Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Narrow Gate

   I became Christian, and then began the inevitable search for the "most true" denomination. This post is about why I'm Catholic rather than Protestant. Let me begin by explaining that by no means do I believe that only Catholics are saved. Our Protestant brothers and sisters have an important role to play for Christ's cause, but we certainly wish they would join us in the fullness and oneness of the "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church"! That is because we love them.

   I went to several Protestant churches, both when I was growing up and also when I was exploring Christianity and trying to find my "niche". One that I can remember was a Baptist church in my tiny little town. I was younger when I went there, and too busy trying to shock the churchgoers by reading Dimmu Borgir lyrics during the service than actually paying attention. Rude, I know. Well, I do remember that there was a lot of worship music, and I believe a preacher got up and talked about stuff, which I mostly disagreed with at the time, and then we were sent off to the youth group room. In the youth group, we talked about our feelings with regard to certain bible verses and the 'morality' of cussing, among other things. I was not impressed at the time... I retained my strict black dress code.

   When I was older, and had been converted to Christianity, I decided it would be prudent of me to explore different denominations other than the only one I had previously experienced. One of my friends invited me to a very large non-denominational "church" around Christmastime and I was more than enthusiastic to have an opportunity to try something new. So I went with him and took it all in. It was fun! There was a ton of music, lots of fellowship, and a sense of having done good by going to church. That was my experience anyway. I remember when the grape juice and cracker-type thing was passed around, I asked my friend, "Is it okay if I have this?" I'm pretty sure he looked at me funny and said, "Yeah of course!" All in all, I liked the place. It seemed wholesome and good. But it lacked something, which I've only recently put my finger on. There was no sense of reverence. No sense of awe. It seemed like the whole thing was a show, with the main goal being entertainment.

   I visited the non-denominational church's website, in order to learn more about them and what they believed - since the few times I went did not give me any sense of their theology apart from "Jesus is a cool guy and everyone should be his friend". The first thing I saw on the site was a page about their theology. This is what I needed to see more than anything, still considering myself a pretty objective philosophy type. Oh boy... I felt so let down. Their statement of faith page was not even 1,000 words! I understand the need to be succinct, but come on... I need more meat than that. Then I looked at other Protestant websites to see if their faith explanations were similar, or if it was this particular church's approach only. I discovered that many churches here in my neck of the "Bible Belt" are the same. Compare that with the Catholic Church's succinct explanation of faith... It's an entire book, the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
 
   I consider myself pretty well trained in academia. I have a high regard for peer review, and I know the importance and relevance of "authority". To me, the fact that some of these Protestant churches were started by one or only a few men was a huge red flag for me. Anyone can just buy a building, slap a church sign up, and begin preaching. From whence do they derive their authority? Where oh where can it be found?? Even in academic circles, you can't just graduate with a B.A., publish a work, and expect anyone of note to take notice of it! Particularly if it's not peer reviewed! They'd say, who does this guy think he is? In Catholicism, all priests are well educated and answer to Bishops; all Bishops are priests and are even more educated - they answer to the Bishop of Rome: the Pope. All ordained men answer to God.

   I have been to Taize in France, an ecumenical community of brothers, both Catholic and Protestant. When I attended, I was in the process of discerning whether I wanted to be Catholic or not. At Taize, there is a strict routine which all campers (usually students) follow.  Everyone who attends is assigned a duty or a job, which is carried out in between the 3 prayer times of the day, and "Scripture study". In the scripture study, one of the brothers would read a verse out loud and then everyone in the group would split off into smaller groups of five to six for discussion. Let me tell you... what an experience that was.

   My particular group had 2 Latvians, 1 or 2 people from Russia, and some various other nationalities... Talk about a language barrier! Regardless, we managed to discuss the scripture verses to some extent, and we became good friends with one of the Latvians. It was a great experience, but there was something nagging at me the whole entire time. Anyone can interpret the Bible. Anyone. How accurate that interpretation is depends very much on that person's understanding of the context, both cultural - particularly from a historical perspective - and also the context of the words themselves. Anyone can justify any manner of abhorrent actions by yanking out a line from the Bible. This seriously bothers me. This is one reason why I decided to become Catholic.
(Image credit: catholicmemes.com)

   Our priests go through years of education, both secular and religious. They learn how to think properly, and many are highly educated in philosophy/logic. To me, your average parish priest has more authority than some guy who got a B.A. in Ministry. Not only are priests educated in a well-rounded fashion, but they also have Catholic doctrine to adhere to. Yes, it's true - priests can preach whatever they want to in a homily. But ultimately they have to answer to the Bishop (and God!) if they spread false doctrine. Catholicism has a strict theology which is self-consistent and does not contradict Sacred Scripture. That is why it hasn't caved in on itself. No one is going to follow a contradictory religion. That's not to say there aren't issues which seem inconsistent, but in my experience a little research and digging will often reveal that it's simply a false contradiction or misunderstanding. That's also not to say that priests are perfect... However, there is a difference between getting a theological idea slightly wrong and deliberately leading your congregation down a false path. One of them is a sin. I will talk about sin a different time :)

   Honestly, I could go on forever explaining why Apostolic authority is conferred to the Pope (down to Bishops and priests) only. One of the main reasons I did not join our Protestant brothers and sisters is because all descended churches are rooted in a rift, a "Reformation" in which Luther decided he, personally, did not agree with certain orthodox teachings that had been defined and handed down since the time of Christ. And of course, old Henry VIII deciding he would establish his own church in order to separate what God had joined together...  Unfortunately this blog was never meant for this kind of catechesis and history. I trust my readers to do their own research. Ahem. Yes. My readers. (That's you).
  Our Anglican cousins have recently decided that it's okay to ordain women Bishops. Wait what? How can you just change a rule like that? Are not rules based in theological reasons, immune to cultural norms? Apparently not to these liturgical Protestants. I don't like that... What I love about Catholicism is that all of our "rules" are not just culturally based - they are based in unchanging theological and natural law. Women cannot be Bishops - ever - not because the Church is archaic and oppressive, but because nature of woman cannot fulfill the priesthood. The priest acts in persona Christi, in "the person of Christ". Christ was a man, not a woman. There's more to this argument, but I'm not inclined to make this post much longer. I am opening an invitation to discuss this with me if you're confused or interested (or even if you're angry).

   In Catholicism, abortion will always be immoral because life will always be sacred from the moment of conception. In Catholicsm, men will never be able to marry other men nor women marry women because our definition of marriage will always be a "covenant between a man and a woman". That's the definition, therefore anything that strays from that formula is not defined as "marriage" within the Church. If you want homosexual "marriage", you will have to go elsewhere. These things will not change, and if they do, then the Catholic Church will no longer be the Church that Christ established.  They are based in Tradition, deduced and inferred from Christ's teachings down through the ages. This stability and consistency makes me feel safe, and I know I can trust the Magisterium to uphold and protect the Bride of Christ. Why? Well, for one thing, what vested interest would anyone who has dedicated himself to celibacy, goodwill, and service to our Lord have to change or destroy our beautiful Faith tradition? Yeah. No idea.

   It's taken me awhile to get this post together, mainly because I kept coming up with things to add to it! I'm sure, then, that more ideas will occur to me over time as I continue growing in my faith, but I will try to resist the temptation to preach to my audience. From here on out, I am aiming to post personal reflections and inspirations related to being a Christian. I am convinced that one of the biggest struggles of being a Christian in this day and age is synthesizing our "faith life" and "real life". It's very difficult for us to see the two as a whole, particularly if we only go to Mass (or church) once a week! I'll wear my heart on my sleeve, as an attempt to help my brothers and sisters in their own journey to walk with Christ. God bless you all.


Please pray for me, I am praying for you.

   
   
 
 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Finding the Way - Part 2

   When you love somebody very much, oftentimes you will do things for them for no other reason than because you want to manifest that love to them. You wish to show them just how much they mean to you by going the extra mile (or step) to lighten their burdens. Well, just as we do this for one another in everyday relationships, a convert who is deeply in love with Christ wants to discover all the ways in which we can help Him carry the cross!

   Although our Savior is victorious, reigning in heaven as King, He tells us, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me" (Matthew 25:40). In our own spiritual lives we can either whip Him and spit on Him through our words and actions to others, or we can help Him carry His cross. We can do this when we help a neighbor in need, when we praise him, and when we love our families. There are many things we can do that are pleasing to the Lord. 

    As I studied more, I found that Catholicism offered me the best 'spiritual tools' to serve our God. There are 7 Sacraments in the Catholic Church, but I'm only going to briefly mention my three personal favorites that are the most useful to me personally in day-to-day life. For those who don't know, in the Catholic Tradition a Sacrament is an outward sign of an inner grace, granted by God (and participated in by man with particular "matter and form" -i.e. water and the Trinitarian formula for Baptism).

   One of my main vocations is marriage. In the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, I am blessed to have the opportunity to serve Christ through someone who is with me basically 24/7: my husband. Oh yes... at times, it is impossible to see Jesus in him. But He is there, I have faith! Other times, I can see Christ so clearly in him that I feel slightly ashamed for not being a perfect wife, who he really deserves! Through my marriage, I learn to submit to another's will which is meant to sanctify me and help me to be better at submitting to the will of God, as Mary did. That is how we get to heaven - by living according to God's Holy Will which is Love. In turn, my husband is my charge, just as I am his. My goal should be to choose what is eternally best for him in all things, to help perfect him for the Lord.
Of course, there is much more to marriage than this. The rest of my blog will be focused on it... more or less.
  • Quick side note: How do we know if we are really "Loving" someone? Look to the cross. Love is willing the ultimate good of another (in Christ's instance - the good of all others), even if it leads to my - your - rejection, pain, or even death.

   In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we respect Christ's establishment of authority in Peter and the other Disciples to forgive sins. We believe Jesus when he said “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:21-23)Since Catholics believe in the unbroken succession of Popes since Peter, we believe that all Popes, Bishops, and priests (through the Sacrament of Holy Orders) are conferred with this authority and ability. When I enter the confessional, I speak through the priest to Jesus, and I tell Jesus everything I've done wrong since my last confession. I tell Jesus how sorry I am, while at the same time accepting Jesus's establishment of authority in His disciples. 
  • Another side note: People always say, "why not just talk to Jesus on your own? Why do you need a priest?". Well I have a few ideas. 1) Because Jesus must have had a reason to give his disciples authority... 2) Because saying our sins out loud, to another person, is extremely humbling. 3) Because if we just say it in our heads, we aren't always sure of our forgiveness. For example, I can think in my head that I'm really sorry and Jesus surely must have forgiven me... But do I really know if I'm actually 100% sorry and truly forgiven, objectively? In my experience, the answer is no. Nothing is more healing than hearing the words of absolution, "I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  These words are efficacious, which means that the words themselves confer the desired effect - through Christ who is the Word of God.

   The Sacrament of the Eucharist is the "source and summit" of the Catholic faith. All doctrine, seemingly arbitrary rules, beliefs, etc, derive from our belief in the Resurrection of Christ and his establishment of a unified Church - our Church - on earth. Our belief is that at the moment of consecration, the bread and wine before the priest truly become the body and blood of Christ. The bread and wine maintain their accidents (or, the appearances), but the substance is transformed into the body and blood of Christ. This is a great mystery which we take on faith. That having been said, there are a few well documented Eucharistic miracles which can affirm that faith. It's important to mention that no Catholic is required to believe any miracle, and miracles should not define our faith.

   My favorite one is the miracle of Lanciano. In summary, a priest who was struggling with doubt in the Real Presence experienced the bread and wine transform both in accident and substance... The host turned into observable flesh and blood which have been documented and scientifically investigated. You can view a summary of the results here: http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/mir/lanciano.html. To further lend credibility, I found this quote:
In 1973, the World Health Organization (WHO) appointed its own scientific commission to scrutinize Dr. Linoli’s findings. During a 15-month period, over 500 tests were conducted, all of which supported the conclusions listed above. WHO’s scientific research was published in New York and Geneva in 1976, confirming “science’s failure to explain the Miracle.”
The flesh was determined to be myocardial (heart) tissue, and the blood type is AB. Here's a picture of the transformed host:

   We receive the living flesh of Christ into our very bodies, and we become the vehicles of Christ's love in the world. The Church is literally the Body of Christ; He is the head of the Church. As St. Teresa of Avila once stated, "Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours; yours are the eyes with which He looks Compassion on this world..." When we receive Christ into ourselves, we recognize our call as Christians to die for our neighbors, our family, our friends, and our husbands. This might not necessarily mean a physical death of course, but it may mean a simple momentary death. By giving up your will for another's, you glorify God. For example, if you want to have enchiladas for dinner but your spouse wants to have spaghetti...  Take the hit! That's what Christ wants from us, little things. St. Therese of Lisieux is a wonderful exemplar of this, and she developed her "little way". She insisted that she was not able do much, but she could do little things in day-to-day life to glorify Christ and show her love for Him.

Let no one doubt:
"52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”
(John 6:52-58)

   I will probably wind up doing an entire blog post about the Eucharist at one point. For without the Eucharist, our hope would be in vain. Without the Christ with us, all is for naught. I would not be Catholic if the doctrine of the Real Presence was untrue. My entire devotion rests in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

So there you have it. A few of the 1,000,000 reasons why I chose to become Catholic. It is very hard, yes. Very hard indeed. Jesus never promised us that following Him to eternal Life would be easy.



Please pray for me, and I will pray for you.

Next blog post: I'm not sure! Something Catholic

*If you ever want to know more about any of the things I mention in my blog posts, please feel free to contact me. I would love to go more in depth with you, but I can also direct you to sources that might help as well.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Finding the Way - Part 1

"The difficulty of explaining “why I am a Catholic” is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true." - G.K. Chesterton
   It took me awhile to warm up to the idea of Catholicism. Although my boyfriend was Catholic, I don't think he received a world-shaking catechesis. Even if he did, at one point in our relationship we were both very wary of Catholicism - mostly because we found a place in some Protestant circles. They had convictions about Catholics that we had to wrestle with ourselves, such as "Catholics place too much emphasis on Saints, angels, and Mary". For me, and I'm sure for him too, it did not make sense to idolize anyone or anything other than Jesus. It wasn't until I read a book, written for Catholics about how to defend themselves against Protestant misconceptions (The Essential Catholic Survival Guide by Catholic Answers), that I finally understood the reasoning behind this and other questions I had.*



   Let me make something clear. Although most of my struggles in coming into the Catholic Church were intellectual in nature, what truly brought me home was not the answers. The answers to my questions were the doorway that opened my heart to the grace of the Holy Spirit. The more I learned, the more receptive I became to the Love of God. I let down my guard. Our Blessed Mother drew me to her Son.

   Yes, one of the turning points in my spiritual life happened on vacation. My fiance (we got engaged earlier that year) took me to Lourdes, France. In Lourdes, through the year 1858, the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous a total of 18 times, and revealed her identity as the "Immaculate Conception". If you're interested, here is a link with a succinct explanation of the apparitions: 
http://en.lourdes-france.org/deepen/bernadette-soubirous/the-apparitions



   As you hopefully can see by the picture collage that I put together, Lourdes is a very beautiful place. There was such a feeling of serenity and healing that permeated the entire town that I fell in love. All of the strangers were in perfect accord, and treated one another as family members! It was June or July, so the weather was absolutely perfect. Honestly, I remember thinking "this must be heaven on earth". I participated in all the processions that my fiance led me to, and I even began to pray the rosary, something I hadn't done since I'd been at the Catholic school. 

   I remember one day we decided to go to Eucharistic Adoration. Adoration is a practice by which Catholics sit or kneel and pray before a consecrated Host, which is enshrined in a vessel (called a Monstrance). I don't know that I had ever been to Adoration before. But I opened myself to Christ, despite the fact that I wasn't sure if I believed he was truly present or not. Guess what happened... I cried. I realized a lot of the mistakes I hadn't forgiven myself for yet, and I experienced the merciful grace of Jesus at a deeper level than I ever had before. I felt the burden become lighter and I found healing for wounds I didn't even know I had. It was a very moving experience, and I went away with all of my doubts put to rest. They had just slipped away before the Presence of our Lord and I felt no need to yank them back. What a liberating feeling!

   Lourdes wasn't the only thing that drew me into the mantle of Holy Mother Church. It was only one piece of the puzzle! Everyone is called in different ways, and that is the beauty of the spiritual journey. For me personally, the Lord oftentimes  gets through in more experiential ways. I like to inform my conscious according to proper theology, and so whenever I get an "aha!" moment, I only take it seriously if it fits in with Catholic teaching. So many times I have been blessed with insights that I know I'm not clever enough to have come up with on my own... thank you Holy Spirit!

...to be continued...

Pray for me, I'll be praying for you.

Next blog post: Finding the Way Part 2 - a practical perspective. Expect this to be posted in a few days' time
   

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Power of the Deceiver... The Saving Grace of Christ

I would like to share something that I wrote immediately before (and after) Jesus took hold of my heart. They were written in October and December of 2011.

I lost control of my own life… Somehow, I let myself become so absorbed in my own thoughts and desires that I lost sight of our Lord. I fell deeper into this black pit of vanity and self-obsession. My relationships suffered, the only person I truly love with all of my heart was becoming distant, I was severing our ties of trust and unconditional love. He might have left me, I know now that instead, he prayed for me. Every thought became dark, and I thought I would never know of God again. Hope was eliminated from my heart. I knew that I was lost, and there was no way to return to the light of Love. I panicked. I wanted to die at times, I wanted an end to my anguish and hopelessness. I wanted to be back in God’s good graces, but somehow I could not find the motivation to do something, to seek Him out and ask forgiveness.
In a way, something inside me did not want forgiveness. He felt so far away, further than He ever was before in my life. I was starting to hate. True hatred, pure black venom of loathing towards anyone and anything. Happiness was not possible, not with the vile thoughts coursing through my brain. Satan was taking my soul. Oh the patience of that abhorrent grand master of treachery and deceit! He saw my weakness, and slowly picked at the threads of my faith; placing false theologies in my path at every turn so that I may accept it and be taken from the path of righteousness. Every day I slipped further into the abyss.......
Darkness and despair seem to multiply upon themselves as they fester in your soul. Negative thoughts lead to even more loathing and pity. You keep following these thoughts to the end, until left with the inevitable question… What is the point? I am going to die, I have accomplished nothing, and I will never accomplish anything worthwhile. Perhaps I should die to end this pain I feel. And the worst thing is that you know your pain is unjustified. You have anything you could ever want, yet you are overcome by this void. It pulls you down in every waking second.
This is not you. You can feel in your soul that there is something dysfunctioning. I think we have all been here before. And we all handle it differently. I coped by burdening my boyfriend with all of my self-loathing thoughts, my desperate attempts to feel valuable. He was steadfast and although I put him through hell (literally, I might argue) he always waited out the storm and never failed to say that he loved me still. This wasn’t enough to pull me out of the darkness.
One day I decided to finally read “Heaven is for Real”. I don’t know why I picked it up. I guess I was just sick of lying around feeling sorry for myself. Or perhaps I was just searching for an escape from reality. Whatever the case, after I picked the book up, I could not put it down. I finished it in about 2 or 3 days. And when I did, I felt restored and renewed. I found what I was searching for! And although I’m typically very critical and skeptical of investing my “faith” in anything, everything in that book rang true with me. Christ is REAL! God is REAL! He actually LOVES me no matter how far I have distanced myself from Him!
It all hit me and made perfect sense all at the same time. I felt an intense urge to rush outside, and did so. I knelt on the ground and began weeping and laughing like a crazy person. I felt such joy and relief knowing that I will be okay. I don’t have words to express how I felt in that moment, but it was one of the most intense ones of my life. I decided in that moment to offer my life to Christ. I wanted to align myself with His will. It was the absolute least I could do for a God who loved me so unconditionally! And as I thought this, I knew, we try so hard to earn God’s love but it is unnecessary because he loves us all infinitely. We don’t have to earn His Love, we need only to accept it in our hearts!
I felt reborn and renewed. All of my past mistakes were thrown in a new life and I realized that they all led me to this point. For all the perceived “hardships” I had been through, without each of them I likely wouldn't have come to this beautiful moment full of joy and hope. And this lends credibility to the idea that God has eternal patience. We think that our life can’t get much worse, but we have not an inkling of what God has in store for us down the road. This thought keeps me going [every] time I feel discouraged for my life path.
After discovering the power of Love through Jesus Christ, my life radically changed. Life is so beautiful, how blessed I am to go through it all. I began praying regularly, and I scarcely ever had an unanswered prayer (I can’t actually think of one). How wonderful it was to know that my God was really listening and communicating with me!

In the beginning of this story, note that despite my philosophizing and reasoning at the time, I still had an empty void inside. Rationally, I was agnostic but hopeful that there was a loving God out there. Note... the moment I let my guard down and dropped the skepticism - from prideful to humble - the Lord showed me His face! 

I remember that the night I encountered the Love of God, I took up a beautiful freshwater pearl rosary that I had never used before, and draped it around my neck before going out to dinner with family. I was in the clouds... I remember hardly being able to concentrate on anything anyone said because I was still in awe!

Since writing this, my spiritual life has been refined and honed by the Holy Spirit, and have been blessed beyond my wildest imaginings. The love that God has for me has permeated every facet of my life, and I am no longer blind to it. Not only does He answer my prayers in the most just way possible, but he also blesses me with gifts I never would have expected! A surprise check when I'm running out of money, a kind gesture from a stranger when I'm feeling antisocial... all of these little things are manifestations of Love. I do not believe in coincidence, and I'm in the process of banning the word "luck" from my vocabulary.

God works to bring us to Him in the most extraordinary ways. As I look back on my life, I realize that if I had not rebelled and gotten lost, I would never have seen the value of returning to our Father. Like the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), we will be welcomed home with open arms and great rejoicing.

"...this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."

Next blog post: Why I chose Catholicism over all the other (arguably "easier") denominations

Thursday, June 26, 2014

In the Beginning...

I've put off writing my first blog entry for long enough. I simply could not think of something specific to focus on, although I had an overall idea what I wanted my blog to be about.

Before I get into the real meat of what I would like to say to the world, first – unfortunately – it’s necessary for me to give you some back history about myself. Context is always important! Please bear with me, because each piece of the puzzle is important for a full picture.

I’m not going to tell you all about my childhood. All you need to know is that I had a pretty humble upbringing. My parents struggled at times, but my sister and I were always happy enough. My family is not Catholic, but my parents decided to send my sister and I to a Catholic school from Kindergarten until 7th and 8th grade. They wanted to make our education a priority, and they recognized the quality of private schools.

As I grew up, I found it very difficult to fit in and make friends.  I was not Catholic, and I remember one particularly poignant moment in second grade, when I was excluded from practice and preparation for First Communion. It really hurt me, and left a bitter taste in my mouth for years. Not only was I set apart from my peers on a faith basis, but I also lived 30 minutes away from all of my schoolmates. I believe that all of these factors, along with some growing pains with my sister and sickness in the family, led to the major depression I fell into around the age of 13.

At 13, I started to relate to the gothic and “metalhead” scene, and spent as much time as possible online exploring these subcultures. I felt like my feelings were understood! As I got older, I completely bought into the rebellious worldview and abandoned all of the morality I had been taught all those years at the Catholic school. I felt liberated and free! Finally, I could ignore the guilt and live carelessly!

Yeah yeah, all teenagers go through a rebellious stage. That’s normal! Well, I wouldn’t say I was the worst teenager ever… I’ll let you judge for yourself. I’m only able to reveal all of these secrets publicly because I have since been redeemed.

·         I delved into pretty much any of the major religions you can think of. Eventually I was drawn to Wicca, and was very well versed in it. I was actively seeking covens to join. After awhile, I seriously considered joining the Church of Satan (LaVey Satanism). In the end, I became an atheist, refined my views and finally rested as an agnostic.
·         I read and wrote extremely graphic “romance” novels, and considered myself bisexual for about 3 years. It was more than just an empty claim, at the time.
·         I pierced my eyebrow with a safety pin once. Ooo rebellion.

As you can see, most of my issues were intellectual turmoil and self-destruction. I drew inverted pentagrams and upside down crosses and I wore Cradle of Filth t-shirts. I did everything I could to set myself apart from the “non-thinkers”. To me, all of the “normal” people were the same, and they all believed whatever they were told by their parents. As for myself, my faith was an amalgamation of whatever sounded good to me. I blew around with the wind; I was carried like a feather from one view to the other and I had no consistency in my thinking…

…Until I met a mysterious man on the Internet. He asked me probing questions, and he seemed interested and concerned about my worldviews. He poked holes in all of my “arguments” (which were really just opinions masquerading as clever ideas), and tossed all of my beliefs on their heads. I didn’t know what to do!

To make a long story short, this man instructed me - first in philosophy. I became obsessed with it, particularly the workings of Logic, and was insufferable to be around for probably a good 6 or 7 months. “You must prove that each and every premise of your argument is true before I will ever consider what you’re saying,” – yeah, I was that girl. God bless my parents for not kicking me out of the house.

Over time, my heart was softened. I met this mysterious Internet guy in person, who was from London of all places, and here we are – 4 years later – married and beyond blessed! But this is not our story. This is a blog about my relationship with Christ, first and foremost. My marriage plays into God’s grand scheme to have me with Him for eternity.

My future husband made me take him to Mass. “I have only missed one Mass in my entire life,” he told me, when we first met. Well okay then. Hopefully I won’t be struck down the moment my foot passes the threshold…

To my surprise, despite the discomfort of feeling completely out of place in a Catholic Church, I found the return experience extremely peaceful and comforting. I continued to go to Church with my boyfriend for the duration of his 3 week visit to the USA. And then I kept going back on Sundays…

One day, after Mass, the priest approached me and said that he knew my boyfriend and I were considering marriage, so I should come to the “Theology of the Body” classes he was guiding. I have no idea why I decided to go. It must have been the Holy Spirit, because I was generally quite shy back then and tended to avoid any potential social interactions. Nevertheless, I attended. And it changed my life FOREVER.

Theology of the Body, presented by Christopher West in some DVDs and guided by my parish priest was the driving force that inspired me to learn more about Catholicism. The more I learned, the more I loved. I was over the moon to find a religion with so much intellectual history, so many answers, and no apparent contradictions in the most important aspect: the philosophy. When I read part of the Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas, I was pretty much in heaven. I signed up for RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) as soon as I possibly could.

I could stop here, and say “I got through RCIA and the rest is history!”. But first I have to say a few words about my RCIA experience. I get the impression that most people decide to become Catholic and RCIA is just a stepping stone to get there. That was not the case with me. I threw myself into RCIA with everything I had. I read all of the notes given by the instructor, I took as many notes myself as I could, and I read a lot of the supplemental material that was thrown at us. I asked questions. I dug deep. On the spiritual side of things, I saw and attempted to root out as many bad habits as possible – no matter how small – from myself before Baptism. I wanted to be holy, and I was on fire with the faith. RCIA was the only thing I looked forward to in the week, and I attended come hell or high water. 

My instructor’s teaching methods really clicked with me as well. He was very logical, straightforward, and incessantly precise with his wording. I loved it, and for that reason I think my fellow Catechumens thought I was insane. I will be eternally thankful for his catechesis (and for his service at my wedding. Please pray for him, he was ordained as a deacon about a week after I got married!).

Earlier I mentioned that I am able to air my history without feelings of shame or remorse, because I have been redeemed. Being Catholic, I know that at Baptism all of my sins were forgotten by God, because of Jesus’s sacrifice. I have been made new! And although I still have the memories of my past, they are no longer a part of my life. It’s like remembering an old nightmare – it has no power over who I am today.

So that’s my story! 2 decades wrapped up into about 1,400 words. Next up… I’ll be writing about my actual conversion experience, and how I revoked the lies of the devil.