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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Bryan's Conversion Story

Bryan of Journeying with St. Ignatius joins the blog roll and shares his conversion story below.

Becoming a child of God

"But to those who did accept him, he gave power to become children of God…"

John 1:12

In 1973, at the age of 4, I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ into my heart, having the power within me to become a child of God. However, I was not a child of God yet and am still striving toward that goal in my daily life even now as I am undertaking The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

My parents were Protestant and bounced from church, most all fundamentalist and many charismatic. The list with names of towns taken out: Christian Church, Assembly of God, Community Church, New Life Temple and Christian & Missionary Alliance. I attended all of them from my first day as a "born again" Christian up until the time I "came into" the Roman Catholic Church.


* At the age of 4, I saw the power of God firsthand when my aunt, a "believer" herself, prayed for me after I burnt my right hand after I plugged in an iron. My blackened hand became flesh again right before my eyes as she prayed with me. I grew up with a tangible view of the Trinity: God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit all working together.
* I attended Vacation Bible School during the summers. I knew all the books of the Bible and memorized scripture verses, for which I was rewarded with candy bars and a crown (I kid you not). I was crowned King of VBS one summer, along with a queen. My parents probably still have the photo somewhere.
* At the Assembly of God church and the community church, I had seen the charismatic gifts of speaking in tongues, laying on of hands (not necessarily healing), rolling in the aisles (literally). At New Life Temple, I saw people dancing and leaping in place for God. It wasn't quite as dramatic as in "The Blues Brothers," but nevertheless it was dramatic. The only difference among the three churches' brand of "charisma" was that the first two seemed to focus more on being judgmental and the legal side of things, whereas New Life Temple seemed to have a greater focus on love and mercy. At least, this is my interpretation of it here later.
* One of my strongest memories of going to church in those days of my youth is cowering in a nursery because I was scared of a movie called "A Thief in the Night." It portrayed what might happen after The Rapture had occurred, but there was still those here on earth who chose to believe in Jesus. They were decapitated for their faith.
* A pastor at one of the churches was accused and later convicted of child molestation. He had "approached" me, but I truly believe my parent's faith was too strong for him. Most of the boys on which he preyed were those without a strong family life, usually of single parent homes and those who were having problems at home, with maybe one exception. All of this, needless to say, didn't help my belief in Christ.

So with all of this as backdrop, by the time I got to college, a Christian college, of course, I began to explore different churches, to try to find my own faith. I even questioned my own Christianity at times, and the Bible, thanks to classes in historical criticism, but finally decided that I was to be a Christian…although I didn't know at the time of which "stripe" I would be.

Somehow I began leaning toward the "liturgical" churches after finding the megachurches focus on me, me, me more than somewhat troublesome, the Baptist and Methodist churches too boring, etc.

I remember visiting an Episcopalian church and something about the liturgy there drew me, but something else was missing. At the time, I didn't know what it was, but now I know it is the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. It is an emptiness I experienced a few weeks ago when I visited an Episcopalian church that almost makes you want to shout or at least speak up in the middle of the service:"Ahem, I don't mean to be rude, but you don't know what you're missing, folks." But, of course, that would be rude and not help with ecumenism at all.

So here I was in an Episcopalian church, liking the flow of the liturgy, but still missing something.

Around the same time, I began to have a couple of friends who were Catholic, including my future wife. After college, I began a correspondence by mail with these Catholic friends and I'd ask questions about Catholicism and they'd answer me. I even went to see my future wife's confirmation and acceptance into the Church. (Her story was featured on "Catholic Converts" recently: Kim Robinson is her name.)

Finally, in 1994, I approached churches in my local diocese about the process of becoming Catholic. One priest actually told me that I should forget it, that Protestants weren't meant to be converted. Through God's grace, I didn't listen to him and persevered. I found a priest who was willing to help guide me and an RCIA team that listened to my questions patiently. I didn't understand everything and still don't, having to ask God to help me in my unbelief and accept some things on faith, but after the inquiry process, I knew that God had chosen me to be Catholic.

On Easter 1994, I was confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church. Two years later, I was married in the church. Thirteen years later, I am refocusing my faith through The Spiritual Exercises. My journey toward becoming a child of God is still continuing.

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