I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding my journey to the Catholic Church. Questions like…
- How come?
- What on earth for?!?!
- Oh, for Pete’s sake, are you serious?
And my personal favorite…
- Are you doing okay? You know… spiritually?
In response to that last question… Why yes, I am doing okay spiritually. Quite well as a matter of fact. Thank you for asking.
In response to the other questions however… Those are going to take a while to answer. Because this has been a long journey. One does not simply “Become Catholic”. It’s this whole… process. SO, that’s what this page is for. To give you at least a glimpse into my journey into Catholicism, and to answer some of those lingering questions as to the how and the why.
The most recent parts of this story will show up at the top of the page, while the older parts will show up further down the page. So, if you want to start at the beginning, start at the bottom. If you want the latest installment, look below.
An Answered Prayer
About eight years ago, I moved to the suburbs. I was living just blocks away from a quaint little Catholic community that I had to drive or walk past nearly every day. And every day I passed it, I would stare at it, wonder about it, and want to join it. I would think about it, fantasize about being part of it, and make up these elaborate schemes as to how I could weasel my way in.
It made very little sense, but I just wanted to be there.
One day, I finally worked up the courage to verbalize this desire to my husband (Yes, I was married. It’s this whole thing. I’ll get to that.) and he laughed and stared at me like I was crazy. The exchange went a little something like this:
“What do you mean you want to go there?”
“I don’t know. I want to work there or visit there or… I don’t know… sneak around and take a private tour or something.”
“But you’re not Catholic…”
“But there’s a school AND a church there! How cool is that? It’s like a little Christian community!”
“But what would you do there?”
“I don’t know… work in the library… answer phones in the office… be a substitute teacher…”
“But you’re not Catholic…”
“Yeah. I know.”
I was oddly bummed about the fact that I was not, and probably never would be, part of this Catholic community. So, I threw myself into activities at my own church, determined that I too would be part of a Christian community even if it did mean I was merely a teeny-tiny, insignificant cog in the massive machine that was my mega church. (Oh… yes. That was a whole ‘nother thing. We’ll talk about that next time.)
In the meantime, I went back to school (a Catholic University of all things… although, to be honest, it wasn’t very “Catholic”) after prayerfully considering what to do with my life. You see, I had a writing degree, and while I loved writing, I wanted a job where more was required of me… where I had to actively “serve”… where I felt like I was making a difference and impact on the world around me. That’s when the Lord led me into the teaching profession. So, I went back to school.
Near the end of this teaching program at this Catholic University, the students were tasked with writing a fake letter of intent to a school – to introduce ourselves and highlight our abilities – because one day in the near future, we would be doing exactly that.
So, being the industrious soul I am, I figured it would be a waste of time to write a fake letter when I could write an actual letter that I could put to good use in the future. So, I figured, why not address it to that lovely little Catholic school I was desperate to be a part of? So, I did. Maybe one day I’d actually be able to use it. Probably not, but maybe.
During this time, our advisors were putting together our student teaching assignments, and we had been warned time and time again: You will not get the assignment you want. You will not get an assignment close to home. You will not get an assignment in the suburbs. We need teachers who can reach our inner city kids. You will be assigned to an inner city school with high poverty rates and at-risk kids because this is where quality teachers are needed the most. End of story. Don’t even bother asking.
I had already done a practicum at an inner city Muslim school and I just couldn’t help but think how wonderful it would be if maybe, just maybe, I could get assigned to that lovely little Catholic school down the street. But I knew that wasn’t going to happen. It was close to where I lived. It was in the suburbs. It was full of privileged white kids. It was private. It was Christian. There was no way. So, I didn’t bother asking. But I prayed about it anyway. Maybe God would work a miracle for me.
Months later, I was sitting in my last class of the program. We had finally reached the end of the regularly scheduled classes, and our professors and advisors were going to announce our student teaching assignments. They called my name, followed by Saint (Insert Name of Saint here) in (insert name of suburb here.) Those teachers and advisors had actually assigned me to the Catholic school in my neighborhood.
I nearly fell out of my chair.
Twenty heads whipped around to stare at me, as my classmates sat with mouths agape at what they had just heard.
“You got a private school?”
“You’re in the suburbs?!”
“How did you get into a CATHOLIC school?”
“WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!”
I don’t think my classmates were jealous as much as they were horrified that a future quality teacher could receive such a cushy assignment. How was I ever going to learn about teaching in the “real world” with an assignment like that?!
I didn’t have any answers for them. I was dumbfounded myself. I couldn’t believe they were giving me such an assignment. It went against all the rules they had initially set up for us. What WERE they thinking?!
When I went to collect my packet of information regarding the school and the student teaching assignment, my advisor stopped me.
“Why did you write your letter of intent to this school? Have you been working there?”
“No. I just… I just always thought it would be a neat place to work.”
“Are you Catholic?”
And then she just smiled and handed over my informational packet.
That night, I called my mom screaming… because I could NOT believe the Lord had answered this ridiculously stupid prayer. I mean… I was probably needed in the inner city schools. Why had He put me there? At the Catholic school?
I was about to find out… and officially begin my Catholic journey.
The “Real” Christian Debacle
A lot of “real” Christians think that Catholics aren’t “real” Christians.
It’s okay if you think that.
Because I used to think the same thing, as horrified as I am to admit that.
Catholics were “kind of” Christians. I mean, they “kind of” believed the right stuff, but for the most part, they just didn’t “get it”. They weren’t the “real”, born-again, destined-for-heaven kind of Christians that all Evangelicals / Pentacostals / Non-Denominationals strive to be.
I know. I now realize how absurd this sounds, but there are a slew of “real” Christians out there who still believe this. Throughout the years, there has been such miscommunication of what the Catholic Church truly believes and teaches, that it’s simply deepened the division between denominations and churches. But that’s another post for another time.
This idea of “us” vs. “them” was pretty rampant in the church I grew up in. Basically, unless you attended my church, you weren’t a “real” Christian… with the exception of Baptists, and various “Evangelical” self-starters around town. But for the most part, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists and especially Catholics, “just didn’t get it”. This was never specifically taught or stated… but it was just understood that there were very few “real” Christians in the world and unless you believed exactly what we believed… well… good luck with the after-life.
I have a vague memory of being invited for a sleepover one weekend. The family was planning on going to Mass on Sunday, to which the sleepover participants were invited to come along. I remember that I was allowed to go to the sleepover, but I would not be attending Mass the following morning. I didn’t even ask why. I just knew the family was Catholic, and therefore, it was a given that I wouldn’t be going to church with them on Sunday because, as Catholics, they weren’t “real Christians”, so why would I go to church with people that weren’t “real Christians”? It sounds completely absurd to me now, but as a child, I viewed Catholics as sort of like Jehovah’s Witnesses. They just had a lot of strange ideas and teachings.
To make matters worse, up until my thirties, I had only met one (yes, ONE) real Christian Catholic. All the other Catholics I knew were saints on Sundays and sinners the rest of the week. As in, they could party all week, cheat, steal, and lie, sleep around, swear like sailors, and engage in border-line illegal behavior… UNTIL Sunday when they would get in line at the confessional, attend Mass, do their best to behave until midnight on Sunday and then start the entire vicious cycle all over again. I didn’t understand or relate to this kind of behavior. You were either living for Christ or you weren’t… and from what I saw from the majority of Catholics… they most decidedly were not.
This idea of what a Catholic was and wasn’t stuck with me until about eight years ago… when I moved in down the street from a Catholic church and school. I would drive past this Catholic community every single day, and I began to have the most absurd and inexplicable inkling that I really wanted and needed to be part of that community.
And that’s where this whole crazy Catholic journey started.