I never thought I would find a home in the Catholic Church. It just wasn’t for me. From what little I had heard and saw, it was too ritualistic and strict. It wasn’t that I judged anyone in the Church or considered them “lost;” I believed that they loved Jesus, I just never gave them much thought. I was raised in The Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal, Protestant denomination. I went to church every Sunday and even went to a private Christian school through 8th grade. I’ve been a Jesus-lover from a very young age, and of course I’ve had my ups and downs with faith as most do, but I’ve known the whole time that His will is what is best for me. Over the past few years, He has shown me that His will for me is to become Catholic.
I got my first real taste of Catholicism when I started dating my husband, Bobby. His family is Catholic, and their love for the Lord is so obvious. Whenever I visited, I would usually be the only non-Catholic in the room, but I never felt like an outsider. They accepted me just as I was right from the beginning. I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of their family and thankful that they were my first look at what the Church really is. Around the time we starting dating, Bobby was struggling with Catholicism. The ritualistic nature of the Mass, “Catholic guilt,” and questions that he wasn’t getting answers to resulted in bitterness toward the Church. He quickly found a home at the Assembly of God church I went to, and that’s where we stayed until two years into our marriage.
One night, my sister in-law Kelsey sent Bobby a YouTube link to a talk that Father Mike Schmitz gave on the Eucharist. The talk is titled, “The Hour That Will Change Your Life.”(Little did I know...) Up until that point, as all Protestants do, I believed that all communion bread was a symbol of Christ’s Body; not the actual Body of Christ. That was the one fact of faith that Bobby and I didn’t agree on. He never really stopped believing in the Eucharist, but didn’t fully understand its significance. We both listened to the talk, and needless to say, it got me thinking. I decided that it was definitely possible that the Catholic Church really did possess the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. Good for them! That didn’t mean I needed to be Catholic... right?
During the next year, I felt a consistent hunger for the Eucharist. I started seeing things about the Church that were really beautiful. If I saw an old Catholic Church, I had to go in to admire the beauty of its architecture. I found Catholic podcasts and other media that I really loved and found interesting, but I just felt so uneasy about it. There was restlessness in my soul. I asked Bobby’s family a lot of questions. At first it was just to better understand them, but then it was because I felt drawn to this thing I didn’t want to be a part of. I was trying to find ways to convince myself that it wasn’t what God wanted. Then it became more of a need-to-know, because deep down I knew that it was, in fact, God’s will, and I knew I couldn’t be outside of His will.
I eventually hit a wall. I couldn’t keep going like this. I was sick of the restlessness and, one day, I prayed for a sign. I know some people don’t encourage that, but I did it anyway. I prayed for an obvious sign, one that I would be sure was His call. I told the Lord that this would change my life drastically, so if this was what He wanted, He would have to put it right in front of me. We went to my church that Sunday as we always did. My pastor was doing a series on salvation, and as we sat down to listen to the sermon after worship, the words, “The Bread of Life” came up on the projector screen. The worst chills I think I’ve ever had in my life went through my body. Of course the sermon was on the symbolic message of the Bread, but I kept thinking to myself the whole time; “it’s not a symbol, it’s not a symbol.” The rest of the day was the most uneasy I had felt yet. Was that the sign? The excuses started pouring in. Bobby won’t want to go back, we can’t go to different churches, we lead worship at church and they need us, my family won’t understand, I can’t leave a vibrant praise and worship service to go sing hymns! There were plenty more. I was so angry at God for wanting this from me. I felt alone because I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I was wavering in my beliefs. As a way to cope, I held on to the belief that some of the Church teachings were oppressive and controlling. One time I imagined myself praying a Rosary and burst into tears. Again, I did not judge Catholics, and loved the ones in my life, but I did NOT want to be one.
I couldn’t imagine why the Lord would want me to join a church that had so many (seemingly) unnecessary religious rituals. He wants us to have freedom, not to be robots! I was put off by the hierarchy of men leading the Church that thought they could have control over everyone. These reasons, of course, came from a lack of knowledge about the Church and its history, which I have since studied and gotten to know better. Please understand that this is the way many Protestants see Catholics from the outside. Sadly, most of them don’t give Catholicism the benefit of the doubt.
My biggest reason for not wanting to be Catholic still hurts. My favorite way to worship is through music. If you’ve ever gone to see your favorite worship singer in concert, you get the whole experience—the lights, the blaring sound system, the crowd of people all worshiping together with raised hands, dancing before God and singing of His greatness. That is what most big Protestant churches are like every single week. The more contemporary worship music and new versions of some hymns were always played. The presence of the Lord was always so strong when I was in this environment worshiping through song.
The first time I went to a Catholic Mass—before I believed in the Presence of God in the Eucharist—I couldn’t believe the dullness. People just stood there with their heads stuck in the hymnals. I remember thinking, “If Jesus was standing right in front of you and you knew He just saved your eternal souls, there’s no way you would just be standing there looking so bored!” Music was the most important thing to me. Even as a Protestant, when I was trying out another church, I didn’t want to be there because no one was worshiping the way I thought they should be. I thought there was no way He would want me to give that up. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned during this whole transition, it’s that there is more than one way to worship God. Praise and worship is my favorite way, but it’s not about me. It’s about Jesus, and what He wants is for me to receive His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist and other Sacraments.
Once I realized this, I started to come out of the darkness. I started listening to others’ conversion stories, which helped me understand that I wasn’t alone. I told my in-laws about my decision to start the RCIA process and they were (and continue to be) an incredible support; especially since my mother-in-law, Heather, is also a convert and experienced the same hunger for the Eucharist that I did. My family was not mad. Confused, but not mad. The most important thing for me was that my husband, Bobby, was willing to search with me and go back to the Church as a couple. He never made me feel bad about struggling with my faith. He always validated me and helped me feel like a normal human as he always does. I started RCIA and that was it. I couldn’t believe it, but I was on the journey to becoming Catholic.
God never ceases to amaze and surprise me. When I was still searching and questioning, Kelsey once told me, “Jesus is pursuing you. Consider yourself thoroughly wooed!” She was totally right. I have been wooed! I will still have struggles with faith, but I am a stronger Christian now because of all of this. If we struggle, it’s because God is planning something amazing for us on the other side. I’m still not crazy about the hymns, but with Heather’s beautiful voice leading us behind the piano at our parish, I think I’m starting to come around.