After I went off to college (almost a thousand miles away from my parents) I joined a local church choir. This made sense, because I was studying music. This went along swimmingly for a while, and then the choir director quit/was fired/I'm not exactly clear what happened but it seemed a little wonky. I became friendly with the next choir director, who was a graduate student at the same university I was attending, but I didn't really like the way he ran things; he never practiced music more than a week in advance. I felt that this was limiting what the choir could sing. His response was that he picked the music after his weekly meeting with the pastor, at which she told him what the sermon would be about, and added that the sermon was the most important thing that happened at church on Sunday. I vehemently disagreed with that, but didn't have a ready response as to what I thought was most important. That got me thinking, "What is the most important thing?"
This second choir director didn't last long, and was fired for reasons even wonkier than the first, and I ended up thoroughly disgusted with the whole situation. I started traveling a somewhat longer distance to a church where one of my professors was the music director. He taught a Sunday School class on the history of the Church, going all the way back to the early Fathers. Despite being a Calvinist, he painted a pretty clear picture. It all made sense to me until we got to Luther, who seemed to me to be on the wrong side of his argument. Probably the most important thing I took away from that class was a single statement: "The writings of St. Thomas Aquinas are a good summary of what the Catholic Church still believes."
Sometime during this time I started wondering what exactly it means to be Catholic. I discovered the Catholic encyclopedia at NewAdvent.org, and attempted to gain a picture of Catholicism by reading a whole lot of articles there. Needless to say, it was a doomed attempt, and I got nowhere.