One of the biggest misconceptions many of my Protestant brothers and sisters have is the false idea that Catholics don't "have Jesus". Listening to Francis Beckwith on Catholic Answers the other day, he hit this idea on the head! In my conversion to Catholicism, I did not have to give up Jesus. In fact, I have a greater understanding of Him now than I did in all my years prior. Some, I'm sure, is due to all the studying I did. One cannot study about Christianity without growing in understanding about Jesus. But, as many of us converts discover, we not only learn more about Jesus but we learn more about the Church he established, the Scriptures and how God uses ordinary things to bring extraordinary grace into our lives.
Every good thing I believed as a Protestant came with me into my Catholic faith, including the most central message of the gospel. I didn't give up my relationship with Christ; it was strengthened. I didn't have to deny who Christ is as the Son of God; I grew closer to Him. In the process, I felt (and still do) a beautiful connection to the Church of history, to the saints in heaven, and to the body of Christ. I feel like I'm a part of something bigger and more beautiful than I ever imagined as a Protestant.
Conversion was a painful process. Not only did I bring into question the theology I'd held as truth my whole life, but I slowing began to realize that the theology on the other side of the fence made more logical sense... that it put the supernatural back into play and that Christianity was NOT just as simple as "Jesus and me". These ideas rocked me to the core and I honestly began to question Christianity entirely. I begged God to show me truth because I had suddenly realize how relativistic Christianity was... all these Christian churches teaching opposing truths and only ONE truth to believe. I couldn't accept the idea that Christ would leave us with such opposing truths to decide for ourselves what to believe while my own church implies, "we know the truth better than the 'other guy'", "agreeing on the essentials" while "disagreeing on the non-essentials"... all using the Bible as their sole infallible rule of faith, yet coming to completely different interpretations as to what we, as Christians, are supposed to believe.
I spent many nights anguishing over truth... God was speaking to me and I was arguing. Why in the world would He want me to be Catholic? Would that mean I'd have to give up Jesus for some sort of legalistic religion? "Religion" was always a bad word growing up... it was a bunch of "man-made" rules and regulations. In short, I found I did not have to give up Jesus at all... and the rules? Jesus, by His authority, established a Church with the authority to bind and lose. It was right there in black and white in the pages of my own Bible. I only had to find the church that has that same authority today. An accurate look at history revealed that the Catholic Church was and is the longest-standing Christian church in history. It was founded by Christ himself! That's not man-made!
Jesus was waiting for me in the Catholic Church, arms open. I remember my anti-Catholic days when I criticized Catholics for keeping Christ on the cross because "he's alive". True that He is, but without His death, we would not be alive in Christ and Paul says to "preach Christ crucified". So, there He was, frozen in time, a reminder of what my sin did to Him. And He was there with open arms to greet me into the same Church he established 2000 years ago when He rose from the dead!
It was a long and difficult journey that still comes with many challenges but each moment with Him at Mass brings me that much closer to Him. I followed Him there in obedience when He was all I had left to cling to in my despair over Christian disunity. I love Him... and though many have tried to argue with that, the fact remains that, even as a Catholic, I still have Jesus... without Him, I'd be lost.