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Monday, January 29, 2007

My story: Part 3

Read Part 1
Read Part 2

I can’t remember why but Chris didn’t make it to Mass at St. Thomas. So as per my custom I took a seat near the back. As this was a university parish most of the people there were closer to my own age. This immediately made me feel more comfortable. The music was also more upbeat and “younger”. I liked this at the time. However, I have now grown to not be so fond of it. But I remember something just felt right…I finally felt like I was some place where I could start to grow. The next week I was out of town and didn’t go to Mass. However, upon getting back from my trip I started going to Mass every Sunday at St. Thomas Aquinas. I didn’t miss a Sunday for well over a year. During this time I continued talking with Chris almost daily. He answered several of my questions and raised new ones. It was about this time that he gave me a copy of Patrick Madrid’s Surprised by Truth. I absorbed the conversion stories it contained, reading nearly cover to cover without stopping. I also started doing a lot of online research and came across the Defenders of the Catholic Faith Forum. The message board gave me a wonderful resource. Many of the poster’s are very knowledgeable and serious about their faith. I also emailed the priest at St. Thomas and asked him to recommend some reading material. Thus my collection of Catholic books began. I also discovered EWTN on my cable box. I spent hours watching Mother Angelica, Life on the Rock, the daily Masses, and just about anything else the aired.

Over the next year I became a sponge. Yet, I still had serious reservations. I wasn’t so sure about Mary and the saints, the True Presence in the Eucharist, papal infallibility, and a whole list of other things. The more I learned about Church history the more I started to feel that I would not be able to deny these things much longer. One night I was watching a show on EWTN when one of the guest priests mentioned the Road to Emmaus story in Luke 24. I pulled out my Bible and read the story of how Jesus appeared to the disciples who did not recognize them and how He was made known to them through the breaking of the bread. At that moment I knew in my heart that Christ was truly present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the Eucharist. From there all of my objections to the teachings of the Catholic Church began to crumble.

At some point during this time I was home for a weekend visit when my mom told me that she had noticed that I had brought my Bible home with me and asked if I was going to church again. I told her yes, I was going to a Catholic church. This caught her a bit by surprise. I had a brief conversation with my parents about this. I expected much more. They asked little more than, “You still believe in Jesus right?” You have to remember that Catholics are few and far between where I grew up so few people know anything about the Catholic Faith. My mother also wanted to be assured that Catholic didn’t worship Mary.

As the Easter season approached I found myself questioning the option of converting. Even though I had come to accept the Church’s teachings and authority I wasn’t quite ready to make that commitment. On Holy Thursday I went to Mass at St. Joseph’s. While everyone was receiving communion I knelt and prayed to God that he direct me. I gave myself over, telling God that if the Catholic Church was where he wanted me then that was where I would go. Before the end of the communion procession I had my answer. I knew in my heart that I could no longer fight it and must become Catholic.

That spring, Chris talked me into taking a mission trip to Southeast Arkansas. St. Thomas usually sends missions to Honduras during spring break and Southeast Arkansas the week after spring classes ended. However, that particular year spring break coincided with Holy Week so both missions were planned for the week after classes ended. There ended up only being four of us who made the trip to Southeast Arkansas while the rest went to Honduras. We spent the week living in an old Franciscan Friary on the grounds of St. Mary’s church in McGehee, Arkansas. We spent the week helping out with several projects and spending time with Father Eric and Sister Sarah. We attended Mass each day and had Evening Prayer together each night. We also got into several conversations many of which concerned my conversion. For some reason I had still not shared my decision to join RCIA the following fall with anyone. Near the end of the trip, I did tell the others that I was planning to convert.

An interesting tangent to this story, the running joke the entire week was that I was destined to go to the seminary to become a priest. As per tradition of the mission trip we made up a song to describe all the people involved in the trip. The verse that was written for me was, “Then there's Chris / our Baptist missionary / next to become Catholic / then to the seminary.” This half-joking suggestion went on for the entire week and largely stemmed from Chris’ long insistence that he was convinced that I would convert and one day become a priest. I of course denied these charges. I will confess now that I was not entirely honest. This possibility had been on my mind for several months. I still remember vividly the first time a few months before Chris said to me, “You know what? I think you will be priest someday.” I was shaken by his comment. I had considered the possibility several times already and the fact that someone else would suggest it was unsettling. Until now this is something that I have kept mostly to myself. So, Chris if you read this I hope you are happy now! For the most part I have come to believe that this is not the path that God has laid out before me. However, I will not say that the possibility is not there. I’m still searching for that path and pray that I will have the strength and wisdom to answer God’s will whatever it turns out to be.

Okay, back to the story. I continued to go to Mass at St. Thomas during the summer and told my parents that I had decided to enroll in RCIA classes to prepare for reception into the Catholic Church. In September of 2005 I joined RCIA. I enjoyed the classes and continued to read as much about the Faith as I could get my hands on. As all humans are apt to do I had my ups and down, my moment’s of doubt, and sense of confusion. However, God had called me home to His one true holy, catholic, and apostolic church and I trusted him to lead me. I was confirmed in the Catholic Church at the 2006 Easter Vigil at St. Bernard’s in Bella Vista, Arkansas. Since then I have moved to Kansas where I have been blessed with a wonderful parish. I continue to have my ups and downs but I put my trust in God to lead me in all things.

Do you have a conversion story you would like to share on this blog? If so, please email me at and please consider adding your blog to the Catholic Converts blogroll.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

My story: Part 2

Read Part 1

I got to Mass at St. Joseph’s that Sunday morning not having a clue what I was doing. My friend had given me a basic run down of what to expect. One thing that I remember from that Mass is that the priest was rather elderly and I couldn’t understand much of what he was saying, turns out that pastor of the parish was away that Sunday. I was struck by the “ritualistic” nature of the Mass. To be honest it was a bit unsettling. However, something stuck with me about that day. I didn’t attend another Mass for quite some time. But, I kept thinking about it. A few months went by and I went again. Another few months went by and I went again. During this time some things about the Southern Baptists church (well my particular church back home) had started to bother me. There had been a lot of fighting in the congregation that ended in the pastor and several members left and for some time formed their won church in someone’s living room. I didn’t think about it at the time but later would come to realize that this was a real life example of why the protestant tradition was losing its appeal with me. After all, you can’t have protestant without protest. However, at this time I wasn’t working with a Catholic vs. protestant attitude. My thought was it doesn’t matter what the name on the sign out front is just as long as I’m trying to serve God.

For a couple of years I continued going to Mass once every few months and doing a little bit of research online. During this time I was working for the athletic department at my university. During my last year as an undergraduate the department hired a graduate assistant who was also named Chris. I think we spoke twice that year. After graduating I stayed at the university to attend grad school. I also was hired as a graduate assistant in the athletic department. About a week before I started my first summer session graduate class I went to Mass at St. Josephs. I took my normal place near the back. A few minutes later a lady set down beside me and then Chris (see that wasn’t a completely random reference above) came in and set on the other side of this lady. After Mass he came up to me and said, “I didn’t know you were Catholic!” I told him that I wasn’t and he asked what I was doing there. In the course of this conversation it came out that I was baptized as a Southern Baptist but had been sporadically going to Mass for a few years.

We ended having the same class that summer and he was eager to talk to me about the Catholic Church. He told me that he normally attended St. Thomas Aquinas, the university parish, and invited me to go to Mass there sometime. During the next couple of month’s Chris and I continued to discuss Catholicism and I finally decided to give St. Thomas a try. I believe this was around the last week of September. We were working at a fall softball tournament and I told him I had decided to go to Mass at St. Thomas that evening, since they had Mass at 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm for the sleepy college students who didn’t get out of bed before noon on weekends. So after going home and changing clothes I went to my first Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas. . .

Continue with Part 3

Friday, January 26, 2007

My story: Part 1

I have decided to tell my conversion story. I plan to tell it in two parts. Check back soon for the rest of the story.

When I was a young child my mother was a member of the Church of Christ (not to be confused with the United Church of Christ). For several years I went to church with her every Sunday. At this time my father did not attend church. As I got older I decided that I wanted to stay home with my dad on Sunday mornings. This became the practice for a few years. During this time I started to think about God and my relationship with him. Also during this time something happened at my mom’s church that caused her to leave. To this day I still don’t know exactly what happened. Mom started going to a Southern Baptists church where my dad’s mother and his sister and sister-in-laws were members. At some point I started going to church with my mom and sister again. For a while we visited another Church of Christ but ended up staying at the Southern Baptist one. When I was about fourteen years old I “walked the aisle” and was “saved.” However, the pastor was not comfortable “baptizing me into the Southern Baptist church” given my mom’s situation of not yet being settled on a church. About a year later I was baptized and in the few years that followed my mom, sister, and dad (along with my grandfather and three uncles) were all baptized and joined the Southern Baptist church. The Southern Baptists church’s insistence that my mom be “re-baptized” to show her agreement with its teachings was a major reason that she took several years to join.

After graduating high school I went off to college. I went to University Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist affiliated church, a few times but didn’t go to church regularly while at school. My dorm roommate was Catholic. This was something totally foreign to me. I was a senior in high school before I knew anyone Catholic. Well actually, I had known this person since kindergarten. I just didn’t know she was Catholic. That was also when I found out that my hometown (population 1,200) had a Catholic Church right across the street from the high school. It is a small mission parish and nothing outside the building except a very small sign suggest that it is a Catholic Church. Anyway, my roommate and I had a few discussions about Christianity and he tried to give me a book to read that would help explain some of the teachings of the Catholic Church. I didn’t read it. At the time I was a music education major and having trouble in my ear training classes. To help with this I joined the University Choir. I ended up spending two or three spring semesters singing with the choir. During that time we sang the Gloria from one of Mozart’s Mass settings and performed Faure’s Requiem in its entirety. Looking back now I can see that this was an important step in my introduction to the Catholic Church. I understood music and my interest in the Church was in some way stimulated by its music.

During my junior year of college I started getting into religious discussions with another Catholic friend. We often argued about differences in Catholic and Southern Baptists teachings. At this time I was already starting to have doubts about some Southern Baptists doctrines. My friend had been to Baptists churches with other friends growing up. This gave him some advantage in attacking my arguments, since I had no idea what I was talking about when it came to the Catholic Faith. One day he suggested that attend Mass with him to see for myself. Finally, I agreed and attended a Sunday morning Mass at St. Joseph’s . . .

Continue with Part 2

Resources for inquirers, converts, or just about anybody really

Defenders of the Catholic Faith message board
This is an outstanding message board. There are many knowledgeable posters, including several priests and seminarians, who are eager to answer your questions.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Let's try this again

Obviously, I had pretty much abandoned this blog since June. Earlier tonight I typed in the url for no apparent reason. I got to thinking about the blog and how I had decided to adopt St. Augustine as the blogs patron. So, I asked St. Augustine that if this project was worthwhile to lend his intercession in helping it grow. Then I picked up my copy of St. Augustine's Confessions, flipped the pages and this was the first thing I read.

Furthermore, I did not think that those things which the Manichees criticized in Your Scriptures could be defended. But sometimes I had a desire to discuss every particular with some person well read in those books and to see what he could say. Already, the discourse of a certain Elpidius, who had disputed in public with those same Manichees, had begun to influence me even at Carthage, when he confronted them with certain things from the Scriptures that were not easy to refute.
Their answers seemed to me very weak. And they did not often give these answers in public, but usually only in private to us, saying that the Scriptures of the New Testament were falsified by I know not whom, who wished to insert the Jewish law into the Christian Faith. However, they were not able to produce any other uncorrupted copies.
But those two "bodily masses" chiefly held me down, captive and almost suffocated as I conceived only corporeal things, under whose weight I lay gasping for the air of Your Truth. But still I was unable to breathe it in its unadulterated purity.
-Book 5, Chapter 11
I found it striking how much this passage seems to mirror my experiences in converting from a protestant denomination to the Catholic Faith. From my conversations with other converts this seems a common thread. I started out thinking that some of the Catholic Church's teachings could not be defended. I read articles talking about how the Catholic Church had falsified some of it's teachings. And many of the arguments used against the Church seemed very week. For a long time my objections, and those of others, suffocated me so that I could not recognize the Truth and "breathe it in its unadulterated purity."