Recently in crossing the tiber Category
We ended up having to leave France after only one year and went back to California. Six months with my grandmother, where I gladly went back into the routine of going to All Saints. Then 6 months in Montgomery Alabama, where once again we didn’t go to church. Then we moved to Massachusetts. By this time I was in the 8th grade. We lived on Hanscomb AFB. My parents still didn’t go to church, but I would pack up my younger brothers and sisters on Sunday morning and walk them to the base Chapel for the Protestant service. Sunday evenings I would go to the Youth Group. I never lost sight of Jesus but this church stuff was getting to be confusing to me. So I embarked on a journey. I was going to find the TRUTH with a capital T. What did God want from us, his people? I did what I usually do when faced with a puzzle – I researched. I went to the library, I talked to people, I tried to learn. It was not an emotional search, I was looking with my brains and with logic.
I never had any doubts that there is a God. And the only God that made any sense to me was the God of the Jewish/Christian tradition. I actually looked very closely at the Jewish tradition – I babysat for a year for an Orthodox Jewish family and I learned a lot about their beliefs and practices. Ask me about that sometime if you are interested. However, I became convinced that the evidence of history and scripture proved that Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, was indeed the Christ, the Messiah, the everlasting son of God. What is interesting is that along the way God sent people into my life who probably didn’t realize just how God would use them to reach me. For example, the Jewish family I babysat taught me about the Maccabees and the meaning of the Hanukkah celebration. I learned that this was not in the Bible that I had been raised reading, so I found a Catholic Bible and read not only the books of the Maccabees but also the books of Judith and the extra sections of the books of Esther and Daniel that had been deleted by the Protestants of the Reformation. A boy I dated in the 9th grade was attending a Jesuit High School, and I made some off-hand anti-Catholic remark (not even realizing just how spiteful I must have sounded). He calmly and gently told me that I needed to know the facts before I could be qualified to have an opinion, and gave me a book to read.
After 2 years in Massachusetts, we moved back to California and ended up in a house less than a mile from the church we had attended all those years ago. But still my parents didn’t want to go to church, and I learned that the parish had gone through many scandals. And by that time I wasn’t so sure that I could still be an Anglican. I was still deep in study. I knew that I was Christian, that I knew Jesus was my savior and that His death on the cross was the means of my salvation. I knew that the Bible was and is the inspired inerrant word of God. I knew that. I wasn’t always living it, but I never doubted that it was true. I hung out for a while with the Jesus Freaks – I hung out with the druggies, I hung out with the jocks and the nerds and every kind of group that existed in my High School. I went to non-denominational church youth groups (great music, boring theology), I went to services at all kinds of churches, I even went to a Hare Krishna event with free food. I dated an Anglican guy whose parents had also quit going to church, then I dated a guy from a Catholic family who invited me to go to Mass with them. By then, the Mass was in English and despite the lousy music and the somewhat irreverent behaviour of the congregation (I mean, I couldn’t believe that so many people came in late and left early! That would never have happened in my Anglican churches), I felt at last like I was home.
So, one day, I found myself knocking on the door of the local rectory. I was 16. I asked the person who answered the door, “What do I have to do to become Catholic?” It was another couple of years before I entered the Catholic church, because my parents would not consent. So I was rec’d into the church on my 18th birthday.
As a convert, I get a real kick out of reading the conversion stories of others. And at this time of the year, there are so many wonderful stories out there.
Owen is a talented artist and a clergy convert. I have sitting in front of me a work of his - right on my desk where I can see is. Rosary Madonna is a limited edition print (I have 7/20) of his acrylic on canvas work) and it is right here where I can contemplate and meditate. And yet to be framed, I have his pen and ink drawing "Here is my soul". Knowing Owen through the internet and the blogosphere had been a wonderful blessing. He created this beautiful icon to welcome those (including himself and his family) who have come home to the church this year.
There are so many! Dawn Eden, whose blog I have been reading almost as long as I have been blogging.
My British blog-buddy UKOK's mom is coming into the church also.
So many wonderful stories, and yet so very much pain. Those of us who have walked this path have come from so many different places to get here, and yet we are all also still on the journey. And even those cradle Catholics who never left the church, the reverts, those of our Christian cousins and brethren with whom we are in imperfect communion - we are all trying to walk the same path with our Saviour - even when that path is the way of the cross.
I never had any doubts that there is a God. And the only God that made any sense to me was the God of the Jewish/Christian tradition. I actually looked very closely at the Jewish tradition – I babysat for a year for an Orthodox Jewish family and I learned a lot about their beliefs and practices. Ask me about that sometime if you are interested. However, I became convinced that the evidence of history and scripture proved that Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, was indeed the Christ, the Messiah, the everlasting son of God. And eventually, I came to believe that this Jesus did indeed intend to found a church and that church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. And here I am. It's been more than 32 years now - a lifetime for some. My biggest regrets were the years that I spent in rebellion as a cafeteria Catholic. Would that I could take them back! But I know that I am forgiven and I pray that my time in Purgatory with be short.
I do have a question/concern. I know that there are 'ripple effects' from some of my sins of the past. What is the best way that I can try to mitigate them? Prayer and fasting are key - but is there anything else?
I will be doing a large group teaching for Confirmation One tonight. Some will be my personal testimony, some will be didactic. The subject is "The Catholic Church.
What follows here is my didactic teaching from my notes. I will be handing out to the kids a sheet with the actual bible quotations on it. I looked in the CCC but it wasn't organized in such a manner that I thought I could make it comprehensible.
(Part 2 here)
(Part 1 here)
We lived in Los Angeles while I was in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. I loved being at Holy Nativity school. I wasn't always a good student - I was inclined only to do the work I wanted! But I was then, as now, a voracious reader. It was while I was there that I learned to read music, taught myself to play the piano, learned to hear and sing harmonies to just about every hymn. (When you're a natural alto in a soprano world, you learn to adapt). I remember moments of grace. Meandering home after school, singing softly to myself in syllables of no particular meaning, feeling just so close to God and knowing that my guardian angel was nearby.
On March 1, 1964, I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church and allowed to receive their communion. I know the date because I still have the prayer book/hymnal that my mother gave me for the occasion - with the signature of Anglican Bishop Bloy. I was nine years old. My Russian/Hungarian Orthodox godmother, Vera, had hand sewed my dress. It had a taffeta slip and was made of white organdy, with pearl buttons. I loved that dress and wanted to wear it all the time and to keep it forever. I pictured my daughters also wearing it.
While we were living in Los Angeles, the family continued to grow. When we left England, there were three children. Within a few years, there were five of us kids. It wasn't always easy, it wasn't always fun, but family is family and each of them was/is a gift from God.
The summer between the 5th and the 6th grade, everything changed. My dad was assigned to go to France. My parents sold the house in Los Angeles, packed up all our belongings, shipped our station wagon to Europe, and gathered up the five children and got on an airplane and went. They took a little vacation time so that we could visit England, and by August we were in the house that was to be ours for the next year.
Our family was too large to be comfortably housed on the Air Force base, so we were in a huge old house in a little French village by the name of Prémôntre. We were the only Americans in the village. The town was notable for an old abbey (founded by St. Norbert) and a tuberculosis sanitorium. It was so small that it didn't even have a bakery (which in the France of that time, was pretty remarkable!)It was a 30 minute car drive to the American base, an hour and a half by bus to get to the base school. My French was not good enough to go to the village school.
We had an au pair who lived with us. Her name was Monique - her sister Francoise lived with another family in the village. She taught my mom how to make crepes, and I remember sitting in the kitchen on Shrove Tuesday making and eating crepes, and being sent out to the local store to buy more sparkling wine and fizzy lemonade to go with the crepes. Monique taught me to eat morels, to always put a sprig of rosemary in the roasting pan before cooking a roast, and to cross myself when an ambulance went by.
It was a major change in more than one way. That was the year that my parents stopped going to church. Everywhere else that we lived, my parents had been able to find an Episcopalian or Anglican church to go to. But in France, our choices were the generic Protestant service on base, or Catholic Mass either in the village or on base. I only remember going to church with my mom twice in one year. Once for the generic protestant service which I found confusing – no bible readings, no chanting, and an hour long sermon – once for a traveling Anglican chaplain. I tried to go to Mass in the village, because I’d been told that our Anglican communion service was basically the Mass translated into English, but this was 1965 – and the Mass was in Latin and basically whispered. I tried, and with help I probably would have become more comfortable, but the dual language barrier (French and Latin) made it too hard. I gave up on going to church.
One day I wanted to dress up and I asked my mom where my confirmation/first communion dress was. She told me that she had given it away to a little French girl for her First Communion. I was simultaneously miffed and happy - miffed that I hadn't been consulted, happy that at least some other person would have the joy of the beauty of that outfit. It also reinforced in my mind just how much a child is at the mercy of the parents, in big things and in small. I hoped that I would be able to be more considerate of my children's feelings, if and when.
Living in France taught me things that living in England hadn't. I learned that people everywhere have so much in common, but that their cultures can be very different. It knocked me out of the casual self-important isolationism that is so much a part of being a child, and to some degree of being a North American. I also learned lesson one about being ultimately home less. I was not at home in France, not in the village, not with the kids on the base (who ridiculed me for liking the French people and for trying to learn French). I had no real friends - just people who tolerated me because there wasn't any real alternative. I learned a lot about transience the year we lived there. I did some really stupid things because I did not understand how to play the games to fit in. The social conventions were so very different and I just didn't get it. I was alone, lonely, and I turned often to the books that were all around me. I can laugh about it now, but how many ten year olds read Dostoevsky and Chekhov?
(part one here)
I was raised in the Anglican (Episcopalian) tradition. My parents actually met in the choir at All Saint’s Episcopal Church in San Diego CA. 3 years later, they got married in that same church, where my grandmother was a parishioner and first grade teacher. I was raised to go to church every Sunday and Holy Day. Because my dad was in the Air Force, we moved a lot, but the 3 years we lived in England we went to the Church of England in our town and to the Vacation Bible School on the base. When we came back to the States, my parents sent me to live with my grandma for a year (for second grade) and I attended the Episcopal School where she taught. It felt good to have that tradition to hold onto, to be at the church where my parents met and married, to be in the school choir and sing, to be part of what I even then saw as a long tradition of Apostolic Christianity. I remember that I once had a necklace that had a mustard seed encased in glass, that I wore to remind me to have "the faith of a mustard seed."
This was sent to me by a person I consider to be a good friend and a sister in Christ. We have had several conversations about how Christ really does want us to act out our faith in the world today. I know that she has been attracted to Catholicism, but she has reservations about several points in the Catechism, and I think she believes that the Catholic Church is perilously close to espousing universalism. Any how,
this article from Christianity today about some of the Sticking Points is well worth reading.
I do so love to read conversion stories!
I don't remember exactly the first time I realized that not all Christians worshipped the same way that I did. Maybe I was 8 or so? But I know that there were incidents and influences from my very early life that pulled me towards my eventual reception into the one, holy, and apostolic church.
I was born to a teen couple. My parents met in the church choir of All Saint's Episcopal church in San Diego CA. My dad was a cradle Episcopalian, his birth dad was raised German Lutheran and his stepfather was a non-practicing Methodist and also a Mason. His mom (my grandmother) was for decades the first grade teacher at All Saint's Parish day school. My mom's heritage was mostly Southern Baptist with a smattering of Mormon (including a collateral relative to Brigham Young) and there was one Catholic who left my mom her rosary when she died. My mom was baptized at All Saints around the age of 13, and later confirmed Episcopalian by the Bishop of San Diego. My parents were married at All Saint's also. I was baptized into the Episcopalian church as an infant. My godmother was raised Russian Orthodox, but apparantly this was not a problem in her becoming my godmother.
When I was 18 months old, my dad finished college under his ROTC scholarship and began his active duty in the Air Force. This meant that my mom and I went to go live with his mom for a while. For the first 15 years of my life, I came to regard my paternal grandmother's home as my permanent home while we moved all over the place for my dad's career in the Air Force. For example, I remember going to the Nursery School at All Saint's when I was three. When I was 3 1/2 years old, my mom took me and my one year old brother and flew from San Diego CA to London England, and then took the train to Hunstanton, to rejoin my dad who was assigned to RAF Sculthorpe. I can only imagin what it was like for 20 y/o mom to take a two toddlers, one still in diapers, on a trip that long by herself. I know that in England we attended Church of England services, and I remember that my sister who was born there (just before my 5th birthday) was baptized there. I can still remember the dress she wore for her baptism - white organdy with red embroidery. I remember Bible stories at the local church, and I remember going to Vacation Bible School on the AF base as well. Two Bible stories that I specifically remember from that time are Zaccheus in the tree, and the Ascension into Heaven. At VBS we glued cotton wool onto paper to make the clouds for the Ascension. I also remember the book I had of stories from the Bible - I read it over and over. By the time I was 6 I had a pretty good timeline of the Bible and its teachings.
When we returned from England, I was 6 1/2 years old. I ended up living for a year with my grandparents so that I could go to school and not lose any of the learning I had acquired in England. I was in the second grade at All Saint's. I remember that we went to church every morning. We lined up in our classrooms and processed across the alley to the church building, and as we entered the church we genuflected 2 by 2 to the clicks of the Anglican sisters little mechanical frogs. Every morning but one it was morning prayer, with two bible readings (OT and Epistle), a psalm or two (chanted, of course) and a canticle (usually the Te Deum - chanted) and often a hymn or two as well. One day a week there was also a Holy Communion service. Only the older classes, who had been confirmed and who were willing to skip breakfast, went to communion.
The school had a few Anglican nuns who taught religion, and who every day led us in saying the Angelus. In many ways it was a more "Catholic" education than that of my husband, the cradle Catholic.