Thursday, August 11, 2011

Conversion Story (Beginning Version 2.0)

My conversion story is a bit long and a bit complicated, but it is mine and I am eternally grateful for it.  Without this story I would not be who I am nor would I be where I am.  The Church brought me back to God and helped me find myself.  I have a deep love and affection for the Church and I patiently and not so patiently await the day I shall be a bride of Christ and, hopefully, am given the name Sr. Thomas Catherine of the Immaculate of Heart of Mary, O.P.

In my last post I gave a short account of how I became Catholic, here I will give the full story with all of its twists and turns; ups and downs; all of its simplicity and complexity.  My conversion is not easily defined; it cannot be placed solidly into one category of conversion experience, but instead is a blend.  Most people come to Catholicism by means of an intellectual conversion.  That is to say they convert to Catholicism because it makes logical sense.  They read the theology, apologetics, doctrine and dogma, and the proofs given by Augustine or Aquinas for the existence of God and they see the logic in it.  So by virtue of their mind their heart is converted and they join the Church.  Then there are those who have a "burning bush" experience wherein the convert has an experience that moves the heart and soul to the Truth, where the Holy Spirit fills the convert.  The "burning bush" experience is not common and many will dismiss the convert's experience because of the rarity of it.  Many saints had "burning bush" experiences but in the modern era these experiences are rare or simply not talked about for fear of being thought 'crazy' or not being believed.  My conversion experience is a blend of these two main types of conversion experience.

I have not often spoken of my past feelings toward God nor of my true conversion experience.  I have not spoken of my wicked life before I finally heeded God's call.  I have not often spoken of these things for fear of being thought crazy, of being looked down upon, and of not being believed.  Many believe that a leopard cannot change its spots.  I pray as I write this that God may inspire my words and give me courage and strength to tell the truth as it is and not as I would have it be.  I pray that my words may be more than just the ramblings of a silly girl.

I grew up in a house filled with anger and violence and fear.  I grew up not understand God or His will or free will.  My parents would drag me to church and they were not there so much to worship God, but to look good.  My parents were and are what many would call Sunday Christians.  I never felt connected to the bible or services.  I despised going.  I wanted nothing to do with God.  When I lost my best friend to cancer at 12 I actually said aloud that I hated God.  My father beat me unconscious when he heard me say this, which only furthered my hatred for God.  I did not understand how an all powerful God could allow my father to beat me daily and my mother to stand by and do nothing nor how He, being all powerful and loving, could not or would not stop it.  So I hated God, though I always believed in God.  There are those in this world that are able to be true atheists, that can say and believe that God does not exist.  Some argue that knowledge of God is a priori knowledge or knowledge based on theoretical knowledge rather than experience.  Because of this a priori knowledge we always know that God exists, from the day we are born we are born knowing that God is real and that He has a hand in our lives, that He is personal to us.  God also gave us the gift of free will so that we may choose to deny Him and deny His existence.  There are those that can deny Him and His existence and not feel His absence, I am and have never been one of these people.  When I was young I filled the hole that His absence left with sex, drugs, alcohol, cutting, burning and anything else I could find that would fill the hole, destroy me or both.  When I was 15 I took drivers ed and met two of my most solidly Catholic friends and those two are the ones who started me on the path toward Catholicism.  I spent a few years abusing my body, alcohol and drugs.  I finally got sober at 17.  Upon joining Alcoholics Anonymous I had to let go of all my resentments and my hates, which meant I had to stop hating God because I needed a Higher Power so that I might remain sober and lead a life that is happy, joyous and free.  This was not so simple.  I tried Pagan gods, Buddism, and nature and nothing worked.  I was miserable and still had that hole in me and that hatred for God, though that hatred had eased and was no longer fueling everything I did or did not do.  With my hatred now smoldering and unable to burn I stopped at a Catholic church.  I pause for a moment and ask our Lord to give me strength for this is a story I do not tell for I do not all together understand it and I do not understand at all why He chose to favor me as He has.  I was driving down the road when I came to the church I would attend mass with my friends at.  I had intended to pass it and go on my way.  Instead I felt the deep, desperate need to go into the church.  I turned in, parked and went into the church.  The chapel was empty and filled with the holy silence that is enjoyed in monasteries.  I knelt in a pew and gazed at the mosaic of Christ on His thrown and I prayed for the first time in my life.  The tears flowed my eyes and down my cheeks, my body went weak, my heart and my soul cried out for God.  I longed to feel His presence, to feel Him fill me, to heal me.  I wept and wept.  I repented for all my sins, for all my slanders, for spending my life denying Him and for ridiculing others for their faith and for then tearing down that faith.  Somewhere in all of this I suddenly felt at peace and felt a warmth fill me and sweep over me.  I felt the Holy Spirit fill me with love and serenity and with a knowledge that no matter whatever happened to me and despite all that I had been through that I would be alright, that I would do more than survive, I would live.  I physically felt Christ embracing me, holding me and my heart swelled with love for Him and Him alone.  This is where my journey toward becoming Catholic starts.  After that day I read the books my Catholic friends were reading in their theology courses in high school.  I devoured everything I could on Catholicism.  In May I started RCIA classes and did not tell my parents knowing they would have disapproved.  I loved the classes; I loved learning about the faith.  The theology, doctrine and dogma all made rational and logical sense to me.  I attended mass every Sunday and every chance I got.  In March of the next year I was almost done with RCIA and then my parents found out.  They stripped me of my car and all my possessions and disowned me.  I spent time sleeping at different friends' houses and, in my depression, the beds of many different men.  I lost sight of God and His calling for me.  I spent years going from bed to bed.  Sleeping around, desecrating my body and my soul.  I was raped twice during this time by different men, both were friends.  Eventually I met my husband who was Catholic.  My love of the Church that I had buried resurfaced.  I started RCIA classes again at the same church and I completed RCIA and was confirmed into the Church in March of 2004.  I started going to mass periodically, but I was still so mired in sins of the flesh that I could not truly connect to God.  I eventually married my husband in a protestant ceremony.  The marriage soon ended when my husband became abusive.  While I was married I was admitted to a prestigious Catholic university.  Going to this university has been my saving grace.  I have been able to surround myself with good, practicing Catholics who have encouraged me in my faith.  They have taught me the true faith.  I have fallen in love with God and Christ crucified and there is no other for me.  I have gained a faith that I would give my life for and a prayer life that I could not imagine.

Pax Christi,

Thomas Catherine

1 comment:

  1. Wow what a powerful story! Thank you for being so open and for sharing! You will be in my prayers as you seek to answer his Call.