2cornucopias

Conversion Insights – Part III by Kathleen Prevost

In 09 Faith Journey on 2012/05/07 at 9:11 AM

The Real Deal

Having children also taught me to appreciate the Catholic emphasis on the Incarnation.  God made the world and saw that it was good – so good that he became one of us, a specific, physical being, Jesus.  In a small way like Mary “pondering all those things in her heart,” I am continually amazed at my children’s incarnation, their unique existence in the universe. I love teaching and playing with them.  Again, in the Catholic church I found a beautiful affirmation of domestic love.  The church celebrates Mary and Joseph as parents, as the archetypal biological and adoptive parents that they were.

There are other ways that Catholicism honors the created world.  When we attended Catholic classes for the first time, simply to check things out and with no fixed intention of joining the church, my husband and I noticed that Catholics often interpret Scripture in a literal, physical way, rather than in the metaphorical way we were taught as Protestants.  “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” – literally, in Rome where Peter was martyred. “You apostles will have the power to forgive sins” – literally, in confession.  The priestly power of Christ is transmitted in a particular physical way, through the apostolic laying on of hands.  We Christians must physically bring Christ to a suffering world, hence the ubiquity of Catholic charities and monastic orders.  God came into the world through one singular holy woman, and that is why she is special.

But the prime example of course is the Eucharist: the miraculous, real presence of Christ, every day in every Mass throughout the world. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in a letter: “But for me that Church of which the Pope is the acknowledged head on earth has as chief claim that it is the one that has (and still does) ever defended the Blessed Sacrament, and given it most honour, and put it (as Christ plainly intended) in the prime place. ‘Feed my sheep’ was His last charge to St. Peter; and since His words are always first to be understood literally, I suppose them to refer primarily to the Bread of Life.”

What a joy it is to enter a Catholic church anywhere in the world and know that the summit of the service, in any language, is the real, physical presence of Jesus.

Sinfulness

The Christian formation of my childhood, the lives of the saints and the powerful witness of Christian art, the unity of the Catholic church since apostolic times, Catholic teaching on sexuality and life and the Incarnation – all of these elements prepared my heart for becoming a Catholic.  The last factor in time, but the first in importance, was my despair at being a “miserable offender” (as the Book of Common Prayer phrases it).  When I was a child, I was often overly ridden with guilt; when a young adult, I was self-satisfied and not sorry enough.  As I approached my 40’s, I became increasingly aware of my inability to overcome pride, anger, and the other deadly sins.  The continual cycle of transgression and sorrow and repentance, carried out in my own heart, lacked accountability and progress.  St. Augustine wrote: “What am I to myself but a guide to my own self-destruction?”  I look back with shame on so many wrong actions or omissions, so many misguided avenues of thought, so much lack of charity.  Left to my own devices and desires, I festered in my ego and relied too much on my own parochial preferences and comfort zones.  I needed strong medicine.

I have found help in the sacraments of the Catholic church.  When G.K. Chesterton was asked why he became a Catholic, he replied: “To get rid of my sins,” to go regularly to confession where God forgives one’s sins in a clear, physical, incarnate way through the priest’s words.

This is an antidote to pride, to anger, to despair.  And I have felt it an inexpressible comfort to receive the body of Christ as often as possible.  I love the words of the old communion prayer: “I desire to come to thee like Magdalen, that I may be delivered from all my evils, and embrace Thee, my only good.” Regularly encountering Christ is the key to transcending the self and becoming like Him.

When I look back and see how, step by step, I came to trust the Catholic Church as a true guide, I am filled with joy and gratitude.  My knowledge is imperfect, my Christian charity painfully meager.  But there is hope because I can continue to learn.  Despite my sinfulness, I can meet Christ – physically – through the sacraments of the Church.  I can receive His grace often, for as long as it takes, in this life and beyond, for me to become pure and worthy of the Beatific Vision.

Flannery O’Connor spoke of the “abandonment of self which is the result of sanctifying grace,” and I will end my overlong testimony with her words: “I don’t think of conversion as being once and for all and that’s that. I think once the process is begun and continues that you are continually turning inward toward God and away from your own egocentricity and that you have to see this selfish side of yourself in order to turn away from it. I measure God by everything that I am not. I begin with that.”

Footnotes
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_02021994_families_en.html

2  Jeffrey Steenson: Why I Became Catholic
http://www.anglicanuse.org/files/The-Causes-for-Becoming-Catholic.pdf
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2045902/posts
http://www.usordinariate.org/ord_news_popeestablishes.html

http://www.fourgenerationsart.com

http://www.boma-usa.org/

5  http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles/AnscombeChastity.php
http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/sexuality/se0002.html

http://www.archdioceseofdetroit.org/SHMS/Faculty+5819/Janet+Smith+9260/Dr.+Janet+Smith+-+Published+Articles.htm

http://www.feministsforlife.org/FFL_topics/victory/2ndrape.htm

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  1. Exceptionally well written Kathleen! Thank you so much for sharing your story. You have created a beautiful legacy for your children.

  2. I have immensely enjoyed the tale of your conversion. I am grateful that you chose to share the intimacies of your life journey, this is truly a gift.

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