Cared for Me
By Kirk Patrick Haggerty
I was born and raised in a suburb of Los Angeles, California. My
parents were devout Catholics. I remember going to Mass with my
mother when I was a young boy. The priests were consecrating the
host, and the altar boys were ringing bells at their sides while
kneeling next to the altar. I asked my mother what was happening,
and she told me to be quiet because Jesus himself stood before us in
the form of the bread-host. I didn’t understand what she meant. I
couldn’t see Jesus. I only saw the priest holding the bread-host
high in the air. Jesus, to me, was a picture of a man I had seen in
a children’s Bible.
It wasn’t intellectual thinking that started me questioning the
Catholic faith, but a personal event. When I was nineteen years old,
I was involved in a Catholic teen retreat called Turning Point. We
were planning a seminar when one of the girls attending the retreat
asked us a question. Her name was Rose, and she had recently become
a born-again Christian. She asked the group, “Who is Jesus?” She
asked me, “Who is Jesus?” I couldn’t give her an answer. I was
stunned. After years of going to retreats and attending Sunday Mass,
I couldn’t say who Jesus was. Rose provided her own answer by
saying, “Jesus is my savior.” The whole concept of Jesus as
savior was new to me! I had never heard that before. What did it
One day in the fall of 1986, when I was going to college, I saw
some elderly men passing out little green books to the students.
Most of the students didn’t take them or left them lying all over
the campus grounds. I found one of them on a bench. It was a Bible.
More specifically, it was a New Testament and Psalms (King James
Version) printed by the Gideons. I found it interesting, so I placed
it in my book bag and went on my way.
A couple of months later, I found myself facing a variety of
trials. I had little money and had to work to pay for college. My
mother was a widow and had to work hard to make ends meet, and my
older brother had become very rebellious. Life in the household
became very difficult. Nothing seemed to be right. In addition to my
financial struggles, I wrestled with what I should do with the rest
of my life. All in all it was a very difficult time.
Shortly after Christmas, I was sitting in my room thinking about
all the problems whirling around me and feeling very sad. I opened
my book bag and found the little green Gideons Bible. I thumbed
through it and in the back found something like a “Romans Road”
tract. It was a simple four-point presentation of the Gospel using
passages from the Book of Romans to explain the Gospel. It talked
about God’s love (Romans 5:8), our sin and condemnation (Romans
3:23), Jesus’ death for our sin and salvation (Romans 6:23) and
our decision to accept by faith, Jesus as our savior (Romans
I suddenly remembered Rose’s statement about who Jesus was in
her life. At first I thought it looked too easy. As a “good”
Catholic I had to admit that I was a sinner, but at the moment none
of my good actions were helping me very much. There was a signature
line at the bottom of the page where I could mark my intention to
accept Jesus as my savior. I hesitated, but thought to myself, “Yes,
this is what I want to do. It is not what my mother wants or what
the church wants, but what I want.” So I signed it!
At first nothing happened. For several months, nothing happened.
Deep inside me I somehow began to feel a calling from God. There is
no other way of explaining it. I was still going to Mass and doing
all the Catholic things. I thought God was calling me to be a
In October 1987, God opened another door in my spiritual journey.
He led me to a Christian meeting at the student center. Here was
something entirely different. It was completely new. The students
wanted to know and worship God. They wanted to study about Him in
the Bible. I liked it so much that I kept going back. I joined one
of the Bible studies and met once a week to go over the basics of
the Christian faith.
At this point I was still very confused. My Bible study group
knew I was a Catholic, but I never told them I was thinking of
becoming a priest. I saw the dynamic faith and knowledge of Jesus
that these non-Catholic believers possessed. I still believed that
the Catholic Church was the true church, and I thought that God was
calling me to take these principles with me to seminary and
ultimately to the Catholic Church as a priest.
I approached my parish priest and told him I wanted to go to
seminary. Little did I realize that I was setting myself on a
collision course. I had three unforeseen problems. First, the
Catholic Church would never accept me as a priest if I were to apply
and preach the biblical principles I was learning at this Christian
organization. Second, I was going into the priesthood to escape
problems that God wanted me to deal with. Third, I was not prepared
to live the celibate life of a priest. I had dated girls since high
school and had a girlfriend during this period.
In 1989 I moved away from home to live in a house with 4 other
students. All of them were born-again Christians. One evening one of
my roommates named Don approached me about the Catholic Church. He
was convinced that the Catholic Church was apostate and cult-like.
He claimed it taught a works-salvation, an unbiblical priesthood, an
unbiblical sacrifice, and an idolatrous worship of Mary and the
saints. He also claimed the Church was led by a pope who was
accountable to no one.
At first I was angry with Don. I tried to defend my Catholic
faith, but I had no good counter-arguments. Don told me, “Kirk, I
can see your sincerity, but I am convinced that you are sincerely
wrong.” He challenged me to prove him wrong by comparing Catholic
doctrine with the Bible alone. I did my research and did some asking
around, but it took time.
I graduated from college in 1990, and that same summer I decided
not to apply for seminary. By now I had learned that ALL believers
in Christ are priests (1 Peter 2:4-9), and they ALL have direct
access to God (Romans 5:1-2). Furthermore I had concluded that Jesus
made the final sacrifice for sin on the cross almost two thousand
years ago. A constant priestly sacrifice of the Eucharist is
absolutely unnecessary and unscriptural (Hebrews 10:11-18).
In 1992 I moved to Germany to get married. I met my wife at
college a couple of years earlier. A foreign student from Munich,
she was also a Catholic who became a born-again Christian.
Meanwhile, spiritual growth for us was slow until 1994, when a new
pastor, Lars, arrived at the expat church in Munich. One evening my
wife and I visited Lars. He pulled out a Bible and showed me from
the Gospel According to Mark where Jesus accused the Pharisees of
subverting God’s truth with their own religious traditions (Mark
7:1-13). Lars then made an analogy between the Catholic Church and
the Pharisees, and showed how the Gospel was smothered layer upon
layer with traditions that have accumulated through the centuries by
the Catholic Church. This impressed me very much and I wanted to
learn more from him.
After a period of study and prayer, My wife and I decided to
receive believers’ baptism. In March 1995, we were baptized along
with a small group of other believers in the Olympic swimming pool
God has shown me many things in my growth as a Christian, and I
am confident that Jesus will guide us by His grace daily until we
see Him face to face one day in great joy.
For Catholic readers who perhaps wants to know more. I would
recommend the following books for study:
The Gospel According to Rome; by James McCarthy
Faith Alone; by R.C. Sproul
Far from Rome, Near to God; by Richard Bennett.
There may be much confusion to former Catholics after accepting
Christ as saviour, just as it happened to me. Many teachings in the
Catholic mindset could take years to work out. The Catholic who is
recently born again may still have a performance attitude stuck in
his/her mind; that is, one may not completely understand God’s
perfect love, grace, forgiveness, and acceptance for the sinner who
pleads to Jesus for mercy in prayer and repentance. To some
Catholics, deep down inside, one still needs to do something, or
perform, in order to be saved, loved and accepted.
Communication with other Christians involved in biblical churches
is essential for former Catholics to grow in their faith! Don’t be
afraid or ashamed to be honest with other Christians and say to them
that you are confused over many things concerning Catholicism and
the Bible. In my early years as a Christian I hesitated for a long
time before I was able to open up and get help. Because of this my
spiritual growth was stifled. In my case, it was not “head
knowledge” that finally made me decide to leave the Catholic
Church, it was personal relationships with Christians who love and
care. Remember as a new believer, you need to be reminded daily of
the following biblical facts:
You are deeply loved,
And complete in Christ!