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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Conversion Story Chapter 1

I didn't have anything controversial to discuss, so I thought I'd just talk about my pre-conversion era. Before one has a true conversion (unless one is St. Therese of Lisieux, or St. Padre Pio, etc.), they must suffer trials and fall away from the true faith.

For you see, my mother is St. Monica (except that her name isn't Monica and she hasn't been canonized...she's still alive, in fact.), and I'm St. Augustine. Except that I'm not a guy, I'm not dead, I'm not a Saint, and my name isn't Augustine, and so by definition I also couldn't carry out all of the acts that he did in his lifetime, but still, you understand what I mean.

In order for you maybe to understand what created me, it is necessary to go back in time.

Mom grew up in a large Catholic farm family--Grandma M. died when she was 5 and Grandpa re-married to Grandma E. and between the adopted siblings, original siblings, and resulting siblings, they numbered 14. Isn't that beautiful?

Anyway, Mom married Dad and they both moved out of their original states. Dad was Lutheran, and so when I was a child, we said, and to this day, say both graces:

"Bless us our Lord, and these your gifts, which we are about to recieve, from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, AMEN!. Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, let these gifts to us be blessed. AMEN!"

Dad sometimes went to church with us on Sundays, and sometimes to his own church. On special occasions, he came with us. We didn't like to go to church with him because if we did, we'd have to go to our own church AGAIN, and goodness knows that children can't contain themselves through too much of the same.

Anyway, parents got divorced over things other than religion although I'm sure religion was a part of it, and we moved back to Minnesota to be with Mom's family. We attended a nearby parish, which through the years and apparently God's call, I became involved in music ministry. (That's a different story so I won't get into it now.)

When we started there, we had Father Peichel. He was Polish, he was holy, and we were home. He was known for his generous and loving spirit and his large hands, which were used on behalf of Jesus himself. Sad to say that Fr. Peichal died of cancer and my heart still aches for his loss.

Anyway, we recieved many priests and not long after were assigned one permanently. He is now a well-known dissenting priest who has "retired" and so may God keep him and convert him. In any case, he introduced dissent; he called the "Eucharistic Ministers" up to the altar to circle around behind him during the consecration and they upheld the hosts they had already been given prior to; he had us "lift up our heads and pray for God's blessing" at the end, declaring we had no need to be ashamed before the Lord; he had us say part of the Eucharistic prayers; "Through Him, with Him, and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit...".

Most of us knew no different than to do this. I was very involved with the beautiful award-winning parish choir (their award were before my time), and I played flute there and grew as a flautist; I got involved in the youth choir which disintegrated and so I morphed into a cantor, sang, and soloed with the adult choir.

I will say that the parish saved my life as due to various trials during my early teenage years I nearly took my own life. A miracle intervened, and although I was not well formed in the faith, God took an interest in me and He prevented my death. (For another post).

I didn't know it, but I was a dissenting Catholic from a dissenting parish, and there I was Confirmed. I wanted to be Confirmed, but I didn't really understand what it was about. It was like "graduation" and they said there was more to learn but they never presented opportunities for us. Naturally, I fell away, and when I went to college, I stopped going to Mass.

I went to a Catholic college in Minnesota. It was a college run by the Christian Brothers, and for those who don't know, they do not wear a cassock or a habit as it has never been a part of their tradition. They dress in street cloths and so I'll admit I was confused by the term "brother, " for I didn't really realize that they had formally given their lives to Christ. There was no outward sign. While I had no problem with the Brothers and I respected all I had met, I put them on par with my professors and gave them no further thought.

I failed to be a practicing Catholic and began to only attend Mass on occasion and on holidays with my family. I never went to Confession, although I ALWAYS went to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Around this time period, I began to cry when I received Communion. It freaked me out so I went to Mass only on holidays and then I was too stressed out to tear up. No one knew my secrets. I was a career-driven woman, and I lived a life of sin. I as not a hellion and I was not a partier...I didn't have time. But I was not the epitome of a Catholic woman.

I went to study in Mexico during the first semester of my Junior year; when I returned, I didn't want to be in the US for my heart had become a missionary heart of sorts and I longed for the place on earth where I had spent the best three months of my life.

Instead, I came back to winter, and people who didn't understand what had happened to me in Mexico and that I was a different person now. Even I didn't realize I was different because of my experience; the culture shock was far worse than I had previously been warned it would be.

Exactly one month after my return to the States, my father, whom I had not seen in nearly 4 years, passed away. The funeral took place on January 6, the day classes were beginning at my college. I returned to school the day after, broken, determined, and fragile in spirit.

One of the classes I had to take was a required class: God and the Human Condition. I actually looked forward to it, hoping, at a Catholic college, to be brought back to my faith. I knew I needed God because I was all alone in my suffering. No one understood me and I could not open up to anyone. Although some people said I could come and talk to them (one of whom was the VP at the College, a wonderful Brother), I could not speak. I needed God.

On the first day of class, the topic was about Genesis and the mythology of the story. There was no "Theology of the Body" involved in this course; it was all about a general itinerary and the prof's opinions.

I did not get what I expected. I did not receive what was needed.

The professor "taught" us that bad things happen to good people because God is not omnipotent. He taught us that God was too busy to deal with everything and couldn't be everywhere at once and it was possible He didn't care. He created us and let us be and helped when He could, but otherwise, we were on our own.

It was actually a test question. I passed the test with flying colors.

In real life, I was distraught. I was shattered. If God didn't care, where could I go? If God wasn't all powerful, what was the point of praying?

I was always on the edge of tears; I was constantly angry and a drive for my career became my idol. I still believed in God, but, to me, His power had been usurped by things beyond His and my control and so I thought I had to rely on myself.

The result was the loss of my faith. A shred of me still believed in God, but I could not follow the faith that would teach such a hopeless doctrine.

It was around this time that God really kicked into action and tried to call me home. I really was searching; my soul was aching for God and although intellectually I rebelled, my soul knew Truth and that I was going the wrong way. On occasion I went to Mass. I remember one in particular, in college, when I attended with two friends. The Communion song was "Here I Am, Lord", and that psalm spoke to me. I had received the Lord although I was not in a state of grace, and once back in the pew, as usual, I could not contain my tears. My friends didn't know what was wrong with me, and neither did I.

(As an aside...yes, I realize it's a theologically terrible song but that didn't change God's ability to use it to get my attention.)

I wandered for years in this state. I was looking for God, and He was holding my hand all along, asking me to listen to Him, not some nut job professor who had to inflict his lack of faith upon others while pretending it was Catholic doctrine. It took me many years to realize that what I was rejecting was really heresy...not God.

Maybe I should end this part of the story here for I have gone on for too long. I know others have been in this place; others have experienced false doctrine while the Lord tried to pull them back or towards Himself.

Believe me; if He can bring me back, He can bring YOU back and I guarantee you; you will find a friend here. No matter where you are on your own path, I want to hear your story. I had to fight my way back to the Truth and I know there are others who have it worse. I know what it's like to feel like no one understands and to feel like no one cares, and I can assure you that no matter who you are, God knows all about it and if you take some time to really listen and be open, you will feel the hand of Jesus holding your own; I realize all the time that in spite of my sin, in spite of my questioning and my dissent, He lead me home and He will lead you home, too, if you let Him.

7 comments:

Ma Beck said...

I cannot wait to read the rest!
Lovely!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like my life. Especially the part about crying after receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. That happened to me for years, even after having gone to confession over and over (with long lists) and converting.It wasn´t until I read something by Father Altier about having to confess for having received Jesus when in a state of mortal sin.It had never occured to me. After I did that, I no longer cried after Communion.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again; your life story could almost be mine. We've certainly shared the same dissenting priest! I, too, went to "Catholic" college and it's a miracle of God that I found my way home.

I'm sure your blog will reach someone else in need as it reached me.

I pray that God will continue to bless you, watch over you and keep you strong!

Know that you are Loved,

Angela Messenger said...

Thanks for sharing Adoro! I love how you wrote about your inner journey as well as the outer one. And you are proof that God is indeed omnipotent!

Adoro Te Devote said...

Thank you for your comments!

I do still occasionally cry at Mass during the consecration or after recieving the Body of Christ, but it's not as frequent. I think now it more often happens when I'm struggling with something and experiencing the love of Christ allows me to release the emotion in a healing manner, rather than unproductively, if that makes sense. I sometimes cry during the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and it's not tears of sadness at all...just tears. There is nothing I can do to stop the flood as it just happens.

I will say this, though; ever since I came into full communion with the Church, I have not spent the entire Mass crying my eyes out, every single time as I did in the past.

God is so good.

RobK said...

I agree with some of the other posts. This is very similar for me in theme, if not details. I suspect it may be common for cradle Catholics. Thanks!

Adoro Te Devote said...

robk,

Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I do think it's common. I've run into several Catholics right around my age, who have gone through similar things. I am involved in the Frassati Society (this is a young adult organization) at my parish and most are in their mid-20's or younger. They seem to be pretty solid in their faith, but I still think many are falling away--the watered-down teaching, combined with our secular relativist culture is a little more than some of them can take. I know that's what sucked me in, in part.