It has been roughly four years since I became Catholic. As I ponder that point, it does not seem that long to me… sometimes, I still almost call myself a “new convert” and realize that perhaps this is not the most accurate term to describe me. In any case, I have decided that “it’s time” to write my conversion story. It seems almost funny to do this 4 years after the fact, and I have written one before, but these years have given me further perspective that I didn’t have at the time. Maybe now I can tell my conversion story more completely.. Of course, it’s impossible to capture everything, and I can’t say every detail. But I wanted to do this to thank God for everything He has done. I dedicate this to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for God’s glory.
I grew up non religious, yet it seems to me like God used all the moments I heard about Him as a child. I remember my mom teaching me the Our Father, or giving me a children’s book of stories about Jesus, or my dad trying to paint Our Lord at Easter. I even had a dream about Our Lord as a child in Jerusalem. These instances affected my imagination and I had some sort of secret “link” to Christianity that I kept in my heart… I remember one particular time, when Jesus was mentioned, I would become thoughtful, retreat, almost like someone had uttered a secret and trespassed into something that was too personal for discussion. I’m not sure if I’m remembering correctly, but this comes to mind.
I still consider that even at an early age, I was introduced to Christ, without knowing much of who He is. Then, there were some encounters with Christian doctrines that I did not understand. In middle school, I was given a Bible – one of those Gideon Bibles with a red cover. As I read the Bible, I came across the concept of hell. This was a relatively new concept, and it was scary. I began fearing going to hell, as I thought of various things I did that I was ashamed of. I would stay awake at nights, worrying and feeling a sense of anguish, and feeling trapped – I did not understand much about forgiveness. However, I felt my conscience ‘awake’.
I decided also to pray every day to God. However, my prayers were mechanical – said only to “get it done”, with a hope that if I do this, perhaps God would not give up on me. Eventually, I stopped praying. However, God did not give up on me or stop working in my life. I see now how He used everything to bring me to Him. During those years in middle school, I had some struggles. I forget when exactly this occurred, but there was something that helped me to come to God on a more personal level. My mom had given me a book by an evangelical author with little reflections for every day. I don’t think she knew that it was about Christ – it was the type of book picked up in a card shop. As I read little quotes from it, there was one that touched me very deeply. It was one phrase in it – written as if God is speaking, saying “I love you dearly” – that caused me to cry every time I read it. I needed this and did not know it… when things were at their worst, I would read it, or even just remember it, and this concept – that God loves ME – was so new, so moving.
However, this was not the only influence in my life. Through the influence of some tv shows and other things, I began to feel an interest in various other religions and new age practices. I remember that I also believed in reincarnation at a point in my life. At this earlier time, I was specifically drawn to some form of Druidism and researched it on the internet. I even hoped to join – but somehow, I did not. I still believed in God, though I did not think of Him very much. At the time, my family began moving towards Christianity and baptism. My dad had decided to be Baptized, and I was excited for him, though I didn’t know much.
At one point, I came to the Eastern Orthodox church. I remember it being completely different from anything I had seen ever… all the gold, incense, candles, – it was very beautiful, like being in another world, or rather having a glimpse into something still remote and full of mystery. I was told by my dad that if I light a candle and say a prayer, God would answer it. I lit a candle and said a prayer… Probably my first ‘real prayer’. In my child’s heart, I believed the statement and had confidence in my prayer being answered. Though it was something rather important and unlikely, God did answer it soon after! Later, my mom and I were baptized together in the same church.
We had received instruction from the priest, however I did not understand everything. I was looking through my old diary a while ago, and found a journal entry about my baptism… I had written, that when I would be baptized, there would not be any danger of me going to hell. While it’s true that a person would go to Heaven if they died after Baptism, if they commit any mortal sins since then, then they’ve left God and need to confess their sins. I still remember my Baptism.. my mom and I wore white robes and were fully immersed in the water, as is the practice in the East. It was beautiful and after my Baptism, I don’t remember having an interest in the non-Christian religion any more, though I erred in many ways after a while.
At one point when I entered high school, I had joined the choir, but only came once or twice to practice. I only joined because I was interested in singing professionally. I was very ambitious and had many career plans. However, I did not think much about God. In high school, I became immersed in whatever was popular for girls that age – makeup, worries about what your peers thought, hopes for popularity (in my case, hopes that were completely dashed – much to my distress, as I was shy and never popular).
In the last years of high school, I took a course on Philosophy. I was a kind of a relativist in a way.. I looked down on Christians as being too simple, and didn’t believe that Christianity is the whole truth. I had some ideas that were true, but also this pride, and I wanted to exalt myself above others. I prided myself on the grades I received in Philosophy, the books I read, my essays, etc, – I also tried to support God’s existence, and sometimes argued for Christianity, but I downplayed it being the complete truth. God for me was more philosophical than personal…to me, He was an interesting idea, rather than a person who loved me. I talked about Him much, but not so much to Him.
~To be continued