June 4, 2007

Catholic Conversion, Part I

When I was about 11 years old, I decided I wanted to be a nun. This wouldn't be unusual if I had been raised Catholic, but I was raised United Methodist. There isn't a specific event I can point to that preceded my desire to be a nun. Today I believe it was an actual calling from God. I spent hours in prayer in my bedroom. I had a ceramic figurine my deceased paternal grandmother had made for me and I used it as an icon during my prayers. (Since my conversion, I've learned that my grandmother was born and raised Catholic and joined the United Methodist Church sometime after her first child took his first Communion.) My calling was so great, I told my mother about it. She didn't have any idea about what to do, so we had a meeting with my school guidance councilor. He put me in touch with an ex-nun who taught math at my school. I don't remember much of what she told me, except that there would be plenty of time for me to decide to be a nun and I should wait and see what happens. I can still remember the day, in tears, that I prayed to God and let him know I wasn't going to be able to be a nun after all. I asked His forgiveness and that was the end of that.

After middle school, I decided I wanted to attend our local private Catholic high school. I had friends who were going there and the public school I would have attended was going through race riots that scared me. So, now I had my exposure to actual nuns, but no calling. I liked the nuns, except I was learning a lot about the Catholic church I didn't like. I thought it was crazy to think the host became the body of Christ, when it was obvious to anyone, it didn't. I also heard a story about a couple who wanted to be married in the church and were told they couldn't, because he was in a wheel chair and the marriage could never be consummated. They were faithful Catholics, so they wouldn't live together without being married. I thought how terrible a church to have stupid rules that would keep this loving couple apart. Based on these two reasons, I not only decided that the Catholic church wasn't for me, but that I was in fact an atheist.

Now of course, being a teenager full of contradiction, I had some wonderful encounters with the Catholic faith. I was drawn to mass and able to attend, actually required to attend, at school. I was told by a priest that if I felt called to receive communion, I should even though I wasn't Catholic, (bless that man). I was allowed to go to confession even though I wasn't Catholic and enjoyed the experience. We had a chapel at our school and I spent some of my free time there in prayer. Many of the friends I made were Catholic. This set the stage for attending more masses with them when we weren't in school, which I did. I also met the Catholic man I would marry after graduating college.

After I graduated college, I moved home and became active in the United Methodist church of my youth. When it came time to get married ...


Jennifer F. said...

That is so interesting that you felt called to be a nun even though you weren't Catholic!! Can't wait to read Part II.

Irenaeus said...

I am also eagerly awaiting part II.