Below I provide a few of the quotations that had an impact on my decision. It is far from a complete list.
As an Evangelical Protestant, echoing the words of Baptist Preacher Charles H. Spurgeon, I cared about what the Holy Spirit revealed to me, but had little regard for what he had revealed to others, especially those in the first centuries–some who knew the apostles personally.
I was convinced that the earliest Christians were basically “Protestant“ in their theology and practice and only became corrupted with “Catholic stuff“ in later centuries. I thought Protestants had the claim to authentic continuity back to the apostles.
But I was very mistaken and the more I studied the early Fathers of the Church, starting with Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, (disciples of Peter and Paul), Papias, Irenaeus, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, and others, I became convinced the early Church was Catholic. Intellectual honestly and spiritual integrity forced me to become a Catholic. As the old maxim says: “The water is always cooler and cleaner as you draw closer to the source.” I had gone back to the early Church and the truth was clear and refreshing.
So here are a few of the quotations that rocked my world and make me stand up and take notice and eventually contributed to my decision to become Catholic. I will add more as time allows. For excellent books to find this wonderful historical information, click here.
“In the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep (Jn 21:15-19), down to the present episcopate.
“And so, lastly, does the very name of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house.
“Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should…With you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me… No one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion…For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church.”
– St. Augustine (AD 354-430 )
Against the Epistle of Manichaeus AD 397
[Contra Epistolam Manichaei Quam Vacant Fundamenti]
“To be deep in history is to cease being a Protestant.“
– Cardinal Newman
Conscience, Consensus, and the Development of Doctrine
“If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (but I thought the Bible was the sole foundation?)
1 Timothy 3:15
“Having founded and built the Church, the blessed apostles entrusted the episcopal office to Linus, who is mentioned by Paul in the Epistles to Timothy; Linus was succeeded by Anacletus; after him, in the third place from the apostles, the bishopric fell to Clement, who had seen the blessed apostles and conversed with them, and still had their preaching ringing in his ears and their authentic tradition before his eyes. And he was not the only one; there were still many people alive who had been taught by the apostles. . . . In the same order and the same succession the authentic tradition received from the apostles and passed down by the Church, and the preaching of the truth, have been handed on to us.”
St. Ireneaus (c. 130-200)
“But look at the men who have those perverted notions about the grace of Jesus Christ which has come down to us, and see how contrary to the mind of God they are. . . . They even abstain from the Eucharist and from the public prayers, because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the self-same body of our Savior Jesus Christ which flesh suffered for our sins, and which the Father of His goodness raised up again.“
St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. AD 106; disciple of Peter and Paul)
Epistle to the Smyrnaeans
“ It is to Peter himself that He says, ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.’ Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church, no death is there, but life eternal.”
St. Ambrose of Milan (c. a.d 340 – 397)
Commentaries on Twelve of David’s Psalms
“He has come too near to the truth, and has forgotten that truth is a magnet, with the powers of attraction and repulsion. . . . The moment men cease to pull against [the Catholic Church] they feel a tug towards it. The moment they cease to shout it down they begin to listen to it with pleasure. The moment they try to be fair to it they begin to be fond of it. But when that affection has passed a certain point it begins to take on the tragic and menacing grandeur of a great love affair. . . . When he has entered the Church, he finds that the Church is much larger inside than it is outside.”
G. K. Chesterton
The Catholic Church and Conversion
“There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; this one will not admit Baptism; that one rejects the Sacrament of the altar; another places another world between the present one and the day of judgment; some teach that Jesus Christ is not God. There is not an individual, however clownish he may be, who does not claim to be inspired by the Holy Ghost, and who does not put forth as prophecies his ravings and dreams.”
“I never approved of a schism, nor will I approve of it for all eternity. . . . That the Roman Church is more honored by God than all others is not to be doubted. St, Peter and St. Paul, forty-six Popes, some hundreds of thousands of martyrs, have laid down their lives in its communion, having overcome Hell and the world; so that the eyes of God rest on the Roman church with special favor. Though nowadays everything is in a wretched state, it is no ground for separating from the Church. On the contrary, the worse things are going, the more should we hold close to her, for it is not by separating from the Church that we can make her better. We must not separate from God on account of any work of the devil, nor cease to have fellowship with the children of God who are still abiding in the pale of Rome on account of the multitude of the ungodly. There is no sin, no amount of evil, which should be permitted to dissolve the bond of charity or break the bond of unity of the body. For love can do all things, and nothing is difficult to those who are united.”
Martin Luther to Pope Leo X, January 6, 1519
more than a year after the Ninety-Five Theses
quoted in The Facts about Luther, 356
“There is one God and one Christ, and one Church, and one Chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord. It is not possible to set up another altar or for there to be another priesthood besides that one altar and that one priesthood. Whoever has gathered elsewhere is scattering.“
St. Cyprian of Carthage
Letter to his Clergy and to All His People
“The Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points of doctrine just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the churches in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, not do those in Spain, not those in Gaul, not those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions [Palestine] of the world.”
St. Ireneaus (c. 130-200)
“When therefore, we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek among others the truth which is easily obtained from the Church. For the apostles, like a rich man in a bank, deposited with her [the Church] most copiously everything which pertains to the truth; and everyone whosoever wishes draws from her the drink of life. Let us suppose that the apostles had left us no written records. Would we not have been able to follow the precepts of the tradition that they handed down to those to whom they entrusted the Churches? It is this precept of tradition that is followed by many barbarian nations that believe in Christ who know nothing of the use of writing, or ink.”
St. Ireneaus, (c. 130-200)
“The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ He says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever things you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed also in heaven.’ And again He says to him after His resurrection: ‘Feed my sheep.’ On him He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep; and although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles, yet He founded a single chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the Apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?”
St. Cyprian, AD 251
The Unity of the Catholic Church
“But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the succession of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. With that church, because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world, and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition”.
St. Irenaeus (disciple of Polycarp, disciple of John)
(Against Heresies 3:3:2 [A.D. 189]).