Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Reader Asks - Part 2: Eye-Openers

The Conversion of St. Paul - Parmigianino

We'll continue on with the next question I received about my conversion from a reader, concerning ways in which I was helped to come to a better understanding of the faith.

The reader asks:

[I was wondering] what things in particular (of course, prayer and faith are givens!) you found to be the key to an "aha!" moment?
I think there are several different phases within my faith journey, and the answer probably changes depending on where I was.

At the earliest and very initial stages, the biggest aha moments I had - and this is going to probably sound ridiculously obvious - were when I truly listened to and considered the other side's argument.

Prior to this I had the awful habit of what I'd call offensive listening. I wasn't really listening to hear what the other person was saying, I was listening only to find my next point of attack. There wasn't really any need to genuinely understand the point, because, very simply, I already knew they were wrong.

But something - undoubtedly God's grace - nudged me to actually listen to and consider the other points. To me, it was like taking off the CoC pair of glasses through which I'd always viewed the world, and tentatively peeking through Catholic glasses. It was playing "What If" and in doing so, being suddenly able to see pieces of the puzzle falling into place all around me which hadn't made sense in my former world view.

Once I made this more of a habit, and really began considering views other than my own, most of my aha moments came just from reading well-written books about the faith. So often, some basic point would be made, some simple reference to scripture tied to some Catholic belief, the simplicity and clarity of which would almost make me gasp in awe.

Yet another way my eyes were opened suddenly was through looking at history. Seeing descriptions from the earliest centuries of mass, and especially discussions about the Eucharist made me understand very clearly Bl. John Cardinal Newman's wise words, "To be steeped in history is to cease to be protestant."

As I progressed and began tentatively participating in Catholic life, seeing the beliefs I'd been devouring through the written word actually come to life around me in the mass and other devotions was very often an eye-opening experience. It helped me realize that there really is something humanly necessary about incarnating our beliefs in action, about doing rather than just mentally assenting to or holding a belief. Even more poignant than seeing others do such things around me was doing them myself. Talking about kneeling if Jesus were here in front of you is nice, but actually lowering yourself to kneel in front of Jesus in the Eucharist is humbling in a way like no other. Sometimes, when you don't understand something from the outside, you have to just jump in and DO, and then no words are necessary, understanding comes.

Even now, I continue to have such moments where things just click and I understand a long-held belief in a new way, and most of these probably happen through either participating in some liturgical action or through reading since that is my preferred way of learning new things! But yes, constant prayer is certainly important as well, specifically asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit. I think that's probably one of those prayers God always says yes to. ;-)

Was there anything in particular that helped to give you sudden clarity? Do share!

We'll cover the final question in the next post, so come back soon!

No comments: