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Why I Became Catholic 

John Henry Cardinal Newman

 John Henry was born in 1801. He is the most distinguished graduate of Oxford University. For twenty-four years he was a clergyman of the Church of England. In 1845 he became a Catholic

“From the time that I became a Catholic, of course I have no further history of my religious opinions to narrate. In saying this, I do not mean to say that my mind has been idle, or that I have given up thinking on theological subjects; but that I have had no changes to record, and have had no anxiety of heart whatever. I have been in perfect peace and contentment. I never have had one doubt.

From the day I became a Catholic to this day, now close upon thirty years, I have never had a moment’s misgiving that the communion of Rome is that Church which the Apostles set up at Pentecost, which alone has the adoption on the sons, ands the glory, and the covenants, and the revealed law, and the service of God, and the Promises, and in which the Anglican communion, whatever its merits and demerits, whatever the great excellence of individuals in it, has, as such, no part. Never have I for a moment hesitated in my conviction, since 1845, that it was my clear duty to join the Catholic Church, as I did then join it, which in my own conscience I felt to be divine. Persons and places, incidents and circumstances of life, which belongs to my first forty-four years, are deeply lodged in my memory and my affections; moreover, I have had more to try and afflict me in various ways as a Catholic than as an Anglican; but never for a moment have I wished myself back; never have I ceased to thank my Maker for His mercy in enabling me to make the great change and never has He let me feel forsaken by Him in distress, or in any kind of religious trouble.

I have not had one moment’s wavering of trust in the Catholic Church ever since I was received into her fold. I hold, and have ever held, that her Sovereign Pontiff is the center of unity and the Vicar of Christ; and I ever have had, and have still, an unclouded faith in her creed and in all its articles; a supreme satisfaction in her worship, discipline, and teaching; and an eager longing, and a hope against hope, that the many dear friends whom I have left in Protestantism may be partakers of my happiness. …Return to the Church of England! No! The net is broken and we are delivered. I should be a consummate fool (to use a mild term) if in my old age, I left the land flowing with milk and honey, for the city of confusion and the house of bondage.”


Ronald A. Knox


Ronald Knox was the son of an Anglican Bishop of Manchester, England. He was born in 1888; was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford; became a clergyman of the Church of England, and was elected a fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, in 1910; he entered the Catholic Church in 1916.

“I suppose it is inevitable that after the question, ‘Why did you become a Roman Catholic?’ Anglicans and others should proceed to the question, ‘What does it feel like?’

In answer to this, I can register one impression at once, curiously inconsistent with my preconceived notions on the subject. I had been encouraged to suppose, and fully prepared to find, that the immediate result of submission to Rome would be the sense of having one’s liberty cramped and restricted in a number of ways, necessary no doubt to the welfare of the Church at large, but galling to the individual. I have been overwhelmed with the feeling of liberty, the glorious liberty of the sons of God. It was not till I became Catholic that I became conscious of my former homelessness, my exile from the place that was my own. I now found ease and naturalness, and stretched myself like a man who has been sitting in a cramped position. I found harbourage, the resting place which God has allowed to His people on earth.”


Elizabeth Bayley Seaton


Elizabeth Bayley Seaton was the foundress of the Sisters of Charity. She was born in 1774 and became Catholic in1805.

“On the 14th of March, 1805, I was admitted to the true Church of Jesus Christ, with a mind gratified and satisfied, as that of a poor ship-wrecked mariner on being restored to his home.

I seemed then to be admitted to a new life and to the peace which passeth all understanding; and with David I now say, ‘Thou hast saved my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling;’ and certainly I most earnestly desire to walk before Him in the land of the living, esteeming my privilege so great, and what He has done for me so far beyond my most lively hopes, that I can scarce realize my own happiness.”


Robert Hugh Benson


Robert Hugh Benson was the son of Archbishop Benson of Canterbury, the ecclesiastical head of the Church of England. He was born in 1871, and was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, England. He served in the Anglican Ministry for nine years, and entered the Catholic Church in 1903.

“Cardinal Newman compares, somewhere, the sensations of a convert from Anglicanism to those of a man in a fairy story, who, after wandering all night in a city of enchantment, turns after sunrise to look back upon it, and finds to his astonishment that the buildings are no longer there; they have gone up like wraiths and mists under the light of the risen day. So the present writer has found. He no longer, as in the first months of his conversion, is capable of comparing the two systems of belief together, since that which he has left appears to him no longer a coherent system at all. There are, of course, associations, memories, and emotions still left in his mind–some of them very sacred and dear to his heart; he still is happy in numbering among his friends many persons who still find amongst those associations and memories a system which they believe to be the religion instituted by Jesus Christ; yet he himself can no longer see in them anything more than hints and fragments and aspirations detached from their center and reconstructed into a purely human edifice without foundation or solidity. Yet he is conscious of no bitterness at all–at the worst he experiences sometimes a touch of impatience merely at the thought of having been delayed so long by shadows from the possession of divine substance. He cannot, however, with justice, compare a dream with a reality. He has abandoned, therefore, the attempt–which lack of leisure in any case would make practically useless–to place side by side with his drowsy memories of Anglicanism the story of his vivid adventures under the sunlight of Eternal Truth.”


Orestes A. Brownson


Orestes A. Brownson was one of the keenest intellects that America has known. Before his conversion, which occurred in 1844, he wrote:

“We had wandered in darkness, stumbling from error to error, with downcast look and saddened heart, craving for freedom and finding only bondage.”

After his conversion he wrote:

“It is not easy to conceive the sense of freedom and relief one experiences in passing from Rationalism or any other form of Protestantism to Catholicity. The convert to the Church is the prisoner liberated from the Bastille; a weight is thrown from his shoulders, the manacles fall from his hands and the fetters from his feet; he feels as light and as free as the air, and he would chirp and sing as the bird. This world changes its hue in his eyes; and he runs and leaps under the blue sky of a boundless universe. His thought, his mind, his very soul, is lighted up, and revels in the freedom of universal truth. He feels that he has something whereon he can stand, that he has no longer to bear up the Church, but the Church can bear him up. He is conscious of an unfailing support and no longer fears that he is in danger every step he takes of having his footing give way and of falling through. His heart bounds with a sense of unlimited freedom, and with a joy unspeakable.”


Isaac Thomas Hecker


Isaac Thomas Hecker was born in 1819. After years of inquiry he finally became a Catholic 1845.

“I feel very cheerful and at ease since I have consented to join the Catholic Church. Never have I felt the quietness, the immovableness, and the permanent rest that I do now. It is inexpressible.”


Joyce Kilmer


Joyce Kilmer was born in 1886. He became a Catholic in 1913. He was killed in action on July 30, 1918. Shortly before his death he wrote:

“Pray that I may love God more…. Except while we are in the trenches I receive Holy Communion every morning, so it ought to be all the easier for me to attain the object of my prayers. I got Faith, you know, by praying for it. I hope to get Love the same way.”


Henry Edward Manning


Henry Edward Manning was born in 1808, and was educated at Harrow and Oxford University. He was a clergyman in the Church of England, and in 1851 became a Catholic. He died Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster in 1892.


“From the hour I saw the full light of Catholic faith, no shade of doubt has ever passed over my reason or my conscience. I could as soon believe that a part is equal to the whole, as that Protestantism, in any shape, from Lutheranism to Anglicanism, is the Revelation of the day of Pentecost.” 


Eugenio Zolli


Eugenio Zolli XE "Zolli, Eugenio" , the former Chief Rabbi of Rome XE "Rome" , converted to Catholicism and was baptized in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels on February 17, 1945. He took the name Eugenio in honor of Eugenio Pacelli–Pope Pius XII, who led the Church through World War II and the post-war years, doing so with such wisdom that respect for the Papacy reached an all-time high.

Zolli’s mother was a German-Jewess, and on her side of the family were 130 years of rabbinical tradition. Because Zolli was Chief Rabbi of Rome XE "Rome" , the Gestapo offered a substantial reward for his capture. Yet he offered himself as a hostage to the Nazi forces then occupying the city if they would release several hundred of his fellow Jews.

Jews, and especially the Rabbis of the Orthodox group, do not become Christians light-mindedly, nor without powerful help from God. When asked why he had given up the Synagogue for the Church, Zolli gave an answer that showed his understanding of his present position: “I have not given it up. Christianity is the integration, completion or crown of the Synagogue. For, the Synagogue was a promise, and Christianity is the fulfillment of that promise. The Synagogue pointed to Christianity: Christianity presupposes the Synagogue. So you see, one cannot exist without the other. What I converted to was the living Christianity.”[1]

When Zolli was asked why he had not joined one of the Protestant denominations, which are also Christian, he answered:


Because protesting is not attesting. I do not intend to embarrass anyone by asking: "Why wait 1,500 years to protest?" The Catholic Church was recognized by the whole Christian world as the true Church of God for 15 consecutive centuries. No man can halt at the end of those 1,500 years and say that the Catholic Church is not the true Church of Christ without embarrassing himself seriously. I can accept only that Church which preached to all creatures by my own forefathers, the Twelve (Apostles) who, like me, issued from the Synagogue.[2]


Whoever examines thoroughly and fairly the legitimate doctrines of the Catholic Church, as set forth in the decrees and canons of the great ecclesiastical Councils — from the Nicene to Vatican Council I — and compares them with those taught by Christ and His apostles, whoever does this must admit their identity in everything essential to salvation. Such an examination and comparison, impartially and boldly conducted, would restore thousands of doubting dissenters into the fold of unity and spiritual peace.

[1] Eugenio Zolli, Why I Became a Catholic, Introduction. (Fort Collins: Roman Catholic Books) 1996. 

[2] Zolli, Why I Became a Catholic, Introduction.


© 2004 – Victor R. Claveau

Part or all of this article may be reproduced without obtaining permission as long as the author is cited.


"For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God;

and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church a

nd every form of Grace, for the Spirit is truth."

St. Irenaeus: Against Heresies. (2nd Cent)




Copyright © 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved