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February 01, 2007

Comments

Quoheleth

In 2002, I was recovering from a suicide attempt, staying with my brother, a deacon, and my sister-in-law, who ministers to separated and divorced Catholics. I saw reflected in them and in their fellow parishioners the love of Christ and thereby had a real experience of Him. This lead me to reconsider the faith and Church I had left 15 years earlier. I embraced them, in a sense, for the first time.

Jason

"Cradle" Catholic whose religious education ended at First Holy Communion. I don't know if I would even be considered a "cradle" Catholic because my mother was not slightly religious, but we went to CCD for whatever reason. I like to think it was Providence. Years later a few things came together out of nowhere and for some unknown reason, and I was interested in the Church. I found a picture of Our Lady of Fatima in a law book I picked up at random from a lady who was throwing away a bunch of books; I had a Billy Graham book lying around that I bought by chance a few years before, and happened to look at it one day and read about "repentance". Apparantly it didn't just mean saying you were sorry; it meant changing your ways (this was a significant moment of education, because I did have a vague sense of God and belief in him, but no idea what it meant to really believe and follow). I also happened to read an article about Pope John Paul II's life as a Priest, and was extremely drawn to the life it described, of service and sacrifice. I actually started looking into how one becomes a Priest, and I wasn't even a practicing Catholic. Eventually I just felt that I had to go to confession, and I did. I called a Priest, went to confession, and that's where my new life as a Catholic began. I wish I could go back to that moment walking out of the rectory, because (except for my baptism) it was probably the most innocent time in my life. I had no idea what just took place, I couldn't tell you what "absolution" was, I couldn't recite an act of contrition, I didn't even know what the Rosary was. But the peace I felt right then I can't explain. It was a supernatural confirmation that I was where I was supposed to be, I was home.

franksta

(1) The biggest thing for me was the Eucharist itself. I had spent 15 years in Baptist churches and the infrequent Lord’s Supper observances were pale shadows of the Eucharist. My hunger for sacramental/liturgical/Eucharistic life (combined with my stubbornness about “I’ll never go back to Rome”) led me to a 5-year stint in Anglicanism. But that led to other issues, which I found were answered best Home in Rome, including…
(2) Human sexuality. For me, Theology of the Body and the Catechism’s teaching on sexuality answered the questions that Anglicans have had about homosexuality and marital sexuality when nothing else did. This also led to…
(3) Authority. The whole Anglican tsuris made me question the nature of the priesthood, the sacraments, and apostolicity in a way I never had before. The more I heard my fellow Anglicans debate catholicity, the more I discovered we didn’t have it. I realized one day that describing myself as a “low-church Anglo-Catholic” was really another way of saying “Novus Ordo Catholic” (somewhat ironic as I am now becoming more traditional in my leanings).

I posted about my reversion (http://andalsowithyou.blogspot.com/2006/05/coming-home.html) and how Anglicanism turned me Catholic (http://andalsowithyou.blogspot.com/2006/08/dr-strangechurch-or-how-i-learned-to.html) previously on my blog. I hope to do a mega-post on the Eucharist soon.

When I have time…

Nemo

This is gonna be embarrassing. That's why I'm signing my name as Nemo. Amy will se by my e-mail address tht I'm a frequent lurker and commenter here. But this will be kinda humiliting to write.

I converted to Catholicism in 1975, at the age of 16. I was, in fact, confirmed on my 16th birthday. My family were protestants, not very church going, though my Mom wanted to be (Dad didn't) The family attended a Metholdist church, but my Mom's faith was very calvinist--apparantly we ended up Methodists through a series of mergers between denominations in the 40' and 50's. I couldn't fathom the "tap dancing" though the scriptures, or who, exactly, held authority. That led me to the Public Library.

I began to read, and fell into some good Catholic books. I sensed authority there, (the county wasn't exactly rich, and most of the books were pre VII), and began looking for the imprimatur in books becauseBooks WITH the imprimatur MADE SENCE! This eventually led to me taking instruction, and discovering the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. I had always felt that there was something missing in the communion services in my families church, and I realized what it was--the Real Prescence of Christ, under the appearance of bread and wine.

I knew that the Catachism was just the basics of Catholicism, so I got a job, and paid my way through two years (junior and senior) of Catholic high school. There I began to have a small problem--everything I had learned during instructions was belittled. The Real prescence was reduced to the prescence of the community, we were told not to pray the rosary because it was outmoded, and would divert our energies from social justice.

In college, I went to the Neumann Center, where I was dismayed to find that most of the books we were exposed to by our charismatic chaplain were from protestant sources, and that our liturgies were dominated by feminists who felt they should be priests, and that the role of the priest was essentially that of presiding over the assembly. One mass was "concelebrated" with laymen.

Then I ran out of money and joined the service. The shortage of Catholic chaplains is disproportionate (sp) to the shortage of priests, and so there wasn't a lot of priestly ministry there. The Chaplains we had were excellent, when you saw them. but I had the sence that because I had chosen a military career, I was somehow "les than" than civilian Catholics. Certainly, when local priest said mass for us, that came through in the homilies.

The ongoing deterioration of Catachesis was disenheartening. I taught CCD for a year, and found that we were NOT to teach catholic doctrine--it was all about feelings and subjectivity. (This was in the diocese of Raliegh, befor the establishment of the Military Archdiocese) Mass got to be very like the Methodist services that I had walked away from. I began attending a Maronite Parish in NC to assist at a reverent liturgy. Then I was transfered to Germany. You can imagine.

In 1991 I was medically retired from the Army. That meant our families income went down. As our income went down we became invisible in our parish. The deterioration of teaching and worship continued apace, and I couldn't help but notice that whenever the Pope spoke, the bishops and priests ignored him.

After a while, I decided that the Bishops and priests didn't believe in what I had learned was the faith. Not really thinking that they would fall away, seeming in mass, I decided what I had understood to be the truth was in error. And, I couldn't buy the gospel being synonymous with the Democratic Platform, which was the majority position around me. Nor could I buy it being identical with the Republican platform, which was the seemingly alternate position, (mainly espoused by people I found to be, well not real Christian in there view of others). I knew that protestant christianity wasn't reall consistant, and never hung together well (close to 300 denominations in the US) so, I lost my faith. In some ways, many of which --no most of which--were my fault, it starved to death.

My wife remained Catholic, and we divirced. I fell hard--into the neopagan movement, drugs, promiscuity, the whole devilish nine yards.

The a couple of years ago I woke up one morning (really) knowing what a sinful little jerk I was, and that God loved me. I got out of bed, got dressed and went to Church, in time for Mass. It was an episcopal church, and I didn't realize how different they were from Catholic: the Catholicism I had been surrounded by was essentialy episcopalian, with less reverence in the liturgy. I made a confession and started attending services regularly--even during the week. Then I began to understand there theology wasn't all that hot. So I found a Catholic church, made another confession and started over. I'v been studying every sence, with a a constant anger, feeling cheated by the Clergy, and the Laity of our Church. There is so much here, so much help, so much truth, so much beauty to be had--I was starving in the midst of a feast! And, I have to say, much of my anger is towards myself.

So what brought me back? I believe it was the constant, daily prayers of my (ex)wife, my sisters (who are now pentacostal)and my patrom saints, St. Anthony and St. Michael, along with the intercession of the Mother of God, and the love of Christ, who "wills not the death of a sinner". It was grace, just grace, unmerited by me, and freely given.

RyanL

My Baptist wife started asking me questions.

That's about it.

Joseph

While lapsed, I continued searching. Call it applied comparative religions.

In '94, I was prompted to attend a Mass - something I hadn't done in some time.
During the homily, the priest mentioned this soon-to-be-released Catechism. I purchased one the week it was published.

'nuf said. Since the effects of the vacuum of catecesis after Vatican II had no small impact on my initial lapse, the light of Truth contained in the CCC went a long way to alleviating that darkness.

Of course, my attendance at that particular Mass and my subsequent embrace of the orthodoxy proclaimed by the Church via the Catechism would not be possible without the graceful influence of the Holy Spirit. Thank you!

Eric the Read

As a child, I refused Confirmation, because I didn't feel I could go through it in good faith (no pun intended). I'd never really had what I would call a spiritual experience, and I felt it would be insincere and hypocritical to profess a faith I didn't truly feel in my heart. So, after my mom stopped forcing me to go to church with her (around 15 or 16, I forget exactly), I just never bothered.

In high school and college, I fooled around with various Pagan religions, but never seriously; they all felt too new and too self-centered to be meaningful to me. Eventually, I settled into a cynical agnosticism of laziness-- if I'd bothered to really get rigorous about my beliefs at the time, I'd likely have declared myself an atheist, but I couldn't be bothered.

Still, a few years ago, I began to feel my life was too selfish and that my cynicism was hurting my ability to stand other people, much less have relationships with them. So I started to think and read some more about Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular. I figured, I might not know the truth, but this was a pretty darned good place to start looking. This was more than scary to my girlfriend, as she had not been raised with any religion, and was nervous and a little confused about what it might mean to our relationship. But she stuck with me, and as we grew closer together, I came to realize that she was the woman I was meant to marry, for better or worse.

When it came time for me to propose to her (/very/ classy; I gave her the ring (in a puzzle box) at her parent's house for Christmas, thank you ladies, you may now swoon at my sheer romanticness), I decided that I wanted to start our marriage off on the best possible foot I could find, namely, a religious one. So I started going back to church last January, and brought her with me. We were married in the Church last August (no Mass, as her family isn't Catholic), and have not exactly been deliriously happy since then, but definitely very happy.

I definitely still view myself as a "work in progress"; I don't know that I've ever had what I might call a spiritual experience, I've never felt God talking to me, per se (these various nudges I've had in the past could be seen that way, I guess, but it doesn't feel that way from the inside), and I don't feel very comfortable with a lot of the basic doctrines of the Faith. But I feel, still, that there's something true here, and if I can just force myself to stick around long enough, I'll find it. Our parish has a very good "Living the Catholic Faith" class every few weeks that covers various topics in the Church, from explaining the Mass to an overview of Eucharistic Adoration, to Marian devotions, and so on, that is very helpful, and I'm reading tons of books to try and fill in the gaps.

Theo

I have a cradle Catholic friend who though never completely fallen-away, also never really understood it, and didn't really practice it for a long time.

Then he got into a challenging business situation, and began attending mass as a way of getting ideas for how to deal with the situation from a spiritual perspective. But he still didn't really understand it, and rarely went to confession, though he did continue going to mass.

Then he met a women, a convert, really on fire for the faith, the first time he'd met someone on fire for Catholicism. He started attending mass with her and noticed that she went to confession frequently before mass - which got him asking himself why he didn't.

No good reason, so he started going, too. Happens she was going to a really good parish with excellent confessors, and he started getting really good spiritual direction in the confessional.

Now he goes to mass and confession regularly, has a growing library of books about the faith, attends scripture classes, applies what he's learning in the workplace, and says that his life is really changing as a result.

Which I can see for myself. Turns out the woman he met is me, and he's my beau!

Elizabeth M

When I was in High School I received absolutely no Catholic instruction, and soon forgot what I had learned earlier. I left due to ignorance and a bit of rebellion.
I was a member of the "Denomination of the Month Club." I checked out the Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Conservative and Reformed Judaism, the Moonies, New Age, Church of Christ... I almost joined the Church of Christ but got scared off by their talk that everybody but those in that particular congregation were doomed to Hell. Very nearly joined the Methodists until I read a pamphlet by United Methodist Women stating that abortion on demand was okay (at the time I thought in some cases abortion could be accepted, but never believed in abortion on demand).
After a while I realized that there wasn't anything better out there than Catholicism and wanted a reason to go back. I discovered the Liturgy of the Hours, thought it was cool, and started praying it (or trying to pray it, as I wasn't sure of the format yet). I also read books by Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton - why did these intelligent people CHOOSE to become Catholic? I also read works by John of the Cross and Therese of Lisieux. A spiritual fire was lit under me that hasn't gone out.
So finally after 10-15 years of drifting, I returned to the Church in the late 1980s. I don't see myself leaving ever again.

Jaques

I fell away and then reverted under the influence of my Baptist wife.

We dated for a few years and were Lutherans as a compromise. Then we started to study things seriously again, and she joined an RCIA class. We studied together, far beyond the RCIA materials (which were meager), and both of us came to the same conclusion. She converted, and I reverted.

I guess some people have to go somewhere else to figure out where they were in the first place.

Christopher

I was raising nominally Catholic attending Mass on Christmas and Easter. When I got to college I experienced a profound spiritual emptiness. I got into martial arts and was attracted to much of the philosophy associated with my style (Tomo Sato Ryu). I was repeatedly told by my instructors that the techniques of the style only worked when you actually believed that they would. Self doubt prevents success. In time I learned to have faith in the techniques and style and eventually in myself. It occurred to me that perhaps faith in a higher power was also possible. (In retrospect my style has an almost Salesian perspective live today well, do simple things extraordinarily well, etc.)

I finally decided that I wanted to know the Lord, but I was afraid. My mother introduced me to concept of a novena, so I decided that I would pray a novena to St. Jude because my faith was a lost cause. In June of 2003 I started my novena and the effects were instantaneous. I started going to Mass and after a couple of years met a great group of young adults and got Confirmed. I went to tons of Theology on Taps and got a good basis in Catechesis and apologetics. I am very blessed to have also had the guidance of many priests and the prayers of my family and friends. I spent about a year discerning the priesthood until I felt that I wasn't called to it and about six months after that met my fiancé at Bible Study. We had our first date on Valentines Day 2006 and are getting married in July 2007. Jesus I Trust in You.

M.Z. Forrest

I left the Church when I got married. My wife and I initially had trouble finding an evangelical church in Madison. We both like older churches. We like older hymns. (I wasn't too well versed in older Catholic hymns, but modern praise music had no appeal to me.) Eventually we settled in a Baptist Church in suburban Madison. In that time, we were admitted. I never really bought the proof that the intention of Christ was to have us eat bread and wine. They only celebrated communion quarterly, so this didn't come up often. What allowed me to plunge in was a tract telling how Baptists could trace their lineage back to Christ. I was quite okay at the time with believing in Protestantism (my family has countless mixed marriages) but I had never heard anyone other than the Catholic Church make the claim that they were the original Church founded by Christ.

On occasion we would go down to my inlaws. They had an old World Book encyclopedia. Out of boredom, I've probably read 100 or so articles out of it. I believe it was the 1965 version. I would have been understanding at that time if the enyclopedia didn't have the claim that the Baptists were traced to Christ but rather a Protestant group. Instead the encylopedia made the claim that the Baptists had been making this claim but that the claim was completely spurious. I was quite surprised. No one outside the Baptist community found the claim to be credible. Even secular academics granted the Catholic Church's claims of origin.

From there, seeds of doubt persisted. I had never read the full New Testament. I had already started reading the Gospel of John. After that, I did the shorter epistles, ones that could be read in a night or less. As I read Galatians and the rest, I was seeing a vision of faith that was distinctly different than what I was receiving in the Baptist Church. The faith and works paradigm seemed completely insufficient for expressing Biblical teaching.

Anyhow, there is more to the story, but that is the start. Hopefully one or two folks find it edifying.

Radical Catholic Mom

I entered the Church with my family from a devout Protestant background. But my parents were not completely sold on the whole Catholic thing, they mainly converted because the Church was more stable than Protestant churches.

I was sold, though, after encountering some fabulous women who truly loved the Church and all of Her teachings. After graduating from a solid Catholic university, I decided to be a missionary and volunteer. That is where I lost my faith, working for the Church was such a scandalous experience (a priest who was raping little children, everyone knew about it and would not do anything to stop it!, priests had lovers, etc). I felt the whole Mass was a sham. I stopped going to Church and fell into deep despair.

By the Grace of God, I still had my Lives of the Saints book, and I began to read them. I hung onto the Saints as if they were my lifeline. And they were. Slowly, they inspired me to forgive the terrible, terrible evils I saw and experienced. Coupled this with my now husband's Catholic Charismatic group that he introduced me to and here I am. I am so thankful to God for both, the book and the prayer group for giving me people who DO love Him and DO want to serve Him.

c matt

There should also be a "tweener" category: between convert/revert and life long Catholics. A category for those who never left the Church (hence, never converted or reverted in that sense), but weren't really conscious of being Catholic in a deliberate way (hence, not exactly the witness of saints). Sort of auto-pilot Catholics, who one day for whatever reason, shut off the auto-pilot and start flying manual.

Morning's Minion

A cradle Catholic, I left from around ages 17-23, in the sense that I stopped going to Mass, refused to identify as a Catholic, and bashed the Church any chance I could get. I saw is as hypocritical, anti-intellectual, repressive etc etc.

I came back in 1993, when I was at graduate school at Columbia University. Maybe it was the stress of that first year, but something drew me back. I just wanted to be at Mass, and when I returned (though the Catholic campus ministry), I felt instrinctively at home (Maybe it's like the mafia: "you're never out"!!). Then everything opened up. I realized that the problem is that I didn't know a damn thing about the faith. My catechesis has never progressed beyond the 10-year old level. And the more I read, the more impressed I became. It all fit together. I also had the privilege of becoming friends with a remarkable priest, a top-notch moral theologian-- as well as becoming something of a mentor, he also introduced me to the woman I would marry. So I won big time!

Gustavo Santos

In 1995, was halfway through my social sciences undergraduate studies, and started to get a very difuse feeling the "answers" weren't all there.

I came to visit my American host family from 5 years before (I was an exchange student from Brazil), and they had had their reversion around 1991.

They took me to a Steubenville Youth Summer Conference - I read "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" on the way - at the conference, I received the grace of knowing that all the good in my life, my personal qualities, my desire for good, had come from God, even when I was away from Him.

I took me another three years to fully go back, as back in Brazil I did not have any personal truly Catholic references.

In sum, I guess I just came to a mature enough position to realize what was really missing in my life, and God had made all the prior arrangements (such as have me live with a non-practicing Catholic family who turned out to revert a year after I left them) to drive me home.

That finally happened in 1997, during a three-day shut-at-home-due-to-snow stay with my American host family (again), after watching a video on Garabandal and one of a Mary Beth Bonacci talk on chastity...

Bender

In being fishers of men, Christ and His Church do not always use nets. Certainly, in my case, it was a line and hook. The line was let out as I was allowed to stray, but I felt the tug of the hook in me pulling me back. He had me, and He wasn't about to let me get away. I can't claim much credit for it.

Romulus

What brought me back is easy to describe: First, in the fall of 1979, reading Flannery O'Connor's letters, The Habit of Being, which in a few days time redeemed a dozen years' rubbish that passed for a Catholic religious education. Second, on September 29, 2000 when I was nearly killed in an automobile accident (arranged by St. Nicholas, who left his calling card in the emergency room), which caused me to return to the Sacrament of Pennance for the first time since my early teen years.

Anne

C MATT: yeah I agree. I'm not a convert, because I am a cradle Catholic, but I never totally made a concious decision to LEAVE...it never mattered at all. Period. Being Catholic was inconsequential to anything else in my life.

My friends and I have a saying: "The pro-life movement is the gateway drug to Catholicism." That's what did it for me. And the fact that my mom is real holy and was praying her butt off. :)

Bender

Oh, and Karol "the Rock" Wojtyla had something to do with it too. He ain't called "the Great" for nothing.

Mary Russell

My mother is an ex-nun and I grew up in a very progressive household in Los Angeles. We went to mass on Christmas and Easter, but our catechesis was very meager. Always an avid reader, I discovered the lives of the saints at the local library when I was about 10. Fascinated, I then read everything I could get my hands on about the Catholic Church and then asked my parents if they would drive me to mass every Sunday. My father, a non-Catholic dropped me off every Sunday and picked me up an hour later.
In college at the University of Virginia, I joined the CAtholic Students Association and went through RCIA, then became a religious studies major concnetrating in Christian history. Although the milieu was (at least in the early 90s) Catholic Lite, there were very strong, orthodox professors and grad students at the university, and many converts to Catholicism. The politically liberal, intellectually challenging environment at UVA drew me in in a way that would not have happened in a more uniformly orthodox Catholic
environment.

MarkAA

Amy, thanks for this thread.

Since telling friends this story takes an hour, I'll try to keep it to bullet points.

Before I left:
* Grew up going to mass every Sunday.
* Devoutly Catholic father who was left a bit confused by Jesuit teachings that miracles weren't true.
* Devoutly Catholic mother who had converted during College from Lutheran faith. Still very ecumenical and warm hearted toward Lutheran faith -- I grew up knowing protestants weren't damned for being protestants.
* I knew enough Bible to know salvation history, and key figures of OT and NT. Knew no chapter and verse, and very little theology. Slight inklings of what creeds meant, but mostly as guesswork. Knew almost nothing of saints, liturgy of hours, chaplet, novenas, never said a complete rosary during entire childhood. Was an altar boy and truly tried to do a good job at it and be reverential.
* Knew just the basic prayers but did pray them: Our Father, Hail Mary, Act of Contrition, Glory Be.
* Was born in 1967; never have been to or seen a Latin Mass.
* Childhood masses alterated between a Guitar mass and a piano mass.
* Had been taught I was in the One True Church, but nobody I knew who wasn't Catholic ever said that.
* Friends in High School all Protestants, and very faithful ones. Their families' dedication to scripture and daily holiness put mine to shame and was quite a witness to me. I also dated a girl who came from a strongly faithful conservative lutheran family.

In college:
* My mass attendance lapsed; I went to the campus chapel about twice a month for mass.
* Many catholics in my dorm, but none of them went to mass regularly except the meanest, most vicious guy of the bunch in an all-male hall. He made a big deal of being Catholic, but he was one smart, mean-spirited bastard who openly broke most of the 10 Commandments on a regular basis. But he was so mean-hearted and said such mean things that he was a particularly strong anti-witness to the faith, for sure.
* I knew a few protestants who were faithful to their denominations, and they were good witnesses to a life of grace.
* The campus chapel routinely invoked God in the feminine. I Knew that wasn't right.
* Mass was boring. Nobody sang. Most people left after communion like a surge.
* I decided this couldn't possibly be Christ's church. It couldn't be. I decided to look elsewhere.

Left Church in 1988.
* Found a little lutheran church on campus. Lots of fellowship, Bible studies. Seemed very reverent. Went there about a year, most Sundays.
* Met a strongly faithful conservative Lutheran woman, dated, got engaged. Graduated college, moved to a "grown up" city. Continued attending a High Church Lutheran congregation with great music, lots of singing, great reverence, great sermons, Bible study.
* Have moved at attended variety of faithful lutheran churches, most recently a more Evangical style, with contemporary praise band, big telescreen, etc.
* Kids in conservative Lutheran School. Wife a chidren's minister. Very active with a home Bible study.

OK, this still long. 3 years ago approx. these various factors happened to put me on the road back to Rome.

* Became concerned that Lutheran congrgation and church in general had lost touch with Lutheran tradition. But, question arises, what is so important about lutheran tradition? If Tradition is important -- and i was increasingly thinking it was -- why arbitrarily stop at 1519? Why not 1200? Why not 650? Why not 100 AD? Why not 32 AD?
* Three different people asked me why I left the church (all family). They all I think assumed I'd had some bad run-in with a priest or something. But, really, the best answer I could give is that it was boring and just didn't seem like the kind of church Jesus would attend. But it got me thinking maybe I'd been rash.
* Experiences at work showed me I was changing to be much less a radical thinker and more attuned to the need for structure and authority in my work life, and same for home life with kids.
* I watched some EWTN and found myself drawn toward the Masses.
* My work shift temporarily changed to very early morning, and the only station i could tune in was the local catholic station, WDEO, which had the Stations of the Cross on during my drive time. I also heard ads for a program by a wonderful priest called "Christ is the Answer" which taught the Church from a very Christ-centered position (ie. not the other elements, like mary, saints, doctrines or whatever). I listened and was drawn in.
* WDEO also opened my ears to other Catholic programming, such as Al kresta's talk show, which is wide ranging and shows the range of Catholic thought engaging the world ... and how much broader it is than Lutheran faith or Protestantism in general.
* Scott Hahn/Curtis Mitch's Ignatius Bible Study. I saw that the Catholic faith WAS Biblical, and made the comment to some friends that the Bible reads differently from a Catholic perspective. It really does. Wow.
* Amy's blog. Seeing the huge wealth of Catholic world exprssed here was eye-opening. The idea of Catholic Literature was incomprehensible to me. There's no such thing as Lutheran Literature.
* Plunging into history, with Augustine, Early Church Fathers and so on. Wow. It's all Catholic.

So, there goes. I'm sure I missed something. But i went from not even thinking in the slightest about reverting to being cautiously curious about whether Catohlicism made any sense, to being in full-blown soak-up-everything-i-can mode in just a few months.

Thanks again, Amy!
MarkAA

Schultz

I grew up in an orthodox post-V2 parish outside of Pittsburgh. I actually wanted to be a priest for the longest time, and was the best darned altar boy my parish ever had and ever will have ;). My parents were very involved at the church. My father ran the weekly bingo and my mother was one of the backbones of the Christian Mothers group. We went to church every Sunday, attended Stations of the Cross every Friday during Lent and basically lived the life of devout Catholics, at least when it came to church. No one really prayed at home and we didn't do any of the "fun" Catholic things during holidays, like writing the initials of the Three Kings above the door around Christmas like some of my friends did. Of course, their families were more ethnic than ours. Most of my ancestors were here during the first wave of German immigrants in the 18th century.

By the time I went to college, I still considered myself Catholic and attended Mass on campus (and off), but I found myself falling away ever so slightly until, for the first time in my life, I did not attend Easter Mass in 1999. I had missed Mass most Sundays from 1997-1999, but I always did my Easter duty.

In 2000, my fiancee decided she had enough of Maryland and left for Florida, leaving me behind. Needless to say, I was pretty devestated. I remember one night staring at the wall and just asking God to help me. No deals, no "Bring her back, please!". I just wanted help.

The very next day I met a girl who was intensely interested in Catholicism and I did my best over the next few months to explain things to her. It's pretty amazing how you just don't forget what was drilled into you as a child. If I didn't know the answer, I'd find it and tell her. I found religion again. I went to confession for the first time in 5 years.

Our friendship turned into something much more and we started to attend Mass together. We found the Tridentine indult Mass in Baltimore at St. Alphonsus and spent alot of our Sundays there. She's a medievalist and, even though she didn't share the faith, she could really appreciate the grandeur of the old Mass. I felt at home there, but it was around this time I also started to attend the local Byzantine Catholic church. It was there that I found my true home and I've been there ever since. I flirted with the idea of becoming a monk (the medievalist had since moved away and got married herself...strike two for me!) but decided to just wait things out and, a couple years later, I'm married to a wonderful Catholic girl who loves being Catholic as much as I do.

Fr Brian Mulcahy, OP

Mary,

Glad to hear that UVA and St Thomas Aquinas University Parish played a role in the deepening of your faith! I think your description of the place in the '90s is fairly accurate -- "Catholic Lite." My hope and prayer is that we're not that anymore! Come back and visit some time!

Fr Brian Mulcahy, O.P.
Pastor

MarkAA

Knew I forgot at least one biggie...

* Death of Pope John Paul II. I remember the irony of being in a newsroom surrounded by former Catholic now Atheist Catholic bashers, me laying out the A1 presentation of the Pope's death (special stuff) and feeling like as a Lutheran whose church still officially lists the office of the Pope as the AntiChrist I was the one left to present the funeral of this very holy man respectfully in our metropolitan newspaper. That affected me, as did the whole event, with all the various denominations going to the funeral from around the world, and how it seemed a loss for the whole world.
Followed by...
* The election of Benedict, whose writings I devoured and found that he was a huge, deep thinker who loved Protestants and Orthodox as well as Catholics.

Big, key elements in the path for me too.

Sr Lorraine

These stories are beautiful testimonials to grace. Deo gratias!
I've had the grace to be Catholic my whole life. It had a lot to do with my Irish grandmother's fierce clinging on to the faith because of the effects of Britain's persecution of the Irish Catholics.

lourdes

I grew up with a protestant mother and Catholic father. The whole family went to Mass every week (Mom didn't receive). CCD classes during late 60's and 70's consisted of very vague "Jesus love you" type of teaching. Left high school thinking religion was for weaklings or those who liked fairy tales.

Two by four over the head reversion when I was lured back to adult classes at St. Patrick's cathedral in NYC. What really brought me back was the revelation that there was meat on those theological bones! St. Thomas, philosophy, reason.... really, really smart people who not only believed this stuff, but could explain it in clear and concise fashion.

Rich Leonardi

Amy, there's something wrong with Typepad. This went bust the first time. I never left the Faith, but definitely took it lightly until about six years ago. A number of influences came together at around the same time:

(1) A growing family. You learn quickly that life “isn’t about you.”

(2) September 11. We knew two people who died in the Towers. First things suddenly shot to the front of the line.

(3) The Catechism of the Catholic Church. I asked two priests within the span of a year for a guide to the Faith. The first sent me a stack of pastoral letters from the bishops' conference; the second sent me the Catechism. “Where have they been hiding this thing?”

(4) My Baptist co-worker. He loved to pepper me with questions about Scripture and doctrine. I thought, “Either I should get used to this or try and learn something.”

(5) Volunteering in RCIA. “This sounds like dorm-room bull[deleted]; I need to find the real story.”

c matt

(4) My Baptist co-worker.

It was a sort of similar thing that got me off auto-pilot. Rather than Baptists, it was the ex-Catholic co-workers (it really does seem to be the second largest denomination in the US). Curious why they left. Some left religion all together it seemed. Others for spousal harmony, etc. or it didn't seem that important. Then one guy mentioned being a Bahai or something and sort of challenged me to look at it - sort of the Unitarianism to end all Unitarianism. Naturally, I thought "what bunk." Then I thought, well, what makes Bahai any more bunk than Catholicism (at least what little I knew of it). Started looking on web resources (Church history, fathers, catechism). Then kind of hit me - dang!!! this stuff (Catholicism) is actually TRUE!!! Both a relief and a bit scary.

c matt

I guess if there's convert and revert, I would fall into "autovert".

nelmezzo

Cradle Catholic, stopped believing in high school or college that there could be a deity, still went to mass out of habit, came to believe that was dishonest, stopped going except for ash wednesday, fasting in lent, good friday services and midnight mass, all of which I took part in as guity pleasures, kept reading theology and Catholic stuff (First Things, NT Wright, Ratzinger, blogs like open book because of their immediacy) out of intellectual interest, grew immensely dissatisfied with the general culture and its retreat from meaning and tradition, gradually came to believe that there must be a reason for suffering and an order in the universe, went for ashes one year and was very startled to be told to Turn away from sin and follow the gospel, started attending mass again occasionally, started regarding the incarnation as improbable but beautiful and possible, became able to say the words of the Nicene Creed, confessed a year or two after that, then took pleasure in the saints and Catholic practice without feeling like it was cheating, still avoid discussions of hot spots like contraception or homosexuality because I can't make much sense of Church teaching, still learning how to pray and how to seek holiness.

ron chandonia

I have a long version and a short(er) one. The long version, "A Faithful Church Draws Back Two of Her Own", appeared in our local Catholic paper, The Georgia Bulletin, in 2000.

Shorter version: After a lifetime of Catholic education, through lst grad degree, including 3 years in seminary, I decided the NCR (which I read religiously) was right: The Catholic Church was a corrupt vestige of the past; what counted was uplifting the lives of oppressed people in the here and now.

Did that for most of my teaching career, living and working in Atlanta's inner city. My wife and I never bothered with church again, and gave our kids no religious training. Then I noticed that instead of getting better, the condition of the people I wanted to uplift kept getting worse. Family life had fallen apart. Abortion was commonplace. My wife and I saw real problems with our children's values and were ourselves about to split up. It hit me that the POPE (of all people) had a name for what I was seeing around me: "Culture of Death." PC living and thinking were simply no substitute for Christ.

My wife and I figured it out together and returned to the Sacraments, later adopted another child and are raising her in the Church. We have moved to the suburbs, but I spend much of my time now working in our parish in the inner city. Never, ever read NCR anymore.

diego

Although not really a revert, I feel like I am one. The reason? My iPOD!!!

I was given an iPOD for 5 years service at my company about 4 months ago. I found that I needed something more stimulating than just listening to music on my commute to and from work. So I began searching for podcasts and somehow stumbled onto Catholic Answers, Catholic underground, and the catholic forum. WOW.

To make it short, I went to confession (1st time in 10 years), and I actually look forward to going to mass every Sunday. I long for it. It's almost as if my eyes have been opened. Before my iPOD, it was like I was just going through the motions.

Thank you Apple!

Sparki

Wow...more Baptist folks influencing people back to the Church than I realized.

I was baptized Catholic, so I'm techincally a revert, but I received utterly no religious instruction in any way -- I was raised atheist, really. I became an evangelical at 24 years of age, following a rather tangible experience with Christ. Met & married my husband, who was raised Pentacostal. Our charismatic church basically went nuts, so we discovered the joys of liturgy. Resisted Catholcism for six years whilst attending a congregation that was evangelical anglican or episcopalian evangelical or anglican episcopal evangelical or evangelical episcopalian by turns (no, I'm not kidding), tottered on the edge of becoming Missiouri Synod Lutheran, searched high and low for a liturgical church that actually thought babies were GOOD, and finally my husband could resist Catholicism no longer. I, on the other hand, agreed to attend RCIA because I believed if we sincerely sought the truth, we would never become Catholic. Hah! It'll be four years this Easter...

Drusilla

Will blog more about this at some future point but briefly*: Born into a family that was Catholic before anyone even thought to call it Catholicism. Parents killed when I was a child so I was raised by a Baptist minister and his ex-Catholic wife. (She wasn't ex so much as not allowed to practice her faith.) Did my best to hold onto my faith: hid a catechism under my mattress; read about saints (hid those books too); prayed to Mary; asked suitably edited questions of my foster-mother; asked more expansive questions of the nuns and priests at the Catholic summer day-camp I attended; began going to mass on my own as soon as I was old enough to go out alone.

Came to NY when I was 16, was confirmed at the Easter vigil and thought all was clear sailing from there. Encountered priests who felt I was too happy and joyous, who yelled at me for asking questions, who presented me with a nice, palatable, inoffensive theology, who terrified me and made me ask, is this what I fought so hard to hold onto? Is this my parents’ faith? Finished university and was looking for a parish. Stumbled into an Episcopal church. At first, didn't realize there was any difference and by the time I did, was taking a class to be received into the Anglican Communion. Decided to hang out with the Anglicans because they I could go on believing what I already believed, could satisfy my intellectual hunger for weighty theology, priests wouldn't yell at me, and they had the seven sacraments. Once again, clear sailing.

Except, Anglican priests do yell. And I was not being taught to know and love God better (which is why I study) but to amass facts and become a commentator. And there was a continuing erosion in the sacraments until finally, I couldn't go to an Anglican priest for confession because I wasn't at all sure that my sins would be considered sins. (From time to time I saw a Catholic priest for spiritual direction and confession but it wasn't enough.) And finally, I found myself almost despairing that I could ever reach holiness.

About then God sent me a devout Catholic friend who made it clear that one could be exceedingly intelligent and head over heels in love with God. And I went on retreat at a Catholic retreat center and realized: I had grown up and could yell back if a priest yelled at me. I needn't worry about others trying to squash my joy. I know where to find resources to feed my intellectual and spiritual hunger. I am no longer afraid because whether this is what I fought so hard to hold onto or whether it’s my parent's faith isn't the issue. The Catholic Church is my best hope for holiness and nothing is more important. (I guess I really did grow up.) there was no longer any reason to stay away and every reason to return.

I went to confession and then discovered I’d come home to an immense banquet. What I am studying now makes me see that I only attended a remedial kindergarten when I was an Anglican. The sacraments are real Sacraments. I needn’t just continue to believe what I already believe (like I tried my best to do when I was a child), but the church actually teaches me the truth and supports me in believing and living it. And there are lots of people who also know that holiness is important. So though there’ll probably never be clear sailing, this is the best boat to be in when the waters get choppy.

*This really is brief.

Jimmy Mac

I went through the typical rite of passage for many a Pre Vat II Catholic male:

went into the minor seminary.
wasn't priest material.
went to college.

Then, I

drifted away for many years.
joined an evangelical church
came to terms with myself,
just wasn't an evangelical nor a "Prod",
so

(I can't resist this ....)

what else could a "prevert" do but revert?

Veronica

This is a beautiful thread.

I belong to the cathegory c matt described above, that is, I never left the faith consciously, but I was very lukewarm towards it to say the least.

I was born and raised Catholic by a very devout mother, but when I grew up I began to doubt everything, even question if God truly existed at all. The fact that I attended a Catholic school from kindergarten to junior high didn't help matters at all, as I was bullied by several snobbish and rather cruel kids for several years, and I met a couple of nuns that were in my opinion very bitter and judgemental, more willing to talk about hell than about God's love and mercy. By the time I went to high school I was completely fed-up with Catholic education, and I even sworn that if I had any children, I would definitely NEVER enroll them in a Catholic school, at least not one run by nuns.

By the time I was 18, I was virtually an agnostic, doubting the existence of God, yet at the same time never missing Mass, mostly out of custom. I found the whole thing completely meaningless and extremely boring, yet for some reason, I never stopped attending it (out of remorse mostly, since there was a possibility that God did exist after all).

Then my sister was invited to a Catholic Charismatic retreat for young people, and out of curiosity, I decided to accompany her to see what it was about. As it turned out, those 3 days changed my life forever, and I don't mean it as an exaggeration. God changed my doubt into faith, and my resentment towards the people who had bullied me in my childhood into forgiveness. I don't have enough words to describe the peace and the happiness I felt when I heard how much God truly loved me during Eucharistic adoration, and how my life suddenly seemed completely different from the mostly empty one I used to have before. The Mass at the end of the retreat was something I will never forget. After that, I began attending Mass on Sundays and even weekdays with sincere devotion, I suddenly couldn't get enough of it. That was more than 10 years ago, and I will never cease to be thankful to God for calling me to belong to the One True Catholic Church and for having mercy on the poor sinner that I am. Thank you, Lord!


Steven R. McEvoy

Our Lady and Mass, I never stopped praying the Rosary, especially in hard times. And I missed daily mass. There is something so amazing in receicing the eucharist frequently to nourish your soul and your life.

umpteenth wormlet

Amongst the drugs and art and rock and roll: there was the all the mysticism of the golden-dawn-types; the much needed anti-new-world-order of the conspiracists; the mythical genious of the hopi and mayans; and all that untapped amaterialism of the bhuddists.

i reached a point in the mid-90's, aged almost 30, where i told myself that i would give good ol' judeo-Christianity one more chance before i headed spiritually east.

The Church seemed a rich and demanding woman with a smoky, sordid history. End-o-days evangelists were excitable, hopeful and bookish. I loved both in a way, but never expected to find them in one place. (not to mention the best aspects of those other schools in that same place.)

i sat down with a joint one night, probing the depths of this new internet thing and came upon the messages of a Jesus and Mary locutionist. in contemporary ohio of all ridiculous things. talking about the importance of the Church especially in these end-times. and talking alot of jacob's ladder theology of the heart.

providence.

by now my wife has converted and we live in another country and have 4 lively kids, under first communion age, most in "catholic" school and we do mass every week and i go to adoration with irregularity and i wish our parish was more traditional but. . . .

Jesus will sort thing out.

MarkAA

Sorry, thought of one more powerful element in my reversion road...

* Reading Thomas Woods' book "How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization". Here's why. Even as I was broadening my horizons about Catholic spirituality and culture, I was still under the false idea (perpetuated by our Western secular culture) that the Church was somehow *responsible for* the Dark Ages of Medieval Europe and purposely held back scientific progress and kept the people down, poor, illiterate, subjugated, hungry, sickly, uninformed. Reading that book showed me just how absolutely wrong that view is, how -- far from being the keeper of darkness and pre-scientific superstition -- the Church was the ONLY bridge between the glories of the Classical age and the technological awakenings of the renaissance and so-called Enlightenment. I didn't realize how much that particular canard had actually been holding me back, and once it was dispensed with, I could move forward much more quickly in accepting the Church as an institution and not just a source of spirituality.

MarkAA

ps. I chuckled to myself a couple of months ago when I finally read Chesterton's "Orthodoxy" and found a chapter near the back that says almost exactly what I've stated here, only much better, obviously. And that it had been one of HIS epiphanies too.

Alia

I was raised Catholic and even through high school, as the rest of my family was falling away from the church, I continued going on my own. Then I went to college, attended one Mass, and immediately lost interest. Then I moved overseas, where I was constantly traveling and just seemed to never have time.

I came back to the church Christmas 2000. My grandfather (ironically, a very lapsed Catholic himself) died on 23 December. Since I was new to town, my boss had already invited me over to her place to help bake Christmas cookies. When I called to tell her about my grandfather's death, I assured her that I still wanted to get together because I needed to get out of the house and get my mind off my grandfather's sudden death.

So, on Christmas Eve, as we're baking cookies, she tells me that she was going to be attending Christmas Eve Mass with two of our co-workers. She said that she didn't know if I was Catholic or not, but that maybe it would help me to attend church. I agreed and went to church for the first time in almost a decade. I cried throughout Mass (kind of hard to think about joy to the world when your heart is breaking), but I guess I did manage to sing the hymns with gusto, because as we were driving to our co-workers for dinner after Mass, she asked me if I'd ever thought about joining a choir at church because I was such a good singer. I had been a member of my church's choir throughout junior high and high school, so that comment got me thinking. Then our two co-workers said that same thing at dinner.

A few days later, I found the website of their church (which was actually in a different diocese than the one I lived in at the time - that's how much I fell in love with this church - for a church that looks like the worst of 70s architecture, it had a very Orthodox priest) and found the name/e-mail address of the choir director for the Mass I was interested in attending. I e-mailed, asking if she could use a soprano/flute and I was welcomed with open arms (she had been the flute player, but as the director, she wasn't able to play at Mass anymore).

I found a group of people who are like a second family to me, a point which was driven home a few years later when my apartment was broken into. In need of a place to stay while I looked for a new, safer place to live, two of the choir members welcomed me into their home for two months. My parish was actually a big influence in where I ended up living - I moved to a place within it's geographic boundaries. And when the flute player at one of the other Masses had to leave the choir, I ended up playing occassionally with that choir on pieces were they just had to have a flute, which turned a few months ago into a full-time membership in a second choir and a whole new group of friends. Attending two Masses a weekend also means I usually get to hear two different homilies from our both our wonderful priests.

Dan

I’m a 47 year old revert who came back a few years ago. But some part of me never left even though consciously I bought into a mix of Freudian/Marxist/liberal ideologies for many years and was not practicing Catholicism in any way for all those years. During all my years in the wilderness I always retained affection for the Church and a memory of Christ.

When I was a in the first grade (in Catholic school) a teacher brought in a statue of Jesus. The statue was alive for me and I made a connection to Jesus that never went away. My mom pulled me out of Catholic school in the second grade (after I had made my first communion) and sent me to public school in part because I had a mean nun as a teacher and in part because she herself was leaving the Church in favor of 60s-style New Age garbage. At that point we stopped going to Mass also. In high school I discovered sin and there was nothing to hold me back. I went to a sophisticated secular college and there I fell in with a group of friends who were mostly liberal intellectual types. I also read Marx and Freud for the first time and was very impressed by what I read. At that point I thought the Church was 200 years behind the times. I remember thinking, “Wow, it wasn’t until the 1960s that they gave up Latin!” I remember reading in Freud that the two most important things for happiness in life are a successful love life and a successful work life. This made perfect sense to me and, moreover, came from Freud whose reputation was so grand. So I believed it. And that’s how I went through my 20s and 30s – not just pursuing love and work, like everyone else, but also believing they were the key to life. I say I believed it but in the back of my mind I never really did, particularly with regard to work. I knew that if you were, say, a ketchup salesman, in the larger scheme of things it really didn’t matter how many bottles of ketchup you sold, even if the Heinz company did give you a gold watch before you died. I also noticed that although I had a good job and a happy marriage, I felt an emptiness. Set backs in my life, including a simultaneous business set back and premature death of a loved one, woke me up. I thought to myself, I know there is meaning, why not look for it? And the obvious place to look was the Church, for which I had never lost affection, and Jesus, who I never forgot. First though I had to convince myself that the Church was intellectually respectable and that Catholicism was not just a grand superstition as had been intimated in so many things that I had read over the years. I won’t trace that process here, but it ended with me devouring books by C.S. Lewis, Ratzinger and others and finding more richness than I had dared to hope for. So I came back to my first love and since then I haven’t looked back.

meg

I grew up in the 70's and 80's going to mass each week attending ccd until I was confirmed. I went to public elementary school and catholic high school. As soon as I could drive I would tell my parents I was going to mass and instead went to the beach, returning home an hour later with a bulletin I had one of my little brothers run into church to get. I only went to mass once during college. As the years past I never entered a church until it was time for friends and family to marry. I was always very anti catholic anything. I even remember having to do a reading at one of the weddings and mocking everything about the mass and wedding. Yet I did it. It was easy to get out of the habit of attending mass and having anything to do with the church. Fast forward to 1995 Pope John Paul was in new york and new jersey. I was making fun of the whole thing. One day i happened to turn on the tv when he was appearing someplace and every tv station was all pope all the time. I sat and watched. I couldn't believe it but I had to watch every second from that point on. I didn't go to work one day because he was going to be someplace. I started to feel this big void. Sunday came around and I realized that what I was missing was Christ and mass. So I went. It was very strange lots had changed yet nothing changed. I started looking around for a parish that I felt comfortable in. I finally did and haven't missed a mass since. Now I am actively involved in my parish. God works in mysterious ways!

Don

In a classic case, my mother (my father was not Catholic) left the church after I and my siblings had been babtized and I had received first communion. She left the church because of a disagreement with a priest. As a child I was perfectly willing to not go to church on Sunday.

I spent the next 30 years as an agnostic. But really not thinking about God at all. In my late thirties I had reached a bottom because of alcohol and drug abuse. I went to 12 step programs but was always turned off by the discussion of God or Higher Power. As a result I could not stay sober and eventually became homeless.

I was challenged to pray for a period of time whether I believed in a Higher Power or not. So I did. I lost my obsession to drink. I began to believe in a Higher Power. At least in the power of prayer.

After a period of time I met and married a woman who was Catholic. We had children. She went to Mass, I did not. We enrolled our children into Catholic schools and I became involved with parental activities.

Over a period of time I had listened on the radio to Religion on The Line - a talk show featuring various clergy. I was always impressed by the priests. By their intelligence and by their love of God. Although I was deeply suspicious of the church I decided I needed to make a decision and either become Catholic or find another way to worship in community.

I studied the church and took some classes from our parish priest, who was not very impressive. Finally, I read a book called the Concise History of the Catholic Church. Probably not approved and certainly not uncritical of the Church. But after I was finished I read it again (all 800 +/- pages). I was captivated by an institution that started with Christ and kept alive through many changes, missteps and challenges, a true rendition of Christ's teaching. It was powerful yet humble. It was true and it was adaptable. Whatever the mistakes of its prelates, the Church trudged on. Glorified by its Saints but sustained by the millions of faithful.

After this I wanted to become a part of this Church. And so I attended confirmation classes and was confirmed about 12 years ago.

I have since been transformed by the Eucharist and the mystery of our faith.

Fr RP

I converted in 6th grade. IN 9th grade I went to a seminary High School that, in most respects was steady. I went to college seminary and had my faith tried. It was the 80's and a rather ugly time. I saw priests and sisters who regularly bashed Catholic teaching and it caused a great deal of confusion. My senior year, my parents divorced, which create some real anger which I directed to God. Between the last four years of having everything I learned in High School deconstructed (and personally buying it), I left not only the seminary but the church as well.

I went out into the work world and did quite well. I devoted myself to money, power, and women. I did well at each. But I started to feel as if there was something horribly wrong. It still took a few years after that. I bought into hedonism and no matter how much I ran after it, I was never satisfied. I started to remember, with fondness, my HS seminary experience. I had been taught in college to dimiss it as superstition and a crutch for the unenlightened. I started to have second thoughts.

I started going to Church again. this time, though, I read everything I could get my hands on. The more I dove into it, the more it made sense. I started craving the Sacraments as I had never done before. I found in the Church the promise of fulfillment hedonism and the world promised but could never deliver upon.

Of course, that led me to start thinking about a priestly vocation again. I did promise myself, if I were to follow God's call that I would never do what was done to me by those priests and sisters in college. the witness of John Paul II sealed the deal for me. College and the world taught me what was important was to be liked; JP II taught me what the Gospel teaches. When I saw him stand firm on issues for which he got unending grief, I felt it an invitation follow.

My studies in theology, especially Patristics, solidified this even more. Now, I could not imagine being anything else other than both Roman Catholic and a priest!

JH

I left the Church, consciously and with great relief, sometime during the latter part of my high school education. As a child and young person, I had an overly scrupulous conscience, which, combined with a poor understanding of Church teaching, made my faith quite burdensome. I began reading a great deal of science texts, and various materialist texts which presumed to be scientific. As a result, I began to experience much doubt, eventually deciding Christian faith was for simpletons, or, at best, those that “needed that kind of hope.” I, however, as a hardened realist, needed neither the hope nor the guilt Christian faith inspired.
It was a confluence of two events that brought me back to the Church. About four years after leaving, I was knee-deep in an exploration of Eastern religions—certain they held the truths Christianity so sorely lacked. I read advice, from both the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, encouraging westerners to return to the religion of their culture. This prompted me to pick up a book by one of their shared acquaintances, Thomas Merton.
The second event was doing something shameful and downright rotten to someone I loved. The guilt was more than I could bear, and the belief in one’s need for forgiveness no longer seemed like such a silly idea. Merton’s work had a powerful effect on me, and I believe it alone would have converted (reverted?) me, but I don’t think I would have thrown myself as headlong into Christianity if I didn’t feel such an overpowering need for Christ’s forgiveness.

marymargaret

I will try to make this brief. I left the Church as a teenager, convinced that God did not care about me. My mother died when I was 12 of pancreatic cancer; 18 months later, my beloved father died of a heart attack. I was placed in a wonderful home with a friend of mine. Her parents, especially her mother, were very kind evangelical protestants. They never tried to change my faith, but did not understand it either. So, I drifted away--God was my enemy--he had killed my parents and left me alone--who needs friends like that!
I grew up, married outside the faith and had two incredible daughters who I did not have baptized. I didn't see why it was necessary. My eldest daughter is responsible for my reversion. One day (she was around 4) she said, "Mama, why don't we go to church? All my friends go to church." I told her we could go if she wanted. She did. And as far away as I had fallen, church to me meant Catholic. So we went. The confection of the Eucharist brought me to tears over and over, but I didn't know how to come back. One day, a flyer was placed in the bulletin for a program called "Remembering Church" at a nearby parish. I was TERRIFIED, but I went. I was welcomed home, my daughters were baptized, began attending CCD, and I never looked back. I am afraid I still didn't take my faith too seriously, and will have to credit JPII for my current love of the church. Watching EWTN and other stations when he was dying--watching the rosary being prayed for his soul--his funeral--I really began to understand what the Catholic church is. Then PBXVI was elected. I was disappointed, to say the least. My beautiful (and really smart) younger daughter told me to trust the Holy Spirit! I began to read the Holy Father's writings, to listen to him and truly learn the Faith. Now I thank God for allowing his election. Never again will I listen to the media when it comes to the Church! I love the Church teachings, and am slowly beginning to understand the incredible gift that Jesus left us. Sorry if this has gone on too long. Guess I haven't done the best job of keeping it brief, but I wanted to try to articulate, to the best of my ability, how the Lord drew me back home (I have a sneaking suspicion that my parents' prayers may have helped). Deo gratias!

klc

Born in '66 in a very liberal diocese. Finished Catholic high school with the impression that the faith was nice but those old men at the Vatican were a bit out-of-touch, weren't they? Fell away during college. Evangelized by fundamentalists. Loved the community and camraderie.
But I kept asking pesky questions, like, "But how did we determine which books were in the Bible?"
Many little graces converged to bring me back, but the 2 clinchers were when Catholic friends gave me Janet Smith's tape, Contraception, Why Not? It was literally shocking to be exposed to such counter-cultural ideas (yes, I said 12 years of "Catholic schooling,") but it made sense at a gut level, and I finally got the connection between birth control and abortion...and had to ask "why did only the Catholic Church get it right?
I still was trying to find a home in Protestantism, but then a friend gave me Mark Shea's book "An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition," and that was it! He asked and answered my questions, and very fun reading to boot.
I'm kind of surprised that after what we've experienced the last 30 years, more people don't return over the whole Theology of the Body issues. Especially now that we reverts have children of our own to navigate through this culture.

j-g

Thanks to blog-hostess Amy for a great catholic Catholic blog thread. I was up so late reading that I missed the Post-a-comment curfew. I couldn't post 'til today.

Even more thanks to all the posters. The thoughts you shared here hit me like a condensed Journey Home program.

Fr. Kevin Hanlon

What a wonderful idea, this topic! God bless you, Amy.

I never left, BUT, in my first year of Seminary, studying religion at Catholic University (D.C.) in 1974, the skepticism about Scripture, even about the Gospel (a la Bultman) had infected many theology courses. This threw me into a bit of a crisis, for it is the first time I heard "believers" say that they didn't believe! And these were university teachers who I thought must know. It was a tortuous month for me. Finally, a New Testament professor took a break from Bultman et al., and said, "Now, Rudolph [Bultman] has a lot of insights, but assumes that God cannot trump nature, that is, that there are no miracles. So he and others strip the Gospel of them, calling them "myths." But how can Bultman say modern man can't believe in the supernatural? Why didn't he confront the evidence of Lourdes?" He then proceeded to tell us of one of the greatest Lourdes miracles, fully and scientifically documented. This professor's class was always the most popular. Scholarly yet completely open to God. It was as if he was saying, "Read the Gospel with St. Bernadette." One could see the happy relief on many faces.

So I finally came to the conclusion that I did not care whether Bultman (or all the priests, religious and laity he has infected to this day) can believe in the miraculous. It only matters whether Matthew, Mark, Luke and John believed what they saw, and wrote about what they believed. It is only in the past decade that we have good scholarship in Biblical studies coming to the same conclusion.

Three last points: 1) Whether people stay or leave or come back or come in for the first time, it is mostly a spiritual battle fought by forces we cannot see, and our most important work is prayer and sacrifice. We are fighting legions that can only be defeated this way. When I am tempted to blame things on this or that priest-religious-layman or laywoman, or on myself, I try to remember this is a firstly spiritual battle, not an earthly one. 2) We do lose a few to our separated brethren, but, especially lately, many of them are coming home (and most of them are in the pews next to you, not yet ready for instruction, but pretending to be Catholics already). 3) As Pope Benedict suggests, I try to foucs on being faithful, and not on numbers. That is how the Church always survives.

God bless you all, and thank you for reading this if you got this far!

Fr. Kevin Hanlon

cecilia

Mary and Father Brian--I was a grad student in the religious studies department at UVa in the early 1990's and at the time was a very lukewarm if not agnostic "Catholic." I am a convert and a revert both, and at the time the Catholicism offered in my parish had the substance of jello and we were told that VII had changed everything. A couple of years later I was very stunned to learn that a grad student friend of mine and a brilliant professor had joined the Church. Neither one of them would have put up with "jello" so I figured that they must have found something of substance. It really made an impression on me.

I was first drawn to the Church as a small child, mostly by my attraction to the Virgin Mary, the nuns at my Catholic school and the Mass.
What finally brought me back to the Church was promptings from the Holy Spirit, constantly asking me questions in my heart and challenging erroneous assumptions and beliefs, and a move to another diocese and a solid Catholic parish. Relief and joy flooded my heart when I was finally able to give assent to all that the Church teaches and as I began to fall in love with Our Lord.
Now I am an aspirant to the secular Carmelites and I see the Catholic faith and the blessings coming from membership in my parish as literally an "embarrasment of riches."

Elizabeth

I'm a late Boomer (1959) born in the Deep South, the last of five kids, to a Catholic mother and a Southern Baptist father. I never went to Catholic school, and my siblings and I just kind of stopped going to Catechism class when I was about 9. At 12, I had a crisis of faith -- I ended up professing agnosticism, and I pretty much stayed there for the next 20 years.

Sometime in my 30's, I started going to Mass again with my sister and my mother -- through a long and tortuous series of family situations, we three had ended up living together for a couple of years, and they both went to Mass regularly. I kind of drifted into going with them -- I never stopped wishing I believed, I just couldn't seem to get there. The church (where I am a parishioner today) was modern and ugly, the music was awful (many times not just bad music, but bad music sung off-key, usually with a guitar accompaniment), and the Mass was full of little innovations -- like throwing in "Bread of Life" instead of "Lamb of God." But the two priests were wonderful, and their homilies gave me plenty of material for reflection.

At about the same time, I started reading Susan Howatch's Church of England series. These books were a mini-revelation to me -- I'd never read a novel set within a framework of Christian belief, where a character's relationship with God was the most important relationship he had. Very far from just boy meets girl, which is what Howatch's earlier novels were, and what I thought I was buying.

Howatch's writing provoked me into picking up a used copy of C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity at a flea market. I was reading Lewis alone in my room one night, and ... there's really no other way to put this ... I had an experience of God. I felt God's presence in the room with me. I felt that His eyes were on me. I didn't hear voices or anything like that. I just felt His presence in a way I never had before and never have since. A Psalm 139 kind of experience.

Reading back over that last paragraph, I know this is the kind of thing that makes non-believers, and maybe even believers, think "hallucination, send this woman to a shrink." I would have said so myself to anyone who described such a thing to me. I can only say it was the most real thing I've ever experienced.

A few days later, I went to my priest and made my confession. At the next Mass, I received Communion for the first time in over 20 years. The priest had the choir sing "Amazing Grace" during Communion. I know, it's not a Catholic hymn, probably shouldn't be played at Mass, but it brought tears to my eyes that night.

I can't say how anyone else views my story, but here is what I see: God saved me with what He had to work with. I had a wonderful mother who never stopped praying for me, and who, together with my sister, ended up living with me and being a model of faith. I had a habit of reading romance novels and just happened to pick up one that would stir my desire for a relationship with God. I was a bit of an Anglophile, and here was the English master of Christian apologetics ready to hand. Rationalism was initially a stumbling block to my faith, and God pulled me over with a unique experience of grace.

And last, but not least, I had His Church. Bad as the music was, ugly as the building was, unorthodox as the liturgy was, the Church was still able to bring me home. As I've matured in my faith, I find myself wishing I could go to a more traditional Mass in a more beautiful setting. But I remind myself that it was this modern, messy, imperfect Church that kept holding out the invitation to me until I finally got close enough to accept it.

Thanks be to God.

thomas tucker

I am also a convert and then a revert. I left because I no longer believed in the Church's teaching on homosexuality, contraception, and divorce. After 20 years of living according to secular values, I learned that the Church was quite wise in all of it's teaching and that I would be far better off trying to conform myself to Her teaching instead of the other way around. I won't titillate you with the details of those 20 years ""in the wilderness" but suffice to say that people delude themselves when they buy into what society tells them is the way to happiness by giving free reign to their thoughts and desires under the guise of being "true to themselves.' It is better to be true to Christ.

lulando

Hello,
I left the Roman-Catholic Church 36 years ago when I was 14 against the wish of my parents, grandparents and the local priest, because nobody had told my, there was no historical proof of the existence of Jesus. I have never before or there after felt as betrayed as then. Whatever I since learned about the history, honesty and authenticity of that church - i.e. the brutal historical record, the ever prevailing hypocracy and the severe lack of honesty and authenticity - never made me regret that decision. So I am quite happy not to be a member of the RCC. :)

Joe Magarac

I guess you could say that attending Notre Dame both drove me away from the Church and brought me back to her. I grew up in a pretty Catholic family, serving as an altar boy, attending parish grade school, voluntarily going to CCD after confirmation, and otherwise being a fairly faithful kid.

Then I took Intro. to Theology during my freshman year at ND, and a grad student teacher who seemed to see theology as anthropology -- the study of why people once believed in God -- kicked the intellectual foundations of faith out from under me. I went to Mass and saw the whole thing as a charade -- the priest's words at the consecration seemed empty.

So I simply stopped going to Mass. When my college girlfriend suggested that we break some of the Church's rules regarding personal morality, I happily complied. And for the next few years I managed to live a remarkably un-Catholic and irreligious life in the middle of Catholic Disneyland, a.k.a. the University of Notre Dame. My dad got cancer and died after my junior year, and I didn't pray or go to Mass: I thought it the intellectually honest thing to do.

Toward the end of my senior year, grief from my dad's death caught up with me, and I started staying up late and thinking about him and about God. I found that listening to "Chant" or "Passion of the Christ Soundtrack" made for a conducive thinking environment. (Have never seen "Passion" the movie, but the soundtrack is great). And one day in March, I was walking by the Basilica, heard the bells ringing, and decided to pop in for Mass.

I'm not mystically inclined, and nothing special happened at that Mass. But afterward, over the course of that spring semester, all of the Catholic trappings of Notre Dame -- the student Masses and pro-life crosses and bells and statutes and incense that had seemed so lifeless and dead after that theology class -- slowly came to life again. I had two priests as professors that semester, and while neither was terribly orthodox or devout, both impressed me as smart people who believed in the God and the Church I had been doubting, and their belief made faith seem more credible to me.

From that point, reversion was a matter of a few short steps. I attended an ordination Mass that spring, telling friends that it was the once sacrament I had never seen in person, and was deeply impressed by the candidates as they prostrated themselves before the altar and, later, were prayed over by hundreds of Holy Cross priests. I started taking communion again, started attending daily Mass, and before I knew it was back, and with a vengeance. I have never looked back.

Thank you, Our Lady! Thank you, Notre Dame!

Bradamante

Long story short: the Eucharist. I guess I'm an addict.

marie

Sleepwalking through life ended with the arrival of children. Where to go with all that profound gratitude? Somehow I thought I was entitled to all the other fabulous gifts in my life - good family, beloved husband, friends, prosperity, health, education. But to be entrusted with children who were clearly created by God was the blessing that drove me to my knees. Facing Him again required a return to confession after more than a decade, which was followed by deeper study and appreciation of the faith. Despite twelve years of catholic schooling, I felt like I was learning a new language, and I was bowled over by its beauty and coherence.

allison

I came back through the power of the Holy Spirit.

While the Church considers me a revert, as I was baptized and received Holy Communion and Penance, I had never felt any faith. I had never had any experience of a relationship with God, and as a child in Catholic school remember thinking that it was just a nice story. Catholic high school made it worse; I become an atheist because of ham fisted apologetics combined with egregious liberation theology telling me that the Communists were such nice people and it was American corporations that were evil. At that point, I understood it to be that the Church was corrupt, hypocritical, and had no moral authority.

I came back in small steps, over a long time. In college, I had a philosophy class that taught me phenomenology, and I learned about Pope John Paul II's work in phenomenology--which was brilliant and inspired. The professor of that course was friends with Fr. Sokolowski at CUA, who taught about how faith was phenomenological.

At the same time, I was learning physics, and I was aware that most of the great science up until the 2nd half of the 20th c. had been done for the Glory of God. That no prior era of scientist had ever thought themselves at odds with belief in God, even if they were at odds with the Church. Yes, Galileo ahd problems, but look at Newton, Hooke, etc. Science for God made sense to me.

Over the next few years, I came to believe that the Roman Catholic Church was correctly consistent on its teaching of contraception and abortion; I didn't agree, but I admitted that if you were against abortion, you had to trace the line all the way back to contraception.I also realized that the Church was right on gay marriage, divorce, women priests, and most social issues. This made me start thinking about the teaching on abortion and contraception until I admitted was a disaster contraception had been for women.

I had always loved religious music. In 2001, after Sept. 11, I went to a church to hear a requiem for the victims. It didn't make me feel funny, the way church had in the past.

But in 2003, I got married, civilly, and the world changed for me. I was so changed by the experience that I realized WHY marriage was a sacrament. I realized what a blessing it was. I realized how much of a better person I was, how deeply moved to charity, to faith, to humility I was. I realized I believed that the Church was right about just about everything. But still, I had no faith, though now I wished to, and I started reading. I read Sokolowski's book, The God of Faith and Reason. I started reading blogs, including this one. I started reading St. Anselm.

Then, when Passion of the Christ came out, I admitted to my husband how much I wanted to see it. Going into the theatre, I thought
"what if this experience converts me? what if I become someone else, and everything I've known til now is lost to me? What if it kills me? like Saul?" and then my next thought was "God does not want me to be afraid." and I saw the movie, and I believed in Jesus Christ as I never had before.

It took a bit longer to go back to Church, but I was going within 6 months, and the hardest part then was asking my husband to go with me. But he came, and now we go. We, and our son, who was born a week before my confirmation, a couple weeks after the validation of our marriage.

The last cementing of my joining a Church was during the deaht of JPII and the choosing of Benedict. That was when I was publicly willing to call myself a Catholic.

And there's still liberation theology and there are still bishops that are hypocrites and now I understand that that never had anything to do with my being or not being part of the Church.

Niggle

I apologize for the length of this. Everything just seems to hang together. I put it in the form of a bulleted list to make it shorter. Also, I used a pseudonym as some of the details in this are a little embarrassing.

I was born in the spring of 1979 and was baptized on the Feast of the Holy Family.
* My parents were good and decent but hardly religious.
* My dad was a science teacher and a deist. I grew up on science, being particularly interested first in paleontology and then in entomology.
* I showed some "pious" inclinations when I was young (like wanting to be an altar boy, reading the Bible, & praying the Rosary) but they soon dissipated.
* I had a high IQ but I stutter, have trouble speaking and understanding other people's speech, get confused about mundane things, and have really severe tunnel vision. Really severe. Sometimes I recognize my friends' noses before I recognize my friends.

We moved from the Big City to the Small Town, a nineteenth century European colony dominated by a big Catholic church built by the first parishioners' hands.
* I was sad and lonely and rather eccentric - as is my family - and I got really depressed in junior high. Experienced some minor physical torture. Became extremely introverted.
* I had had weird, perverse desires ever since I can remember; I began to fall into sin in junior high and this depressed me horribly. But I made pretty good grades.
* I became something of an atheist in high school. I couldn't imagine a God that wasn't part of the material universe and I knew anything else would be silly. I dreaded annihilation but I couldn't imagine any eternity that was more than a cold, grey serial existence. I couldn't understand how a person could be more than mere matter; pictures of brains threw me into weird paroxysms of despair.
* I began contemplating suicide.

Here's my religious life.
* I went to CCD when I was young and learned about how not to steal or cheat. We also memorized a few prayers, probably the best thing we did.
* Didn't have any religious ed in junior high. Went to church intermittently. My parents are picky about Masses and they still describe a "good Mass" as one that has seventies music.
* Had religious ed in high school. In confirmation class, we decorated balloons to express how we thought about God.
* I was never taught the doctrines of the faith. For instance, I had never heard of the Real Presence and I thought the Eucharist was a mere symbol until my godfather corrected me in high school.

I went to college as an art student.
* During the first week I met a kind young girl, a sophomore, who converted me to . . . I don't know how to label it. A church that doesn't have a building but rents spaces in motels and community centers from week to week. I guess you could call it "Pentecostal". The meetings were long, a mixture of rock music and bombastic preaching. They were very big about not singing any songs more than two years old.
* My initial euphoria lasted about six months. The people were always talking about how wonderful their church was; they promised the world with heaven thrown in but never delivered. They couldn't, God bless them. Miracles and exorcisms were regularly reported.
* I became extremely depressed again and really angry, but I never contemplated returning to Catholicism, partly because of my attachments to that girl, to whom I am now married. But I had also gotten it into my head that there was nothing to return to.

I learned about St. Francis of Assisi. It took me a long time to really understand him and my understanding of the Church progressed in a parallel fashion.
* I liked him then because he would *do* things rather than just gas about them. He was a charming person and loved - truly loved - both God and man. I always talked about him and I couldn't understand why the people at my church didn't know anything about him.
* I bought a quantity of burlap and sewed myself a cross-shaped tunic by hand and went preaching on campus barefoot. My acquaintances thought I'd gone off the deep end. I sold all my possessions and convinced my fiancee to do likewise; my parents thought I was planning to commit suicide. We planned on quitting school to go and preach the Gospel, though I could never think of anything to preach *about*.
* Our pastor was completely bewildered by my ideas. His lack of comprehension was a sort of wake-up call to me. I realized how irrational I had become and this depressed me further. I decided never again to try to "hear God" the way people at that church do so. I would just wait until He spoke.

We married when I had two years of school left.
* My wife and I disentangled ourselves from the church, which was getting smaller and weirder. We were extremely isolated. Our understanding of sexuality was . . . flawed.
* I became a math major, partly because the ridiculous arguments against modern cosmology put forth by "creationists" at our church made me want to learn about general relativity for myself.
* I began to obsess about strange things and succumbed to temptations. My problems were worse than ever before. Sometimes I beat the wall until the skin was stripped off my knuckles and they bled.
* One of the things I obsessed about was Malory's Morte d'Arthur (the pre-Caxton edition), especially The Quest for the Sankgreal. I dwelt upon the passage about Launcelot's failure at the Waste Chapel and subsequent repentance, confession, and penance, not really even understanding what I was reading but bitterly longing for something I couldn't name.
* We read The Lord of the Rings aloud several times.

We moved so that I could go to graduate school, with the intention of earning a Ph.D. in mathematics.
* Math is rather austere and going to grad school was like going out into the desert. Mathematics requires extremely rigorous proofs and I began to love Truth for her own sake.
* For a while I obsessed about later Roman history. I read four volumes of Gibbon's Decline and Fall as well Bury's Later Roman Empire. The negative yet powerful accounts of the Church of the Fathers made me want to look into ecclesiastical history. Just before taking my first-year exams I took a break for three days and read Augustine's City of God cover to cover. I read his Confessions at the same time and then immediately re-read it.

We began thinking about going to church again.
* We first tried Anglicanism/Episcopalianism: I was tired of what they call "non-liturgical worship" and I looked up to C. S. Lewis. We spent a month or so in England touring cathedrals but they seemed more like attics or museums than churches. We were also disturbed by the fractures that were making the news.
* We ended up at an "interdenominational" church, similar to the first we'd gone to but more stable and less pretensious. I kept my arms folded and was cheerfully cynical about the church's world-shaking claims, but they were decent and sincere people and we made some good friends there.
* I continued to read omnivorously. I read two Protestant books that moved me: Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and Law's Serious Call. I tried to organize an ordered round of prayers for myself but it never got off the ground.
* I began reading Chesterton and then Newman. I got halfway through the latter's Apologia but then put it down as it made no sense to me. I also read a lot of saints' lives in the Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
* When John Paul II died they anounced it in church. My wife wept but didn't know why. She followed the election closely and when Ratzinger was elected she said with assurance that God's hand must have been in it.
* Our church took part in a "global day of prayer" which we were assured was "one of the greatest moves of God in history". We went camping instead. It was Pentecost, though we didn't know it.

That Sunday night I dreamed a dream. In the dream it seemed that I stood before my parents' Small Town parish church but it was bigger and grander. Someone told me it was a cathedral and a sister-church built by the original Small Town parishioners out of love for the diocese. It was a long dream but at the end I stood in the narthex with five bishops and four other laymen. The bishops were from the four corners of the earth and the fifth was Pope Benedict. He was perched on a little table beneath the painted crucifix. He so preached about the goodness of Christ that I wept. Then the bishops led the way through the church to a line of confessionals. I stood outside, wanting to enter one but afraid to because I couldn't remember the Act of Contrition. I became so agitated that I woke with a start. I don't know if the dream's details were inspired by God. It doesn't really matter, because I know that the conviction I had upon awakening *was* from God. All sorts of things that had always puzzled me made sense.

I read Newman's Apologia and then his Development of Christian Doctrine in three days. Aha! At dinner one night I told my wife, "I think we should become Catholic." (In retrospect, I probably should not have done so when we were dining out.) She was furiously angry at first. But she is a schoolteacher so we spent the summer reading. I would go to the University library, check out books about Catholicism and then bring them home to her. That summer we read the Apostolic Fathers, Therese of Lisieux, the Catechism (over and over again), Waugh's life of Campion, Chesterton's lives of Sts. Francis and Thomas, Council documents, Justin Martyr, and, well, other things. A lot of things.

Then I went to confession for the first time in almost twenty years. I had to take a long bulleted list with me. My wife decided to convert and she was received into full communion last Easter.

We're still as miserable and lonely within Church as we were without it and we've been shocked at various abuses (like the entire RCIA program my wife went through!) but no matter. The Church has had problems before and will have them again. Perhaps one day we can be lay catechists. We are grateful, so grateful, for the sacraments. We are slowly learning how to be devout and I think St. Francis de Sales had helped us more than anything. We are grateful that God in His goodness has given us a school for simple human goodness and that He did not let us go down to destruction. I am weeping as I write this and as I am in a department computer lab I'd better stop writing now.

Thank you for this thread.

Matt

I was raised a lukewarm Lutheran. When I went to college, I was a bit of a partier during my freshman year. Despite this, a dorm-mate from down the hall asked if I wanted to go to Mass with him one Saturday night. I honestly thought it would shock him if I said "yes", so I went! (Even a rebellious nature will be used by the Lord) After this, I continued going to this very lefty Newman Center where the priest allowed me to receive and distribute Communion even though I was not Catholic. During my senior year, this priest was suddenly transfered out of the diocese (pre-scandal, so there was no explanation that I ever heard). I was scheduled to distribute Communion, and after Mass I was talking with the new Pastor. He asked where my home parish was which led to him learning that I wasn't Catholic.

He was shocked to say the least. His reaction was appropriate, but offended my entitlement mentality so I never returned.

A couple years later, I married a lovely Catholic girl and we floated between Catholic and Lutheran churches (I remained seating this time!) for about 5-6 years. Every year, she would very subtly say "oh, look RCIA is starting. Isn't that interesting?" I never took the bait so she dropped the subject. After about two more years, we both decided to join the other denomination, but I insisted no becoming Catholic.

Now, this was merely a "convenience conversion", not based on a determination of truth, but it got me in the door and back to the Sacraments (validly this time). Now began my lukewarm Catholic phase.

Everyday during this time, I would bike past a Catholic bookstore, The Mustard Seed in Iowa City. After about 2 years of this, I popped in on a lark and bought a book (Why Do Catholics Do That? by Kevin Orlin Johnson) which amazed me. It had never occurred to me that today's Church was connected with the Apostolic Church. Numerous little tidbits about various cultural and liturgical practices were fascinating and the historical continuity of the Church was too compelling to ignore. This was in stark contrast with our RCIA program which seemed to consist exclusively of discussions of vignettes involving people named "Carlos" or "Paco" LOL. So, I became a "real Catholic" (ie admitting that it's right and struggling to meet the ideals of Christianity) and have enjoyed the battle ever since.

Fr. Shawn O'Neal

I was bored in my late teens. I had great teachers and great priests, but I thought that the Church was nothing more than fat, old men who acted like cops rather than shepherds.

In all honesty, I was glad that the Eucharist called me back home. The theology of other denominations seemed tasty, but the Eucharist was and is the real stuff

Studying theology, patristics, and history helped me to understand that shepherds have a huge responsibility and that these shepherds depend on God through prayer and through the Sacraments to keep heading through the narrow gate, too.

nicole schiavolin

A few things:

1. Inexplicable longing for the sacraments and sacramental life. Tried incorporating them into the evangelical world, eventually saw it was ridiculous to lift sacraments out of their native context, i.e., the catholic church, and saw what we were doing was pretty much make-believe.

2. The aesthetic witness of Catholic novels, choral music, intellectual life, art and architecture. [All of which were completely concealed from me in my 12 years of Catholic school.]

3. The reverence and beauty of the liturgy, along with the faithful witness of priests, at my parish.

4. The holiness of our bishop. [Total opposite of the one I grew up with.]

5. The prayers of JPII.

Kathleen

I was raised in a very liberal parish in southern New Hampshire. I remember, during preparation for confirmation, asking the priest about birth control and every other moral issue and his standard answer was "use your conscience."

Most of my Catholic peers stopped going to Mass after they were confirmed and I basically stopped in college. It just didn't seem to be something that was necessary. I believed in God and Jesus Christ. I was never told it was a mortal sin to miss Mass so it was no big deal.

What stuck however was the teaching that you should do your best to wait until marriage before having sex. I was always bothered by the rampant promiscuity I saw in college and when I moved to New York City after college and saw that things were getting worse and worse (affairs, heavy drug use anything you can imagine) I started to pray. I told God that I knew I was nothing special but that if there was anything I could do to make the world a little bit better, that I wanted to do that for Him.

I didn't go back to Mass right away, in fact I was scared to death of it. Then I happened to click onto EWTN, Mother Angelica Live. Her fiesty personality had me glued. She got me back to Mass and I finally had enough guts to go back to confession after I read JPIIs book where he wrote something like 'if God can forgive Peter's betrayal he can forgive you'.

The confession itself is worth saying something about. It was an Indian priest and I really only understood half of what he said b/c I wasn't used to his accent. It was only after praying my penance that I realized he was listing out various sins and that I had responded yes to everything he asked. I probably confessed to murder for all I know. I think he realized I wasn't understanding him at the end of the confession.

I was walking on air after confession. I wanted to go have an ice-cream sunday as Mother Angelica always said one should do after getting back to confession, but I didn't.

God brought me back through EWTN and Mother Angelica. Watching and learning from all of those shows, I realized there was so much I didn't know and was never taught. God also sent me a wonderful advisor and friend Fr. Robert Levis who is like a grandfather to me. If I've ever met a saint it is him (which he would hate to see that I wrote that.) If I ever get to heaven it is going to be because of his prayers.

I can't believe how blessed I've been. I can't imagine ever leaving the Church. It would break my heart. I have an Evangelical friend who is trying to convert me right now with a lot of cherry picking scripture and "the Bible says..." conversation. He even tricked me into going to his Church by saying it was a Christmas pagent when it ended with a alter call. I don't doubt the faith of protestants but I found the entire thing to be shallow and more of a therapy session.

But all in all, the historical proofs of the Church and the Sacraments that I first learned of b/c of EWTN is what really did it for me. But when I think about it all, it started with prayer.

prefer not to say

* Raised by serious, reflective Catholic parents whose time in the charismatic movement led them to seek out the sacraments as well as to cultivate daily practices of scripture reading and prayer.
* Grew up in a parish where only the rich could afford to go to the Catholic school, where the priests actively cultivated friendships with the wealthiest members of the parish (and just as actively distanced themselves from the poorer members), and basically did a lot of international traveling and conspicuous consumption.
* There was a culture of sexual abuse among some of the priests and church employees. (two decades later it became known that even those who were not abusers diverted church funds to hush victims and protect perpetrators). Since I knew about it as a child, but none of the adults around me seemed outraged, I assumed that it was "normal"
* I could not agree with the church's stance on birth control or homosexuality, and so when I left home, I left the church. I did not want to offend my parents, whose faith I felt was sincere if depressingly misguided.

Why did I come back?

On September 11, 2001 I asked myself "If the whole world falls apart where is my compass? How am I going to orient myself if all other goals and landmarks and plans are gone?"

And I realized I still believed in God, and that the Catholic church was the last place I left Him.

I wish I could report the complete satisfaction, sense of homecoming and intellectual conviction that many in this thread have experienced, but I can't. There are many things I still struggle with.

But I decided, when I finally walked back into a church that just because I couldn't believe everything didn't mean I believed nothing. I decided that NOT going to church because I didn't feel comfortable with every thing might just be a form of spiritual laziness -- an arrogant excuse to sleep late on Sundays.

There are days where I walk in to the church remembering Stanley Heurwas's explanation for why he never converted to Catholicism: "You should stay with the people who hurt you first."

But there have been abundant blessings in my return as well. This is the complicated family with whom I will stay.

lisa

Cradle Catholic. 12 years + some college in Catholic institutions. Simply drifted away. Was married in the church. But for a decade had little contact with church.

There was a woman I interviewed about teaching. She taught troubled students in a public school. She talked to me a little about how she tapped into a child's family's faith to help him. She talked about seredipity. That got me thinking.

There was a child. My own. My first. And realization that she needed to be baptized. But why? Then there was the fear, embarrassment to take an eight-month old.

There was baptismal prep. There were wonderful people who welcomed me to any church function. I felt so guilty it was hard to go. They were... so holy and I was... not.

There was EWTN on all those sleepless nights nursing babies.

There was a home-based religious education group who welcomed me and my two children.

There was a teenager I interviewed about why she was a regular churchgoer.

There was a man I worked with who gave me a copy of the Bible and the Catechism as a gift on my child's baptism. He became a great friend and.... apparently a gentle guide.

There was a unknown child in front of me at a Mass in a town farawat who turned and asked me why I didn't go to communion.

There was the crucifix in the "crying room" where I whined, er prayed, about my toddlers "misbehaved" during Mass.

There was the First Reconcilation Retreat for my first child. A parent can't walk with their child through ccd without setting an example.

There was a sweet priest who was so kind I forgot all my fears about returning to the sacrament Reconcilation.

There was a husband (angry at God) who wasn't going to Mass who teased me about being late to Mass

There was a Mass when they asked for choir volunteers and somehow my husband had a reason to return.

There were many people and circumstances that drew me along. God put all of them there and I am so thankful he did.

There was an opening for a CCD teacher - to teach for First Reconciliation. As my friend would always say, "God has a great sense of humor."

And so here I am.

Joel

1. I married a jew, which just got me thinking about religion in general.

2. The anti-religion tone of the media and liberals starting really getting to me. I started to feel like if there was an "us" and a "them", then I wanted to be in the "us".

3. I read Mere Christianty, by C.S. Lewis, and about 80% of my "objections" fell by the wayside.

4. I read the new testament, and started going to mass every week (St. Augustine, Brooklyn). I felt at home the minute I walked in the door.

Looking back though, I can now see all the points in my life when Christ was calling and I misinterpreted it.

JennE

I love this thread!

I was 30 when I reverted.
Pre reversion: Me – coud care less, husband – flat out atheist. I never understood any precepts of my faith except how bad I was (femisnist liberal no need to delve up the trash) and needed to go to confession (like I was going to) and how real the presence of God is in the Tabernacles of Catholic churches. I believed in the Real Presence always although it was never a devotion. To me it was a truth just like 2+2 is 4. I was always attracted by Him although I never really understood that was it until I reverted. I loved to visit the churches in we came across in Europe and I sensed reverence for him there.

Trigger event:
We were ready to begin our family in our now 5 year old marriage. First child miscarried at around 8 weeks. I was devastated. During an exam that confirmed the event, a mass of unknown origin was discovered. I had an OB that was top notch and he hesitated to say anything. Yes, the word cancer came up. So, now it’s like all my life came before me and I wondered what I was doing. For three days I didn’t know anything for certain. I prayed with what little I had in me that my life be spared and I will turn back to Him. It ended up being nothing, which stunned my doc. I kinda knew I was on a road now and went with it.

Beginning: After looking at the Mormon books my atheist husband toted around and buying a bible (“scholarly” – I laugh now at that bookstore purchase), I told him I wanted to go to Mass. I hadn’t been to Mass probably since confirmation. He took me to Life Teen – right there where it began, in Arizona. Friends of his in high school would go and he went sometimes too. I cried and “knew” with full certainty that I was home that day. I did have a headache after the loud music and would you know I looked for the darn tabernacle and couldn’t find Him! BUT, I knew I was home. I asked my husband if he was sure this was a Catholic church. He said yes. We found a different parish that had a fabulous priest. Something he said stays with me to this day and has helped me keep focused on who it was that brought me back to the faith. He told this little parable of the church bell ringer. A man very happy in the church would ring the bell every day before Mass. One day the fire dept. came and said the bell was a hazard and couldn’t be rung anymore. He was devastated and left the church. He cautioned us to not let whatever thing we are clinging to be our faith. This priest could teach like this because he had his own journey of conversion that helped all with ears what our faith means. Only two years there and we left the state to a town where our faith got tested. Prior to leaving my husband converted and was baptized along with our first living daughter. And his friend (my great friend too!) was able to see her high school buddy be baptized. She prayed five years straight for our conversion. She told us when we finally got in touch (well on our road in the Catholic journey) she had lost the urge to keep us in her prayers, you see, we never kept in touch except for a rare hello. She is truly a hero of prayer.

Now in yet another town we are tested again and I tell you, I have found the pearl of great price, the gold that the priest in AZ said to keep digging for because your life depends on it.
Yep, the Real Presence

So the next part – to sell all and take up the cross . . . .

YEAH!

Jenn, mom of three wife to a saint (he is so darn patient)

alias clio

Cradle Catholic. Liberal Catholic parents, though not in today's sense (they were both opposed to abortion - but they did practise "birth control"). They gave up mass-going because my father was not a real believer and my mother found it too difficult to get four children to mass on her own. She never stopped believing; neither did I or any of her children.

I read Screwtape Letters at about age 11. Enthralled. Started attending mass with an aunt on my own initiative. As I grew older found it harder to obey church teaching re sexuality. Fell away not for that reason but because of tendency to depression and despondency over "the problem of pain", which was a big thing for me. I was wrong about that, but I don't think I was moved by self-interest masquerading as sympathy for the suffering.

Knew very little Catholic theology. Had not attended Catholic school much (for about two years altogether, here and there). We had to move frequently for my father's work. Above all had no grasp of theodicy. Still remained a vestigial Catholic, almost always loyal to the Church when speaking of her. Away at university, her sins were pointed out to us; I was quick to say that in a world like this, that wasn't much of an argument. And no comfort. Plus had brilliant art history professor whose respect for Catholicism (at least as an inspiration for art; don't know about his own beliefs) who kept my faith alive.

Experienced major intellectual conversion in my early twenties, thanks to brother who read Aquinas. Fell in love with doctrine. Reverted, confessed, went back to mass again. Then another brother was stricken with a mental illness. Despaired again. Sought connection through "relationships", which always failed. Too frantic with need. Again couldn't figure out God and the pain thing. Plus, now I was a committed sinner. Yet was great defender of Catholicism, in my circle of atheist and agnostic friends.

Thirties came and went. Got a Phd in history with special emphasis on early modern Catholicism. Went to mass, didn't go to mass, tried to pray, gave up on prayer. Could neither take it nor leave it. Always had "religious experiences" of one kind or another. Once between sleeping and waking I thought I saw Mary stoop over me and banish the shadows of despair and fear that hovered around my bed. "Let her go", she told them, very low. And they seeped like black smoke into the corners of my bedroom, and faded away, and I awoke.

Still I wasn't a real Catholic then. Certainly am not a good one yet, but I know the difference, and am on my way. What changed me was my mother's illness and death. She had by this time gone back to the full practise of the faith. Said many prayers for her and saw many of them answered. Learned to say the Rosary for the first time, and found comfort. Also for the first time, began to understand about the problem of pain, though won't try to explain that here. My theodicy improved. My great bogeyman, which had haunted me since late childhod, was finally more or less vanquished.

The day before my mother died, I was in the hospital with her. She had told me earlier that she didn't want my faith to fail if she died, if that prayer went unanswered. And on that day, when she was so ill, she tugged on my hand to help her sit up; I grasped her shoulders thinking she wanted to go to the bathroom, and trying to hold her back till a nurse came; and instead she said in a small croak of a voice, "Hail Mary". I knew why. We said a decade together, her voice faint but clear. When we were done, I set her back on the pillow. She died the following morning, a little more than two years ago. (I wasn't there but my father and his sister were.) Though I have a long way to go, my faith has not faltered since.

Owen

Amy, I am joining this late but you can read more convert and revert stories on an ongoing basis at my new blog VERT. And, if you are a "vert" you can join and begin to participate.

Owen

And, I would like to add that I am so stupid that when I was referred to this post by a friend I jumped you intro and began to read the stories so, I missed the fact that you had already given much linky love to dear old VERT. Mea Culpa and many thanks.

Of course, everyone is still invited to join VERT and begin linking their VERT stories and, I'll try to stay out of the way :)

Gen X Revert

Joel Rifkin, the serial killer who killed 19 prostitutes, helped bring me back to the Church! I worked with him on Long Island just before he was arrested, and actually found him to be nicer than some of the other co-workers I had. His arrest and the thought of evil vs. sickness caused me to think alot and this woke me from my slumber. I had drifted from the Church, never really leaving, just stopped going to Mass sometime after college. I figured why should I bother going to something boring when so many evil people are out doing their thing. Slowly, but surely the seeds planted in the 16 years of Catholic school helped me come back. Also, the internet, including blogs, filled in a lot of stuff that I was never exposed to in Catholic school. I found out how deep and fantastic was the faith and culture and how it helped make sense of the evil I saw in everyday life.

Ggoose

I left the Church as a youth when my parents figured out that the CCD classes were teaching indifferentism. In my teenage years I believed in God but lived a life wholly grounded in secular morality. I went to college in north Louisiana and met up with some Evangelicals who set me on the Bible track. Over a short time period I read most of the NT and oddly enough found very little in conflict with my Catholic upbringing. I decided that Catholicism was strange and still Christian but churches I was attending had it better. Then I encountered anti-Catholic ignorance for the first time. Then I found out the pill was an abortificient. Then the reading began which resulted in my reversion. This happened over a long period of time and after raking nearly every questionable Catholic teaching over the coals.

Obviously ... grace ... It started with moral teachings -- especially the stance against contraception (and its history), the Eucharist (which I never stopped believing but didn't realize was a nearly unique teaching to Catholicism), the sacramental nature of marriage and the inexplicable denial of it by most other Christians,
history (Thank you Newman -- to be deep in history...) and FINALLY all of that Bible reading I did in college makes SO much more sense with Catholic eyes than before ...

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