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The journey of conversion — a call for readers to share your stories
At Mass recently, our parish community prayed for the catechumens and candidates who have been attending the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. Three men and women have spent the past several months learning about the Catholic faith — its history, its doctrines, its devotions and its sacraments — and have chosen to enter into full communion with the Church at the Easter Vigil. God bless them.
In its section on the Easter Vigil, the Roman Missal quotes St. Augustine, who said the liturgy is the “mother of all vigils.” I’ll have to take the good Doctor of the Church’s word for it. There are many holes in my Catholic experiences, but one of the gaps I most regret is that I have attended only one Easter Vigil, and my memory from that night a 14 years ago is foggy at best. I don’t remember most of the details of the liturgy — what the readings were or what our priest said during the homily.
I do remember the warmth of the fire that lit the paschal candle. I remember the beauty of the dark church illuminated only by the hundreds of individual flickering flames that filled the pews.
I remember the nervousness I felt. I remember the smell of the chrism oil on my forehead. I remember my then-3-year-old daughter piercing the silence of the Church, running toward me, arms open, screaming, “Daddy’s Catholic!” as I headed back to the pew.
I remember a strong sense of satisfaction — even completion. After a lifetime of wandering in and out of various faiths — and no faith at all — Daddy’s Catholic. Conversion over. Finally.
But truly, that was the beginning of my journey, not the end.
I wish I had come to the decision to become Catholic out of a desperate love for the Church and its teachings, because I longed to experience the mercy of Christ in the Eucharist and in the confessional, but that wasn’t the case.
No, I longed to have my tremendously faithful wife have a husband whom she could be proud of. I longed to have her stop asking when I was going to fulfill the promise I made to her to convert. I longed to stave off the inevitable questions from my devout 3-year-old about why Daddy wasn’t taking Communion.
While the paperwork on my conversion was complete that night 12 years ago, my head and my heart are still trying to catch up, because conversion isn’t an event that ends with chrism oil and cake and punch and congratulations; it is a lifelong journey of trying to get to the point where we echo Christ’s words to his Father: “Not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22:42).
For me — for most of us, probably — falling in love with Christ and his Church is a process that is full of joy and frustration and, often, a tremendous sense of feeling overwhelmed. Trying to consume and digest 2,000 years of Church teaching can be daunting. The Bible is thick. So is the Catechism (not to mention the thousands of papal exhortations, letters, encyclicals, etc.). But the journey is long. God willing, there is time.
Conversion isn’t like flipping on a light switch. No, conversion is like the fire that ignites the paschal candle at the Easter Vigil; it starts with a single spark and an invitation for Christ to set your heart ablaze. Conversion is tending to that flame of faith — to fan it — through prayer, through obedience, through reading and charity and love. And soon, the fire that burns from within will illuminate all the dark corners of our lives.
At the Easter Vigil, we pray: “Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her, / ablaze with light from her eternal King, / let all corners of the earth be glad, / knowing an end to gloom and darkness. / Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice, / arrayed with the lightning of his glory, / let this holy building shake with joy, / filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.”
In the issue of Pentecost Sunday, Our Sunday Visitor wants its pages filled with the mighty voices of the peoples. It’s our tradition to publish readers’ stories of conversion or reversion. We invite you to share your light with others by writing about your journey to commit (or recommit) your life to Christ and his Church. All submissions (300 words or less, please) are due by May 1 and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN, 46750. Please put “Conversion Stories” in the subject line.
Scott Warden is managing editor of Our Sunday Visitor