Posted in Conversion

GOD PREPARES ME FOR THE EUCHARIST

A beautiful image of Eucharistic adoration.From my previous posts you know that  I’m madly in love with Lord Jesus and being called to go out and build up my spiritual treasures in heaven and to become a nun,  But to build up my spiritual treasures I need to go out and volunteer and to become a nun means I need to become Catholic.  I end up getting stymied at every turn.

God closes doors

I can’t volunteer because every local place I call doesn’t need any volunteers or I so garble my words that I’m unintelligible when trying to ask about volunteering and end up getting rejected.  As far as becoming Catholic, it turns out that you can’t just show up at Mass and consider yourself a Catholic.  No, adults have to go through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (aka RCIA).  Guess what?  That wasn’t going to start for another couple of months, so I couldn’t do that either.  You know that Christian saying, “God closes one door and opens another.”  It’s much more frustrating than it sounds.  In my experience it’s more like being a racehorse and all lined up in the gate rearing to go.  The bell goes off, but the gate doesn’t open, so the horse ends up running right smack into the gate.  How the horse would feel was pretty much how I felt.  I was on fire with the love of Christ, I had gotten the call, but the gate stayed closed and I kept running into it again and again and again.  My frustration level reached such a peak that I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I was going to resolve this.  I did that by putting both of my callings together and decided to volunteer with nuns.  Now, I just had to find some. At that time, I only knew of one nun: Mother Teresa.  So I tracked down the closest Missionaries of Charity convent I could find and called them to see if they needed any volunteers.  Eureka!  There was a gate open, but it was in another city about 1 1/2 hours away.  At this point, I was so resolved the distance didn’t matter.  (I wonder if that was the point of the frustration.  I don’t think I would have driven that far if I hadn’t reached that level of resolve which the frustration brought about.)

Volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity

One of the acts of charity these particular sisters did was run a soup kitchen and that’s where I ended up helping out.  In the beginning I would drive up in the mornings and would help with the prep for the dinner that evening.  Around noon the sisters would kick me out–for what I thought was lunch, but turned out to be Holy Hour–and I would head back home.  It went this way until they said that they could use some help serving the food in the evenings also.  So I would go in the mornings and help with the prep, they still kicked me out, I would eat lunch and read a book, they would let me back in, we would load up the van, go feed the homeless, and I would head back home.  I want to interject here and say that nuns are awesome.  I think they are the most hardworking, most peaceful, happiest people I have ever met.  If you ever get the chance, then take it and volunteer with them.  They could use the help and it will be a great experience for you.  Back to the story: the new routine went on for a bit, then one day instead of kicking me out they invited me in.

Holy Hour

Now by this time I’m watching EWTN, so I’m aware of the Eucharist, but I am not sure as to whether it is what they say it is.  I don’t dismiss it out of hand, but I don’t wholeheartedly accept it either.  I’m about to find out.  The sisters lead me into a room with reed mats lined up in two rows on the floor facing the altar.  Behind the altar is a window and to the right of the window and the altar is a human-sized statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and placed in the middle of the altar is the monstrance.  The sisters placed me front and center, so I was directly opposite the monstrance: nothing between us but space.  Behind the monstrance was the window.  The blinds were closed but light was streaming in from the side and falling on the face of the Blessed Virgin statue.  It was hitting in such a way that every time I looked at the Eucharist out the corner of my eye it would appear that the Blessed Virgin was smiling.  When I say smiling, I don’t mean a small smile or a grin, I mean a large beaming smile.  So I would look at the statue and would just see light shining on its face.  I would look back at the Eucharist and this beaming smile would appear.  As the hour progressed I became less interested in this phenomenon and turned more towards contemplating the Eucharist: wondering if Lord Jesus truly was in there.  So I asked Him.  The next thing I know something came out of the Eucharist and into me.  That’s the best way I can explain it.  It felt like a deep profoundness had left the Eucharist and entered and rested in my soul.  I tried examining this feeling to better understand it, but I only ever got the sense of deep profoundness. While I could not and, still cannot, do justice to this great grace of God by being able to understand and explain the profundity of the Eucharist, I did come away convinced that it was as the Catholic Church said it was. Looking back on it I suspect it was Lord Jesus preparing me for the reception of the Eucharist when I became Catholic.

May we all experience the love of Christ!  God bless!

The use of this lovely photo was given by Lawrence OP under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 2.0 Generic License

Posted in Conversion

Rust, Moths, and . . . God Wants Me To Become A Nun?

gate-to-nowhere
This photograph captures beautifully where storing up earthly treasures leads: nowhere.

It was a very interesting way God used to get me into the Catholic Church.  Three things seemed to hit simultaneously or at least close enough together in time to make it seems as if they were simultaneous.  The funny thing is two of them seemed so innocuous that at any other time I don’t believe they would have made an impression on me at all.  But in God’s hands they redirected my life.

So I was going along pretty good reading my Bible.  I would like to say that I wasn’t simply reading a few passages or chapters, and then going about my business.  I actually spent most of my available time thinking about what I had read, so I could gain a better understanding or some understanding for that matter.   It was during this time that my dad was getting rid of some old iron patio furniture.

The Rust

It was pretty dilapidated.  The paint had come off in spots and rust was showing through in others.  This worked out great for me because I had figured out that occupying my hands freed up my mind to think.  So it was a good project to that end.  An added bonus was that I needed some patio furniture, so I decided to take it on as a project.

The Moths

At the same time a moth infestation broke out in my house.  I had a couple of Cockatiels and I guess some moths had gotten into the bird seed I had purchased.  Pretty soon I had little moths flying all over the place.  So there I am, dealing with rust on the one hand and a moth infestation on the other when I read this passage:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Except when I read it I comprehended it as a question, “Why do you store up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume . . . ?”  My answer was, “I don’t know.”  Obviously, something more was called for, so I took a couple of actions.

Spiritual Treasures

Somehow I translated all of this into doing volunteer work.  The problem was there was no volunteer work for me to do.  Two things happened when I inquired to charities, either the places I called told me outright that they didn’t need help or I garbled my words so bad that I was rejected.  I can remember the calls I made where I literally could not form words.  They probably thought I was drunk.  It’s no wonder they told me they didn’t need any help.  The upshot was that I could not find any place to volunteer, so I ended up going to church.

While I wasn’t raised as Christian, at some point–between when I left home and this period in my life–my dad had either become a Christian or returned to Christianity.  I really don’t know which (We never talked about it).  When I went over to visit he would always tell me go to church.  As a non-Christian that wasn’t going to happen, but things had changed, so I decided to give it a try.  That’s how I ended up in a pew at a First Assembly of God Church.  Now, by nature I’m pretty reserved, so to say that this church wasn’t for me would be a gross understatement.  I think I attended services two or three times, then stopped going.  This would have been the end of my church going altogether, except I became convicted that God wanted me to become a nun.

The Call to Become a Nun

Now, if you thought I was ignorant about Christianity, then you can imagine my ignorance when it came to nuns.  What I did know is I had a minor child and I wasn’t Catholic. What I didn’t know was the chances of someone twice divorced with a child becoming a nun were nil.  I also didn’t know that some nuns weren’t Catholic.  If I had known those things, then I don’t know what Lord Jesus would have done.  I’m certain He would know what to do, but I can’t imagine how He would have handled it.  Now, I could fix not being Catholic, but I wasn’t going to abandon my child; nor did I think God wanted me to.  However, I figured that God knew that I had a child and He had something worked out, so I’d go ahead and become a Catholic.   And that’s how Lord Jesus ended up leading me into the Catholic Church and for that I am extremely grateful.

May we all experience the love of God!  God bless!

The exceptional photo was very generously made available to the public by Stanley Zimney under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 2.0 License.

Posted in Conversion

How I Became a Christian – Pt. 3: Falling in Love

So at this point I’m a Christian and I have no clue as to what that means.  And when I say, “no clue,” I mean I really didn’t have any idea what Christians did.  I did know that I should be doing something different, but what that something was I had no idea.  As I still held many of my prior secular beliefs, I certainly wasn’t going to go to church, so that was definitely out.  It took a little mind searching but I finally hit on something I knew Christians did: they read the Bible.  That I could do.  One day while I was reading I came upon the following passage:

 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”   Matthew 11:28-30

It was this passage that led me to fall head over heels in love with Lord Jesus.  To this day, I have no idea why it had such a dramatic impact on me.  You would think with all that Lord Jesus had done for me I would have already been in love with Him, but it wasn’t so.  Up until that point it was God the Father who had been drawing me closer to Him.  It was He that I loved.  While I had gained a greater appreciation for Lord Jesus through those readings I had mentioned in earlier posts and what He had done for me, I did not love Him.  Not until I read that passage.  Then I fell in love.

May we all experience the love of God.  God bless!

The image is from a larger work by Fra Angelico at San Marco.  If you ever get the chance I recommend taking a look at his work.  The actual faces are not all that attractive, but when I checked out a book on his work it was so exquisite it took my breath away.

Posted in Conversion

How I Became a Christian – Pt. 2: The Mustard Seed Takes Root

mustard-seed-fieldIn part one I emphasized those few interactions that I had with God in the forty years prior to my conversion.  That doesn’t show how truly secular my life was during that time.  Other than the highlights mentioned I didn’t pay any attention to God.  It was the world that formed me.  Sex outside of marriage, I was there.  Divorce, count me in.  Cohabitation, why sure.  A woman’s right to have an abortion, you bet.  I believed these things and, therefore, I lived many of them.   As to God I don’t think that I ever stopped believing in His existence, but if there was a gripe about Him I was probably joining in.  “Why would a good God make such a horrible world?”  That was me.  “Churches are full of hypocrites:” a secular amen to that, brother.  I did go against the world by believing that God created the world.  I think it came  more from lack of belief in something coming from nothing, rather than my belief in God, but I do remember believing it.  If you can imagine someone living in the world and being of the world, then that was where I was until God graciously decided it was time for that mustard seed to take root.

Graced with the gift of faith

The first thing that I can remember happening is God deepening my faith.  I went from believing God existed to knowing God existed.  It came about in the oddest fashion.  I was in the bathroom doing my hair before work.  I was looking in the mirror and I reached up a hand to grab a section of hair to curl.  Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of my hand and it was if time froze.  In that moment I knew with certainty that i was, because He Was.  That was all it took to convict me in faith.   Like I said, it seems an odd way to come to one’s faith, but God, being gracious, could see what was coming and gave me what I needed before I even knew that I needed it.  Blessed be God forever! Without that grace of faith I don’t believe that I would have called on Lord Jesus when I was later diagnosed with advanced dysplasia of the cervix.

“. . .for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:8

From words to The Word

The next thing God did was to draw me towards His Son, Lord Jesus.  This He did through a couple of books.  I had been an avid reader for all of my life.  My favorite genre at the time was fantasy and I was looking for a new book to read.  To that end I was browsing the fantasy section at Barnes and Noble when I ran across a book about a monk who has a crisis of faith after being kidnapped by some Vikings.  My first thought was that it had been put in the wrong section.  It seemed like a much better candidate for historical fiction than fantasy.  One of the things I love about fantasy is the author’s ability to create entire worlds and cultures from their imagination.  This book definitely didn’t qualify, so I have no idea why I was drawn to it.  Yet, three times I picked it up and two times I put it back down.  The third time I decided to buy it.  Little did I know that a few sentences in this book would help open me up to Christ.

I really knew very little about Christ at this time.  We celebrated Easter and Christmas, but with the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, not Christ.  But I did have a light understanding of the underlying events for which these holidays are based, so I wasn’t completely ignorant–just mostly ignorant–of Christ when I began reading the book.

Basically, the monk is travelling to Constantinople when he is taken by marauding Vikings.  The monk and one of the Vikings become friendly and inquires about the monk’s God.  The monk explains about Christ’s crucifixion and how it was a sacrifice to atone for our sins.  The Viking is blown away by the fact that a king would do such a thing for his people.  This goes against everything he knows about kings.  While I don’t remember the exact words that gave me a greater appreciation of Christ’s sacrifice, here is what I do remember:  “What a great God you have!  That he would sacrifice His life for His people!”  I remember coming away from that thinking, “Yes, what a great God.”

The next book that literally changed my life, was the “Left Behind” series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.  Once again, not books I would have normally read, but I had started listening to audio books and the selection at the library was sparse.  It was through this series of books that I learned about the sinner’s prayer.  If, like me, you’ve never heard of it, it basically consists of the admission of sins and asking Lord Jesus for forgiveness of those sins and accepting Him as lord.  Any words can be used as long as it includes those components.  It’s very short, but very powerful; as I soon found out.

Saved by Christ

It while I was reading this series of books that I started feeling exhausted and having problems with my period.  I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with advanced dysplasia of the cervix.  This terrified me.  I was a single mother with a son.  What was going to happen to my son, if I died? This worried me tremendously.  I think it was this, more than anything else, which led me to pray the sinner’s prayer.  I learnt of it after I had already gone through the procedure to have the cells removed but before my check up to see how everything was healing and to learn whether the doctor had removed it all.  I prayed the prayer that night after I had just gone to bed.  I also asked that Lord Jesus heal me.  After praying it my body began to tingle.  It was still tingling when I fell asleep.

The next morning when I awoke my body was radiating love like a light bulb radiates light.  It was emanating from my body outward in every direction.  I was amazed at this, but more amazed that no one else seemed to be cognizant of it.  I couldn’t understand why my co-workers and family members couldn’t feel it for I could definitely feel it extending outward beyond my body.  It lasted for about a week, and then it simply was no more.

It was after this that I returned to the doctor for the checkup and to find out whether all of the cells had been removed.  I don’t remember if they had or not.  What I do remember is the doctor’s amazement at what she saw.  It was as if nothing had ever happened.  There was no sign that a procedure had been done.  No sign of anything but a perfectly healthy cervix.

 “. . . for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”  Luke 1:49

 

May we all experience the love of God.  God bless!

Thank you yayayamamamama for the use of your beautiful photograph under the  Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license.

 

Posted in Conversion

How I Became a Christian – Pt. 1: The Mustard Seed Germinates

Every since I can remember, I had believed in the existence of God and His Son.  At a few points in my life I even had interactions with God.  However, I would not have termed myself Christian.  That seemed to come many years later after I had prayed the sinner’s prayer.  But I’ll tell you my history and leave it up to you to determine whether I was or was not.  I, myself, do not believe it was so.

As far as I’m concerned I was raised in a secular household.  There was no prayer, church attendance or even mention of God that I can remember.  I do remember going to vacation bible school once when I was six or seven, but that was with a neighbor.  On the flip side, all three of us children were named after people in the Bible.  When I asked my mom about it she said she was raised in a religious home.  In her time religion played a much larger part in everyday life.  Mom can still remember her mother singing hymns along with the radio while she cleaned the house.  I imagine my dad was brought up in much the same environment.  It was that upbringing that they must have fell back on when it came time to name their children.  While I think that I always had an awareness that God existed until the time preceding my conversion in my 40’s there were only three times that I can remember having actual interactions with God.

The first was when I was nine or ten years old and I was walking home alone after dark.  For some reason I was scared, though I don’t remember the source of that fear.  The next thing I know a pack of seven or eight small dogs joined me on my walk.  They were happy little fellows and comforted me much.  They stayed with me until I made it home.   I can remember at the time believing God had sent them to me, although I don’t know why I thought that.  The next interaction didn’t come until I was in my teens.

A tiny mustard seed contained in a small corked bottle and "faith" written on a locket.At that time, I started hanging around an older cousin who was head over heels in love with Lord Jesus.  This was very infectious and led me to start reading the Bible every night before I went to bed. In the beginning, after reading it I would go to sleep with warmth inside of me.  That lasted until either I was scandalized by some of the Biblical people’s behavior or I got to Leviticus.  I think it was a mixture of the two that ended it for me.  The next interaction came in my 20s and wasn’t quite so pleasant.

I guess I was being a punk and God wasn’t going to have it.  What you have to understand is that I wasn’t all sweetness and light.  I challenged authority figures and could be very cutting, so if I was out of line, then I was way out of line.  I don’t remember the event that straightened me out, but I do remember afterwards feeling as if someone walked up to me and punched me in the gut.  Along with that feeling came the very certain knowledge that it was from God and I was to cease and desist in that behavior.  I did.

Now some may say that God doesn’t do things like that.  To that I say, that they are probably right in that is not God’s normal mode of reaching people.  However, God is perfect in all of His ways and if He chose that way, then that was the best or only way that was going to be effective.  Personally, I’m thankful God straightened me out.  I would hate to have continued on is so obnoxious a manner.  I shudder at thinking what type of person I would have become, if I had been allowed to continue in behavior that God found so offending.

That pretty much sums it up.  Not much over forty years.  So was I a Christian or even have faith?  I don’t think so, but it may have been just that tiny mustard seed germinating all of those years until God decided it was time to sprout.  That’s for next time.

May we all experience the love of God.  God bless!

Update:  Fr. Dominic Legge, O.P. gave an excellent lecture on faith: “Is Faith Irrational – Thomas Aquinas on the rationality of belief”.  This lecture showed up my podcast list a few days after I had written this.  It seems I did have faith, but it would be considered either dead or unformed.   The discussion regarding unformed or dead faith starts at about 50:49 in the lecture, but the entire thing is worth a listen.

Thank you echoesofstars for the gracious use of your lovely creation under the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license.