I suppose the best way to start out would be to tell my conversion story, how it is I came to be Catholic in the first place. It was not an easy road! Be warned...this will be long!
I was raised in the Church of Christ and my faith was always very important to me, my parents instilled in me a love of truth and a great respect for God's word. I'll give a quick explanation of the beliefs of the Church of Christ (CoC) for those who don't know them. They are definitely a bible church, meaning their only resource and only source of "authority" is the bible. They believe if you are truly open to the Holy Spirit, you will not misinterpret the Bible. Basic beliefs are that you must hear the word (the Bible), believe the word, confess that Jesus is the son of God, repent of your sins, and then be baptized. Basically, this HAS to be chronologically done (which is why they don't believe babies can be baptized, they think it has to be your choice.) They don't use instruments in service because they say the Bible doesn't say to, women cannot be preachers (though they are encouraged to spread the word to friends, etc) and they can't even do a reading because the Bible says women are to be silent during worship. They DON'T believe once saved always saved, they believe (as Catholics do) that once you are baptized you are a Christian, but you can still fall away from the Church and be lost. When you sin, you must confess to God your sins and repent, otherwise you're in trouble. They do have communion every Sunday, Welch's grape juice and crackers, basically, as a symbolic remembrance of Christ's death. They see drinking alcohol, dancing, and gambling as grave sins that should all be completely avoided. As far as the structure of the organization itself, there is NO kind of "CoC convention" or head of the CoC, they are very clear about that. They see each congregation as its own church, autonomous, which has elders and deacons who make decisions about certain things. They are very wary of having a physical organization because they think this somehow undermines God's plan for the Church, which is one of the BIG issues they have with the Catholic Church being a "manmade organization." Also, they don't call themselves protestant because they believe they are really THE Church that God put on the earth that we see in the Bible. They just believe that for the couple thousand years you don't hear about them, they were just hiding. But basically they say the Catholic Church broke away from THEM 2000 years ago, and since the Bible says not many will enter the Kingdom of God, this, for them, explains their extremely small numbers in proportion to the rest of the world.
So this is the mindset in which I was raised. All of my friends who were not CoC were basically going to Hell unless I converted them, so since I can remember I've had the biggest weight on my shoulders...I needed to save the world! In Sunday school we were taught what verses to tell Baptists to show them the error of their ways (faith without works is dead, etc) and what verses to show Catholics as well (Call NO man father!!). We were taught only to argue with Bible verses, because we needed to use God's words, not our own, to show people where they are wrong. Basically...the Bible is the be all and do all of their faith. If you tried to use reason, or some document from a mere man, a member of the CoC simply would not listen because it is not the Bible.
Now onto my actual conversion...For some reason (I now believe it was part of God's amazing plan for me) I was always interested in the French culture. I loved the language, and I just had a great interest in learning more and more about it. When I was about 14, the internet was just starting to boom and I was able to research about France, and with the explosion of chatrooms, I could even talk to French people!! It was great, and my Mom's rule was that if I was on the internet, I had to be doing something productive, learning, etc. So I would talk to French people in French, it was great fun. When I was about 16, I met a French guy named Camille in one of these chatrooms. We hit it off instantly and from then on we talked to each other almost every day. It was so strange, despite our completely different backgrounds, we were SO alike in our values, in our goals for life, in so many things, our ideas on dating (we both felt dating was ultimately to find a spouse, so if a person was not marriage material it was pointless to date them). We talked almost every day as much as possible, and soon came to care a great deal for each other. Before long, the issue of religion came up, and I dreaded that day so much, because I knew that I would never marry someone that was not a member of my church, and I knew the time was coming that I would have to tell him about my views on Catholics, etc (I knew he was Catholic, but was hoping he wasn’t a very strong one!) I hate confrontation, I avoid it like the plague! But it was inevitable, and so our religious discussions began. Camille was so passionate about the Catholic Church, and he explained things to me in such a way that (heaven forbid!) it didn’t sound like the evil manmade institution I thought it was. I was starting to feel guilty because I thought I was losing faith in God by questioning my church. My goal, though, was still to convert Camille to my religion.
Mind you, I was still a minor at this point,17, and he was 21, and my parents knew I had a “French friend” and soon realized what close friends we had become. We still had never met after a year and a half because he lived so far away. Camille ended up moving to Texas (from Miami, FL where he and his family had recently moved from France) and he lived with a Catholic family who owned a machine shop. He worked for them too. He was now about 4 hours away from us, so while visiting colleges we met for the first time and went to dinner with my parents. Well, despite our efforts to be reasonable and not move too fast, we both admitted we were in love with each other and couldn’t bear the thought of not getting married, but religion was so important to both of us and we were worried we would not be able to get beyond this obstacle.
It was time to choose a college, and by some “coincidence” (I believe it was the hand of God again =) a school offered me a full scholarship, and this school was about 30 minutes away from where Camille lived. After finding this out, it was fairly easy to convince my parents to let me go there (free school!) and that way I would be able to talk to Camille about religion. By this time my parents knew of my efforts to convert Camille, and had even been helping me. (The common “ritual” for a CoC girl dating someone not in the CoC is to try to convert them, and if that doesn’t work Daddy tries to convert them, and if that doesn’t work then the relationship must be stopped, period.) My parents knew my desire to do God’s will, and they had faith that I could explain “the truth” to Camille (my sisters had both converted boyfriends on numerous occasions.) So that was the plan-convert Camille!
Once I was on my own for the first time in my life, I felt ready to talk with Camille and really share my faith. The thing is, I really believed in his sincerity and love for God, I could see that he cared about the truth. I had been led to believe that if someone honestly asked God for the truth, they would find it, and that if someone was some other religion besides CoC it meant they were not sincere in their desire for truth. So it was simple, since I KNEW Camille was sincere, all I had to do was show him the truth and he would convert. Needless to say, it didn’t quite happen that way.
Being away from my parents allowed me to open my mind a little. I first started to believe that someone could be sincerely wrong, contrary to what I had been taught, and this bothered me because it didn’t seem right that someone who tried their absolute best to follow Christ would go to Hell because they were not a member of the CoC. At the same time, I was starting to realize, with the help of Camille (and of course MUCH guidance from the Holy Spirit) that I had many misconceptions about the teachings of the Catholic Church. However, I still believed the CoC was the one true Church. I simply allowed myself to look at the real teachings with an open and honest mind. After all, I was confident that I had the truth, and I was confident that even the true teachings of the Catholic Church without all the exaggerations and misconceptions were STILL wrong. So one by one, I started to examine the teachings of the Church and discuss them with Camille.
One by one I started to have to cross out my biblical arguments with the Church. I started to use my brain and think logically, and I didn’t feel like that was wrong, I felt it’s what God wanted. I prayed a LOT and asked God to show me the truth, I didn’t care what church was His, but I wanted to be in His Church. At this point I knew my parents would disapprove, so I started hiding my “progress” with Camille. I read many books by those wonderful authors of apologetics, Scott Hahn, Karl Keating, Steve Ray, etc. I read “The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth” and soon after attended my first mass. Meanwhile, at school, being an English major meant studying old texts filled with allusions to the Catholic Church. I started to see the Church everywhere throughout history, in literature, in art, so much so that I could not anymore deny its importance and its amazing history.
I remember waking up one day and realizing that I no longer believed in the teachings of the CoC. Slowly, almost without even being aware of it I had started to agree with the Catholic Church issue by issue. At first, I told myself it was ok, there are always issues you agree on even with other denominations. (One of the very first issues I was convinced on was the teaching on contraception, interestingly enough!) Soon, though, I agreed on more issues with the Catholic Church than with the CoC. Furthermore, I started to see inconsistencies with the CoC teachings, I started to look at their beliefs as a whole instead of compartmentalizing them as we were taught to and realized that there were contradictions and things that just didn’t make sense. I also felt betrayed because as a child, I had been taught that our church was the church in the Bible and had been there forever, then when I became a teenager I did some research and realized that about 100 years ago some guys got together and decided to “get back to the teachings of the Bible” which was noble, but this is the first recorded instance in history of the CoC as I knew it. Yet the Catholic Church is all over the place, you can’t miss it!! That bothered me tremendously.
So all of these realizations, along with prayer, along with Camille who was constantly there for me, but never pushing me made my conversion inevitable! God had slowly guided me towards His Church, and I could no longer deny His Truth. Now, I had to prove my faith. It was time to tell my parents that I had decided to become Catholic. I’ll keep it short-I drove down to see my family, I told them my intentions, and they tried to keep me locked up in their house. They accused Camille of brainwashing me, and accused me of turning my back on God. My father told me he would have to disown me. They told me they would take away my car and not give me any money because they could not support me being Catholic in any way.
I was prepared for this kind of reaction, but it was still very hard. I literally had to run away. They had taken my car keys from me, thinking I could not go anywhere. Well I had an extra set in the car, so I went outside, told them I was going to take a walk, and ran to my car. They realized I wasn’t just going for a walk and tried to run after me. My mom got to the car and just barely opened the door, but I took off right at that moment-which made her fall down. I felt horrible, but I had to leave and get out of there. I still remember seeing my Mom's streaky handprint on the window, and feeling like it was a hand right behind me, reaching for me, trying to stop me the whole way home. For the next year or two, as I was attending RCIA classes and getting ready for my confirmation, my Dad sent me on average 5 emails a day spewing scripture, trying to convince me I was going to Hell because I had put Camille before God. I tried, at first, to discuss with my Dad, but after a year and a half of constant debates, I told him I wasn’t going to do it anymore because he wouldn’t listen to my arguments and just went in circles with his reasoning.
I was confirmed and had my first communion at the Easter Vigil in 2002, and Camille and I were married June 28, 2003 in France. My Dad and siblings did not come to the wedding, I think mostly because it was a Catholic Mass, but I'm sure the distance had something to do with it too. My Mom couldn’t bear not to be there, so she came (even though she couldn’t understand it as it was all in French!)
After things settled down a bit, and my family learned to accept the fact that I had made my choice, and that it was my choice to make, things got a bit better. My family got to know my dear husband better, and I think they saw he was not the brainwashing monster they thought he was. My Dad even apologized for some of his behavior, and since then our relationship has been much better. We even ended up moving to Austin near my family after we graduated, something we never thought would be possible with all the tension, but it has been very good. My husband and my Dad get along well now, and I live next to my grandparents. Life is good!
So, that's about it. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a writer. I thought I wanted to write fictional stories when I was younger, but as I have gotten older I lean more and more towards writing about religion and apologetics. I would love to write a book geared towards members of the Church of Christ explaining the contradictions I was finally able to see in that faith, and at the same time tell the story of my conversion in much more detail. For now, I'll use this blog as my launch pad and hopefully begin to compile my thoughts in one place.
Phew...well if anyone actually read all of that, thanks a bunch! I feel so blessed to have the husband that I do and to belong to the Church, and I'm loving my life as a Catholic!