Of course conversion is an ongoing affair and today I am still converting. I am still learning and growing and turning my heart toward God on a daily basis. But how I got from Nothing to embracing the Catholic Church as my home is yet another angle on the mysterious ways that God works in our life. It wasn’t sudden. In fact, I kind of oozed my way toward the Church, over about ten years…
I married quite young to my “high school sweetheart.” He was both unstable and abusive. I thought I could help him. I thought marrying him was a way out of the guilt that was on my heart from the disturbing nature of the relationship. Had God been a part, had grace been asked for, had I been well-formed or well-prepared, perhaps I could have helped. But when I found out I was expecting my first child, I prepared to leave.
I knew I could not bring a child into that situation. The knowledge of carrying a child shook me, altered me, brought me to a sense of responsibility I had not previously known. My child, not yet born, became my path to God. All the scales fell away. He had to take me outside myself.
The first thought that struck me, the very first, when I found out I was expecting a child was “There must be a God.”
Babies are powerful.
My daughter was born, and when she was about two, I met up with an old school friend who was to become my husband. He was Catholic. For the past couple of years, I had been asking around about God. Obtusely. Although I believed there had to be a God, I didn’t really look too hard. I just felt comforted that He was there. I felt thankful but not particularly inclined to find out if He had any expectations of me.
When I met Sparky, I thought he might be able to tell me about God. After all, he was Catholic. So early in our relationship, I pried him about God. He was reticent to share his faith, being a Catholic of Very Little Formation. He just didn’t know.
Sharing our minimal understanding on God was a starting point, though. We set out on the journey by sharing what we thought. By wondering together.
Sparky was an Easter and Christmas Catholic. He took me to my first Mass on Christmas Eve. I have such a distinct memory of that night. My desire for religion, for being a believer, for belonging to something—Someone—catalyzed that night. There we were, crowds of people on a cold winter night, pressed shoulder to shoulder. Rejoicing, singing, praising. I did not know what. I knew, however, that I wanted whatever it was these people had.
I looked up at the crucifix in the sanctuary. I saw Jesus, hanging on a cross. “Who are You?” I wondered. “And how can I know You?” There began my desire to know what it meant to be a Christian. We got engaged shortly after and I started RCIA with Sparky as my sponsor.
We got married wanting to have a lot of kids, but not really defining what that meant, exactly, and certainly having no concept of what the Church taught about human sexuality (RCIA teachers weren’t going to touch that one). We just knew we loved kids and wanted some. I had a bent towards homeschooling, and this turned out to be a huge channel of grace for us. The homeschooling families we met were solidly Christian families. Though we had been to RCIA, I had become Catholic with no real idea of what it meant to live as a Christian.
Hanging out with committed Christians, we started to get a picture of life as a Christian family—morality, prayer, faith, discernment. At some point it was clear to us that many of these families didn’t think Catholics were Christians at all. They knew us and thought we were an anomaly. We had another baby, our “conversion baby.” While I was pregnant, we discovered what the Church taught about the sanctity of marriage and the procreative and unitive aspect of conjugal love.
So now it was time to choose. If this is what the Catholic Church teaches, are we going to be Catholic? One thing was for sure: if we were going to be Catholic, we were all in. Church teaching on sexuality made so much sense to me. I could have converted on that alone.
Sparky had to research and understand to the best of his ability the authority of the Church. He could have faith in all the Church taught if he believed the Church received its authority through Christ. He was on fire. I was good with it all, but certainly wasn’t fired up. Just accepting. I was on another mission: to promote breastfeeding, natural mothering and attachment parenting. And I was good at it. I was so excited about it, my enthusiasm was contagious.
One day Sparky said to me, “If you were as fired up about your faith as you are about breastfeeding, you would be a force to be reckoned with.” It stung me to the core, but I knew he was right. My conversion, to be fully moving toward God, needed to be well ordered. The oozing toward God continued. And does today. The desire for holiness grows steadily in me. Virtue seems to grow more slowly than said desire.
That’s the nutshell of my conversion story… stay tuned, I’m sure there’s more to come.
Practicing Mammal is a blogger whom I also know in real life. She and Sparky lead a Catholic Family Group at a local church and are active in the Catholic Homeschooling community on the Island. They have seven children. She blogs about her faith, motherhood, children, and homeschooling and always makes me laugh.