Hello everyone. I've been reading this forum, different Orthodox books, publications and other internet sources for a while now and I finally wanted to make a post here and ask some questions and seek advice.
I'm a Roman Catholic. I'm a cradle Catholic but in my early teen years, really discovered my faith and have done my best to live for it ever since. Recently though, as I've studied Church history and certain doctrinal issues, I'm starting to have some doubts about the RCC... This has been extremely difficult for me to face, but the more I've read about Orthodoxy, the more I find myself defending Orthodox beliefs in theological conversations (I'm a college student and I hang out with theology and classics students so these conversations tend to be pretty frequent.) For a few years, I've attended a Byzantine Catholic Church. Shortly after I rediscovered my faith as an early teen, I discovered Eastern Catholicism. The Catholicism that I was accepting was a lot of Orthodox views. In recent though, it seems that all the beliefs that I've held always have to be qualified with "but somehow it works with Rome."
I've always accepted that somehow my beliefs on the basis that somehow, they fit with the West. I can no longer accept that. I had always thought that my Eastern Catholic approach to theology was essentially the same as what Rome was saying but the issue that's driven me over the edge is Augustinian and Thomistic views on grace and predestination. As much as I've seen RC theologians attempt to explain how their beliefs fit with free will, none if it makes sense to me. Seeing the errors have that have stemmed from their beliefs, I can't help but think if a belief is so orthodox, then why is heresy being produced by it? (Calvinism, etc).
As I've read the writings of St. John Cassian, his explanation of grace (the belief that I've held without realizing it) makes infinitely more sense than Augustine's. Now that I have my background info out of the way with, I have some questions.
My heart is telling me to investigate the Orthodox Church. My question is, where do I begin?
I'm currently home for Christmas (I'm a college student), and there are many Orthodox Churches near me, belonging to different jurisdictions. There are at least 2 OCA parishes, 1 ROCOR, 3 Greek, 1 Romanian, and 2 Antiochian (1 Western Rite). Should I make an effort to visit as many as possible? Are some jurisdictions more welcome to potential converts than others?
To add to this, when I go back to college, the only local Orthodox parish is Greek. Since this is likely where I'd formally begin any kind of conversion process, should I stick to the Greek Churches near my house while I'm on break?
The hard part in this is that I do love the Catholic Church. I've gained so many spiritual benefits from it and so much of my life has been built around it. It's as much a part of my spiritual life as it is my social life. For you converts out there, how did you say goodbye? How did you tell friends and clergy? I'm not set on converting yet, but it's getting harder for me to try to reconcile my beliefs with those of the Western church...