In late October, after a lifetime of being agnostic but intermittently dabbling in various cults (Scientology) and religions including Buddhism and fundamentalist Christianity (Southern Baptist), I made the decision to become a Roman Catholic. If you’re interested in the reasoning behind my decision and the evolution of that decision, read the articles under “My Spiritual Journey” under “My Story” in the header (scroll to the bottom to find those articles), especially this one and this one.
My decision to follow Jesus Christ was quite strange and unexpected (it started as a sort of bet with God), and the two articles describe how that process worked. I was literally an agnostic on October 19th and made the decision to become Catholic on October 25th.
I’ve been attending Mass almost every Sunday (I did sleep in a few Sundays, lol) and always get something valuable out of them (besides finding the Mass very beautiful and appealing to me on an aesthetic level–I love the ritual), But still I struggled with doubts about the Church and Christianity in general, although I believed enough to accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior.
In last night’s RCIA class (which are very informal and it’s a small group), we talked about the role of Mary in the Church and the importance put on her. I already knew Mary is not worshipped and is not thought of as divine like God or Jesus, but she acts as an intercessor and is venerated–which means you can ask her to pray for you on the behalf of God. The saints serve the same role.
We talked about the qualities Mary had (and many of the saints had or have) that make her special to God. I won’t get into the idea of her being conceived without original sin because that gets into the dogma and many of you do not believe this (and I admit I have doubts myself). But I will say that Mary in particular had qualities that are not valued in today’s narcissistic world. Mary was the opposite of a narcissist–she was humble, obedient to God, compassionate, merciful, and very maternal, and yet she was very, very strong and her love of God and her Son knew no limits. Personally I think she was an empath. She appeals to me because she’s the mother we all should have had. No matter how old we are, we never lose our need for a loving, compassionate, merciful mother. Mary can be the mother I never had.
“La Vierge au lys” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau – PaintingHere.com. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_Vierge_au_lys.jpg#/media/File:La_Vierge_au_lys.jpg
It was the most enlightening and interesting RCIA class we’ve had yet.
New conversions are done on Easter Saturday (April 4th this year) and the heavy duty preparation for new members takes plan during Lent (which began on Ash Wednesday at the end of February). I chose a sponsor (Godparent) about a month ago, a lovely woman named Rachel. Last Saturday we went to a Mass at another church where the catechumens (people converting) were introduced by their sponsors and blessed by the Bishop of the Charlotte Diocese. Afterwards there was a brunch across the street where I got to talk to the Bishop, who hugged me.
But I still didn’t feel as excited about it as I felt I should. I still had doubts (and still do) but there are some doctrines I want to believe so much that I’m willing to suspend my disbelief and take into account that some things that happen may not have a scientific explanation–or do have one that we cannot explain with the scientific knowledge we currently have. I was surprised to find the Catholic church so friendly to science (including divinely inspired evolution, which I believe in anyway) but it really shouldn’t be too surprising, because so many of our most renowned scientists were in the Catholic clergy or just very devout Catholics.
One of the “mysteries” I’m willing to suspend disbelief on is transubstantiation (the idea that the host and wine during communion actually transform into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and are not just symbolic. This is in the Bible so in no way goes against Biblical teaching, but Protestantism changed this idea into one where the host is merely a symbol or remembrance, not the actual body of Christ.
I absolutely love the idea of something as unique and miraculous as taking the actual body of Christ into myself (taking him into my soul), so I’m willing to suspend disbelief and in time I may actually believe this is what happens.
Today I had an appointment with Father C. about my first Penance (confession). Rather than being a dark and punitive thing and something to dread, it brings relief. It seems to work almost like Step 4 of a 12 Step Program, where the idea of “confessing” your sins (wrongdoings) to a priest takes the burden of guilt off of you, and you are absolved and forgiven. Then you are told what you need to do, usually reciting some Our Fathers or Hail Marys. I don’t have any problem with that, and being the kind of person I am who struggles with guilt constantly, I think this will be very helpful.
My first Penance (one of the seven Sacraments) will take place on Monday night. Over the weekend, Father C. wants me to make a list of what I think of as my sins, and try to put them in some kind of order. I don’t have to list every sin I ever committed, because I’d be confessing until the day I die, but just the ones I think are important or feel the worst about. I will be praying for guidance this week because I want my list to contain the sins that matter the most to God, not necessarily just in my own mind.
On Holy Thursday (one week from today), I’m attending a foot washing service, where my sponsor and the priest will each wash my feet, symbolizing how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. I feel strongly that this will be an extremely moving and very spiritual moment for me. It’s a loving act, but the recipient must be willing to become both humble and vulnerable to fully understand the meaning of Jesus’ act.
Jesus spoke to his disciples of the meaning of foot washing in John 13: 1-15:
1 And before the feast of the passover, Jesus knowing that His hour hath come, that He may remove out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own who are in the world—to the end He loved them. 2 And supper being come, the devil already having put it into the heart of Judas of Simon, Iscariot, that he may deliver Him up, 3 Jesus, knowing that all things the Father hath given to Him—into His hands—and that from God He came forth, and unto God He goeth, 4 doth rise from the supper, and doth lay down his garments, and having taken a towel, he girded himself; 5 afterward he putteth water into the basin, and began to wash the feet of his disciples, and to wipe with the towel with which he was being girded. 6 He cometh, therefore, unto Simon Peter, and that one saith to him, “Sir, thou—dost Thou wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “That which I do thou hast not known now, but thou shalt know after these things;” 8 Peter saith to him, “Thou mayest not wash my feet—to the age.” Jesus answered him, “If I may not wash thee, thou hast no part with me.” 9 Simon Peter saith to him, “Sir, not my feet only, but also the hands and the head.” 10 Jesus saith to him, “He who hath been bathed hath no need, save to wash his feet, for he is clean altogether; and ye are clean, but not all;” 11 for He knew him who is delivering him up; because of this He said, “Ye are not all clean.” 12 When, therefore, He washed their feet, and took His garments, having reclined at meat again, He said to them, “Do ye know what I have done to you? 13 Ye call me, ‘The Teacher’ and ‘The Lord’, and ye say well, for I am; 14 if then I did wash your feet—the Lord and the Teacher—ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given thee an example, that ye should do as I have done to ye. Verily, verily, I say unto ye, the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”
I’m meeting with Father one more time after that to talk about the Big Event, which will take place on Saturday night, the day before Easter (that’s when the big Easter mass where the new converts are welcomed into the Church takes place. In the Catholic church, Easter is a much bigger deal than Christmas).
On Saturday morning of the big day, I attend a rehearsal with my sponsor. That night, at 8 PM the Mass takes place. My daughter is the only family member I have attending, but that’s okay. At that time I’ll receive the Sacraments of Communion (no, I do not have to wear a lacy white dress or a veil like little Catholic girls do) and then Confirmation. I have chosen Catherine as my confirmation name — Saint Catherine of Siena was a strong faithful woman of God, and she is the patron saint of writers. I love the strength of the name. I didn’t have to think about this one too much. It just came to me as being perfect.
I don’t have to be re-baptized. My Methodist baptism is considered acceptable (which surprised me). Any Baptism using water and the sign of the cross is sanctioned as acceptable in the Roman Catholic church.
I’m a little nervous of course, but after my meeting tonight, I’m finally realizing how close I am to this happening and just how big this is for me, and finally feeling excited about it. I’m not without my doubts, but am willing to take that big leap of faith and I can’t wait.
If you’re interested in reading other stories of people who decided to convert (or return to) Catholicism, WhyImCatholic.com is is a great website and a lot of fun to read, too.