Everyone has a conversion story even if they have lived a good and faithful life. Everyone can think of turning moments that brought them even closer to God. Well, I have one too. I have been thinking about it a lot lately. Maybe it’s because I have been talking to so many people on Facebook lately that have not yet had a conversion. It makes me appreciate my story so much more.
I grew up a Catholic. My mother was Catholic and loved her faith. My father was a Christian that didn’t feel the need for an organized religion. I coasted through my youth with weekly Mass and twice a year Confession. I attended Catholic grade school and High School, leaving with little knowledge about my faith. There was a gift that I left High School with that I can only describe as a revelation from God. For some reason, God chose me to know from the depths of my heart that the Catholic Church was the True church. I knew that whatever she says was Truth. I haven’t a clue why I knew this since I didn’t know anything about my faith but it kept me out of trouble….and helped me get OUT of trouble. I know that my list of facts and History that I have since learned cannot bring anyone to the Faith. Only God can do that. I am proof of that. I can only be His instrument. I can only throw out seeds and pray.
When I was 23 years old, married with 2 little kids, I started to feel trapped. Even though I loved my husband dearly, my friends were all still single and I was beginning to miss that life. After several months of confusion and rebellion in my little cage of a house, Roy and I decided to make a drastic change in our lives. We quietly put our friends aside and I made a resolution to learn about my faith. It was the best decision I ever made but the road was extremely tough. I completely understand why it is so difficult to bring people to the Catholic Church. Not only did my church offer nothing to help me with faith formation but as I was reading and learning, I was finding out slowly that the parishioners in my church were not following the rules that I was reading. It was a rough and rocky road for several years. YEARS!
Since my church offered nothing to help me learn about my faith, I thought it would be a good idea to begin by reading all 16 documents of Vatican II that I pulled off my Mom’s bookshelf. Umm, I don’t recommend this as being your FIRST read about the faith. Nevertheless, I still learned and it brought up question after question.
Allow me to give you a little insight about myself. I believed that there was an explanation for everything that didn’t look…..up to par? So, when I read that the bread used in Mass was supposed to be without yeast or honey, I went straight to the president of our Altar & Rosary Society and asked why there was yeast & honey in the bread. I asked with the mindset that there was a reasonable explanation that I was missing. Maybe the rules changed or the rules were for different churches under the Vatican’s umbrella. But to my surprise, the president felt caught and nervous and had no answer for me other then it just tasted better. This was the beginning of dozens and dozens of discrepancies that resulted in dozens and dozens of questions. I had read that the faithful were supposed to give some sign of reverence just before receiving the Eucharist but the lines of people didn’t do anything that I noticed. No bow, no sign of the cross, no genuflecting. Nothing. So, I just made up one. As we approached the Eucharist, our family did the sign of the cross. It wasn’t until I went to a church across town where all of the parishioners genuflected before communion that I saw what I was looking for. I was so excited. I found something that others were doing and I could copy as a way of being in community with other Catholics AND follow the rules I had read in these long winded documents.
The questions and discrepancies were growing in number and even though I was only looking for answers and on a hunt to learn about my faith and practice it, it was resulting in me becoming a real nuisance for my parish family. They were sick of my questions and sick of trying to defend themselves to a young little girl. At the time, I was very hurt and confused. But as I look back, I can see that what I was reading about the Church was right and they were the ones that were wrong. I mean, what is so upsetting about my questions if they were all doing the right thing? In my innocent little mind, I actually thought that all of my elders had read the same documents that I had. If it was on my mom’s shelf, wasn’t it on their shelf too? NOPE! I see that now.
The clincher before I moved onto a different parish was a meeting I had gone to with the Parish Council. I was not on the council. I was only there to ask permission to bring in a guest speaker to the parish to talk about how to raise kids Catholic. The lady I was wanting to bring in was going to teach the parents about the family rosary and sitting up close in Mass, saying common prayers and wearing the Miraculous Medal…..aka, things I really wanted to learn since I didn’t know where to begin with my own kids. The parish council refused. They didn’t want anyone coming in to talk about the rosary or wearing the scapular or Miraculous Medal and they called those idea’s “pre-Vatican II”. Well, I just so happened to have brought my thousand plus page book of all the Vatican II documents with me. I politely said that I hadn’t read anything about this in the documents and if they could point me in that direction, I would love to see it. If everything I was asking is pre-Vatican II, that MUST mean that Vatican II brought up these subjects, right? Believe it or not, I meant every word. I was not condescending in the least. I only want to do what the church teaches and if it said ANYWHERE that the rosary has lost its purpose or is unnecessary, I would have tossed them out that day. Everyone looked at me completely stunned but then some of the looks turned into anger. They flatly refused to allow anyone to come into the parish that spoke about the faith. I was heart-broken. What the heck kind of “Catholic” Church was I in? Were all the Catholic churches like this? I began feeling deeply alone. I felt young, naïve and alone.
I moved to my current parish, Coronation of Our Lady in Grandview, MO. The first thing I did is corner the priest and ask, “I don’t know much about my faith so I need to trust that you are in communion with the rules. Are you?” The poor man felt cornered too but I was desperate! I didn’t want to be nervous about what may or may not be true. He assured me that he was faithful to all the teachings. Whew! This still left me with a problem. There was still no adult faith formation to help me learn. I finished the Vatican II documents. What was next? I licked my finger, stuck it in the air and chose to study the BibleJ Wouldn’t you know, there were NO Bible studies in any of the Catholic churches in the entire diocese. I’m sure that would put smiles on the faces of all my Protestant friends. ARG! So, I went to my Protestant friends Baptist church in South Kansas City for their Bible Study. What a turning point in my life!! It was AMAZING but not for their Bible study. That was actually disappointing. Each time I went, the teacher, who was excited beyond words to have fresh, young, Catholic meat in his room, would only preach about one or two verses in the Bible. I wanted to understand it from front to back but that was not that kind of Bible study. Who would have thought that being fresh meat would be such a blessing. Everyone wanted to save me from the wicked Catholic Church. They were all fun and loving people and extremely engaging to be with. They had big hearts and clearly cared about me and my salvation. I made several friends and participated in their church functions for nearly a year, all while still attending Mass in my own church without fail. I was bombarded with questions about my faith. Some of the questions stumped me which forced me to find the answers. My first source was my mommy. I always called on her firstJ I also started to buy apologetics books to help me defend some of these questions. Now THAT is where I would recommend a person begin if you want to learn about the faith. Not Vatican II documents. LOL. God has a plan and reason for everything. He knew that the “pre-Vatican II” argument was going to come up in that meeting and He had prepared me. What a good God.
The Protestants were asking me questions and I was sharing my answers. They weren’t quite prepared for my questions thoughJ At one point, a group of Baptists came to my house to have a “talk” with me. That was exciting. I sure wish they would visit me now when I know so much more but, I won’t be greedy. I was happy to have them in my home and happy to hear all of their points. The ring leader of the group gave me a 3 page list of verses that refuted what the Catholic Church was teaching…..or so they thought. I kept that list, highlighted every one of those verses in my Bible and began to study and study and memorize. It was great. I was on fire and I couldn’t stop! One verse written to convince me that Mary wasn’t a virgin her entire life called Jesus’ brothers by name. But through my studies, a couple of those brothers had a completely different mother in just a few short chapters later. I ran back to share my news and all it did was upset them. The people I was defending my faith and asking questions to were not interested and turned away. Why couldn’t they do what I did and find the answers?
Maybe the one who needed to learn about the faith was me.
This was the beginning of my faith journey. It is still going on and will be until I’m incapacitated. Lol. I know this was long. You must love me bunches if you sat through this whole blog. Or maybe you are just up late and bored. Either way, thank you.
The good news is that since the institution of our wonderful new Bishop 6 years ago, there are Bible studies and adult faith formation classes everywhere. This has been a thorn in the side of so many “Catholics” who were happy being ignorant and believing what they wanted. Now, people are learning. The church I went to now has a priest who follows the faith, the bread is free of yeast & honey, the parishioners are leaving in herds to find another parish who practices the “I’m OK, you’re OK” preaching. Fortunately, as new, well-educated seminarians are being ordained in higher numbers, they will slowly be replacing the older pastors and the bad Catholics (sorry. That’s just the best name for them) will have nowhere else to go. We are well on our way to being a faithful diocese and it is EXCITING! The church is getting smaller but it is getting more faithful! This is an exciting time to be a Catholic!!!!!!!!!!
Oh, and the best news……my Dad converted to the Catholic Faith just over a year agoJ