In my previous posts (1, 2, and 3), I talk about why I became interested in the first place in exploring Catholicism. While it was something that I initially felt compelled to explore, becoming Catholic was not something I wanted. Catholicism was a subject that scared me. It was something that had been regarded with suspicion by people close to me. It was something that I was sure that, were I to become a part of it, would lead me away from God and the Gospel.
I went to mass very guarded at first. I actually think one of the reasons I was so determined to go, and go regularly, was that it meant I would more quickly be able to catch something I didn’t agree with and be able to stop going. I would be able to say, with a clear conscience, that I had given the Catholic Church a fair chance but would not morally be able to convert. Eager to discover the erroneous ways of the Catholics, I paid careful attention to everything in mass (at least as close as I could-everything was in Spanish, obviously)-every Scripture reference used, every sermon preached, every word of every prayer prayed. I expected to catch something that I didn’t agree with-saint worship, verses being taking out of context in order to damn non-Catholics to hell, something.
After a few months of going to mass almost every Sunday and feeling oddly at peace with what I was hearing and seeing, I began to read the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” on the Vatican’s website, in English. Now, with no way for me to misunderstand or miss anything because of the language barrier, I was sure this would be where I would find something that would morally prevent me from becoming Catholic. I carefully studied their views on salvation and grace, looking for where the Catholic Church admitted that man earns their salvation. I never found it. I read about the Sacrament of Baptism, but was surprised when I admitted to myself that infant baptism might not necessarily be wrong. I consulted the section on the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, and was shocked when the sub-section of “Interior Penance” began with this sentence: “Jesus’ call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, ‘sackcloth and ashes,’ fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion.” I was shocked because I completely agreed.
And so, that’s how it has gone. I’ve gone to mass, I’ve read books by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, I’ve continued to pay close attention to the prayers and sermons, I’ve looked in the Bible, and I’ve started, and as of next Tuesday will have finished, my Catechism course at my church. I’ve done it all, still somewhat guarded, but now finally admitting that I never found what I was looking for: the thing that would stop me from being Catholic. On the contrary, I’ve found out more about Mary, the saints, the Catholic view of salvation, and the purpose of communion and confession, and how those things should always push us toward Jesus. I’ve also had the “Hail Mary” prayer stuck in my head for a few days now and it is just so theologically rich and beautiful that I can’t help repeating it! And I’m more surprised than anyone to be admitting that.
As my journey to becoming Catholic comes to end, I remember that it hasn’t been without its challenges. I haven’t expected for everyone to agree with my choice, but the criticism and even open hostility that I’ve encountered from Protestants about my decision to “convert” has been off-putting (especially from people who have no idea about my story). I realize that I must be hurting my family because, in a way, I am choosing to reject some of the things I have been taught since I was a child. I’ve politely tried to correct the Mexican girls who have told me how “romantic” and “sweet” it is for me wanting to “convert to my husband’s religion,” but usually give up because I don’t know how to explain it without launching into the whole story.
But there is something that has kept nudging me forward, and that has undeniably been God. He’s reminded me of one comment my dad made when I was a little girl, about one of his friends, who, although he was Catholic, had a vibrant and real relationship with Jesus. I have never forgotten that comment, and never forgotten the name of my dad’s friend, Kerry Joe Brockman, even though I never met him and I don’t think my dad has seen him for years. Little did I know how comforting it would be to me now to know that my dad has always seen beyond denominational boundaries.
He’s reminded me of the Baptist hymns that we used to sing during the altar call at Great Hills Baptist Church. I went years without listening to those hymns, but “Just As I Am” and “Softly and Tenderly” have popped into my head over the past few months more times than I count. I think God’s trying to tell me that, even as I’m on the cusp of becoming Catholic, it will always be okay for me to listen to the Baptist hymns because not only are they beautiful, but Great Hills was the church where I first heard the name of Jesus and where I decided to give Him my life. And I should always be grateful for my Baptist heritage because of it.
Most of all, God has reminded me of Himself. If my sole purpose in moving to Mexico and going through Catechism and becoming Catholic was to realize how great and wonderful and vast His love is, and if I’m able to share His love with the world a little better because of it, then it will all have been worth it. I didn’t want to become Catholic, and I still don’t. This journey has made me want to be more like Christ.