Friday, September 12, 2014

// C O N V E R S I O N p t 1 //

Some revelations are instant, like lightning striking the heart, changing it forever. 

That's not the story of my conversion. 

My conversion has been more of a gradual transformation, over a long period of time. Picture weaving a tapestry, or chiseling something out of stone. Well, that's me.  And I'm pretty sure I'm not finished yet. 

I have been wanting to share this story for a while but have been hesitant because I know many of my non-Catholic family and friends follow along here and I don't want any of them to think that my Christian life pre-Catholicism didn't count for anything. It did. I would not be the Christian, and person, that I am today if it wasn't for the faith I received first from my parents. They taught me to know and love Jesus and that gift is the greatest heritage I could ever ask for. I've also been blessed with amazing friends and mentors who have influenced and shaped my faith during my most formative years. At an age when many people decide that the Christian life is not for them, my faith was alive and thriving because of these individuals. And they are still helping me grow today.

 I used to hate it when people would talk about my "conversion", or call me a "convert" to Catholicism. To me that word nullified my life as a Christian up to that point, which, as I mentioned before, was an incredibly important part of my life. A more accurate description of what happened to me is that I was "fully received" into the Catholic Church. Technically a convert would be someone who had no Christian background at all. But it's quick and easy to say and all the evangelicals-turned-catholic that I know call themselves converts. It's just what we do. 

Actually, conversion is something that should be ongoing, for the person who is new to the catholic faith as well as the 80 year-old cradle catholic. We all turn our backs on God in small ways every day, hardhearted and stubborn souls that we are. Each day we need to come back to the Savior and say "here am I, Lord, take all of me...once again.


If you'd asked me in middle school, or high school, or even my first couple years of college, if I thought I would end up becoming Catholic, I would have said never.Catholics were people who worshiped Mary and didn't read the bible and blindly did everything the Pope told them to do. Did they even know Jesus at all? 

As anti-catholic as I was, however, there were a few very catholic things that always fascinated me and drew me in: nuns, kneeling, and beautiful churches. 

Nuns: You see one walking down the street. They're plain, no make up, hair tucked in a wimple, big, black, billowy habit banishing any suggestion of a figure. But still, you can't take your eyes off them. They seem to radiate some beauty and power that's, oh I don't know, unearthly. As long as I can remember, I have always been in awe of nuns. 

As I became older my fascination with nuns lead me to deeper pondering. Who are these women who choose poverty and celibacy over "real life"? Never getting married? It sounded crazy to me. But in a small corner of my mind their life style seemed appealing. To not worry about keeping up with the latest trends, no staring at your closet trying to decide what to wear each day. Bad hair day? Doesn't matter! Your hair won't show! Not worrying about guys noticing you, or not noticing you. Instead, being concerned with holiness and service and Jesus. Only. What a satisfying life. 

I'm sure I'm romanticizing the religious life, a little bit like Anne Shirley. "Wouldn't it be romantic to be the bride of heaven?" I am sure the religious life has it's own difficulties and stresses. But in our world, it seems so simplified. 

Then I went to India. Twice. My love for that country and the people I met there gave me a special bond to the now blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who spent her life pouring herself out to the very poorest of the poor. Everyone who has seen images of her cannot deny that she was love in action, lifting the dying out of the gutters and rescuing abandoned babies. She saw Jesus in everyone that she encountered, and brought Jesus to everyone that she helped. 


I wanted to be like her. 

And she was Catholic. 

 Kneeling: it's a posture that has always felt very right to assume. The Lutheran church I grew up in had kneelers. I was young enough when they were removed that I can hardly remember them. But they had been there.

When I was a child my mom would make us kneel when we had family prayer time. When I became older I chose to do some of my own praying on my knees, in the privacy of my bedroom. But seldom did I kneel in public. And never did my entire church all kneel together before The Lord. The services at my church and on my Christian college campus were usually times of joyful, exuberant, high energy worship, and it was good to praise God that way, but my soul always craved the quieter moments, to kneel, or even be face down before the Lord. 

The older I got the greater my desire for quiet reverence became. To the point that I stopped going to the chapel services at my college. The blaring music, worship leaders with celebrity status, lights and staging that rivaled a U2 concert- I couldn't handle the hype anymore.  Instead of a pastor, we had a speaker, instead of sanctuary, an auditorium, instead of an alter, a stage.  What was going on? Church seemed to be following pop culture, trying so hard to make Jesus relevant and attractive to a modern generation. When, shouldn't it be the other way around?  Should't our lives be changing to mirror His?

I don't mean to criticize the modern church in America.  Sometimes, this model of a worship service brings people in the door, people meet Jesus, and lives are changed. But to me, it was becoming entertainment, and I didn't need entertaining.


Beautiful Churches: I know that there are many very pretty protestant churches out there, but I think that we can all agree that when it comes to beautiful churches, Catholics brought their A game. The Cathedral of Notre Dame, St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, even our own Cathedral here in St. Paul - they are famous tourist attractions, world landmarks, architectural wonders; and they are all Catholic places of worship. Every single day of the year masses are offered in those spaces. 

I have always loved being in these beautiful Catholic churches. Everything about the way they are built draws you in and lifts your eyes to heaven and your heart can't help but overflow in prayer. You can't help but ponder the greatness of God. If you ever feel like you are starting to think too much of yourself, go sit in the Cathedral for a while, God will feel appropriately great and you will feel appropriately small. 

Sacred Heart Basilica- Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral- Paris

St. Peter's Basilica- Rome
I had a couple trips to Europe during my college years and throughout all the sight seeing the Catholic churches always stood out as my favorite places. What I didn't know all those times I went into those Catholic churches was that yes, the height of the dome was awe-inspiring and the stained glass beautiful and the quiet calmness perfect for prayer, but on top of that - Jesus was there! Right there, in the tabernacle, every single time. And though I didn't know it then, He was drawing me......







1 comment:

  1. What beUtiful three points! Glad you've found your home, sister.

    ReplyDelete

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