Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Conversion’

Silent No More

Did Lazarus want to be known as the stinky man raised from the dead? Did he want everyone throughout history to imagine a raised corpse in grave clothes walking from an opened tomb?

Did the woman with an issue of blood want to be remembered in such ghastly terms?

The woman caught in the act of sin. Did she want her story to be told and retold, how the men gathered around her to throw stones?

Did Mary Magdalene want to be remembered as the woman from whom the demons were cast?

For that matter, did St. Augustine want to be remembered as the man who had a child with his mistress?

Did St. Maria Goretti want to be remembered as a rape victim? A young woman murdered because she fought back?

St. Maria of Egypt, did she wish to be remembered much the same as the woman at the well?

Did St. Paul want to be remembered as the one who persecuted Christians?

*************************************************************************************

Yes and no.

No, if that is all there is to it. No, if the story ends there.

But yes. They shared their stories. Spoke of them. Wrote of them. Their stories were lifted up and attached to the Cross of Christ for the glory of God.

I wonder if there were some who shook their heads. Talked about them behind their backs. Assumed they just liked to wallow in the old stories because they wanted their names to be remembered.

Were they judged and misjudged?

The stinky man?

The trashy woman?

The victimized girl?

The murderous zealot?

The disbelieving, womanizing orator?

Their stories call to us. It is okay to have a past that frightens you. A past that horrifies you. A past in which you were victimized or victimized another, when you love Jesus Christ and give the past up for His glory.

In fact, you are supposed to do that with your past.

Let them think you are talking about yourself. Let them feel justified in saying whatever they want to say.

They can be angry. Or hurt. Or judgmental. Or confused. Or scandalized.

May Jesus Christ be praised, both now and forever.

May the ones who are lifted up from the mire because of your story be healed and redeemed.

May all things work together for the greater glory of God.

So let the stories come up and out.

Jesus has always used our stories to bring others to Himself. And there have always been well-meaning and mean-spirited people who wanted to suppress and silence the witnesses.

Can I have a witness?

Yes.

I am silent no more.

Conception after Rape

Last night’s dream could be analyzed by an amateur.

I was pregnant with my third child. I was back in high school taking a class or two, embarrassed that others were finding out what happened because it was all coming out, spilling out on a public stage.

I wasn’t a teenager. I wasn’t even the young mother I had been with my third pregnancy. I was my age. Me. Right now.

And it was all coming out.

There was a swimming pool at our high school, which there never really was and still isn’t.

I had to get in the water, with that six-month-baby growing inside of me.

I loved that child. Fiercely.

But what was everyone thinking? They were staring at me. And now they knew.

The child was the product of a rape-in-marriage.

 

I woke up then. I do have three children from my first marriage. The third one was a girl. I love her fiercely.

She is six months pregnant with my eighth grandchild.

We talked yesterday, and that may have seeded my dream. Not that we talked, because we do that every day, but the content of this particular conversation was new. Healing. A treasure that will stay with me always.

We talked about her conception. It was one of many conversations we have had about that night. She asked me questions with love and so much gentleness that I cannot write it now without a few tears.

“Mom, she said, “what else could it have been if not rape? I have always known that was what it was even if you didn’t use the word.”

I have always thought of it as molestation. Middle of the night. Sound asleep. Just a month after a marital separation.

Back then, I wasn’t Catholic. I had been on the pill. But during the separation, I had stopped taking it while I was living with my parents.

Then, he changed his mind about not loving me anymore, deciding that he did want to be married, that he wanted me back.

I went back. It’s what you did when you married at 18 and your dad was a pastor and you didn’t know there had been infidelity, especially when you had children together.

It’s what you did.

But the middle-of-the-night-thing needed to stop. It had become a trend with him. I hated it. If I wasn’t good enough to love in the middle of the day or at night before we fell asleep, why was the middle of the night the time? Wake me up out of a dead sleep? And, wow, could I go into a deep sleep after a day of running after two toddlers!

I made myself clear:

With moving back home after a separation, no longer on any contraception, I underscored the stipulation and doubled down on it. Don’t touch me. And especially not during this week.

Lord, I could not get pregnant now. Our marriage couldn’t take it. I didn’t realize that there wasn’t a marriage. Not really. Even though the truth was pretty darn clear.

I’m saying no to that intimacy. No to the middle of the night whatever-that-is. And no especially on the precise night that I am most likely to be fertile.

I blocked off a week and highlighted the three most worrisome days.

I woke up to the moment of our daughter’s conception. I knew immediately that I would conceive. It shook me to my core.

For years, I thought of it as a kind of marital molestation. But yesterday, my conversation with my now-grown daughter was incredibly healing.

“Mom,” she said, “what else could it have been if not rape? I have always known that was what it was even if you didn’t use the word.”

I suddenly felt free. I felt a bond with Kari. Love beyond description. She let me talk about it. Encouraged me to talk about it. Called it what it was. Gave me the freedom to do the same. And she is the only one who could free me from the memory. Redeem it, in a way.

This is it. The gift of yes to a little life that grew within me in the darkest hour. A gift I didn’t fully accept for five or six months into the pregnancy. But a gift that has become one of life’s best surprises and greatest treasures.

She looked at me and smiled. She gave me the freedom to see the truth, to call it for the first time what it was. And there is no pain in naming it because she said it from her own lips.

Man, I love that girl.

The last six months haven’t been easy. I have been thinking about this, in a kind of desolation spiritually, contemplating whether or not to write it, to include it in a new book.

It is so much easier to keep it tucked away in a room with a door only a few people could open, a door marked “molestation” and not “rape.”

I have come full circle, and it is a peaceful, grace-filled, miraculous embrace by the Divine One who makes all things new.

The water in last night’s dream? I think it was a beginning, a cleansing. Sure, I am still nervous about the crowds knowing. But it happened.

And there is joy and beauty on the other side of dark nights. There is peace in the middle of a terrible truth. There is laughter that gets multiplied when the grandbabies come along.

I won. The pearl of great price. It is mine to behold.

The non-Sacramental marriage fell away, but my yes to God and to a little girl made all the difference.

Kari, I love you.

 

 

August – Why it is INCREDIBLY Important to the Catholic Church

From the archives: “Why August Matters”

Catholic by Grace diocesan article 2009

It is one more way Protestants and Catholics are different from one another. Someone walks through the door of a Protestant church, they say they want to be a member, and that’s it. They are signed up. Maybe they take a course for a week or two – but probably not. Then, they stand in front of the congregation, profess the faith publicly or present a letter of transfer from another denomination or congregation. And they’re in.

Catholics don’t work that way.Everything takes time. Lots and lots of time. Potential converts aren’t usually invited to Mass. They sort of wander in. There’s almost no reason for it, except that the Holy Spirit is alive and well.

These converts-in-waiting pop in and out each week, without being bothered very much, and after a few months (or a few years), someone thinks to invite them to RCIA class.

Without knowing why they are saying yes, they agree to give it a try. Something tells them that they are ready for this. It is time. That’s all they know.

And timing is everything.

That’s why August is so very important. It is the perfect month for discernment. It is the right time for Catholics to look around and figure out who they have overlooked. Maybe someone has been visiting for a long time, and they need a nudge. Maybe there is someone who hasn’t even made it to Mass one time, but the Holy Spirit is telling you that person needs Mother Church. That person is craving the Eucharist, and she doesn’t even know it. But when you invite her, you think she will probably sense it as well.

August is the right time to discern where the Holy Spirit is working and who the Holy Spirit is calling. It’s time to step out of your comfort zone. I like the old saying each one reach one. What would happen if each one of us tried to reach just one other person? Some potential converts would say no thank you. But be honest, would that take any time off your life? What have you really lost if that happens? Sure, it’s possible that nothing will happen when you activate evangelization in your sphere of influence.

But then again, maybe something will happen.

And that something is the mightiest miracle on earth. A life is changed. One more person encounters Jesus Christ and His Church. You have brought another human being to the Eucharist, and he has received the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord.

You have nothing to lose. And they have everything to gain. So, what’s stopping you? It’s August. RCIA classes are forming in parishes all over our country.

This year, discover just how important the month of August really is.

If you take just a little initiative, imagine where your friend could be standing next Easter Vigil – and you, right behind him with your hand on his shoulder. If God blesses you like that, I can tell you from experience, the tears will be difficult to contain.

Miracles are like that. But they usually start in the quiet heat of an August evening. Make a call. Stop for a visit. Send an email. Invite someone to try RCIA this year!

(A 2014 SHOUT OUT to Sharri. See you at Easter Vigil, little sister!)

A Wispy Grace

Memories of Dad are a gift. A blessing. I pause life – the social-media scanning, the conversations around me, the house cleaning & writing, Once Upon A Time (which is my latest obsession), the errands – and I soak up the gift. The wispy grace.

There are a handful of people who have been my open-door to grace. I can pick up the phone to reach them… or write an email… or walk to the bedroom or home office.

But not Dad. Dad is a special gift of grace. One that can be reopened, but only with keys that come along as surprises. I don’t know where they are hidden. I don’t know how to find them.

They find me.

Like today. In Door County. Where the wifi is spotty in our third-floor suite overlooking Lake Michigan. Where the shops are full of miniature sailboats, and handcrafted walking canes, and lighthouse paintings.

Where there is cheese curd for sale at the Piggly Wiggly a few blocks away. Where a quaint bookstore or coffee shop or park bench calls to me – like it would have called to him.

He is with me.

And in these moments, I start to ask him what he thinks – of the things I’ve done since he left. The conversion. The falling in love with the Sacramental life. The books I’ve read and the book I’ve written.

My kids. Grown and having kids of their own.

Before I can ask him, I sense his smile. His gentle pat. The wordless exchange that says he is pleased – not so much with what I’ve done, but with what grace has done with me and to me and for me.

The cheese curd is good – even if it is orange – I think. A Wisconsin boy would laugh at that. Especially one who was familiar with cheese factories, where cheese curd was always white.

The book I bought at the bookstore today was one he wouldn’t have purchased. The Protestant minister wouldn’t gravitate to a Pope Francis book. But it’s on humility, and Dad would have understood that. They – the Pope and Dad – are more alike than my Protestant family might think – more than even Dad might have realized.

Wisconsin and Argentina can both produce humble men. Men who’ve marked me by their lives. And words. And love that lingers.

Tonight, we’ll get ice cream even though the weather’s cold for July – perhaps even for Door County, Wisconsin. But that wouldn’t stop Dad from getting ice cream. And it won’t stop us tonight, either.

Yesterday, we visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help before traveling the final hour of our trip to Door County. The Shrine is lovely. Peaceful. And I thought of all of the good help I have received at the hand of a Good and Gracious God.

Help.

Help that comes in the form of a Wisconsin boy who loved with every breath and ate ice cream in the middle of winter and always had a book at arm’s reach, a boy who grew up on cheese curd and found ships & lighthouses aesthetically beautiful.

And there is still a bit of grace in a bite of ice cream, a book store aisle, a creamy cheese curd whether white or yellow, and the glimpse of a sailboat or a lighthouse.

I don’t need a vacation.

This is all I need.

The help that comes from grace – even wispy grace.

 

St. Patrick: the writer and saint

I stopped by the public library a couple of years ago to find a book. I did as I always do and made my way to the religion section. Most of the public library fare in this section is miserable. Not worth my time at all. But a couple of titles seemed promising. A book on the saints. A book by JPII. And Confessions of St. Patrick.

That’s where I began.

Later in the evening, I curled up with my 1st pick – Confessions. Soon after, I noticed a lovely scent. I dismissed it. Read a couple more pages. There it was again. I smelled my hands. Had I used a new lotion? No. It wasn’t my hands. I turned the page. Once again, the faint scent of Holy Chrism Oil. I’d know that smell anywhere. I stopped reading. I stopped turning pages.

I held the book up to my face and inhaled deeply. This book smells like Confirmation! I thought. How is it possible that a public library book would smell like this? Who had owned this book before the St. Charles Public Library System? A parish priest? A bishop? Had it sat on a shelf in an Adoration Chapel for decades before finally coming to rest on this shelf, where any man or woman could find it?

I drank in the aroma of the Holy Spirit and leaned back into the pillows for two hours of reading.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from that day’s journey into the writings of the saints:

“I pray my God that he will grant me perseverance and allow me to prove a faithful witness right up to the time of my passing over, for my God’s sake.”

“According to My Calculations,” said Spock . . .

It’s one of Spock’s favorite lines. “According to my calculations . . .”

I finally watched the second Star Trek movie with the young version of Kirk and Spock and Bones. I’ve been thinking about Spock’s line and how it applies to sainthood because – let’s face it – by all calculations, it is unlikely that any of us would become saints.

We are a messed up lot – this human race.

What are the chances that a total sinner could ever become a saint? Can God really tame her temper? Purge her selfishness? Teach her to silence the anxious thoughts? Guide her from the trap of using people – through her looks, or her wit, or her position of power?

What are the chances that God can remove a man’s disordered lust? Give him a heart for his wife and children? Lift him from the need to succeed? Show him how to trust a God he cannot see with finances, fertility, and the future?

“According to my calculations,” it simply cannot happen – except by grace. And grace isn’t a quiet thing that swoops down and renders everything sunshine and roses. It is sometimes jarring as it grabs us by the shirt collar.

Though it can be lovely, too.

A Catholic fiancé. A job with a new office across the street from a cathedral. A song masterfully sung. The smell of lilacs and an old country lane where God lingers.

God shows up in so many ways, and shakes us from our world of probability. Disoriented, we walk away from what we thought we’d do or be or act or choose. Then, disorientation fades and the will becomes stronger – strong as death, lovely as Life itself.

Yes, the saints above are laughing. They are Kirk, who lives a life against the odds. Who likes it that way.

Because, with God, all things are possible – including the transformation of sinners into saints.

What One Woman Did With Grief

I’m fascinated by Elizabeth Ann Seton for a number of reasons. One, she’s a convert to the Catholic Church. Two, her grandfather – if I remember correctly – was an Anglican minister. Three, she was tough in the face of loss. Her mother died. Her father died. Her husband died. Two of her children died. Her sisters died.

I probably would have wanted to die too.

But not Elizabeth Seton. Instead, she grabbed hold of the grace she found in Mother Church, and she let it change her.

She went out and changed her world. She began an educational system that would rival that of any industrialized nation. She set a standard of excellence that continues to challenge public schools (and other private institutions) and call them to reform, to improve, or to be rendered unviable.

It is amazing to think that this young widow (of 29 years) had the fortitude to raise five children on her own, give serious and sincere consideration to a faith which none of her family embraced, and willingly give up family and friends to claim the Catholic faith as her own. Before it was all said and done, she would found the Sisters of Charity.

And many of her friends and family would eventually convert as well.

Her favorite prayer: May the most just, the most high and the most amiable will of God Be in all things fulfilled, praised and exalted above all forever.

My favorite quote by Elizabeth Seton “Live simply, so that all may simply live.” (From a speech given in the Diocese of Baltimore) Her words seem more important and timely today than they ever did before. On this Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, consider making one modification to your typical consumer lifestyle. And offer the savings back to God. Blessed Feast Day of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton!

INFP Catholic (introversion, intuition, feeling, perception)

According to a personality test making its rounds on Facebook recently, I am an INFP (introversion, intuition, feeling, perception).

I retreat to my hermit state sometimes. I focus on a worthy cause and have a few close connections. We INFP-ers are typically writers. Read more

Sometimes, God Gives Us The Prayer

I found a manuscript I wrote in 2000. I was a Protestant back then, and the manuscript is something my dad and I were working on. I abandoned the project after Dad died. The other day, I found the envelope with the manuscript inside it. I thumbed through the pages and found an excerpt that seemed almost prophetic. Keep in mind that I wasn’t Catholic in 2000. I had never even considered becoming Catholic. My journey didn’t begin until my father passed away . . . and you probably know how that story turned out. But, here’s a glimpse into my world – three years before the conversion began: Read more

Lessons on Crane Creek

Crane Creek was the rambling stream that ran behind our house in the heat of summer. It was the swelling water that rushed mightily in the spring and flooded the basements in Saratoga, except ours – thanks to the sump pump the board of trustees included in the building plan of the new parsonage (think Protestant rectory).

Crane Creek was the frozen play land where I first learned to keep my ankles firm when they wanted to twist and buckle in my new white ice skates. The creek where some guy veered off the road one night and drove down the embankment and right out on the ice. And we all marveled that he didn’t fall through and drown. Read more