If you would have told me in the spring of 2014 that I was about to be ripped from the Lutheran church that I loved to begin a journey to the Catholic church, I would have said you were crazy.
After spending 40 years of my life in my own personal wilderness, I converted to Catholicism on April 4th of 2015. My conversion was abrupt and life altering. I use the words life altering because my conversion not only changed my life, but it literally altered the course of my life.
I was raised Lutheran. We attended church every Sunday morning. I received my Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation in the Lutheran church. My mother struggled with my brother and I through the High School years, but we were required to go and I truly believe this planted seeds in my heart that would linger through my college years and would eventually pull me back to worship when I had my own family.
I was married in the Lutheran church to a wonderful Lutheran man. We attended church regularly and after having children decided to raise them in the Lutheran faith. We became very involved with our church community. I was head of Vacation Bible School, taught Sunday school for many years, volunteered wherever I was needed and our kids were involved in every youth event. My husband was the President of church council and an active volunteer in many ministries throughout the church. The Lutheran church community was our family. We loved our church, the pastors, the community, and the youth. We looked forward to going because we felt so comfortable there. Our kids quite literally grew up in that church. Never in a million years did I expect what was about to happen.
In January of 2014, I was feeling spiritually disconnected. My heart felt this need to go deeper in my faith. I attended a non-denominational “spiritual healing” event with a friend later that month. It was wonderful spending the weekend with a friend allowing the Holy Spirit to help me identify areas in my life that needed healing. The weekend allowed me to recognize the holes in my heart from all of the lies I had believed about myself for many years. Searching for ways to heal the holes is what started a journey that would alter my life and my families lives forever.
I returned to my Lutheran church after the retreat looking for ways to deepen my faith and to get to work healing all of those holes. My entire life I have tried to fill those holes with new friends, a bigger house, nicer cars, new clothes, and many other “worldly” things. I spent countless hours asking God for forgiveness from my many sins, only to find that those sins would continue to haunt me. Bringing my sins to Jesus for forgiveness by going directly to God wasn’t enough for me. My soul was still holding onto pain, regret, feelings of unworthiness, and shame. I couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried, give myself completely to Jesus.
Late one Friday evening in April of 2014, I was talking to a customer of mine on the phone. The conversation led to a discussion about our faith backgrounds. She was raised Catholic, but had experienced a major reversion of her faith and was now on fire for our Lord. I told her that I had been feeling disconnected for the past few months and really wanted to dig deep in my faith. She invited me to attend a bible study that started the following Monday at her church, St. Joan of Arc. I was unsure as I suspected I would be the only non-Catholic attending. She assured me I was welcome to come and let me know that it was only a five week study and childcare was being offered. Ah, hello…this stay-at-home mom heard “childcare” and decided to take the leap and attend. By the way, did I mention that I had no idea what the topic of study was? I just needed a break from my kids to be with Jesus.
I arrived that Monday morning anxious to dig in, and it was then that I learned we would be doing “33 Days to Morning Glory” by Father Michael Gaitley. What?!?! It was a Marian consecration study. It was at that moment that I decided I may have to figure a way out of this commitment. Protestants don’t worship Mary. Protestants don’t pray to anyone but God. Protestants only talk about Mary at Christmas when she is riding on a donkey to Bethlehem and holding baby Jesus in the manger.
I’m not going to lie and say the five weeks were wonderful and spirit filled. Week after week I kept telling myself that I wasn’t coming back; this would be my last week. But something kept prompting me to continue. It was during the fourth week that I had an epiphany; “If I talk to my grandfather in heaven, why wouldn’t I talk to Mary, the mother of our Lord?”. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Catholics don’t worship Mary. They see her as their spiritual mother. The one who will bind your wounds, who will wrap her arms around you when you feel alone in this world, who will comfort you like only a mother knows how, and will take your requests to the Father, all dressed up with a pretty little bow in the hopes He will look to His mother and say “YES”. That night, I awoke in the middle of the night and instead of allowing my mind to wander and get tied up with worry, I asked Mary, my mother, to settle my mind and tuck me back into bed so I could fall asleep. You want to know what happened? It worked!!
The following Monday was the fifth and final week of the study. Our group watched the video presentation and then during the question and answer part of the study instead of focusing on our study guide questions, the topic of Lutheranism vs. Catholicism was discussed. I fought all of those Catholics tooth and nail about why they were “wrong” and I was “right”. You see, even though I had accepted using Mary as an intercessor, I still took issue with many other misconceptions of the Catholic faith.
At the end of our fifth and final session, a woman by the name of Alma, who radiates Christ in a way that few others in this world have the ability to, challenged me to read the book Rome Sweet Home by Scott Hahn. My family was heading to Myrtle Beach that weekend and I needed something to read, so I downloaded the book to my kindle and off we went. Little did I know that I would finish the book before we even arrived at our destination and upon finishing the book, my heart longed for Jesus. My heart longed to become Catholic; a secret I would keep even from my husband for weeks to come.
How could I possibly become Catholic when I was raised by a father who used the words “Damn Catholics” every time we got stopped by the policeman directing traffic when Mass was letting out. How could I possibly become Catholic when I was raised in a church that taught us that Catholics worship Mary, the Pope is fallible, there were only two sacraments instituted by Christ, Reconciliation is wrong because you only need to go directly to God for the forgiveness of sin, the protestant bible with seven fewer books is correct, and the Catholic church is anti-women because they only allow men to be ordained priests? (That’s right, I believed ALL of the misconceptions) These questions would be answered over the course of many months that included great suffering and in the end great joy.
Upon returning home from vacation, I longed to go to Mass. That following Sunday, I attended 7:30am Mass, alone. When I walked through the doors of the church, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace wash over me. It was a sense of peace, comfort, love and warmth. It was at that moment when I realized I was home. For the first time in my life, I went looking for Jesus. I wasn’t looking for a sermon that would make me feel good or people who were hospitable. I went looking for Jesus and He found me and brought me home. Have you ever heard the expression “Home is where the Heart is”? I found Jesus’ heart; body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist. I get to receive Him into my body every week. In the Eucharist, God’s most precious gift, He gives me strength, courage, mercy, and love.
As I mentioned, my conversion story is full of suffering, deep hurt, sadness and in the end great joy. I look forward to sharing bits and pieces in my posts. I believe I was meant to share these stories and others that God puts on my heart. It is during these times of suffering that He Carries Me and he continues to carry me throughout my journey. May the words he provides allow you to deepen your relationship with Him and allow Him to carry you along life’s journey. Come Holy Spirit.