Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Conversion Story Part VII - Home at Last!!

I didn't plan it that way, but I think it's neat that it took seven installments to tell my story.  Seven is the traditional Biblical number of completeness (although it could just mean that I'm long winded and maybe the reader is just thinking, "please get to the point lady").  Alright, here we go...

I attended Mass for three years before entering the Catholic Church.  That is a long time to be in the presence of the Holy Eucharist and not be able to partake of it (and also not to be able to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation).  To be fair, I have met people who have attended Mass much longer than that and not converted, but I really wanted to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, I referred to it here in Part II.  I actually wanted to come into the Church in 2010 but I missed the RCIA cutoff and a priest wisely asked me to wait a year to give Doug more time to accept it.  It was disappointing and frustrating to wait another year but in hindsight I saw God in the decision and used the time to practice "loving my husband without words" approach to evangelizing.  I entered the Fall 2010 RCIA class to prepare to join the Church at Easter Vigil 2011.

RCIA = Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.  For those who have never heard of it, it is a class most Catholic Churches require you to take in order to teach the Catholic faith to adults who were not raised in the Catholic Church or those raised Catholic who did not join the church during their confirmation process.  Usually the sacrament of confirmation is done around the junior high / entering high school age, so it is rare that someone is raised Catholic but not confirmed.  Most of the people who go through RCIA are coming from a different faith background.  Catholics can take the class just to learn their faith better and you are not required to join the Church at the end of the class.  RCIA was a sacrifice on my family, Doug already had plans on Tuesday nights but that was when the class was offered.  We would frequently pay a babysitter to come watch the kids for about 1 1/2 hours so I could attend class (which was not always in the budget).  Plus, I was newly pregnant with our 5th child, and my due date fell only a few weeks from Easter!  I admit I was not the happiest camper about being "required" to attend RCIA.  At this point I had been studying the Catholic faith for about 5 years, my Catholic friends joked I was "more Catholic that they were".  I was failing to see why all this sacrifice was required, not only of me, but of my family too.  However, I fell in love with my class.  God showed me that some things just have to be learned in community.  Joining the Church wasn't just about "me", I was joining a "family".  I learned things from the other members of my class that I could not have learned otherwise.  You can't out give God, and He used that sacrifice, it was so much sweeter entering the Church, not in spite of the hardships but because of it.

Princess and newborn Toddler Boy
I went into labor the weekend after Ash Wednesday, Toddler Boy was born March 11, 2011.  Even after looking forward to entering the Church for so long I "felt" unprepared to actually join.  That Lenten season was a disaster, all of my personal Lenten plans bit the dust.  When I complained of this to my RCIA teacher, she wisely responded "having a newborn is probably sacrifice enough".  The feelings were probably due to the crazy postpartum hormones more than anything else, plus the lack of sleep a newborn brings to the household.  I prayed to God about this the day of Easter Vigil and He showed me how He wanted it that way all along.  That I needed to know that I didn't "earn" my way into His Church, that it was a gift He was giving me.  It was never about me, it was always about Him, all along.  Becoming Catholic wasn't going to magically transform me into a better Christian, it was just part of my journey.

Although Doug was not happy about my conversion he did attend the Easter Vigil Mass, along with our children and 6 week old baby.  I probably should have warned him that Easter Vigil is a really long Mass, but I didn't know it at the time.  Immediately after receiving the Eucharist I had to go relieve my mom and nurse my screaming newborn in the cry room.  I could hear his cries from the front pew and the only thing that kept me there was my sponsor, who kept whispering to me "you can't leave right now, he'll be ok, let your mom handle it".  In reality, he had only been crying for a few minutes, but of course as a mom of a newborn it felt like hours.  The Church held a little potluck afterwards and then a thunderstorm had us driving home in the rain.

So where are we today?  When I started going to Mass I would do "double duty" and attend both the Catholic Mass and the Protestant church with my family.  I still continue to do this today, because I believe that our children's spiritual upbringing belong primarily under their father's leadership and he is a faith filled Protestant who wants to see them raised in the Protestant faith.  I don't hide my Catholicism anymore, although I don't flaunt it either, I just live it.  We still homeschool, and I teach my children the distinctions between both our faiths.  They are active in our Protestant church, and I am happy about that.  My husband is also active in the Protestant church with their youth sports program and our family attends church faithfully every week.  I am active in my parish home, especially with their pro-life work and women's bible studies.  I now serve as a cantor too (this is the person who leads the singing at Mass).  I love singing the old hymns that I grew up with at Mass and it is an honor to serve in this way.  Jesus continues to reveal himself to me through the Catholic faith and I am deepening my relationship with the saints, especially my patron Saint Gianna Beretta Molla and the Blessed Mother too.  The beauty of the saints and what the Holy Spirit has taught me through them, both during and after my conversion, deserves a whole post to itself.  I have finally arrived at my home Church, although there was a bit of an adjustment period.  There is a whole Catholic "culture" that comes with it that people who were raised in the Church do not always appreciate.  The Catholic church contains a depth and wealth of knowledge and I have really only scratched the surface.  I'll close with the ending of the last book in the Chronicles of Narnia (which my children have just finished reading), because for me entering the Catholic Church was only the beginning of the real story.

1 comment:

  1. This is a beautiful post! I, too, come from a protestant background and was received into the Catholic Church two years ago. My husband is Catholic, and the first few years of marriage was a trial to say the least, but mostly for me as my faith and understanding of truth was being rocked at the core! You're line "holy ****, this is not good because he actually makes sense" (referring to Scott Hahn's book) resonates with me and makes me laugh, because I totally thought the same thing. It was not good news, but it was such great news, just so unexpected. We did the double church thing for a few years (the whole time I was Protestant), bringing our baby/toddler along for the ride to both, and I really commend you for that! It meant a lot to me that my husband came with me so that we could be a family in church, even though our convictions were different. Your love for your family is evident in that one sacrifice for them, not even considering all the others you make as a mother! God bless you and thanks for sharing your conversion story!