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Archive for the ‘Conversion’ Category

Holy Saturday

I vividly remember Holy Saturday of one year ago. It was April 7th, a beautiful spring morning….and there was SNOW on the ground! It was unbelievable. I took it as a sign of the incredible things to come later that day. 🙂

I have no way of knowing how many of you who stop by here will be welcomed into the Church this weekend. But for those who are coming in, you have my constant prayers today and tomorrow. I still remember the butterflies in my stomach. For many, the butterflies may be accompanied by doubt. I’m praying against that for you. For some, there is grieving of friends you have lost along the journey. I’m praying for our Lord to supply your every need. God may be asking some of you to take a step of faith because it still doesn’t all make sense to you. I’m praying for you to know his strong presence with every step.

I have said it before but I’ll say it again. It. Is. Worth. It. You’ll not regret this decision – hard as it may have been to make. He will meet you in it.

He is waiting.

The apostles, saints, and martyrs of old are waiting.

We’re all (the Church Militant, the Church Expectant, the Church Triumphant) waiting……..to welcome you to the table.

Have a glorious Easter!

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I still haven’t mastered exactly how to move through that awkward moment. Not the one that happens when I run into an acquaintance in the Target checkout line and she asks me if we’re still out at that “pretty little Anglican church”. Nor the one that follows when I see her face blanch (or cloud with suspicion) when I tell her we’re now at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. It’s the one after that. The one when she asks me why.

Hmmmm….

Why.

At this point, my own face blanches as I wonder what response could possibly suffice for the Target checkout line? (And just in case you haven’t guessed, these moments aren’t limited to Target! 😉 ) How in the world can I share with this woman all the joy and excitement that’s in my heart about why I chose to become Catholic in the 2 minutes between when she slides her credit card into the card reader and when she wheels her cart away?!

I could introduce her to the Early Church Fathers and explain how they give us so much insight into what the Christians of the first centuries believed and how they worshiped…..in 30 seconds. I could go on to explain how God led these men to hold Church Councils- not to invent truth but to preserve what was already believed…..in the next 30 seconds. I could continue to share that God gave us the Church before he gave us the Bible and that it’s thanks to the Church that we have the Bible as we know it…..in 30 seconds. And that would leave me with about 30 seconds to explain that I’ve come to understand that the Catholic Church is Scriptural and true. That it and it’s dogmas are not man made. That the Bible makes more sense to me now than it ever did before. That I believe God has given us the Church as a visible authority, guide, and preserver of the Sacraments.

Can you see why this just doesn’t work?! 🙂 There’s no 2 minute answer that feels complete and truthful yet doesn’t leave my inquirer wishing they hadn’t asked. I’m starting to think there was never meant to be a 2 minute answer. (OK, so I’m a little slow!) I shouldn’t be able to cover 2,500 years of church history and all the Lord has done in my own heart in the time it takes a person to swipe their Visa.

I need to start viewing these moments as the “beginning” rather than the “beginning, middle, and end”.

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I live in a beautiful portion of the Eastern United States, not far from the homes of some very noteable, past presidents of our country. How do I know those men actually lived in those impressive estates or if those are just tales contrived to bring tourist dollars into the area? Fortunately, many details (good, bad, and ugly) of these mens’ lives are recorded for antiquity in their letters and journals. Although I can’t personally vouch for the authenticity of these documents, the proponderance of evidence offered by historians seems to validate that these men did indeed take up residence on these historic farms.

The question of how to determine truth fluttered in and out of my mind for years….sometimes plaguing me but usually getting pushed aside. I just couldn’t understand, with all the differing ideas within christianity about baptism, how we’re saved, how we’re to worship, etc., that anyone could really know….really, REALLY know the truth. Eighteen months ago, I was again wrestling with this question as I was meditating on John 17. It was almost as if I was reading these verses for the first time.

“I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Our oneness needs to be visible to the world that they “may believe”. Our oneness should reflect the oneness of God the Father and God the Son. The Father and the Son never bickered or disagreed about anything. This felt like a major newsflash to me. I was dumbfounded. I really had read these verses before but this time was different. It was almost as if I was reading them for the first time. That was the first time I began to feel challenged that all the various denominations and divisions among Christians were not what God intended. For this oneness to exist, truth must be discernable, visible and complete, not vague or contradicting.

Jesus says He is “the way, the truth, and the life”(Jn 14:6) and that “the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:33). To be set free, we must know the truth. But how?

For most of my christian life, I had prayed that the Holy Spirit would guide me into truth whenever I meditated on the Scriptures. Yet how did I make sense of things when “my truth” contradicted “your truth”? Even the most knowledgeable and godly scripture scholars dispute one another. Peter even acknowledges this when he says that some things are “hard to understand” (2 Pt. 3:16). But God wouldn’t put such a high priority on truth and yet make it unattainable.

“….but I am writing these instructions to you so that……you may know how to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” (1Tim. 3:16)

I had found my answer. The Church was the preserver of truth. Now, if I could just determine which church…..

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It’s That Time of Year

**When moms of public school students begin dreaming of the morning the yellow school bus arrives on their street (or so I’m told).

**When moms of homeschoolers begin stalking the UPS guy (unfortunately, our UPS guy has first-hand knowledge of this behavior) who will deliver their boxes and boxes of books/curricula…..and the Runningkids start asking, “When can we start school?”

**When (and this is the real purpose of this post) RCIA programs begin to gear up for the fall.

If you’re trying to understand Catholicism because you or someone you know is being drawn to the Catholic Church, now’s the time to begin checking into RCIA schedules at your local parishes. Attendance at RCIA classes do not imply a commitment to become Catholic, just a desire to learn/understand more about Catholicism.

A year ago, I was resisting attending RCIA, yet, I had a hunch I should ready myself to be accepted into the Church just in case God led me in that direction by the time Easter arrived. I went with the confidence that I could stop attending at anytime.

If attending the classes feels too “public” for you, there are more anonymous ways to investigate Catholicism.

**Make an appointment with one of the priests and start asking your questions that way.

**Check out the blogs in my side bar. Most are written by converts to the Catholic Church. Last year, I found lots of helpful insight in the Conversion category over at Rafting the Tiber, especially two posts entitled “Should I Become Catholic?” and “What Does Your Heart Tell You?”.

**Consider joining the Catholic Spitfire Grill. This is a yahoo group originally formed by a group of homeschooling moms from the Sonlight forums. They wanted a safe place to discuss/question/investigate Catholicism so they created such a place. You will find both cradle Catholics, converts, and inquirers of all sorts but you won’t find hostility or bashing, no matter how silly you may think your question is. There are some very knowledgeable and godly people over there.

**Take a glance at my reading list. My favorite title for recommending to most folks investigating Catholicism has become David Currie’s Born Fundamentalist: Born Again Catholic. Having come from a reformed, evangelical protestant background, Currie understands first-hand the hesitations and questions that many evangelical protestant Christians have about Catholicism and does a good job of addressing those issues.

**Request some of the free resources available here or here. Nobody will ever know you did. 😉

Whether you are investigating Catholicism because you sense the Holy Spirit is leading you in that direction or you’re investigating Catholicism to disprove its claims, it’s important to learn about Catholicism from Catholics…..not pew warmer Catholics (Fr. Longenecker calls these folks the “Holly and Lily Crowd“) but orthodox Catholics who are passionate about living their faith. It may sound like I’m stating the obvious but I learned the hard way how much truth there is in this statement:

“There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church,which is, of course, quite a different thing.”

Bishop Fulton Sheen

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For folks who have been drawn to Catholicism, the emotional aspect of the experience (which often involves feeling as if the rug has been pulled out from under you) can be very similar but the actual conversion tipping point may vary widely. I already explained how and why I became convinced that I couldn’t live without the Eucharist here. the second “scale tipping” issue for me was becoming convinced of the necessity of visible unity in the Church.

While in college, I led an evangelical bible study in my sorority. Ironically, the woman who sponsored me through RCIA this past year may have even been in that bible study. It was sort of a “seekers” study so I’m sure I was probably trying to evangelize her. 😉 I recall one particular evening when the group started discussing what heaven might be like. I decided to share a perspective about heaven that I had recently heard…after all, I was the experienced, mature Christian with more bible knowledge than most of the other gals in the room….at least that’s what my pride told me. I can still remember how dumb I felt when this idea met resistance and I realized I really had no idea what I was talking about. That experience has stuck with me all these years, not only because it dented my own pride, but because it really set me wondering about the idea of truth, maybe for the first time in my life.

How can I know what is true?

Who knows the truth for sure anyway?

How can two different Christians have two different ideas about truth?

I can’t say I really wrestled with these thoughts for very long at that time. My undergraduate years ended and I started my “real life” as a young professional, hanging out with Christian friends who thought, talked, and believed like me. It was very easy to have a black and white mindset about issues of faith and I liked it that way. It was very comfortable. I was never really challenged on why I believed what I believed…………until just a few years later.

It was then that I met a young Catholic fellow who would challenge me to consider the continuum between black and white. It was a very uncomfortable friendship at times because we had such different perspectives on certain subjects, but it was also very invigorating. We would have hours-long discussions and I would walk away feeling like I had gotten a new and fresh glimpse of God……and He was much, MUCH bigger than I had previously thought. This friend obviously loved God but had such a different manner of experiencing, communicating, and speaking about his faith. He rarely spoke the name Jesus and certainly didn’t pray as openly (and verbosely) as I did. He seemed to hesitate when I asked him about the day (and time) he became a Christian, as if he maybe didn’t understand my question. He didn’t fit into my mold at all.

We discussed assurance of salvation (once saved always saved), baptism, how one is actually saved, differing interpretations of scripture…and on…and on…and on. Sometimes, our differences would come down to semantics, but sometimes they were much more.

I’ll spare you all the details but suffice it to say, God, in his sense of humor, intended for this young Catholic guy to be my husband. In human terms our union didn’t make sense. What he held to be true on some issues regarding his faith stood in opposition to “my” truth. I didn’t go to the altar understanding how God would work out our differences but I did go with confidence that He would. I was scared to death but I knew this union was a good thing. I was experiencing God in more profound and greater ways than ever before. I knew that to not marry this man would be to miss out on wonderful things God had for me. I also must admit that I was convinced God would use to me to change my future husband’s thinking on some issues. Oh, how the Lord must have been laughing! 🙂

(to be continued)

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…is Thomas Howard. His books Evangelical Is Not Enough, On Being Catholic, and Lead, Kindly Light were all very instrumental in my becoming the Catholic Christian I am today. When I was first introduced to his writings nearly 14 years ago, I didn’t realize who he was. By that, I mean, I didn’t realize he was the brother of Elisabeth Elliot. Upon learning that piece of information, I appreciated his writing even more. It couldn’t have been an easy decision for a man from such a well-known protestant family to enter the Catholic Church. Recently, I found a new-to-me blog, Streams of Mercy where I was fascinated to read a little of Elisabeth Elliot’s take on her brother’s conversion to Catholicism. I have read before of times when she was questioned on this topic. She has never been anything but loving, gracious, and respectful. Can you just imagine the thought provoking discussions that must occur around this family’s Thanksgiving table? Oh, to be a fly on that wall! 🙂

HT: Kid Sister of Blessed Imelda

If you would like to hear more from Thomas Howard, audio links to interviews with him can be found on this page.

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It’s eerie to me how similar the emotional experiences are of folks who have journeyed the path to Catholicism. I, thankfully, did not experience the rejection of my friends and family. (Some of them may think I’m crazy but they’re still sticking around. 😉 ) However, the process was still painful because it required so much of a paradigm shift in my thinking. So much of what I had believed for so long was in question. The emotional struggle for me stemmed from the ongoing confusion and uncertainty that consumed me for many months.

In the midst of it all, I received an email from a friend inquiring about how I was doing. She had joined the Catholic Church a year prior, and therefore knew, without even asking, what I was probably experiencing. She asked me about the sleepless nights, the pit in my stomach that rarely went away, the wondering (mine, not hers) if I was crazy, the feelings of loneliness, the constant worry about what if I do and what if I don’t become Catholic. Her assessment of my state of being was right on the mark.

Amber, from This Catholic Journey, has written a beautiful description of her conversion experience here, at CatholicDaily.org.   So much of what she describes could be said about the past year of my life.

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