I suppose that it all started when I was born…but if I started there, the length of this post would be beyond ridiculous. My conversion story has three main parts or events that made it possible for me to be where I am today: the initial curiosity, the sweetness of retreats, and the part where God screwed my head on straight.
The Initial Curiosity
I should probably mention that I was baptized Catholic not long after I was born, and though my family took an extended hiatus from church life, I still consider myself a cradle(ish) Catholic. When I got to middle school I made friends with some of the people in the Christian club. There was something genuinely intriguing about them. Not in the they-are-so-weird-and-Jesus-freaky kind of intriguing way, but intriguing in the sense that they were just happy. Crappy things could happen and somehow, even under their frustration, they had a joy and a peace about them. That underlying joy and peace spoke to me, and I wanted to figure out how to be like that. So, I started asking questions. I asked my mom a lot of questions and somewhere along the way she started going to church on Sundays. I don’t remember much, but I do remember asking my mom if the church she was going to had stained glass windows. I didn’t know much, but there was something about stained glass windows that made me want to go to church. There is something about this quote that makes it all connect for me:
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” – Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
[The abridged version of what happened between the initial curiosity and the sweetness of retreats goes like this: The whole family started going to church after having been away for about eight years. I had missed the normal age for first reconciliation/communion and was nearing the age of Confirmation. Classes for teens like me didn’t start for almost a year after we returned to church, and the classes took two years to complete. In that time we had three family members die within three months of each other. To say those deaths took a giant toll on my newly found faith would be an understatement. I wouldn’t even utter “God”, “Jesus”, or “Holy Spirit” for nearly two years. I’d go to Mass and Confirmation classes (forced by my parents) and be bitter the whole time. My heart was so hard when I first received communion and Confirmation…but God breaks through hardened hearts.]
The Sweetness of Retreats
Two years after I received my first communion and was confirmed, I met a friend in math class. She was a quiet reserved girl, but she had that same peace and underlying joy about her that first sparked my interest about the faith. As I talked to her a little more, I discovered that she was Catholic and went to the youth group at the church I went to, and she invited me to come check it out. Naturally I was hesitant, but I went. I don’t remember much from that first youth group, but somehow I signed up for the lock-in a few weekends later. The lock-in went well and it was fun, I met new people who weren’t super weird and all seemed to have that joy I was searching for. I signed up for another retreat, this time it was overnight up in the mountains the following January. I went on the retreat and had my first experience of Eucharistic Adoration. To put it mildly: it changed my life. I cried my eyes out, realizing just how hardened my heart had been, and cried tears in awe of the God who loved me through it all. In the monstrance that night I fully believe I saw it bleed, His heart, bleeding for me, His love poured out and flowing for me. In that moment my entire life plan changed and I knew I wanted to work for the church and spend my life living in His love and sharing it however He called me to.
The sweetness of retreats led to me attending a Catholic college, majoring in theology, becoming a youth minister, and now working as a Director of Faith Formation. But before all that could happen…
The Part Where God Screwed My Head on Straight
I do believe I’ve written about this a little before and I know I cover it in the book, but in college I had a semester where I went a little crazy. Not as crazy as God knows I could have gone, but I also didn’t make the brightest or wisest decisions. It took some honest words from my spiritual director to get me out of the spiritual hole I was digging for myself. God, as He always does, came after my heart even though I had turned away from Him. Sure, I was going to weekly, even daily Mass, and I went to confession every week, but my heart wasn’t His and I knew it. It took a particularly honest confession and the ability to let my guard down with God before I would let Him screw my head on straight and plant my feet firmly on His path once again. My theology classes deepened my faith and set my heart on fire to love Him and work for the good of His Kingdom.
The Journey Ain’t Over…Until It Is Over
There you go, the story story of how I got to where I am today: crazy daily Mass attending, rosary praying, confession frequenting Catholic. Each day is a blessing because I wake up knowing He loves me and I get to fall asleep in His arms. There’s more work to be done, but He is always guiding me and washing me clean in His love and mercy.