Michelle Shares “Why I Decided to Become Catholic”

by Steve Ray on June 3, 2017

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Michelle shared her conversion story on her website which I share with you here. Welcome home Michelle!

I was raised in a generically protestant home.  Up until my father died when I was eight, we went to church twice every Sunday, we prayed before meals, my three siblings and I were involved in the children’s and teen’s groups.  We were taught what sorts of things to look for in a church. We were taught what churches we ought to avoid.  On this list was the Catholic Church.  

I never questioned this much when I was younger.  I accepted that faith and your bible and the Lord’s infinite mercy were going to get you into heaven.  I believed that a good church could definitely help, but weren’t necessarily necessary.  After my dad died my family quit going to church.  Mom had a falling out with some of the people at the church we had been attending, and we never found a church everyone liked.  To be honest, as a child, I preferred staying home on Sundays and getting to sleep in to having to wear dress clothes and sit in church for an hour.  I suspect mom just got tired of fighting with her four kids.

When I was getting ready to move to college, I remember having a heart to heart talk with my mom.  I knew I wanted to find a church.  I wanted to take a more active role in my spiritual life, and felt that I needed guidance.  I asked mom for advice about what to look for in a church.  She gave me a set of guidelines to follow.  Avoid churches where they speak in tongues.  When you go to a new church, be cautious at first.  Pay attention to your gut feeling.  If something feels off, leave.  Don’t go to a Catholic church, don’t go to a mormon church, and stay away from Jehovah’s witnesses.  Look for a pastor that uses his bible.  Oh, and the Lutherans are secretly Catholic, so don’t go there either.  Armed with this guidance, I moved away for college.

Before I actually started my first semester, I was given an opportunity to earn six college credits in three weeks.  It was an intense time, but while I was there, I met someone who would become my best friend.  We shared bunk beds at the school’s biological station.  We had a lot in common, both had two brothers and a younger sister, liked similar music, movies, enjoyed watching the Potter Puppet Pals (good times).  We both loved Jesus, but she was Catholic.  I was very concerned for her soul at first, and I had a million questions.  Fortunately, she had a million answers.  We discussed how when Catholics pray to saints, it isn’t like when we pray to Jesus.  Rather it’s like asking the saint to ask Jesus for things on your behalf.  Just like asking a friend to pray for you, except if your friend is dead.

We talked about the pope, and how he can’t/doesn’t just make up random things the church has to follow.  We talked about the hierarchy of the church, why it’s important and how it works.  We talked about how Catholics honor Mary as being the mother of God, but don’t worship her. Worship is reserved for God alone.  We talked about why Catholics go to confession instead of just being like “Hey God. I screwed up. Sorry.” in their heads like protestants do.  She told me about how confession can at times be scary, but can also be an incredibly freeing experience.  We talked about priests, why they can’t have families, and how they’re different from a protestant pastor.  She told me about the Eucharist, and how at every mass, the bread and wine become Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity.

For every question I had, she had an answer.  At the same time, she was one of the kindest, smartest, most genuine people I had ever met.  That coupled with her complete certainty led me to question what I had been taught.  I took all the answers I’d been given to all the questions my mom had taught me to ask, and I went back to my mom.  I asked her the questions, and got no answers.  I didn’t just automatically assume my friend was right after that.  I just figured my mom didn’t know.  

I started asking lots of people I trusted about Catholicism.  Any time I got a good counter argument, I would take it back to my friend and she’d explain the Catholic teaching and why the argument was flawed.  When she didn’t know the answer to my questions, she knew where to look, or who to ask.  Without fail, there was always an answer to my misgivings.

One of the first weekends of my first semester of college, my friend talked me into going with her to mass.  I remember being terrified.  As we went in, I took note of every exit and mentally prepared myself to flee in terror if a demon popped up or something.  Once we actually entered the chapel, in spite of myself, I felt a sense of awe.  I could feel on an instinctive level that I was in a holy place.  This didn’t stop me from being scared, but I’ll never forget the way the chapel seemed to quietly demand reverence the first time I walked in.  

Mass itself seemed… kind of boring actually.  Nothing horrible happened.  No one died.  No one accidentally opened a portal to hell unleashing countless horrors to the world.  They just read the bible, prayed a few times, and did communion for like 20 minutes.  For how terrible they had been made out to be, their service wasn’t very impressive.

My friend spent a lot of time at that church, and since I wanted to spend a lot of time with her, so did I.  Over the course of the first year, I slowly stopped being afraid.  I learned a lot about Jesus from my protestant bible study, and I learned a lot about Catholicism from my Catholic friend.  The next year, I even found the courage to go on a retreat my friend invited me to.  I was the only protestant on the retreat that time, and I was still nervous.  On this retreat, I made more friends.  

I really bonded with this group of Catholics in ways I failed to bond at other churches.  I was loved and accepted and it was awesome.  I even signed up to help cook for the next retreat the following year.  The friends I made that weekend supported me more than some of the people I’d been friends with for a whole year.  When I got baptized that semester, there were several people from that group who came to see it while not one person from my protestant bible study could make it.  It was the little things like that that sparked my emotional conversion.

During my junior year of college, my friend traveled abroad for the year to study in Germany.  I thought that year was going to be the end of my involvement with the Catholic Church. I’d go back to my protestant church and make friends there and it would be grand.  Something kept drawing me to the Catholic church though.  I was still resisting the idea of being Catholic.  During this time, I quit going to the church I’d joined.  No one from that church said anything, and frankly, I’m not sure that they noticed.  I knew it wouldn’t be fair to keep going to the Catholic church and not go all in.  I knew I couldn’t serve two masters.  For my own peace of mind, I would either have to stop going to the Catholic church, or become Catholic.  

Stubbornly, I stopped going to the Catholic church.  For about a week.  At that time, I couldn’t stay away anymore.  I missed the people, I missed the quiet sort of divine peace in the chapel.  I missed my friends.  I later found out that around the same time I came back to the church, a friend had dropped by my apartment because he hadn’t seen me around that week and was worried.  It had been about two months since I had walked away from my protestant church. and they hadn’t said a thing.  It felt like a sign from God.

That fall, I began the year long series of classes known as RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). I told myself I was just learning more about the faith.  I wasn’t necessarily going to commit yet.  I remained on the fence for a while longer.  During that time, I signed up to give a talk on the church’s student run retreat.  I remember the theme that semester was “be courageous.”  During this talk, I shared some deeply personal things.  I talked about my father dying, and how devastated I still felt sometimes. I talked about a years long struggle with pornography.  I talked about how scared I was of change because my childhood taught me that every time something changes, things get ten times worse.  

I shared the most intimate details of my life with those people. I don’t really know what I expected, but what I got was a lot of love and support.  They saw my brokenness, and loved me for it.  That was when I knew I was going to become Catholic.  I was afraid my mom might disown me, but intellectually and emotionally I could find no fault with the church.  I was ready to bet my soul that the Catholic church has the most direct path to heaven.

I remember making my first confession.  For like two weeks I read through every examination of conscience I could find.  I made a big list, and brought with me to my appointment with the priest.  The whole thing only took about ten minutes.  It was beautiful.  Before, I just had to take it on faith that my sins were forgiven, here Jesus was telling me through the priest that he forgave all my sins.  All of them.  The whole list. It was awesome.

The following week during the Easter vigil, I was accepted into full communion with the Catholic church.  My family even came.  I forgot to tell them it was going to be two hours long.  It wound up being three and a half hours long. Oops.  It’s been a little over three years since then.  I’ve grown and changed a lot in that time, but I definitely don’t regret my choice.  I’d still bet anything that the Catholic church has the straightest easiest path to heaven.  I’m not the greatest at following that path, but that’s why there’s confession.  Life isn’t magically better now because I’m Catholic, but I’m glad I followed God here.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Edelyn June 4, 2017 at 3:00 AM

Welcome…

God is good :)

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