Our Conversion Story: Part I

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I have been putting off writing this post for two years. Because the story of our journey to the Catholic Church is really the story of our lives so…what to include? How to explain? Overwhelming.

In my favorite novel, Brideshead Revisited, the main characters read a passage from a Father Brown story by Chesterton which becomes a theme in the book:

I caught him (the thief) with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.”

I can’t really explain how God’s grace has drawn me to his Holy Church. But this is my attempt at telling how I have been drawn to Him with “a twitch upon the thread.” So here it goes…

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t believe in God and in the grand narrative of his Incarnation as a man, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and his death on the Cross—the salvation of the world. Daniel and I count ourselves blessed to have been raised by parents who love God and live out their Protestant faith very devoutly.

I was always very involved in my Protestant church and youth group and, until sometime in college, planned to be a missionary. Because that’s what you do when you’re serious about your faith, or at least that’s how I understood it. And it wasn’t until early high school that I started to feel any sort of draw to the Catholic Church as well as an unsettling and unease with my Protestant faith.

Major issues of faith began to cause me anxiety. My questions such as “What exactly does it mean to be ‘saved’? How do you know you have Jesus in your heart?”  were given very individualistic and experiential answers: “You just know. After ‘asking Jesus into your heart’ you’re saved.” “But, what about people who commit terrible sins, murder for instance, after ‘asking Jesus into their hearts’? Are they saved?” “They were probably never saved to begin with because they didn’t have a genuine conversion experience.” “Well, how do I know mine is genuine?!” “You just know.” I didn’t just know. And, in addition to matters of salvation, questions about how to interpret the Bible remained unanswered or unsatisfactorily answered. And I found myself tired, exhausted, and ill-equipped with the colossal task of having to decide every point of Christian doctrine on my own.

When my parents were confirmed in the Anglican church just before I left for college, I began wondering where I would end up. I was introduced to liturgy in the Anglican church and loved that, but still felt like a nomad. My first year of college I “tried out” Episcopal and Baptist churches, but didn’t really find a home…

Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow….

My Catholic Journey

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Comments

  1. Samantha says

    Haley,
    I agree with your view of the Anglican church 100%. The words that they use are so vague. I was raised Catholic and still am, but all of my close friends go to a large Christian church. I have never been a fan of the word “saved,” and when I went to their church’s events I felt like they were trying to “save” me even though I am a devout Catholic. I believe that Catholics are taught to do good works and follow the Catholic faith all of their lives. At the church my friends go to, if you save another individual, you are guaranteed to go to heaven. Based on ethics, you should not use people as a means to an end, but as an end. I felt that they were using me as an end for their personal gain as a ticket into heaven by saving me. I just wanted to yell, you don’t need to save me! I am perfectly and happily content with my Catholic faith! Great story, thanks for sharing. :)
    Samantha, 22, student

  2. Andrea says

    Hi Haley, I enjoy reading your blog. I am also married, Catholic, & have 2 daughters (ages 5 &6). I admire your faith and completely respect your commitment to the Catholic religion. I love my faith, too, but I wrestle with questions about the Catholic church. I wonder if you ponder the same questions & how you feel about the recently reported abuses to children by Catholic priests? What are your feelings about women not being able to serve as priests & priests not being able to marry? These are thoughts that rattle around my brain & I just wondered what your opinions were on these matters. Thank you and Happy Holidays!

    • Haley says

      Hi Andrea, I’ll try to briefly cover those topics in your comment, although they are big questions that deserve far more time than I can devote to them in a comment so feel free to email me if you want to continue the discussion :)

      Sexual abuse is tragic. It is a horrible sin. It is inexcusable. Catholics, including priests, are human. We sin and we are not immune to the abuses that arise in any group of human beings. Anywhere you have people, you will have sin. There are hundreds of thousands of priests, and although it is perhaps not surprising that sexual abuse would occur in an institution that includes that many people in leadership, it is nonetheless tragic, shocking, and heartbreaking. Being a former Protestant, I know that sexual abuse is not a problem peculiar to the Catholic Church. It happens everywhere. Is that an excuse for it’s occurrence in the Catholic Church? No. But does it shake my faith in the Church? No. Does that make sense? I certainly don’t want to make light of a serious and tragic problem. But the fact that people are sinful doesn’t make it difficult for me to profess the Catholic faith.

      As for female priests…I really could write several posts about this one. The veneration for Our Lady practice in the Church has been so redemptive for me in my view of myself as a woman. Because the most honored human to ever walk the earth is female, because God chose the Salvation of the world to be made possible by the “yes” of a woman, because she is the model of what a Christian should be for men and women, I have never experienced womanhood to be so honored. Knowing that she, held above all other saints, did not take on the role of priest, I don’t have a problem with the idea that I don’t have the option to become one.

      As far as the celibacy of priests go, I definitely didn’t agree with it before doing a lot of reading before my conversion. But apart from it being a tradition of the Church, it does make sense to me now. The vocation of marriage has overwhelming obligations. The vocation of the priesthood does as well. When I chose to marry my husband Daniel, I didn’t only choose him, I severed myself from the possibility of choosing anyone else. A priest does the same when he is ordained. The Church is his only Bride.

      These are all questions I wrestled with for years before converting! I encourage you to keep asking questions and to read the thoughts of theologians who know far more than I about the teachings of the Church since my responses are far too brief :) Happy New Year!

      • Andrea says

        Hi Haley, Thank you for taking the time to respond to my email. I do appreciate your insights into the questions I have regarding the Catholic religion. You make some excellent points. It is inspiring for me to read your blog because I admire your commitment to your faith and family. Thanks again, and have a happy New Year.

  3. says

    I was raised Catholic, although my dad is not Catholic and my mom was very, very poorly catechized. Yet it always sat very wrong with me that exact conversation of being “saved” that you wrote – if you commit a hefty sin, you were never really saved, etc. I have many, many friends that believe that and it seems like it’s just a conversation that never can get past “You just know.” which isn’t strong enough logic for me.

  4. says

    Major issues of faith began to cause me anxiety. My questions such as “What exactly does it mean to be ‘saved’? How do you know you have Jesus in your heart?” were given very individualistic and experiential answers: “You just know. After ‘asking Jesus into your heart’ you’re saved.” “But, what about people who commit terrible sins, murder for instance, after ‘asking Jesus into their hearts’? Are they saved?” “They were probably never saved to begin with because they didn’t have a genuine conversion experience.” “Well, how do I know mine is genuine?!” “You just know.” I didn’t just know.

    I am always bothered by this answer in the church (on every side). Satan has so confused works and faith that most people pick one. I actually recorded a short bible study video about this issue.

Trackbacks

  1. […] My husband and I converted to Catholicism five years ago. After years of reading and researching about Church history and Catholic doctrine, we realized that despite being somewhat reluctant converts, we had nowhere to go but to the Catholic Church. If it’s true, how could we not want to participate in it? The Easter Vigil when we were received into the Church is one of my favorite memories, but looking back I had so much to learn (and still do). […]

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