Posts Tagged With: Conversion

Why I Became Catholic

The short answer to that question is merely, “Because I was supposed to.” That’s really the best answer I have. Until I was 18, I faithfully attended a Baptist church, but as I entered adulthood, I had been burned and while I said I was open to finding a new church, I certainly wasn’t looking. No, no, instead, I was out looking for love in all the worst places, as if I were trying to prepare the most scandalous confession ever. At this time I was very curious about other denominations, but there was one I was definitely not going anywhere near: the Catholic Church. At the same time, I was undeniably drawn to the beauty of the Church. Not the inner beauty, mind you, the outer beauty, but I certainly wouldn’t admit to it.

IMG_8985When I was 23, I moved to Norman, OK to start a new life for myself. I was still in my wilderness years, but I had taken my wild behavior down a notch or twenty, and while I prayed a 30 second prayer every night, I made no move to find a church or really do anything. That’s right: I was the dreaded “more spiritual than religious.”

Things started to change on April 2, 2005, the day that Bl. John Paul II passed from this world. I had been in Norman for a month, and was still in training at my new job at a call center. I was getting some coffee in the break room when one of my trainers walked in. I immediately went into shameless flirting mode.

Me: He-eey: How are you doing? *big, flirty smile*

Mr. Hottie: *obviously down in the dumps* Oh, I’m alright. It’s my birthday.

Me: Oh? Well, Happy Birthday! You have any big plans? *please say you want to go out and celebrate tonight but you have no one to go with you*

Mr. Hottie: Nah, it just sucks because the pope died today.

Me: *slightly horrified* Oh… Well… Are you Catholic or something?

Mr. Hottie: No,… but,… you know. It’s the pope.

At which point he walked off, downtrodden. I was so confused. I had seen in the news that Pope John Paul II had passed away, but I had pushed the story aside. What did it matter to me or the rest of the world that wasn’t Catholic?

Two years and five days later, April 7, 2007, Mr. Hottie (who is better known as Mr. Scottie-too-hottie, my darling husband) and I were confirmed in the Catholic Church at the Easter vigil.

How did that happen?

Scott’s sister had converted a year or two before, and her husband is a cradle Catholic. Through his sister, Scott had been to Mass a few times, and a few weeks after we started dating, in November 2005, we attended a Mass together.

My first Mass was awkward of course! I wasn’t sure what I was doing–sit, stand, sit, stand, kneel! I was absolutely enthralled. The Creed, the choir, the columns–I had never seen anything like it before. If I had been asked to explain it, I would have said it was a conversation between God and His people. I didn’t know any of the words, but I longed to recite the Creed, and sing the Gloria. There was one part of the Mass I was able to participate in, however, and that was kneeling during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It was so good and so right to kneel before Almighty God. Of course, I didn’t believe in the true presence and I wouldn’t for for some time, but my soul felt it and was at rest. I don’t know how to convince someone to accept Catholicism, because I didn’t convert to an argument or a theory or a dogma. I converted to 10 minutes a week where I could kneel before God and be at peace, and at home.

As we were leaving, an older woman stopped Scott and I as we were leaving and exclaimed, “I just love a Mass!” I smiled at her and nodded, barely acknowledging her, but in my heart, I couldn’t have agreed with her more! That day, I knew I’d come home. It would take a lot of time for me to be able to admit to it, though!

For the next year, Scott and I went to Mass off and on, but neither of us was comfortable with admitting our love for the Church. We also attended services at a Baptist church and a Methodist church, but we weren’t ready to commit to anything just yet. After we got engaged the following August, we realized we would have to become members of a church  so that we would have a place to get married. After a heartfelt one-on-one, we agreed that we were both the most comfortable with the Methodist church. Scott’s parents are Methodist, as is his mother’s entire family, and my grandmother was, too, so it felt like the most logical route. Just like that, our decision was made: we were going to be Methodist.

A few weeks later, we started RCIA at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church without any further discussion.

I know, I know. That has got to be the worst conversion story ever. No fanfare, no big moral dilemma that came down to the wire. There was this little tug inside me, and once I got a taste of the Mass, it pulled me the rest of the way. Don’t get me wrong, I had some major issues; all the usual Protestant fare: Mary, the Saints, the Eucharist, and such, but none of my qualms were any match for the longing I felt for the Mass. To be perfectly honest, blind faith is not like me at all, and I have the unfortunate heart of a skeptic. However, I was given this gift of grace through my conversion that pulled me through for the simple reason that this is where I was meant to be. For that, I am literally eternally grateful.

Categories: Chasing After God, On a personal note... | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Visions and Doubts

 But Peter standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke to them: Ye men of Judea, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known to you, and with your ears receive my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day: But this is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass, in the last days, (saith the Lord,) I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And upon my servants indeed, and upon my handmaids will I pour out in those days of my spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will shew wonders in the heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath: blood and fire, and vapour of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and manifest day of the Lord come. –Acts 2:14-20

In two months and 6 days, it will be a full 6 years before I officially converted to Catholicism and 4540497839_211250edb3came into full communion with the Catholic Church. It has been much longer since I fell away from the Protestantism that taught me all of these visions were hogwash, despite the fact that scripture clearly tells us to expect visions and dreams as the final days draw nearer. No, I’m not going all doomsday–it’s a fact. The final days certainly aren’t drawing further away (if that’s even good grammar).

When I converted, I looked at Lourdes and Fatima, and the Divine Mercy and I told myself these things didn’t matter. If they were hard to believe, I didn’t have to believe. These things are best viewed with a skeptical eye, after all.

As time goes on, these visions bother me more and more, because I do look at them with doubt and downright disbelief sometimes. I doubt in my mind what my heart is starting to believe.

In April 2009, my sister and I decided to make mission rosaries. I was working at a call center at the time, and I was able to make knotted twine rosaries as I worked. As I became more skilled, I was able to make 3 or 4 a day. Since I was churning out rosaries at such a fast pace, purchasing crucifixes at Walmart got expensive quickly. I found a seller on ebay where I could get crucifixes for 10¢ each. Outstanding! I ordered 100 liturgy and 100 old fashioned bronze. When the liturgy crucifixes came, I was a little put off. In addition to the familiar design on the front, the back had a strange mark. It read “MEDUGORJE MIR MIR MIR.” I remember wondering what that meant.

And then thinking nothing of it again.

Every day, I made my rosaries and finished them off with a crucifix. Every day, I saw the strange words but didn’t take 10 seconds to type it into Google. Then I quit working at the call center and wasn’t able to make rosaries at work anymore. I still had dozens of crucifixes and they ended up in my purse and everywhere.

EC362Sometime around late August/early September 2010, almost a year and a half after first getting the crucifixes, I was at work looking in my purse for who-knows-what when I saw one of the crucifixes and took a look at it. It had been in my purse for well over a year, and I’d looked at it often. That day, however, it was like it was brand new. Why have I never looked up what this meant? My gosh, I sent off 100 mission rosaries to a charity and half of them had this crucifix on them. What if it meant something vile?

That’s how I learned about Medjugorje. I was stunned, to say the least. These visions started up a few months before I was born. This has been happening my entire life, but somehow, I’d never heard of it. I spent some time at work looking into it, and when my lunch break was over, I forgot about it entirely.

It wasn’t time for me to forget, though. When I went home that evening, I headed straight for our office to get online. Scott had EWTN streaming on the computer. The instant I sat down, I mean precisely the instant my tush hit the chair, a news bulletin came on.

The Vatican had announced an official investigation into Medjugorje.

I told Scott what happened and he was just as flabbergasted as I was.  We both started to wonder if this was something we should be looking into.

As I recall, it was that very night that Scott was looking at a book of short stories about the rosary and he came running to show me that the first story he pulled up mentioned Medjugorje. The very next chance we got, we went down to the Catholic book store and picked out a book about Medjugorje, Medjugorje: The Message by Wayne Weible. I’m not going to sugar coat it, I was just as skeptical as ever when I put the book down, but I started to open my mind up to the possibility that these visions were real. After that, I briefly studied the miracles at Lourdes, and I found the evidence to be strikingly convincing.


I should have kept researching, but I didn’t. Perhaps the time had not come for me to do so, but it’s definitely time now. As I was searching for an Amazon Lending Library pick for February, I stumbled upon Blessed Pope John Paul II, The Diary of St. Faustina and The End Times by Susan Crimp. Why? Because I love the Divine Mercy prayer. I love the message. I’ve carried the Divine Mercy booklet around with me for years. But I have a hard time believing it was given to Faustina in a divine vision. There’s still a big part of me that just doesn’t want to believe that these kinds of things happen. I downloaded the book, and as soon as I started reading it, I knew I’d picked the right one. It feels as if the author is speaking directly to me and knows me all too well.

I started this post with a Bible verse for a reason. We like to believe that the Bible has the words THE END written on the last page, but it doesn’t. In fact, it promises that there will be more miracles, more prophesies, more dreams, more revealed along the way. Not everyone who says or thinks they saw a divine vision has seen one; that I will not argue. However, when it comes to Faustina, “Why would the most famous Pope that ever lived and one of the world’s greatest theological scholars dare to stake his impeccable reputation on these messages?” That’s a question s worth finding the answer to and what better time to go chasing for answer than the Year of Faith?

Categories: Chasing After God, Year of Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Eucharist: The Real Presence of Christ

 

Who was it that told me the story? I think it was Father Bruce Neili. Saint Juliana of Liège was gazing at the moon one night, and it gave her such an intense longing for the Eucharist. That night led her, of course, to petition for the institution of the Feast of Corpus Christi.

A longing for the Eucharist? Convert is not impressed. Convert is willing to concede that the Eucharist is the Real Presence. Sort of. Mostly. But to long for it? Why? It doesn’t taste very good. Wanting to go to Mass seemed perfectly reasonable, but to long specifically to take Communion seemed a little unbelievable.

That was 3 or 4 years ago. Since then, what’s changed?

When I’m sick, just as soon as I feel the tightness in the back of my throat and the sniffle in my nose, I want a bowl of hot soup. I long for it, because I know it will make me feel better. Lately, I’ve had that same longing every week. I want to receive Communion, and I long for it, like…like I long for hot soup when my body is sick. As the days go by, my soul starts to feel sickly until I long for nourishment. After receiving communion, I return to my pew feeling lighter, relieved, and so very grateful.

6 years ago, I was a bit put off when I was first introduced to the image of the pelican as a symbol of Communion. The thought of the bird striking its breast to feed its own blood to its young was macabre. At some point, it became a comfort. To think of Christ, nourishing us with His own Body and Blood. Giving strength to us by giving Himself to us.

There really aren’t words to describe the emotions involved in receiving communion. The act of kneeling and bringing to mind my sins, placing my trust in God to forgive me once more, asking for the strength to do what He asks of me, and finally receiving the Blessed Sacrament. It’s overwhelming, and emotional and so very fulfilling. More and more often, I find myself kneeling back at my pew after communion, just overflowing with such gratitude and appreciation for this gift.

Again, what changed? How did I go from “Totally not the Real Presence” to “I guess you might be right” to “Behold the Lamb of God! Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world!”

I suppose conversion doesn’t end at confirmation, and I don’t think it ever will end. I’ll probably continue to turn slowly toward God for the rest of my life. It was hard to become a Catholic, I mean, seriously, mind-numbingly hard. I was raised my whole life to believe that these people were horribly and unforgivably wrong; that they believed a bunch of ridiculous, ritualistic mumbo-jumbo. I heard and believed every ugly thing I ever heard about the Catholic Church. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be joining the church, I would have laughed in your face.

It all came down to a tiny seed that somehow planted itself inside me. It started as a curiosity, an appreciation for the beauty, but it turned into something else the moment I went to my first Mass. It became a pull, a tug, and a constant reassurance that if I just followed along, it would all make sense. “Seeing is believing? No! Believe and I’ll show you!” the voice in my heart whispered. I had to let go of the idea that everything had to pass my test of authenticity; I had to submit myself to the authority of the Magisterium.

Isn’t that the nature of faith? Sometimes it’s a leap into the unknown, but more often, I think it’s just following, learning to submit, and receiving graces every step of the way.

Categories: Chasing After God, Everything Else, What the Catholic Church Teaches | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Humanae Vitae

I wasn’t raised Catholic. On the contrary, I was raised in the Baptist church with nothing but contempt for the Catholic church. It’s not a church, it’s a cult! A cult that can’t evolve with the times! One of the biggest issues I had with the church, like so many modern ladies, was the pill. How could the Catholic church be so backwards, so archaic, that they could not accept a healthy means of controlling birth? Women are more than just baby makers, and we deserve more respect than that!

Unfortunately, between leaving the Baptist church and converting to Catholicism, I went through a stretch of wilderness years. During that time, I lived in the secular culture of contraception and my experiences during those times prepared me to embrace the teachings of the church. Forgive me if I’m vague, but I don’t like to look back on those lost days.

When I was 20 years old, I was on my own health insurance and ready to start some serious dating. Which, in our secular culture means birth control. It also means condoms, but you’ve got to have a back-up, right? So, I went to an OB-GYN and got a two-month supply of Ortho Try-Cyclen. The first month went swimmingly, as I popped the little pills in varying shades of green from their little wheel. No worries; absolutely no worries.

The second month, something went wrong. Horribly wrong. My period came, right on schedule. But it wouldn’t stop. There really isn’t a way for me to describe what happened or how I felt over the course of the next month. I was exhausted; I couldn’t stay awake for more than 10 hours without having a meltdown. My emotional state was an absolute disaster and I burst into tears constantly. Every day, I wished for it to stop, but it didn’t. For 28 days, I continue to menstruate and to be honest, I lost all hope. I honestly did not wish to live any longer.

That was enough to put me off birth control. Looking back, I’m oddly grateful for that experience. Contraception was a major barrier between me and the Catholic church. If I had experienced typical, favorable results, I may not have been open to the church’s teachings. My experience also opened my eyes to the tangible, negative effects of contraception. When friends were diagnosed with any sort of feminine problems, I would do a web search of their birth control. Quite often, problems their doctors contributed to poor personal hygiene, promiscuity, or merely shrugged off were symptoms of birth control. “It’s not natural!” I cried. “You’re stuffing yourself with hormones to trick your body and your body will not react well to being tricked!” My personal crusade against birth control did little to change anyone’s mind, but that was a watershed moment for me which would bear fruit 7 years later when I came into full communion with the Catholic Church.

One of the things I’ve been doing in order to enrich my spiritual life is reading Catholic blogs. Something that keeps coming up, again and again is Humanae Vitae. I’ve certainly heard of the landmark encyclical before, but I’d never read it for myself until a few days ago. I was floored. This is not a document of an oppressive church, bent on controlling women. It is a document of love, aiming to protect the dignity of women and the sanctity of marriage and conjugal love.

Contraception separates the act of sex from marriage and starting a family. Humanae Vitae, written in 1968 by Pope Paul VI, speaks from a culture where sex was still directly associated with getting married and having children. It speaks from an absolute understanding of the true nature of marriage, which is not personal pleasure, but two people joining together, each seeking the benefit of the other, coming together in union with God, and raising a family.

” Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will. But to experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator.” 

              –Humanae Vitae

It is difficult to wrap my head around these principles. In our society, sex is cheap. The “goody-two-shoes” on a t.v. show insists on waiting until the 3rd date to have sex. And that’s the prude. The internet is bursting with pornography, as is the local gas station. Magazine covers, movie posters, album covers, billboards; sex is marketing tool and it’s used heavily. It’s all about personal pleasure But sex is meant to be so much more than what we make of it. Pre-contraception, sex was part of marriage, part of making a family. No one can say out-of-wedlock pregnancies never happened, but it was at a much lower rate.

 Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

The “lowering of moral standards” includes out-of-wedlock pregnancies

 

divorce

…and don’t mistake that drop in divorce rate for good news. The marriage rate has dropped also.

In our culture, marriage is nothing more than an arrangement of benefits between friends which can be broken at any time.

Humane Vitae also warns against government imposition of contraception.

“Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.”

10 years after Humanae Vitae was published, China implemented its “one child” policy, which has brought with it forced abortions and infanticide. Controlling the population by brute force is the stark reality.

Contraception allows men and women to treat each other as sexual objects, to take the goods without putting in any investment. When you remove the act of sex from marriage, and childbearing, and even love, the only thing that is left is destructive and selfish. No love can come out of such an act. The divorce rate soars, abortions rise, out of wedlock pregnancies become the norm, and children are raised without fathers, and sometimes without mothers.

I wish I had read Humanae Vitae in High School. Perhaps then I would have embraced Catholicism early on and wouldn’t have had to live through those wilderness years. All things in God’s perfect timing, right?

One more thing on Humanae Vitae for now: Natural Family Planning. While NFP as we know it wasn’t quite developed in 1968, it did exist in pieces and was accepted as the method for spacing births for Catholics. It is accepted since it is natural, and the couple is still open to life. Also, when practiced correctly, it plants seeds for all kinds of virtues: patience, love, self-discipline, self-denial!

 The right and lawful ordering of birth demands, first of all, that spouses fully recognize and value the true blessings of family life and that they acquire complete mastery over themselves and their emotions. For if with the aid of reason and of free will they are to control their natural drives, there can be no doubt at all of the need for self-denial. Only then will the expression of love, essential to married life, conform to right order. This is especially clear in the practice of periodic continence. Self-discipline of this kind is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character. And if this self-discipline does demand that they persevere in their purpose and efforts, it has at the same time the salutary effect of enabling husband and wife to develop to their personalities and to be enriched with spiritual blessings. For it brings to family life abundant fruits of tranquility and peace. It helps in solving difficulties of other kinds. It fosters in husband and wife thoughtfulness and loving consideration for one another. It helps them to repel inordinate self-love, which is the opposite of charity. It arouses in them a consciousness of their responsibilities. And finally, it confers upon parents a deeper and more effective influence in the education of their children. As their children grow up, they develop a right sense of values and achieve a serene and harmonious use of their mental and physical powers.

So, I’m left wondering why the same people who rail against hormones in milk, which aren’t proven to have adverse affects on humans, will pump themselves full of hormones in contraception, which (based on just the possible side effects disclosed in the ads) can cause serious illness or even death. Why aren’t more couples going natural?

After being a Catholic for 5 years, and anti-birth control for 10, you’d think I would’ve read Humanae Vitae sooner. However, as much as marriage is in the news lately, I think it was the perfect time to read such a loving explanation of what the sacrament of marriage should be, and what sex ends up being without it.

You can read the full text of Humanae Vitae here.

Categories: Chasing After God, Everything Else, What the Catholic Church Teaches | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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