Sunday, July 28, 2013

My Religious Background OR My Conversion Story

I made it!  7 Posts in 7 Days Challenge complete!

I was raised protestant by a single mother who had been divorced from the time I was very young, maybe around three years old.  During my younger years we attended a Nazarene church.  We attended church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and also Wednesday evening faithfully every week. Basically our whole lives revolved around it.  Our friends were from church.  Our families participated in all the activities at church.  Our parents were ushers and Sunday school teachers; they helped out in the office, and ran Vacation Bible School. They hosted ‘Harvest’ parties so we had an alternative to Halloween. We grew up waiting for the day we turned thirteen so that we could join the youth group and join the bible quiz team. We helped out at Sunday school when we were old enough and we participated in children’s church. Our social activities were what ever was going on at church. That is because we were taught that things like movies, music, and dances were all sinful. Even if the movie or music was morally good, the money we paid for it could go to make others that were not. We led fairly sheltered lives, except some of us attended public schools. I had a solid faith formation in the Nazarene church. I knew it was important and that God loved me.

About the time I was in my early teens, my mother had remarried to a Southern Baptist man. So we began going to a Southern Baptist church. My step dad smoked cigarettes and even drank a beer after work each night.  It took a while for me and my sister to understand that those things were not sinful, in that context, as I had been taught for many years. We continued to attend the Southern Baptist church regularly. My family was still very involved in the activities of the church, youth group, Sunday school, usher, vacation bible school. For reasons I won’t go into, my family returned to the Nazarene church before I had finished high school.  At this time in my life, I had become more involved in school activities and my life did not revolve around church as much as it once had. By the time I went off to college, I wasn’t really attending church much, but I still always knew that faith was important. While at college, I found a local church that I attended occasionally.  They were really nice and tried to focus activities for the college students, but I only ended up staying at that college for one semester.  When I moved back home, my parents were attending a different Baptist church.  I rarely went with them and wasn’t living my life the way I should have been.

Over the next couple of years I met my husband and we got married in the Baptist church my parents were attending at the time. We actually attended fairly regularly before moving to upstate New York. Once we got here, we did not attend any church. I knew my husband was raised Catholic but neither he or his family were attending Mass and hadn’t been for quite some time. There were stories they told and pictures they had of weddings in church and of an old priest that they adored.  But I didn’t have any feel for what made the Catholic Church important to them or that anything they believed was different than what I had grown up with. They didn’t have anything good to say about the priest that was here at the time and I didn’t know any better to question it.  After all, I had grown up in churches that when they didn’t like their pastor any more, they got a new one. But as our daughter started to get older, I knew she needed to have some kind of exposure to church. Even though we hadn’t attended for some time, I still knew the value of my faith. I knew it was important for me to pass that on to my children. So I began my search for a church to attend.  I attended one service at a local Presbyterian church, and then decided I should check out the Catholic Church since that is what my husband’s family professed to be.  I had made my decision and went with my bible in hand to see what it was like. Obviously, I didn’t know the responses and felt a little lost, but I was intrigued. I listened intently and once I discovered the missalette, it helped.  I could see that the reading were directly from the bible.  I of course knew the Lord’s Prayer, but was curious about why there was an added piece in the middle of the end of it. The kneeling was very reverent and respectful to me, even though I didn’t understand the True Presence yet. The sign of the cross was a little awkward at first. I had seen other people do it, but I really didn’t get that it was a blessing.  All I had ever really thought about it was that it was a sign that the Catholics did to show they were Catholic. But through God’s grace, I was drawn in to the Mass.  I kept going and finally decided I would find out about religious education for my daughter. I was lucky enough that the priest at the time was very caring and willing to offer me any support I asked for.  He was teaching a confirmation class at the same time that my daughters First Communion class was being taught.  He invited me to join them until there was a RCIA class ready to start, which I did.  Of course sitting in a class full of high school kids raised in the Catholic Church was a little uncomfortable but I sat back and listened and soaked up all I could.  It wasn’t too long before the RCIA class started.  In the meantime, I had been hired as the new parish bookkeeper and secretary.  A job I knew God had called me to, without a doubt.

It wasn’t much of a stretch for me to accept the teachings of the Catholic Church. At that time, I could see enough similarities between it and the faith I had grown up with. I came to understand that the Catholic Church was the Church handed on through Peter and the disciples. That it had been the Church in existence since Jesus’ time. And that the protestant religions were break offs from the Catholic Church. History truly is amazing. I had always had reverence for Mary, so no harm there. The little bit tougher teachings were confession to a priest and the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. My faith had been strong enough all my life that if I truly believed that the Catholic Church was handed down by Jesus, then I had to have faith that these teachings were true. That was enough for me, I went to confession and although I didn’t feel the grace of the sacrament, I knew I was doing the right thing. I became a full member of the Roman Catholic Church at the Easter vigil in 2001.Little did I know at the time, but I had so much more to learn.

To be continued...

**edit - Amanda at Worthy of Agape is hosting a "conversion story" link-up, since I just recently posted this, I am going to add it to her link-up.

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