This is my first post to the forum, so it will also serve as an introduction. Please indulge me.
I was baptized Catholic as an infant but was not given a religious upbringing because my father thought his Catholic upbringing was rather tyrannical and "crammed down his throat" in his terms (although he still attends Mass at least semi-regularly). Rather, my parents left to me and my siblings the choice of our religion. As a consequence, I had my first religious interaction upon entering a Presbyterian school in 6th grade that my parents sent me to to avoid having to attend the rather bad public school for which we were zoned. Having my first experience with faith then, I decided to be catechized and have my first communion in the Catholic church. However, I have never been confirmed.
After that point, I continued religious studies and considered other religions. I gave serious thought to Judaism for a time as a teenager, and verged on agnosticism (although I think never atheism) for a time, which I think was largely based on a miscarriage my mother had when I was in college. More recently, while I self-identified as Catholic, I most likely was a deist.
Last summer, my appendix burst and I almost died. During my recovery, I had a lot of time to think and reflect about my life, how I treated others, and how I treated my faith. I realized that I needed to make some changes. I am still working on those changes. One of the most important of those changes is my relationship with God.
So, how does that get me to Orthodoxy? Frankly, until very recently, I had almost no idea about it other than learning about the Great Schism in high school history class. I think I always just thought of the various orthodox churches as being national churches in the east. Then, not too long ago, I was reading a blog and one of the commenters mentioned that in orthodoxy, Jesus is manly and not wimpy. *That* caught my attention, so I started doing some research. I listened to the Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy podcast from Ancient Faith Radio, bought a copy of "The Truth" (but have not read much of it yet), and have lurked extensively at this site.
Two weeks ago, I attended my first Orthodox service at the closet EO church to my house, an Antiochian church, with my son. This is more like what a liturgical service should be, I thought. The congregation was rather small (20-30 people) but very welcoming to us as newcomers. Today, I attended my second orthodox service at the next-closest EO church, a Greek Orthodox church, with my wife and two children. Despite my trepidation about ethnic insularity, I had never felt such a welcome at a house of worship. When the orthodox children left the liturgy after taking communion, the priest's wife welcomed us and introduced us to many members of the congregation, and my children were allowed to sit-in on Sunday school classes.
Here is what tears at my heart: despite my research so far (which I admit is scant, I am not making this decision lightly and will spend months upon it) which leads me to lean Orthodox, I have a fear of apostasy. Even though Rome speaks of the church's two lungs, valid sacraments in the EO, and other such things, I have also read things to the effect of if a Catholic leaves the Catholic Church, his soul is in eternal perdition. I realize the paradox of worrying over a point of Catholic doctrine while I at the same time have serious questions about other doctrines (such as papal infallibility), but my fear remains all the same. (Can you believe I am a lawyer and I have problems with the legalistic approach of the west?)
As a broader question, is this true apostasy? This is not a question of my knowing that Jesus established the Catholic Church and my rejecting that church so I can live as a godless libertine. Rather, I am seriously trying to find out which church Jesus established because I want so much to live and believe as God wants of me (to the best of my flawed ability) because I believe in Jesus the Christ. I know God can see this sincere desire in my heart. I already feel that my sins are so great and this is just another cause for worry. In researching apostasy, I did come across this quote, which although it appears to be from a Protestant, resonates with me. "Persons worried about apostasy should recognize that conviction of sin in itself is evidence that one has not fallen away. Desire for salvation shows one does not have ‘an evil heart of unbelief.’" This seems like it should be right.
Another complication. I am the only Christian in my family. My wife is Japanese and is nominally Buddhist and Shinto. That being said, she is very open and has expressed interest in Christianity for several years, so I think whatever decision I ultimately make, she will support it as the children's faith and has a good chance of adopting it herself. My two children are 3 and 6, yet neither is baptized yet. We did attend the required pre-baptism class at our last church, but we never got around to the baptism. The primary reason was that we knew so few confirmed Catholics, but that really shouldn't have been such an obstacle. Thus, I need to make the right choice for my family; the church I choose will be the one in which I baptize my children and raise them. While I understand my parents' reasons for my upbringing when it came to religion, I will take a much more active role in their religious education.
I know this post was rather TL;DR, so I appreciate your indulgence. I would appreciate any comments, particularly from RCs who are or were in my position. I just cannot understand why a decision borne of love can cause me such anguish.