pro-choice" (i.e., pro-abortion and pro-murder) or being a Christian. You can't be both.


Rigel and I learned a lot in our conversation with Nicole, and we'll be having her back for future episodes!


Within hours of Nicole's episode being released, my wife and I returned home from evening Mass. There was a letter waiting for me. I had been expecting that letter for nearly 8 months. We had prayed countless times (and asked others to pray) about what the letter would contain and how we would handle its contents. The letter held the verdict or judgment on my petition to the Catholic Church for an annulment of my first marriage on the grounds that the marriage was invalid (i.e., that it was not a properly Christian marriage). I will tell the full story in a future blog post, but for now it is sufficient to say that among other things the woman I married before and I were not open to the possibility of having children at the time of (or during) our marriage and thus the marriage was in fact not a valid Christian one.


My petition was granted. That marriage was declared invalid. What followed was perhaps the most hectic ~48 hours of my life! Below is the simplified timeline of my conversion to Catholicism, culminating in those hectic 48 hours...


Late 2020: I realized my life was missing purpose, I was a wretch and I was miserable. Materially comfortable but spiritually empty, psychologically unwell and morally bankrupt.


Early to mid 2021: I (started to) become a real Protestant Christian. I had been something between a practical atheist/selfish materialist (at worst) and a pagan claiming to be a Christian (at best) for nearly eighteen years. My wife and I started attending an Anglican church and I started a theology masters degree at the University of Toronto. I was able to take classes in all constituent colleges of the Toronto School of Theology including the Catholic ones (and I started to do so).


Early 2022: My Catholic classes were beautiful and compelling. It actually scared me how convincing the Catholic faith appeared to me once I stopped making quick judgments, repeating anti-Catholic propaganda or assuming I already knew the Catholic teaching on a given issue. My Catholic instructors and professors had better answers to every hard question I had for them than any of my Anglican, Presbyterian or Evangelical instructors and professors did. I kept learning about Catholicism and started running out of objections. I attended Mass (secretly) with Rigel.

Mid 2022: My wife and I went to Italy in July. I went into every single church we saw. I felt "at home" every time I did so, and a measure of peace I felt nowhere else. After we returned home, I accepted that Catholicism is true. Nothing had made more sense to me in my life. But I didn't believe I could tell my wife.


October 2022: I had started to feel as though I was lying to my wife. I finally found the courage to tell her that I believed Catholicism is true and that, necessarily, the Catholic Church is Christ's Church and that I need to become a Catholic. Since we were both raised in (sometimes militantly) anti-Catholic traditions and I had been married previously I knew that doing so might devastate our families and our marriage. But I told her anyway. My wife is braver and better than I am, and she said "OK." God bless her for that ❤️.


November 2022: We learned what the canon law process entails for someone in my position. It is long, scary and uncertain and required us to live celibate lives. Perhaps permanently. We started (learning) to live as Catholics, joining St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church as parishioners.


May 2023: We started attending the Spanish language Mass at Mary, Mother of the Redeemer Parish and thus found ourselves joining a second Catholic parish! Parish life made (and makes) so much sense to us. I left long-term employment under controversial circumstances due to reasons related to my newfound Catholic faith.


August 2023: The investigation into my prior marriage began. The end result would determine whether we could become Catholic as husband and wife. I was told the process could take up to 18 months to conclude. We planned a trip to Italy for April 2024.


April 16, 2024: We received the aforementioned letter. It was the judgment. After many hard months, we learned that we could enter the Catholic Church! I was shaking as I read the letter and had to read it multiple times to ensure I read it right.


April 17, 2024: Our priests moved mountains for us. They (and so many others in our lives) had been praying and waiting for this. Mabel gets Baptized, we both get Confirmed in the Church, and we received Holy Communion for the first time. Here we are with Fr. Bengry shortly afterward (Mabel holding her Baptismal candle and a small bottle of water from her Baptism)...


After being received into the Catholic Church

We had become Catholics surrounded by people who have loved, cried with and supported us during this journey. Rigel was there to watch. Here we are with two of our dear Catholic friends who served as our "sponsors" (Baptismal and Confirmation for my wife, Confirmation for me) and have stood alongside us on this journey...


With our priest and our sponsors

April 18, 2024: We flew to Rome barely 18 hours after becoming Catholic.


April 19, 2024: We went to Vatican City and attended Mass at St. Peter's Basilica. Here we are standing in St. Peter's Square shortly before entering the Basilica for Mass...


In Saint Peter's Square

And here we are inside the Basilica shortly after receiving the Eucharist/Holy Communion (for just the second time in our lives and less than 48 hours since the first time!), literally steps away from the Throne of Saint Peter, among the holiest places in all of Christendom...


In Saint Peter's Basilica

As I said: perhaps the most hectic ~48 hours of my life. I wouldn't have it any other way!


Many people have asked why I would convert to Catholicism, especially since I was raised by a Baptist pastor father, am brother to an Oxford-educated PhD Anglican brother, have zero ties to Catholicism, am married to a woman who herself is from a largely anti-Catholic tradition, and spent the majority of my life in practical atheism and pagan materialism.


Ultimately, there are two reasons.


First, as was asked by Thomas Howard, who like me was raised evangelical Protestant before converting to Anglicanism and then eventually to Catholicism, in his wonderful book Evangelical is Not Enough:


"The question, What is the Church? becomes, finally, intractable; and one finds oneself unable to offer any very telling reasons why the phrase 'one, holy, catholic, and apostolic', is to be understood in any other than the way in which it was understood for 1500 years."

Second, the brilliant and hilarious British convert to Catholicism G. K. Chesterton sums up perfectly my sentiments and my experience of finding and following Jesus Christ via His Catholic Church in this single sentence:


"The difficulty of explaining 'why I am Catholic' is that there are tens of thousands of reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true."


So why would I convert to Catholicism? History and truth. Their pursuit led me here.


It feels so good to have "come home" to Rome. Literally. ❤️


Wishing you, whoever you are and wherever you are, the peace of Christ from the island of Capri, Italy as my wife and I celebrate what has become our entirely unplanned honeymoon! The moment we were Confirmed in the Church our marriage became valid. It seems God's plan for our lives is mysterious and marvelous indeed.


God bless,


Travis


Pope Saint John Paul II

My wife with a painting of her confirmation or patron saint (Pope Saint John Paul II) at the Church of Saint Sophia (Chiesa di Santa Sofia) in Anacapri, Italy


Adoration

In Adoration at the Church of Saint Sophia (Chiesa di Santa Sofia) in Anacapri, Italy


Anacapri

In the town of Anacapri above the town of Capri on the island of Capri, Italy


Capri

After attending Sunday Mass at the Church of Saint Stephen (Chiesa di Santo Stefano) in Capri, Italy

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