This Catholic Journey
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Name: Amber
Location: Reno, Nevada, United States

I am a 34-year-old single mother of three. I am a convert to Catholicism and came into the Church on April 7, 2007. This blog is a collection of thoughts and things I learn in my journey of faith. All comments are welcome!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Back to School?

Well, the local community college I've been attending informed me that I have enough credits for an Associate of General Studies degree. This is awesome news with amazing timing because I've been considering going for a Bachelor of Arts in Theology! Thing is, I have to find a way to pay for it! I've been unemployed since December so money is tight to begin with. However, God has been providing and will continue to provide.

Guess I better get back to selling rosaries and see if I can get that to take off!

Any and all prayers while I discern whether or not I should pursue this, would be appreciated!

Blessings and peace!

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Long Overdue Update

So, there are far too many days, weeks and months between posts but life is just so busy!

Right now, my diocese is working on establishing a program called, "Why Catholic?". I'm currently working on getting involved and am greatly looking forward to the fruit that may come of it. Additionally, I'm planning to be a catechist this coming year and am going through some training for that as well.

I've been unemployed since December and have greatly enjoyed my extended "vacation" and all the time I've been able to spend with the kids... feeling like a stay-at-home-mom. It's come with some financial challenges, of course, but God continues to provide in unforeseen and amazing ways.

My sister's beautiful twin boys are over a year old now and continue to bring so much joy to our lives. It's so awesome to see my sister experience motherhood!

Anyway, God is doing some amazing things... slowly, but surely. I'm still loving all the learning of my faith and always want to share it with others... though I don't think as many people want to hear about it as I want to share it with!

My family remains silent on the subject of faith but I press forward knowing full well that I am right where God wants me!

Pax Christi!

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Neglected

As anyone can see, this blog has seriously been neglected. It bothers
me that I haven't written in so long but I've just been so busy with
living life and getting through one day at a time with work, kids,
school and financial adjustments. Sometimes I think, "If I could just
reach that milestone, then I will have more time to write... Including
my conversion story." But, it seems that milestone never gets reached
and the story never gets written.

Clay had his First Communion on June 1. I was so proud of him and so
excited to see one of my children receive the Eucharist. My whole
family attended... The first Mass for my parents. I can't help but
pray that I will one day be sitting regularly in church with my
parents. Apparently, there is a long history of Catholicism on my
mom's side of the family that was only broken in recent generations.
May God restore us all to the fullness of truth!

I hope to write more soon...

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

One Year

I can officially say that I've ben Catholic one year, as of yesterday! Woot woot!

It's been quite a year, too! My children were baptized last summer. Clay is preparing for First Reconciliatin and First Holy Communion (May 31) and we are striving to make Catholic living a part of our everyday lives.

I wish I could impart some words of wisdom but my mind is full of useless information I need for a test tomorrow and I just can't seem to focus!

Will my life ever slow down enough to breathe?

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Adoption Update

The meeting with the expectant mother went great and she has chosen to place her twin boys with my sister and her husband! Our family is so excited! The cost of the adoption is just about what they have saved up and some family members have promised to provide any amount they may be short! God has truly made a way for this all to happen. We all feel such a peace about everything!

In less than two months, I'll have two brand new nephews! The first one born will be called Jaden, which means "God has heard". The second will be called Joseph, which means "may God add/increase". Both names are perfectly fitting!

I want to give a very sincere THANK YOU to everyone for their prayers and for those who donated even the smallest of amounts! It is because of this that God has heard our prayers and brought this dream into a reality!

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Egg Yolks and Babies

My sister, April, got a call from the case working handling their adoption yesterday. There is a an expectant mother due in July who is looking to place her babies in a loving home. April and her husband are going to meet her on Saturday! That's right, BABIES... She's having TWIN boys!

There IS something significant about the concept of adopting twins:

One morning a couple of years ago, after April and her husband found out that it was indeed impossible to conceive, she was praying about adoption... a serious long talk with God in the morning. She went out to the kitchen to make some breakfast, pulled out the eggs and cracked one into the pan. Out came twin yolks. Interesting but nothing to write home about until the SECOND egg cracked into the pan was ALSO was a twin yolk. Since that time, my family has thought of these TWO twin eggs as a sign that God is in control... and that, one day, their dream to adopt would be realized (though we didn't exactly expect TWINS!) We have always linked those eggs to my sister's morning prayer about adoption. There have been a couple of occasions when I have also cracked open twin eggs, thinking instantly of my sister and her adoption prayer.

So, when this expectant mother came up with twins, we all thought of this twin egg occurrence... Could this be it? Is this God's way of giving us peace about this particular possibility?

Please keep my family in your prayers. Please pray that everything will go as God wills it. Pray that these babies are the answer to prayer we've been waiting for and that my sister and her husband can finally be the parents they've always wanted to be!

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Rest in Peace, Josh Magee

I learned today that a dear old friend of mine passed away...





I met Josh sometime around 1994. He was one of those "do-anything-for-you" kinds of friends and he came through for me on more than one occasion.

In his own words (from 2000):
"...please know that I'm always here for you in any way I can be.... if you need some money, or a place to stay, or child care, or if you need someone to talk to… lemme know what I can do… Your one of the best friends I've ever had, and I want you to know that you can count on me."

And in November 2006:
"You know Amber... I think the world of you. And even though I might have not ever expressed it, I have a kind of brotherly protectivness in my heart over you. And I must say... Damion is a good and very pleasant man, and I truely enjoyed meeting him. I hope to get to know him more in the future... wanna see Seattle sometime? ;)"

I never did make it to Seattle.

Josh was adventurous... a risk-taker. The biggest risk-taker I've yet to meet, in fact. He loved life, he loved his family... His sense of humor was one of a kind as well. His stories and the way he'd tell them always had me laughing. Sometimes, even the most serious of events would take a silly twist.

I remember cruising in his car, the base thumpin' so loudly, it was literally changing our heart beats. I remember when he saw me off at the airport when I moved to Alaska and shed a tear as I flew away. I remember he sent my old 486 computer to me because I couldn't afford to get it up to Alaska myself… We had long talks of childhood memories, wacky neighbors, dare-devil tricks, drunken nights and love gone wrong... I remember when he told he was going to learn to do underwater construction. He was so excited and it didn't surprise me at all. It sounded just like something he would do!

In November, Josh got engaged to Reasa. I'd never known him to be so in love and so happy. And I was so happy for him… happy that he'd found someone deserving of him.

Josh, you were a true friend and I will always miss you.

"Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. May peace be granted to Josh's family and Reasa as well. Amen."

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Adoption Update

As many may know my sister and her husband have completed a home study and are trying to raise money to adopt. For the last couple of months my family, especially my sister, has been working away at making all kinds of hand-crafted items to sell at an open house to raise money for the adoption. We held the event at my parents' house on Saturday, December 8, and it was a huge success! We managed to raise $4535.45, bringing them that much closer to their goal!

Praise God for his blessing on this event! People were so generous and it was quite an emotional time for our family. I know that some people stretched themselves in their giving and this was more than we expected.

In addition to this amount, another blessing happened Thanksgiving weekend. Their social worker in their adoption case, decided to drop a few bucks into a slot machine (Nevadans!) with the intention (she prayed about it) that anything she won, she would give to April and Tim. Well, she won $450!!! We couldn't believe it! She gave them every penny of it!

Tim also got a higher paying job with a company he previously worked for. THEY approached him about the job!

God is truly moving things and making them happen. I know that all the prayers are being answered and God has a huge plan in their lives and the lives of the child (or children) destined to be theirs.

April has decided to also start a blog. Once she puts her first post up, I'll share the link with you all! Thank you to all those who are praying for them! They are thankful and appreciative beyond words!

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Mailing List

I've started a mailing list for my website. If you'd like to be added, just fill out the form on the contact page and request it.

The newsletters will be varied and will not come at regular intervals at this time. They'll contain apologetic stuff, words of encouragement, updates, etc. and sometimes, they will be used to announce book contests, new rosaries for sale or specials.

I apologize that my writing has been nearly non-existent lately but the efforts we're making to help my sister raise money for her adoption costs, plus school, work, kids and Church, are all taking up a considerable amount of my energy. Even when I have the time to write, I simply don't have the brain power to do so!

God bless anyone who is keeping me and my family in their prayers! And, a thank you to anyone who has already purchased a rosary!

God bless!

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Engaged Encounter

This weekend, Damion and I will be going to Engaged Encounter. There is no formal engagement in place but it came at the recommendation of my priest and I thought it would be a good idea since we're heading in that direction. We're both very much looking forward to it! (Not to mention, a weekend without the kids will be a nice break!)

Please pray that God will show us any areas that we need to work out and that his grace will be upon us to communicate effectively and make the most of the weekend.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

The strangest thing happened *EDIT*

Upon my pending reception into the Catholic Church, I was also undergoing the annulment process through the Tribunal for three past marriages. Thankfully, it didn't take long and all three marriages were considered null. End of story. I'm free to marry.

So, this weekend, while at my parents' house, I received a letter from the tribunal. Strange that this would show up at my parents' house because I didn't use their address when I went through the process. So, curiosity forces me to open the letter immediately.

It's a letter stating that the Tribunal in the Diocese of Orlando is seeking permission to being an annulment procedure at the request of my first spouse! So, this means that my first spouse is either becoming Catholic or seeking the blessing of his fourth and current marriage. I have to say that either scenario comes as a complete surprise because he wasn't religious by any stretch of the imagination, and I can't see him submitting to any authority... This guy was a real piece of work: a liar, a con, a cheater... and that's being nice!

I can only hope that this is an indication that he has changed his ways and is seeking God and the truth of the Catholic faith. I always hoped for vindication against the way he treated me, but this is a much more forgiving and merciful outcome.

What good news it will be for he and his wife to know that this case has already been determined as invalid by the Church and they can quickly move forward!

*EDIT* It turns out that they want to have their marriage blessed because she wants to be able to receive communion. It appears that he has developed some sort of Protestant faith. I'm guessing Baptist. Anyway, I call the diocese and gave them the information. Hopefully, that will be the last I hear of the whole thing!

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Monday, September 10, 2007

I Still Have Jesus

One of the biggest misconceptions many of my Protestant brothers and sisters have is the false idea that Catholics don't "have Jesus". Listening to Francis Beckwith on Catholic Answers the other day, he hit this idea on the head! In my conversion to Catholicism, I did not have to give up Jesus. In fact, I have a greater understanding of Him now than I did in all my years prior. Some, I'm sure, is due to all the studying I did. One cannot study about Christianity without growing in understanding about Jesus. But, as many of us converts discover, we not only learn more about Jesus but we learn more about the Church he established, the Scriptures and how God uses ordinary things to bring extraordinary grace into our lives.

Every good thing I believed as a Protestant came with me into my Catholic faith, including the most central message of the gospel. I didn't give up my relationship with Christ; it was strengthened. I didn't have to deny who Christ is as the Son of God; I grew closer to Him. In the process, I felt (and still do) a beautiful connection to the Church of history, to the saints in heaven, and to the body of Christ. I feel like I'm a part of something bigger and more beautiful than I ever imagined as a Protestant.

Conversion was a painful process. Not only did I bring into question the theology I'd held as truth my whole life, but I slowing began to realize that the theology on the other side of the fence made more logical sense... that it put the supernatural back into play and that Christianity was NOT just as simple as "Jesus and me". These ideas rocked me to the core and I honestly began to question Christianity entirely. I begged God to show me truth because I had suddenly realize how relativistic Christianity was... all these Christian churches teaching opposing truths and only ONE truth to believe. I couldn't accept the idea that Christ would leave us with such opposing truths to decide for ourselves what to believe while my own church implies, "we know the truth better than the 'other guy'", "agreeing on the essentials" while "disagreeing on the non-essentials"... all using the Bible as their sole infallible rule of faith, yet coming to completely different interpretations as to what we, as Christians, are supposed to believe.

I spent many nights anguishing over truth... God was speaking to me and I was arguing. Why in the world would He want me to be Catholic? Would that mean I'd have to give up Jesus for some sort of legalistic religion? "Religion" was always a bad word growing up... it was a bunch of "man-made" rules and regulations. In short, I found I did not have to give up Jesus at all... and the rules? Jesus, by His authority, established a Church with the authority to bind and lose. It was right there in black and white in the pages of my own Bible. I only had to find the church that has that same authority today. An accurate look at history revealed that the Catholic Church was and is the longest-standing Christian church in history. It was founded by Christ himself! That's not man-made!

Jesus was waiting for me in the Catholic Church, arms open. I remember my anti-Catholic days when I criticized Catholics for keeping Christ on the cross because "he's alive". True that He is, but without His death, we would not be alive in Christ and Paul says to "preach Christ crucified". So, there He was, frozen in time, a reminder of what my sin did to Him. And He was there with open arms to greet me into the same Church he established 2000 years ago when He rose from the dead!

It was a long and difficult journey that still comes with many challenges but each moment with Him at Mass brings me that much closer to Him. I followed Him there in obedience when He was all I had left to cling to in my despair over Christian disunity. I love Him... and though many have tried to argue with that, the fact remains that, even as a Catholic, I still have Jesus... without Him, I'd be lost.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

First Day

Here is my baby girl on her first day of kindergarten...

Trinity - first day of kindergarten

First day


She had a great day and made lots of new friends. She loves her teacher, too!

I finally have all three kids in the SAME school! Woot woot!

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My mind is blank

I've been staring at this screen trying to figure out what to write... I can't think of anything worthwhile and I think I'd just end up complaining! BUT, I am considering another book contest. More details on that later.

Maybe I could pose a question or two.

How does one seek out a spiritual director? What exactly is the role of a spiritual director?

And for Bill... Where have you been? Email me or something!

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Will this week ever end?

What a week it's been... We had a memorial service for my aunt last Friday. It was beautiful to hear what those closest to her had to say... and sad to think I will never see her on this earth again. But she knows we love her and miss her and there is comfort in that. We had a lot of family in town and it was nice to see them. Hopefully, the next time will be under happier circumstances...

Also, last week I decided to move my daughter over to the public all-day Kindergarten program because she and the boys were approved for a variance. Our move one mile from our other apartment put them in another school about four blocks from the one they'd already been attending. Thinking it best that they have the stability of the same school and friends, I sought the variance. In addition, a variance would mean I could actually have ALL three kids in the same school. The new school they were zoned for didn't have all-day Kindergarten and that meant another year of driving all over town and paying more than $200 extra per month! So, I pulled my daughter from her former school not knowing that Kindergarten starts one week later than everyone else. Then I had to wonder what in the world I was going to do with her for an entire week!

On Saturday night, my daughter came down with a fever that spiked as high as 103.8 in the middle of the night on Sunday. Monday morning, I took the boys to their first day of school for the year and briefly met their new teachers. Just as I was leaving, I ran into a parent who I am acquainted with and she mentioned to me that strep throat has been going around. What timing! My daughter had the symptoms so I called the doctor and got right in. Sure enough, she was diagnosed with strep throat. Well, that's two days of the week I didn't have to worry about childcare and how I was going to make it to work. AND it gave me time to come up with another plan. I managed to find a wonderful lady who does licensed in-home childcare. She was willing to take my daughter from Wednesday through Thursday this week! An answer to prayer...

The fever lasted longer than expected and last night was the first night she made it through without her fever spiking up. Thank goodness...

I'm out three days of pay, which is a little worrisome but I still have my job so I'm not complaining! I am just very much looking forward to this week being over!

So, my blog took a backseat for a few days... and it may have to on occasion in the future months as well. I signed up for another class this semester. It's only one so it won't be too much of a deal but it might keep me busier than usual. I took all last year off from school so that I could attend RCIA and focus on learning all I could about the Catholic faith. I knew I'd need all the time I could get and I couldn't see how I would manage it with a school schedule. But, now it's time to get back into the swing of things!

People to pray for:
Damion and kids
my parents
April and Tim
KC and husband
Diane and family
Cindy/Jill
Dragan and mother
Johan and family

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Rest In Peace

auntMy aunt passed away this afternoon. On June 23, 2007, she was taken to ICU after suffering a double stroke. Since then, she made more improvements than the doctors ever thought she would. Over time, she was able to respond to us through hand squeezes, head nods and head shakes. She gave kisses, smiled, sat up for long periods of time, stuck her tongue out and even flipped us off on command a time or two. In one rare moment, she signed "I love you" to my cousin after several days of very little response. I'm sure my cousin will cherish that moment forever. My aunt was a fighter... but she could fight no longer.

My aunt was only 49 years old. She was a fan of NASCAR racing and the Rolling Stones. Among some of her heroes were her own children. She was passionate about her job and loved to help others and make people laugh. She will be remembered fondly by friends and family.

Please pray for the repose of her soul and for the comfort of my uncle and cousins.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Adjustments

I've been taking a bit of a break from blogging and being online in general. Sometimes, the anti-Catholic venom and all the horribly skewed misconceptions really begin to bother me, so I have to take a step back and reflect on all the good and beautiful things about being Catholic... and all that God has done in my life in the last year or so.

I still fall short of making God a priority in my life so I'm making some small adjustments to change that. If I try to uproot everything and make a drastic change, I'll get overwhelmed and slip right back into old patterns. I've realized this past year that these things take time and patience and it's important to make changes with baby steps if I want the changes to stick.

I just started a six week study on being a disciple of Christ and I realize that before I can be "sent", I must know him better. I must be more firmly rooted beyond my intellectual understanding. This is where those small adjustments come in as I try to focus more on God's role in my life personally and as I strive to make Him the priority above all else.

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Prayers:
Damion and kids
My family
Joby - comfort and financial struggles (Matt 6:25-33)
Johan - as he crosses the Tiber
Christine
Dragan and his mother
All others who have no one to pray for them

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

New Creations in Christ

Clay was baptized last Saturday. It was beautiful. It was an emotional moment for me as my first child was brought into the Christian faith, knowing at that moment that the Holy Spirit was descending upon him, washing him clean of all original sin. He was buried with Christ and rising to new life... the heavenly witnesses rejoicing!

I love the Sacrament of Baptism... and I love that it's more than a mere symbol. The misconception is that Catholics think the water is "magical". In reality, we know the water is a symbol of the grace of the Holy Spirit and the means by which the Holy Spirit pours out His grace. It isn't the water itself, but the act of baptism, by which the Holy Spirit causes one to be born again (John 3).

CCC 694 Water. The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit's action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As "by one Spirit we were all baptized," so we are also "made to drink of one Spirit." Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified as its source and welling up in us to eternal life.

All three of my children are now united to the body of Christ through baptism.

Thank you, Holy Spirit, for pouring your grace upon my children.

"For everything must die - to rise again."

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Quite a Year!

It was just a bit over a year ago when I began my journey into Catholicism. I cannot begin to express the amount of growth I've experienced in that short amount of time. God broke me, brought me into himself and showed me that my pride had caused me to be blind to the reality that a truth existed that was fuller than what I had blindly accepted for so long. What I experienced a year ago was a very painful and lonely experience, one I wish I could have avoided at times but for which I am also very thankful. Without it, I may never have come to know the joy of being Catholic... of knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that I'm right where God wants me.

Though it's often difficult being Catholic where the rest of my family is not, I have to say I feel very blessed that God chose to open my eyes to the truths of Catholicism. It has strengthened me in so many ways and it has brought my relationship with Jesus to a deeper level. I'm still far from where I want to be in that relationship but I know that each day is a day I grow closer to Christ and His Church.

A year ago, I sat in a row of chairs with my family at church. Now I sit in a pew in another church, obedient to God's call to bring me into the Catholic faith, yet separated from my family... the picture of disunity that brought me to the state of brokenness to begin with. One day, I want to sit in a pew with my family in church, fully united as the body of Christ in ONE faith... the way God intended.

According to my great aunt Sue, my mom's family comes from a long line of Catholics. I hope, one day, that our Catholic roots will be restored... may God use me for this purpose if He so wills it.

Thank you, Lord, for bringing me into the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. I was lost, but now I'm found... I was blind, but now I see. It is only by Your grace that I am where I am. Please pass this grace on to my family and allow them to experience the fullness of faith you desire for them as well. Amen.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

A Very Busy Weekend

Saturday's move went smoothly and we are now living amidst an endless mess of boxes to be unpacked. It's quite an overwhelming task and, once again, this move proved just how big of a pack rat I am. The move took just about six hours and several trips to my new third floor apartment. But before any of that, I had to sign the papers.

When I arrived to sign the papers, I was informed that they were giving me another unit. This news was quite upsetting considering I had verified I'd be moving into that unit before I spent hours on the phone last week, working to have all my utilities switched over at just the right time. I was not too happy about this but what choice did I have? SO, because I refuse to sign papers before I actually SEE the unit, they hand me a key and send me on my way to take a look. I locate the building and climb the stairs to the third floor and when I arrive, I find there is furniture on the balcony... Free furniture? So, I give a little knock because I'm a bit nervous at this point... no response. Put the key in the door, give it a little turn and open it to find a coat hanging on the wall and more furniture! Close the door! Lock the door! Run down the stairs!

I returned to the office and told the girl, "Well, that unit is occupied! What is wrong with the unit I was supposed to move into?" She said, "Well, I don't know but I can't find they key anyway." (I had seen the key sitting on the desk when I came into the office.) I said, "I saw the key sitting right here when first came in." She located the key and freed me to check out the apartment. Everything in the apartment was fine except for some carpet damage that would have to be taken care of but which could be handled after I moved in. SO, I signed the papers for the original apartment and proceeded to move in.

Sunday, the day of the baptism, Clay woke up vomiting... I got all three kids ready anyway and after a lot of rushing around through my maze of boxes and newspaper, Damion, the kids, and I made our way to the church (barf-bags in hand). Clay decided he wasn't up for being baptized the way he was feeling and I definitely couldn't blame him, so I talked to Father Bob about rescheduling when he returned from Lourdes. No problem. Clay missed the whole baptism while he took a snooze in the pew!

But, despite the rough start, I was very pleased because my parents showed up! I'm not sure what got them there but I didn't care. It was wonderful that they came to share this day with the kids and that's all that mattered. My brother-in-law, a former Catholic, also attended. This is just as big as my parents showing up! In addition, Damion's dad came too! We also had a few from my work, some from my RCIA class and some other old friends. I'm truly blessed to know so many wonderful people and to have them share the special event with us. Thank you, also, to all those who were there in prayer!

Christian and Trinity are now baptized! Despite the oil in their hair, I couldn't bring myself to have them shower last night. I love the smell of the chrism oil and wanted it to linger on them today in remembrance.

After the baptism, I decided it was best to get Clay back home and in bed so we weren't able to celebrate properly. Perhaps, after Clay's baptism, we'll celebrate all three!

Until then, I'll be wading through boxes and newspaper...

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Tiny Miracles

What a roller coaster ride our family is on! Sunday, my aunt was taking a turn for the worst... But by the following day, her kidneys showed no signs of failure and her heartbeat had returned to normal. The doctors decided to have her on the respirator only part time because when she's overly exhausted, she has a more difficult time breathing on her own. She's gone up to six hours without it. When she is on it, the respirator gives her only 4 breaths per minute and the rest is all her doing.

On Wednesday, a physical therapist went in to assess her. After being helped to a position in which she was sitting on the side of the bed, my aunt was able to sit on her own without falling over. At one point, she started to fall back a little and the physical therapist told her to move her shoulders forward and my aunt did so and brought herself back into an upright position. She did everything the therapist asked her to do, moving her left leg, right leg, touching her chin, etc.

My aunt's friends have quite the sense of humor. At one point, my aunt was asked a question and they said, "If the answer to this question is 'yes', flip me off!" And so, my aunt flipped her off. She definitely hasn't lost her sense of humor!

My uncle was trying to get my aunt to open her eyes the other day and she brought her hand up to her brow as if trying to push her eyelids open.

SO, my uncle requested a second opinion from the head of neurology at the hospital. The doctor initially came in with this attitude and said, "Look, we've already told you what to expect... Haven't the doctors already explained everything to you already?" My uncle explained that my aunt was doing things that the doctors said she would NEVER do. The doctor's response was, "Yes, well, family members often SEE things that aren't really happening because they want to believe their loved one is going to get better." My uncle said, "Yes, but it's NOT just family. It's friends, nurses, and even the physical therapist!"

So, the doctor decided to actually take a look at MY AUNT, instead of a picture of her brain. My uncle said the doctor was very surprised to see that my aunt's personality and ability to understand remained in tact... her ability to communicate with nods and squeezes was also surprising to him, not to mention the amount of movement upon request she is able to carry out. Then he put a light in her eyes and expressed that he was seeing what he did not expect to see. He then ordered another MRI. My uncle wants her transferred to a rehab facility but the insurance, at this point, has turned it down because her diagnosis is "brain dead". People with no brain function don't need therapy. Hopefully, the new MRI and the evidence that she is not completely brain dead, will allow the doctors to change the diagnosis so that she can get the rehab she needs to improve even more.

My uncle told me yesterday that each success, while it brings him joy, also makes him realize how much more difficult it would be to lose her after all this... or to decide to "let her go". That phrase was a bit scary to me... I hope he never takes away any normal means of caring for her and I hope he never consideres euthanasia.

A HUGE thank you to all of you who have prayed and who continue to pray! Your prayers are being heard!

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On a completely different note, I sent a Catholic Answers tract on infant baptism to my parents and urged them to attend my kids' baptism. I pray their hearts are open... and I pray they will set aside their opinions for the sake of the kids.

We're all getting excited about the baptism but have a HUGE day of moving ahead of us tomorrow. Hopefully, that will go as smoothly as possible...

Eventually, I'd like to get back to some normal blogging!

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Friday, June 15, 2007

She Opened Her Eyes!

Wednesday, I was able to bless my aunt with Holy Water from Lourdes... I want to thank those who provided this water for me, directly and indirectly. It meant a lot to me to be able to do this. It was difficult to find an appropriate moment to do so with all the people that are in and out of the room. I hope to go over today. May God grant me another such moment.

Yesterday, they gave my aunt a tracheotomy. The tubes down her throat were causing a lot of gag reflex and making her very uncomfortable and the tape used to keep the tubes in her mouth was causing severe chapping (or an allergic reaction). I'm sure she's relieved to have those tubes out of her mouth. She was able to smile yesterday and she opened her eyes half way for 3-4 minutes. This is a tremendous step... one which the doctors told us not to expect.

Praise be to God!

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My Aunt / Baptism of the Kids

My aunt is improving little by little every day. The last two days, she's been working hard to open her eyes. She is able to open them about 1/8 of an inch. She is easily worn out with us all talking with her, asking her questions, etc. She responds with nods and shakes of the head, hand squeezing and frowns. Sometimes it seems she is trying to smile. Sometimes, she cries.

It's difficult to see her lying there in such a state... knowing she can hear and understand but has such a limited ability to communicate... trapped in a broken body.

Please continue saying prayers for our family. We are really feeling them and they have given a lot of peace and strength we may not otherwise have.

On another note, the baptism of my children has finally been scheduled. It is set for June 24, 2007 at 1:00 pm. I'd like to have a BBQ or something afterwards but I'm not sure I can swing the cost... I have to figure something out soon, however, because it's just 11 days away! The kids and I are really excited about it... Please pray that my parents will be open to come. They will truly be missing out if they choose not to attend.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

It's a Miracle!

Things are looking up with my aunt. Yesterday, when my sister and I were visiting with her, the nurse came in to get the excess water out of her mouth. When the nurse put that sucker up to her, my aunt tried to swat it away and lifted her head off the pillow. She was moving quite a bit more than the day before... head, arms, legs, feet and even fingers!

Then, last night my cousin was holding her hand. She told her mom she was going to leave for a few and that she'd be back and my aunt squeezed and wouldn't let go! A bit later, my cousin was holding her hand and she said, "Mom, squeeze my hand." And my aunt squeezed her hand! Then my cousin said, "Move your feet." My aunt moved her feet!

So, she CAN hear and understand us and she can move. These are all VERY good signs. Even the nurse was optimistic and excited by these huge improvements.

Please continue in your prayers. The Lord is listening. I promised Him, if my aunt ever came out of this, that I would tell her all about him. Please pray that her heart will be ready to hear about Jesus.

Also, last night's good news gave me the opportunity to talk to my cousin about the power of prayer. I was able to give the glory to God for the recovery we've seen in my aunt. My cousin didn't say much in response, but it's a seed... one she will be able to think over for a while.

Praise God!

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Update on my aunt

Fr. Serpa said a Mass for my aunt and our family yesterday. I cannot begin to express my thanks to all those who are praying for us...

On the first day, my aunt was making few movements beyond the twitching of her eyelids. On the second day, we could see her legs and arms move a bit but it appeared to be just nerves and muscle tensing. Yesterday, her movements were even larger and more broad and seemed to react to stimulation around her.

My cousin put a bunch of her favorite songs on an MP3 player and put it on her ears. My sister and cousin were whispering in the room, to allow her some rest when they noticed my aunt raised her eyebrows a couple of times. A song she really likes had just begun.

Another time they noticed her leg had slid off the side of the bed. They put it back up and a few minutes later, it was hanging off the side again.

Then, they went to wipe a bit of drool from her mouth and she moved her head away!

The doctors are still saying it's just nerve and muscle reaction but we're all being a bit more optimistic because those behaviors seem to have purpose! It's very possible she may never improve beyond that, but it's also possible that a miracle may happen! It's amazing how much more movement we're seeing from her in just three days. We have no idea whether or not she can hear us but it sure seems as if she can and so we continue to talk to her and remain hopeful.

Today, the kids and I will be recorded, adding to those family and friends who already have been. My cousin will then put our recordings on an MP3 player so my aunt can hear all our voices even when we're not there. This whole ordeal has been strengthening for our family and a wonderful opportunity to show Christ's love to the members who do not have faith.

It's made me realize just how little time we have to reach out with the truth of Christ to those around us. I often think, "when the time is right" or "maybe tomorrow"... but there may not be a tomorrow and they may never hear the truth if we don't say something. They may reject it, but at least they had the chance to hear it! We have to be bolder: speak more, act more, love more. For tomorrow, they may be gone.

I know my aunt has "heard it all before" but I believe, if she comes out of this, she may decide to accept a whole new way of looking at it. I pray that the will of God will be done here... and that He will hold her in his hands regardless of the outcome.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Life Update

My aunt is not doing well. According to the doctors, she has lost all brain function except that which helps her to breath. She is currently on a respirator but they believe she MAY be able to breathe on her own. If she came out of this, she would have a very long and very difficult road ahead of her. Right now, we're just waiting to see if anything changes in the next couple of days.

It's very difficult to see her lying there so helpless with all those tubes and needles everywhere. We don't know if she can hear us but we're all talking to her anyway... It's a very difficult time for our family but specifically for my uncle and cousins.

Your continued prayers are appreciated.

On a lighter note, my son, Christian, has a party at school today celebrating his completion of Kindergarten. I'm looking forward to being there and having something to take my mind off things for a while. I'm so proud of him. He's done so well this year and is so smart.

I have been delayed in responding to Russell because of my family issues but I'm working on it and will be posting it after I send it to him. I'm also quite busy adjusting to the upcoming changes that occur when summer hits... changes in finances, childcare arrangements, etc. In the midst of everything I'm trying to change parishes, schedule my kids' baptism, sign them up for CRE, and find out about getting involved in CRE... all while trying to pack and plan my move on June 23 and get a variance so my kids don't have to change schools.

Wish I could blog more but I have too many thoughts and not enough time!

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Photos: Strawberry Music Festival

We went camping at the Strawberry Music Festival in California. Here are a few of MANY, MANY pictures!



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We're Back/Changing Parishes

The kids and I had a great time camping. The mornings at the campground were awesome... nice and cool with hundreds of butterflies in the meadow. We spent some time at a little lake, where they were able to get some swim time in. Trinity and I enjoyed the ladybugs that flew in abundance around the shady parts of the lake. We didn’t have a dull moment the whole time and my legs still hurt from all the walking we did. I may try to post some photos in the next couple of days.

On another note, I’m considering a move to another parish. I love the people I’ve gotten to know at my current parish but I want to find one that is more orthodox, especially if my children are going to be going through religious education. It is very important to me that they learn orthodox Catholicism. I believe that failing to promote orthodox Catholicism leads to the “protestantizing” of parishes and contributes to the common misconceptions about Catholicism by non-Catholic Christians. It is essential that children learn the faith the way it’s intended, not based on someone’s “off” interpretation of things.

Do these people not listen to Catholic radio and EWTN? How could they not know that they are slowly slipping from orthodoxy?

It’s interesting to me that some people see this viewpoint as being too conservative and even go so far as to label me a fundamentalist but the reality is that it’s NOT okay to alter the rubrics of the liturgy of the Mass. It’s not okay to do the consecration with children behind the altar. It’s not okay to attribute error to God or his Word. And it’s not okay to teach things that are contradictory to Church teaching, especially to our children.

So, while I’ll greatly miss the people and the priests who’ve been subbing in for the pastor the parish lacks, I definitely look forward to experiencing Mass the way it’s intended and getting my children into a good CRE program. May God clearly show us where He would have us attend.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Wolves in Sheep's Clothing

Catholic Answers recently released a special report entitled, “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing”. It details modern dissenters within the Church... those who have an agenda that is contradictory to the teachings of the Catholic Church and contradictory to what we, as Catholics, are required to uphold. These dissenters promote various ideas that are breaking down the core of theology and morality within the Catholic faith: same-sex marriage, “alternative” lifestyles, pro-abortion, contraception, divorce, the ordination of women, and married priests, just to name a few. Dissenters pose a serious threat to the Church and to the souls who trust that they are receiving sound and orthodox teaching from those in authoritative positions.
Because of these dissenters, it is absolutely essential that Catholics arm themselves with the truth about Catholic teaching and continue to fight against the heresy and false teaching that is creeping up within our own parishes.

In my parish, you ask?

Indeed.

This is a difficult thing to write about but it's also necessary. Sometimes, doing what is right is not the popular thing to do and it often comes with a price to pay in one way or another. But, we've all seen how these things work. First, you allow contraception, then it's abortion for extreme cases, then it's abortion at will, which then leads to euthanasia of babies born with disabilities. You see the progression here? When we make allowances for the seemingly little things, they eventually turn into big things. Before you know it, the value of the truth of life's sanctity is being questioned all over the globe and the fight to keep things right becomes overwhelming.

It is the same way with any good vs. evil, or truth vs. falsehood. As Catholics, we have a right to attend a Mass that is done properly... a good, orthodox, and valid Mass. We have a right to experience the Sacraments the way the Church intends for us to experience them. Catholicism IS the fullness of truth! But, what happens when we allow people from within to decide what's important and what isn't? What happens when we allow those teaching others within the Church to teach things contrary to what the Church teaches? And what happens when we believe these things and carry them out to others, teaching others the wrong we've been taught? Before we know it, the fight to keep things right becomes overwhelming.

I'm not going to go so far as to say that all these people teach error knowing they're doing so. Some are just sincerely wrong. The problem comes when they believe they are above correction... when pride does not allow them to see the error they promote and their hearts are unwilling to change. Having a degree and a few letters after your name does not make you infallible or above correction. We, as humans, are always growing, always learning and always changing. I, for example, never thought in a million years I'd convert to Catholicism. Why? Because my pride did not allow me to see that Catholicism was a fuller truth than what I already knew. Once pride got out of the way, and I realized God had something to show me, I was able to really let the truth sink in.

This brings me to the point. This fall, while attending RCIA, the RCIA Director taught the class that the Bible is inspired but that it contains error. This statement troubled me because I was ALWAYS taught, and believed that the Catholic Church taught, that the Bible is inerrant. In fact, this statement bothered me for months. At first I thought, "Well, maybe she didn't mean to say it that way..." But I thought that even if she didn't mean it that way, that's how it was taught. At this point, I began to look into what the Church actually teaches about the inerrancy of Scripture. To my relief, the Church teaches that ALL of Scripture is inerrant. So, now it was just a matter of discussing it with the director.

So, we were all given evaluations to fill out at the end of the RCIA year and I decided this would be a good time to bring up my issue with the director's statement. Unlike most evaluations, we were asked to identify ourselves (but not until the end of the evaluation). How can one feel good about being honest when they're required to say who they are? Anyway, a couple of weeks later, I received a call from the DRE. She informed me that I do not understand Catholic teaching about Scripture and requested to meet with me about the issue. She emphatically stated, "There ARE errors in Scripture." I figured I should probably agree to meet with her to figure out exactly what her position was on the matter. Perhaps, I was just not understanding what she meant. But, I also decided that I had better look further into the issue and learn about the actual Catholic position regarding the inerrancy of Scripture.

Through my study, I found that the Catholic Church throughout history has ALWAYS taught that Scripture, being authored by God, is fully and entirely without error:

St. Irenaeus in Against Heresies said, "If, however, we cannot discover explanations of all those things in Scripture which are made the subject of investigation, yet let us not on that account seek after any other God besides Him who really exists. For this is the very greatest impiety. We should leave things of that nature to God Who created us, being most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit."

St. Clement of Rome in Letter to the Corinthians said, "You have studied the Holy Scriptures, which are true and inspired by the Holy Spirit. You know that nothing contrary to justice or truth has been written in them."

St. Justin Martyr in Dialogue with Trypho said, "But I shall not venture to suppose or to say such a thing [that the Scriptures err]; and if a Scripture which appears to be of such a kind be brought forward, and if there be a pretext [for saying] that it is contrary [to some other] since I am entirely convinced that no Scripture contradicts another, I shall admit rather that I do not understand what is recorded, and shall strive to persuade those who imagine that the Scriptures are contradictory, to be rather of the same opinion as myself."

St. Augustine in Letters said, "[To Jerome, a. 394-395] I think it is extremely dangerous to admit that anything in the Sacred Books should be a lie... If we once admit in that supreme authority even one polite lie, there will be nothing left of those books, because, whenever anyone finds something difficult to practice or hard to believe, he will follow his most dangerous precedent and explain it as the idea or practice of a lying author."

St. Augustine to St. Jerome said, “On my own part I confess...that it is only to those books of Scripture which are now called canonical that I have learned to pay such honor and reverence as to believe most firmly that none of their writers has fallen into any error. And if in these books I meet anything which seems contrary to truth I shall not hesitate to conclude either that the text is faulty or that the translator has not expressed the meaning of the passage, or that I myself do not understand.”

I think these five quotes alone should rest my case but I want to look further because the argument being made against the inerrancy of Scripture will become a grossly obvious misinterpretation of Church documents if one can see and understand the historical position of the Church.

Providentissimus Deus by Pope Leo XIII, written in 1893:
“It is absolutely wrong and forbidden either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture or to admit that the sacred writer has erred. For the system of those who, in order to rid themselves of those difficulties, do not hesitate to concede that divine inspiration regards the things of faith and morals, and nothing beyond...this system cannot be tolerated.... It follows that those who maintain that an error is possible in any genuine passage of the sacred writings either pervert the Catholic notion of inspiration or make God the author of such error.... ...all the Fathers and Doctors [of the Church] agreed that the divine writings, as left by the [sacred authors], are free from all error, [and] they labored earnestly, with no less skill than reverence, to reconcile with each other those numerous passages which seem at variance.”

Here we are told that we cannot limit inspiration to certain parts of Scripture and we cannot say that the writer has erred or we make God the author of error.

Divino Afflante Spiritu by Pope Pius XII 1943:
“...not merely because [the books of the canon] contain revelation without error, but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy spirit, they have God for their author...When, subsequently, some Catholic writers, in spite of this solemn definition of Catholic doctrine, by which such divine authority is claimed for the ‘entire books with all their parts’ as to secure freedom from any error whatsoever, [when these Catholic writers] ventured to restrict the truth of Sacred Scripture solely to matters of faith and morals...Leo XIII...justly and rightly condemned these errors.... Finally, it is absolutely wrong and forbidden ‘either to narrow inspiration to certain passages of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred’.... For as the substantial Word of God [Jesus Christ] became like to men in all things, ‘except sin,’ so the words of God, expressed in human language, are made like to human speech in every respect, except error.”

Here we are told that it is WRONG to believe that inerrancy of Scripture is limited to matters of faith and morals. Apparently, some tried to make this claim and the Church, through Pope Leo XIII, condemned this belief.

Humani Generis by Pope Pius XII in 1950:
“For some go so far as to pervert the sense of the Vatican Council’s definition [this is Vatican Council I] that God is the author of Holy Scripture, and they put forward again the opinion, already often condemned, which asserts that immunity from error extends only to those parts of the Bible that treat of God or of moral and religious matters.”

Again, in 1950, we're told that it is wrong to restrict inerrancy solely to matters of morality or religion... that ALL of Scripture is inerrant.

Vatican Council II, Dei Verbum:
“Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.... Since, therefore, all that the...sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures. Thus ‘all Scripture is inspired by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness...” [2 Tim 3:16].”

So, here we have at Vatican II, the same thing happening... So, what's the problem, you ask? Well, I met with the DRE and found her position, despite her degrees and knowledge of Scripture, to be contradictory to Church teaching. Take a look at the part I made bold in the last paragraph... These 6 short words, have somehow permitted the DRE to believe, contrary to the historical teaching of the Church, that the inerrancy of Scripture is limited to matters of salvation (or faith and morals). She believes that Scripture contradicts itself and that the authors erred on matters not pertaining to faith and morals, such as science and history. She claimed that this Vatican II document CHANGED the Church's teaching on the inerrancy of Scripture. In reality, the Church NEVER changes truth and it NEVER changes it's doctrines. It may change disciplines, but it does NOT change doctrine. I believe it is CLEAR that the Catholic Church teaches that ALL of Scripture is inerrant. However, the DRE is teaching this error, based on her interpretation of Dei Verbum, not only to RCIA students, but to the older children in the parish as well.

Despite my efforts to show the DRE the Church's teaching on the matter, she refused to listen to any Church document that came prior to Vatican II. She claimed that I did not bring her a quote from ONE biblical scholar, when what I brought her was better than any biblical scholar: church documents. Scholars are not infallible. The ordinary Magisterium of the Church IS infallible. I asked the DRE to produce one magisterial document that states explicitly that Scripture contains error or that those six words should be interpreted as she's interpreting them. She could not. On the other hand, I had Church documents, the Catholic Encyclopedia, tracts from Catholic Answers and a letter from a well-known apologist, all of which are aware of this out-of-context interpretation of Dei Verbum and all of which state emphatically that ALL of Scripture is inerrant.

Can you imagine all of these children and adults being taught to believe this and spreading this lie as true Catholic teaching? Can you imagine the damage this can cause to believe that God permitted error on the part of the authors in writing His Sacred Word? We cannot allow people to teach this. It must be stopped... and we must pay attention to what those in leadership positions are teaching in our parishes. We must ensure that the Catholic faith is being properly taught. There is NO room for error on this matter.

I will not go so far as to say that the DRE is purposely trying to deceive people. I believe she is teaching what she truly believes to be Church teaching. I believe, if she could look at the evidence fairly, she would stop teaching this. But I believe she is ignoring all the evidence. I believe she does not understand that the Bible is not to be read literally throughout and that what she sees as contradictions are simply a lack of understanding of the author's intent or of the spiritual nature of what is on the page. Regardless of her degrees and credentials, she is simply wrong on this matter. The Bible is not a history or science book. In addition, we are always developing new understandings of Scripture. Our lack of understanding cannot be reduced to passing it off as error.

This whole ordeal has been difficult for me. I have a lot of respect for the DRE and I don't want to be in conflict with anyone. But, as a Catholic, it is my responsibility to demand that truth be taught in the parish, especially to children. If I just let this slide, who knows what kind of heresy this could snowball into? Sadly, there are many who share her position. There ARE scholars who believe and teach as she does. But it is a direct contradiction of Church teaching and it cannot continue. Dissident biblical scholars pose a huge danger to the faith and regardless of the prestige of the scholar, we must always be looking out for false teachings. Some scholars are bold in their attempts to promote their false viewpoints, giving themselves a nihil obstat, which officially declares their work as free from doctrinal or moral error. Raymond E. Brown, S.S., Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, S.J., and Roland E. Murphy, O.Carm, did just that in their widely used New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Catholic Answers, Beginning Apologetics 7:How to Read the Bible, page 33). In fact, these scholars are guilty of promoting the very interpretation of Dei Verbum that the DRE holds. I only wonder if these were the scholars she wanted me to quote that permitted her to dismiss me because I failed to do so.

Unfortunately, I was unable to convince the DRE of the Church's teaching on the inerrancy of Scripture. May the Lord grant her the grace to change her opinion and may He protect the ears of any who may hear her teach this in the future.
For anyone wishing to read about the "so-called" errors in the Bible, try to find a copy of John W. Haley's Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1992).

In the meantime, keep a watchful eye for those dissenting against Church teaching and don't just sit back and let it happen. Speak up until it stops! You ARE the Church! You and your children have a right to hear the truth!

The Code of Canon Law states:
Canon 217: Since they are called by baptism to lead a life in keeping with the teaching of the gospel, the Christian faithful have the right to a Christian education by which they are to be instructed properly to strive for the maturity of the human person and at the same time to know and live the mystery of salvation. (emphasis mine)

Canon 229 (paragraph 1): Lay persons are bound by the obligation and posses the right to acquire knowledge of Christian doctrine appropriate to the capacity and condition of each in order for them to be able to live according to this doctrine, announce it themselves, defend it if necessary, and take their part in exercising the apostolate. (emphasis mine)

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Preparing For Baptism

I met with the deacon last Sunday about the baptism for the kids. Outside of my children climbing up the walls in the deacon’s office, the meeting went well. He asked about Godparents and I told him I’d have to get back to him. We set a date but I had to leave a message with him to reschedule because I forgot I’ll be out of town that weekend so it looks like it will end up being sometime in June.

We had to attend two classes about baptism. The classes were okay but they didn’t give enough information to the kids about the purpose and importance of baptism. The woman mentioned the use of water and oil. She mentioned some stories in the Bible that symbolize baptism and the kids did some art projects. Not once did she mention original sin and the need to remove it from the soul. Nor did she mention the Holy Spirit’s role in baptism.

No problem, however, because religious education comes first from the home and I have been talking about these things with my children myself. But what about the families who are not telling this to their children? I think it’s important, if they’re going to have a mandatory class prior to baptism, that it actually teaches the kids these very important aspects of the sacrament.

The kids are really excited about being baptized... They keep asking me, "Are we going to be baptized today?" My oldest keeps telling everyone he wants to be "dunked" because "that’s the way Grandpa was baptized". I explained that they don’t do it that way at our parish but he seems insistent. I’ll have to spend a little more time talking with him about this, I think, so he understands it’s just as effective either way.

Please pray for my children as they get closer to this sacrament. Please also pray that my family will be open to attending. My family never misses events for the kids but I fear they may choose not to attend this one and I worry that my children may not understand their absence.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Amazing

So, there I was, in my cesspool of self-pity and depression. Dry. Unfeeling. Numb. Sadness overwhelming me like a blanket snuffing out a fire.

And once again, God came near to me through others. Some spoke, some listened, some prayed. One thing that struck me in particular was something TJ said, "Jesus holds his arms out on the cross and says, 'Amber you come up here and share your suffering with me for awhile.'"

Wow.

I cannot remember word for word but Corey said something about Sister Faustina and how Jesus told her that when it seems God is far from her, he is actually closer - and that he just removes the awareness of his presence. I suppose God does this to bring us closer to him, to build trust and perseverance.

Yesterday, I was feeling much better. Then, this morning, I was listening to Food for the Journey and Sister Ann Shields made mention of the Meditation of the Day in the Magnificat for today. It was from Monsignor Roman Guardini and it was so appropriate for what I've been experiencing.

God is always and everywhere near to man. But to man himself, his presence is inaccessible, blocked off. God alone can open up this channel...

And Jesus has brought this presence to us. We know that the Father loves us in Jesus. We have confidence in the grace of his love for us; we know that his eyes see us, his heart it turned toward us, and his hands lead us. We believe that heaven is around us... However, one thing is missing: we do not feel the presence of God; It is still closed off, from our side. It is closed off by what we ourselves are; by the heaviness of our imprisoned being; by the slothfulness and dullness of our hearts; by the evil that is in us. Heaven would be here entire if God opened up his presence to us, and at the same time opened up men's hearts so they could feel this presence...

Every Christian act, belief, love, sacrifice, struggle, every perseverance, and courageous performance - all these things make possible the approach of him who desires only to come forward. But all coldness, indifference, slothfulness, weakness, pride, covetousness - everything sin is called - forces him back, bars the road to him. And heaven fights. Heaven wants to come to us. For heaven is only God's love come home....

Today is a new day... God is good. I know God is near though I cannot feel him. He has shown me his presence through others. I'm not giving up. I'm moving forward and thanking him for today.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Difficult times...

Fr. Bob spoke yesterday about a priest who was experiencing dryness. He had asked the priest, "Do you pray?" and the priest responded that he could not pray because every time he did, he thought of all the sins he’d committed in his life. Fr. Bob responded with, "Do you not know that God loves you? You must find a way to get past this or you will never grow and you will miss all that God has in store for you."

Perhaps this is my problem, in part. I know God loves me, intellectually speaking... but I don’t believe this concept has sunk beyond that and into my soul.

I feel broken... like a toy that cannot be repaired. I suffer from depression and I feel like a failure as a parent. I could go on and list all the negatives but I’ve been doing that in my own mind for days and I don’t want to reduce myself to tears at this point. Perhaps there is some reason I’ve been allowed to experience what I have... some greater purpose I cannot see yet.

I have a lot of resentment built up due to certain circumstances in my life. I hate the circumstance and I hate the resentment even more. Sometimes, I just let it go and other times, it sneaks up on me and settles in a huge wave of depression, anxiety and anger.

The past week has been one of those times.

Yesterday was particularly difficult. At Mass, my emotions were numb. But, when I took the Eucharist,I actually began to cry. I cannot explain what I was feeling. Even as I reflect now, I get choked up. It was as if Jesus were saying, "Do you not know that I love you? You must find a way to get past this or you will never grow and you will miss all that I have in store for you..."

Lord, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

What's next?

Cathy is a 21-year-old Baptist who has been called to Catholicism. She hopes to be brought into the Catholic Church sometime this year. Please go to her brand new blog and welcome her!

Coming Home
********

Mother Mary
It is Thursday and I cannot wait for Sunday! What a beautiful time this is in my life!

In a couple of weeks, my boys and I will be attending a couple of baptism classes to get them ready to be baptized. I am very much looking forward to this very important event in their lives. My daughter will also be baptized but doesn’t need to attend the class because she’s too young.

It’s still amazing to me when I think that I’ve crossed the line. I am greatly anticipating the growth I will experience now that I am able to receive the Eucharist. I have never put so much effort into nurturing my faith as I have in the last several months and I know I’m still falling short of where I want to be. I don’t ever again want to be where I was a year ago... to feel that loneliness and to be so far from God and His will for my life. I have been given a most precious gift and I pray He’ll never allow me to take it for granted.

Congratulations to all those who also entered the Church in 2007 along with me! It’s a wonderful feeling to know that the body of Christ just grew by a huge leap at one time. The time it takes to learn the faith and journey into Catholicism, is time well-spent as God nurtures our desire to know Him more and to be closer to Him. But the journey doesn’t stop here. In fact, it’s only beginning!

The question I ask now is, "What will you have me do next, Lord?"

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

I'm a Catholic!

The first thing I thought when I woke up this morning was, "I'm a Catholic!" In a flash, the moment I had longed for came and went. Here I sit, nearly 24 hours later, and I can still imagine the scent of the oil. I can still feel the touch of my sponsors and the hands that Father Joseph placed on my head. It's almost surreal.

There were two who were baptized and seeing them up there brought about reflections on my own baptism... I was overjoyed for them! How awesome is the work of the Holy Spirit as He cleanses a soul of it's sin! It's a much more moving event having the understanding that baptism actually does leave a mark on the soul. I only wish I had the same understanding when the Holy Spirit was at work during my baptism as a child.

After the baptism, it was time for Confirmation. Upon the calling of my name, I walked up with the others. Damion and Ruth stood behind me with their hands on my shoulders. I stood there, trembling with nervousness and excitement. I kept thinking about my journey and how far I'd come in such a short time. I was thanking God for bringing me into His truth, for showing me the beauty in the Catholic faith and for finally bringing me to this moment in time.

When Fr. Joseph placed his hands on my head, the weight of his hands surprised me at first, but I felt peaceful and it was almost as if I could feel his faith. Deep. Sincere. He then anointed me with oil and said, "Elizabeth Ann Seton, be sealed with the Holy Spirit." And we exchanged the Sign of Peace.

We were then dismissed to our seats to prepare for the Eucharist. I already felt as if I could burst with joy and I hadn't even had the Eucharist yet! We were called up, the ten of us, to receive our First Holy Communion. One by one, we ate the body and drank of the cup. We then returned to our pews to allow everyone else to partake in communion. For the first time, I was able to receive communion with Damion, a moment I had long been waiting for and one which I feel has brought us closer together.

The entire Mass was beautiful... and it didn't seem nearly as long as it was. In attendance on my behalf were: Damion, Ruth, Holly, Patty, Lindsey, April, Heather, Carrie and Trevor. I was deeply moved and blessed to have them there to witness one of the most meaningful and important events in my life. From Ruth, I received a beautiful crucifix necklace, which I have proudly worn ever since and will treasure it for many years to come.

I feel different today. I feel content and free of anxiety. I feel ready to continue growing closer to God and I am anxious to receive Him again in the Eucharist!

I love Jesus. I love the Catholic Church. I love the Catholic faith.

I'm a Catholic and I wouldn't want to be anything else!

Thanks be to God!

*Thank you to EVERYONE who prayed for me! I received generous comments on my blog along with a few emails and I took to heart every single one of them!*

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Blessed!

Four days away and the excitement is building. I view my Confirmation as a serious turning point... a moment where God may take me in any number of directions and open many unexpected doors in my life.

What will you have me do to further your kingdom, Lord?

I am also feeling quite blessed... Though my parents have chosen not to come, my sister has decided to come with the understanding that she does not approve of my decision but she cares for and loves me enough to know that this is an important event in my life and wants to be supportive. I also have some wonderful friends, some Christian, some not, who will also be attending. Just when I think that my parents’ lack of attendance will leave me with empty seats, others have stepped in to fill the gap. I have been blessed with some really great friends!

Through this whole process, Damion has been wonderful. He’s watched my kids every Wednesday night for months so I could attend RCIA. This means a lot because every Wednesday, he’s left work earlier than he should have to rush home, shower and make it to my house at a time very difficult for him. I could not have gone through RCIA without him. He’s heard my struggles, my fears and my joys throughout the whole process... even in my anguish in the beginning, when I felt God was nowhere to be found.

I am amazed that God has called me to this place... the last place I ever expected to be! A year ago, I would have laughed if you said I was going to be a Catholic and, quite frankly, I would have been repulsed at the idea... But today, I wouldn’t want to be anything else. The Catholic faith has given me everything I was lacking: history, stability, continuity, unity, sound and consistent scriptural interpretation, sacramental grace, a better-formed conscience, and most of all, a desire to truly do God’s will.

And, in addition, I have some wonderful news. At this very pivotal time, I have taken on a new call to be a columnist on a new Catholic website, called CatholicDaily.org. I am utterly blessed and honored that they asked me to join them as a contributing writer and believe that God is calling me to step out in this direction for a purpose not yet known to me. My first article will be coming out soon. Please pray that my words will always give glory to God...

In just four days, I will join thousands of others in becoming a full member of the Church established by Christ. In just four days, I will receive the Lord in the Eucharist! How very blessed I am!

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Palm Sunday Reflection

At the reading of the gospel today, I was impacted by the statement in which we all joined in to say, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" It was a horrible thing to be saying it and my initial thought was, "I wouldn't be saying that! I don't want to say that!"

Then I realized, every time I sin, I am, in essence, saying those words. My sins put Christ on that cross. Every single one of them. Though I did not utter those words in person 2000 years ago, I utter them in my heart every time I choose sin over His will for me.

Thank you, Lord, for forgiving the sins of mine that put you on that cross.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Encouraged

Wow... I want to thank those of you who took the time to comment and encourage me. I printed out the Saint Michael Prayer and have it posted on my monitor’s edge.

I hope that God will use this, as Jeff said, in a way I cannot yet see... I have to admit that I did expect this a bit as I came near to Confirmation and I realize that feelings are not what makes or breaks one’s faith. I suppose there is a part of me that envies the presence that others say they feel... Perhaps Confirmation will help to make a difference.

Our RCIA does not have a retreat before confirmation. We are simply required to attend three Holy Week "events"... although a retreat sounds really nice about now. Next week, the television will not be turned on at my house at all, in hopes I’ll be able to add some quiet in order to better prepare myself for the Easter sacraments.

Thanks, RobK, for the book recommendation. I took a look at the book online and will likely purchase it on my next payday. My whole faith seems to be "an act of the will in spite of not feeling it..." Thank you for your prayers...

I have not read Dark Night of the Soul but I’ve been meaning to. Perhaps this is a good time, huh?

I’m feeling a bit more encouraged today. RCIA was great last night as we rehearsed for Easter. I had several friends tell me they plan to attend and even my sister said she may go, which was a surprise. I decided it might be best to get a sitter for the children because, otherwise, I will stress out the whole time about them behaving and being bored... especially since I won’t be able to sit right next to them. I really just want to be able to take in the moment and they are too young to really understand what would be happening.

And it’s official... the saint I chose for Confirmation is Elizabeth Ann Seton, single mother and convert to Catholicism. There are other saints I admire but this one speaks so much to my personal life experience and to the kind of Christian I’d like to be, devoted to helping others while working hard to care for my own children. Every time I examined the lives of saints, I’d always come back to her so I believe I was meant to choose her... or perhaps, she chose me... ?

Again, thank you all for your prayers and support. This journey is only beginning and I have a lot to learn and a lot of growth still ahead of me. In nine days, I will submit myself to the authority of the Catholic Church and I am thankful for the stability, continuity and unity found within the Catholic faith. I will finally be home and I cannot wait!

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I want to feel...

AloneI’ve got to get past this... there has to be a way to get my heart caught up with my brain. I’ve been praying more, reading the Bible more, learning more... but I still feel very little. On rare occasion, I feel overwhelmed with joy and excitement that I am becoming a Catholic... being a part of something I am so strongly convinced of. But this is short-lived and then, I’m back to numb...

What is wrong with me?

I haven’t written lately, because, quite simply, I don’t have anything to say. I’ve been feeling really depressed. Perhaps it’s a test to see if I’m really ready to stick with it... to push forward even though I feel it’s getting me nowhere. I know there have been saints who have experienced “dryness” and this gives me a bit of consolation but I don’t want to feel nothing. I want to feel something... something beyond abandonment.

I know God is there... but I cannot feel His presence. While others do, I simply don’t.

What is wrong with me?

I will press forward. I will not give up. I will continue to pray, continue to read the Scriptures, continue to learn... but I desire more than anything to feel what others feel.

Lord, please... I long to feel your presence...

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Getting Closer!

RobK at Kyrie Eleison has started a new blog for Catholic Dads. If you are a Catholic Dad and your blog touches on the issue of being a Catholic dad, then check it out and join others like you in the blog-o-sphere.

Catholic Dads Blog

**********

On another note, I cannot believe I am only 12 days away from Confirmation! Where has the time gone? It seems like yesterday I was months away and now here it is, right around the corner!

I went to lunch with my dad last week and asked if they were going to make it. He said they probably wouldn't come and he apologized for not at least letting me know when they didn't show up for the Rite of Election. This opened up a good conversation between us and I was able to explain my position a little more. I only hope that something I said might have reached him. Despite that I know they won't be there, I had a peace come over me. I think not knowing was too difficult. And now I know I can fill my reserved seats with those who truly are supportive.

Prayers:
Damion and kids
Bill - continued strength and healing
J, sister and family
Jill - for faith
Renee and kids - for healing
Cindy, Terri and JillD
AutumnRose

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Living Water

Living WaterJohn 4:13-14
Jesus said to her, "Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."


I can think back to times when I’ve been thirsty... when I’ve been parched to the point where I’d do just about anything for a cup of water, a soda, or anything. I can think back to how wonderful it was to quench that thirst with a drink... relieving the dryness in my throat.

It’s ironic that Marie brought up this passage just the other day and there it was yesterday, being read in Mass, during the First Scrutiny...

Knowing thirst on a physical level helped me be able to see a deeply spiritual meaning in this passage. So often, in the past, I’ve felt spiritual thirst and ended up trying to quench it with temporary things: friendships, material possessions, spending money... These things would make me feel better for a while but, in the end, I was always more thirsty that I was before, like when I try to quench my thirst with a soda. It’s nice when I have it, but once it’s gone, I’m no less thirsty than I was before.

Of course, the only thing that will actually quench my spiritual thirst is the living water of Jesus’ love and truth. Each time I turn to God instead of looking to the temporary things of this world, my thirst is quenched and my relationship with God grows. With each drop, I desire more, not due to thirst... but because the water is simply so refreshing, renewing and uplifting. Only if I spend time with him in prayer and in His Word, will my thirst be fully quenched. This is not to say that friendships are not important or that material possessions are wrong. These things are important and necessary in our lives but never at the expense of our relationship with God!

When my thirst is quenched with the living water, a “soda” can be had not for quenching thirst but for enriching my life... and hopefully, I’ll be able to share the truth of God’s living water with others I encounter along the way. I never again want to feel parched in my spiritual life...

Lord, thank you for your living water. Thank you for your love for me. Help me daily to do your will. Quench my thirst and do not permit me to crave the temporary things of this world but to keep my eyes focused on You. Amen.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Get Simple

Luke 16:19-23

"There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Laz'arus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Laz'arus in his bosom.

 

How often do I act as the rich man, forgetting those who are hurting or who are considered outcasts by society? I often forget to think just how much God loves them... no less than me. I've come to realize that many of my possessions weigh me down and hold me captive... I really want to simplify my life, to own fewer material items and grow in appreciation for having less. In short, I want to "get simple".

 

I am a bit of a packrat. The problem is that the thought of throwing things out actually causes me a lot of anxiety. What if I regret it? What if I throw out something I need or want later? (Silly, I know!) But I'm reaching a point where it's causing me more anxiety trying to hold on to so much stuff! I've been improving, trying to let go of things that just sit in boxes. I desire to get more organized but the task of doing so is overwhelming in and of itself...

 

I've been much more aware lately of how my money is spent as well... When I think of the material things I'd like to have, I often think about those who don't even have the basic necessities of life: food, shelter, clothing, or even adequate water. I rarely buy bottled water because when I do, I feel terrible for those dying from poor water, who would live if they could only drink what comes out of my tap.

 

Get simple.

 

I believe this is going to be quite a process for me but it's my goal to simplify my life by parting with all the material baggage I have. By this time next year, I want to be free of the anxiety I feel from carrying around so much "stuff". I want to re-train my mind to keep only what is important or of high sentimental value and toss the rest. I believe this will help me see the needs of others in order to help them. The Lord wants us to be ready to drop everything to follow him. The more I have, the more difficult that will be and I don't want to be hindered by materialism.

 

Lord, help me to know what is truly important so that I may follow you with all my heart, mind and soul. Let me not be burdened by materialism and ease my anxiety so I can part with the things that weigh me down.

 

Prayers:

v      Damion and kids

v      My parents

v      Jill – that the Lord would give her some Christian friends and strengthen family relationships

v      Bill – that he continues to recover from illness and that he regains the strength he needs quickly

v      Ruth – that her husband would come to understand the Catholic faith

v      Renee and children – that the Lord would give them strength and peace in this time of tragedy

v      Jose and Amy Lopez – for the repose of their souls

v      For the Lopez children and family - dealing with their loss

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Looking Ahead!

Luke 9:60-62
But he said to him, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

This verse spoke a lot to me last night. (Thanks, Dub!) I realize that, since I am following God, I cannot look back and there's no point in allowing my family, or anyone else for that matter, to take away the happiness in coming into Christ's Church. Each day, I find I am drawing closer to God, learning more... growing.

The Rite of Sending on Saturday was beautiful... My sponsor said that she sees how Jesus has been made real in my heart and my mind... It was wonderful to hear what each sponsor had to say about their candidates or catechumens as we were being "sent" to the bishop.

The Rite of Election was equally beautiful. Damion was there with the kids... Having them there to share in the event with me was great. I was amazed to see all the people in the diocese who have been moved along a similar journey to mine... some stepping into Christianity for the first time and others making their way to full communion with the Catholic Church... each one following God where He's led them. I do not know the numbers of those who stood up there, but I was filled with a sense of awe as I realized I was a part of something much bigger. All over the world, men and woman were coming forth in preparation for Easter Sacraments, celebrating God's presence and work in their lives, growing stronger in faith, and waiting with anticipation to partake in the Eucharist and become one with the Body of Christ.

It's moving to see how God has shaped people and moved them to the point where we could all come together like that. Beautiful!

After the rite, I had a picture taken with the bishop and then Damion, the kids and I went out for dinner. There was a nasty snow storm on our return trip to Reno and we feared we wouldn't make it back... our half hour drive turned into about 2 hours but we made it safely back home.

Now, I am looking ahead to the Easter Vigil! In less than six weeks, I will be in full communion with the Church established by the Lord himself!

Lord, keep me from all temptation and do not allow those around me to discourage me from following You. Keep me focused on Your will and help me forgive those who hurt me because they do not understand.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Elephant

As I expected, my family did not show up to the Rite of Election on Sunday. Saturday night, I had a feeling they wouldn’t be there and I was pretty upset about it but Sunday, I was a bit more at peace with the idea. At this point, I’m not sure I’ll invite them to the Easter Vigil. I can’t be disappointed if I don’t expect them to be there. My mom has always been one who does not like to miss “important” events in our lives but, apparently, there is a line she won’t cross, though I didn’t know that line existed until now.

Today, I’m feeling a bit angry that they didn’t show up... My sister graduated from a Catholic high school for goodness sake! What would they have done if she had converted while she was going there? If they were THIS opposed to Catholicism, what in the world were they thinking by putting her in that school?

I believe the worst thing about them not showing up is that they completely ignored the invitation... I received no response at all.

My conversion, to them, is the big elephant sitting in the middle of the room. Everyone knows it’s there and no one will talk about it, or acknowledge it. They simply step around it and pretend it doesn’t exist. They all treat me great. They aren’t mean or spiteful or rude. But on matters of faith, they are completely silent. It is, in a sense, a shunning that I didn’t expect.

On the other hand, the rites were AWESOME... I'm going to think a bit more about the experience before I post about it...

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

First Reconciliation

As I knew He would, God provided someone to watch my kids so I could meet with my priest yesterday. So I went down to the parish at noon. He asked questions about my background and baptism. I explained what I remembered and what my mom had told me and he concluded that I would not need a conditional baptism. This was a bit of a relief for me. I figured while I was there, I'd ask him a few more questions... It's not every day I have a priest to speak to on a one on one basis about the little things that linger in my mind so I took advantage of the moment. He was wonderfully patient and thorough.

 

He then agreed to listen to my first confession. I was quite nervous and somehow missed the Act of Contrition, which he said I could say as I leave, if I so wish. Prior to giving me penance, he said some wonderfully encouraging things. Specifically, I should try each day to be better, not perfect. To strive for perfection may only lead to disappointment every time I fail... but to strive to daily be better will allow me to continue to grow closer to God. Every day, pray a little more, read the Scriptures a little more, be a bit kinder than the day before, etc. In areas of wrong-doing, strive every day to do a little less: be less angry than the day before, less judgmental, etc. This was very encouraging since I often feel overwhelmed when I try to eliminate a negative behavior (or add a positive one) in one swift attempt and end up falling flat on my face in the mud.

 

I left with peace. I felt inspired to continue growing closer to God. I am working with a clean slate and I feel much lighter today... much less burdened and better capable of accepting God's merciful love for me. What an absolutely wonderful sacrament!

 

Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." ( John 20:21-23 NIV)

 

Forgiveness came to me from God through the priest. As I received absolution, it was not the words of the priest I was hearing, but Christ's forgiveness, mercy and love.

 

Thank you, Lord, for giving us a real and tangible way to receive and hear your forgiveness. Amen.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Personal Relationship with Christ

It’s amazing to me how many people assume that Catholics do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In fact, I’ve been told personally that this is “not a Catholic term” and that this term “is often mocked by Catholics”. I cannot begin to express how far from the truth this thinking is! First off, my RCIA class is constantly talking about our growing relationship with Christ, encouraging prayer and the reading of Scripture. At Wednesday’s class, they had a panel of married couples who stressed the importance of keeping Christ in the center of the marriage. This is also a continuing topic I hear on Catholic radio... Every morning, I listen to “Food for the Journey”. This show is about our growing personal relationship with Christ... about maturing in our faith, trusting God, reading His Word, praying, and loving others. Isn’t that what a personal relationship with Christ looks like?

 

Even the catechism stresses its importance (with the same term):

 

2558 "Great is the mystery of the faith!" The Church professes this mystery in the Apostles' Creed (Part One) and celebrates it in the sacramental liturgy (Part Two), so that the life of the faithful may be conformed to Christ in the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father (Part Three). This mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer.

 

No one can tell me that Catholics are not encouraged to have a personal relationship with Christ. Every Mass encourages this relationship through reading of Scripture, prayer, worship and, at the deepest level, when we partake in Holy Communion. I have found no deeper personal relationship than what I’ve experience since I decided to come into full communion with the Catholic Church and I imagine that it will only grow deeper and better as time goes on.

 

Catholics DO have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ... anyone who says otherwise is not taking a fair look at the Catholic faith.

 

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Things On My Mind

Tonight’s RCIA class is about Marriage and we are asked to bring our spouse/significant other. I managed to get a sitter so Damion could go with me since he usually is the one watching the kids. It should be an interesting evening and I’m looking forward to it!

 

The last few days I’ve been thinking about inviting my family to the Rite of Election and to the Easter Vigil Mass. I’m not sure if I should invite them to both or just Easter Vigil... I’m not sure if they’ll even agree to come. My mom is not one who likes to miss the “big things” in our lives but considering the way she feels about this, she may decide she simply cannot attend. In addition, I have the task of asking her to sign an affidavit stating that I was previously baptized. I have no certificate of baptism and the pastor who baptized me is living somewhere in California. The church I was baptized in fell apart so any records would likely be lost, if there were any to begin with. My mom does not recall having a certificate. I don’t think she can even recall the date I was baptized. If she refuses, I’ll need to seek out another witness... I pray my mom will simply agree to sign it.

 

Yesterday, I listened to the story of Fr. John Corapi. What an amazing and beautiful story! He was born into a Catholic family but did not understand the faith when he was young. Always seeking to “be somebody”, he became a Hollywood millionaire and got addicted to cocaine only to find himself broken and destitute. He eventually found healing in God’s mercy, was called to return to the Catholic faith and became a priest! His story is a perfect example of God’s healing love for us. You can get a copy for a small donation (as little as $1) on catholicity.com.

 

May God bless you this day!

 

 

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Why Do I Follow Jesus?

The website Catholic Call posed a great question in the reflection for today's reading:

Why do you follow Jesus and are you willing to endure hardship for the sake of the gospel?

I really wanted to stop and give this question an adequate answer. If a non-Christian asked me this question, what would my response be?

Why do I follow Jesus?

The short answer: He's the Son of God and He took on human flesh to die a horrible death so that I could be with him in heaven if I choose to live my life in faith and obedience to Him.

But what lies at the heart of it? Why do I, personally, follow Jesus? Well, who better is there to follow than the one who created me... the one who knit me together in my mother's womb and who knows me even better than I do myself? Who better, than the one who thinks of me every second of everyday, inside and outside of time? Who better than the one who would have died the same death even if it meant He would only save me, because His love is greater than anything I could ever fathom.

Am I willing to endure hardship for the sake of the gospel?

This part of the question seemed a bit more difficult to answer than the first part. I believe this is because it touches on what I avoid... hardship. In fact, I spent years running from surrendering to God because I feared He would ask me to do something difficult... because I feared the hardship that may come with obedience to Him.

Some days, I feel strong... capable of boldly standing up for the Truth. Other days, I feel weak... unable to find motivation even for life in general. In writing this, I realize this is something I should pray about.

Lord, change my heart. Make me bold for Your sake... willing to endure anything that comes my way. Teach me not to be afraid. At any price, let Your will be done and see me through. Amen.

I have been blessed thus far in that I haven't had to endure too much for the sake of my faith. When I ponder the awesome greatness of God, my Creator, I see just how small and petty those hardships might really be... Nothing is impossible with God.

Many have tried in the last few months to pull me down... Many have told me I could not possibly be following God. The enemy has worked to try to cast doubt in my mind and division in my family. But at every turn, if I keep my eyes on Jesus and I continue to follow Him, I return to a sense of peace...

I know why I follow Him.

Who better?

None!

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Monday, January 22, 2007

View of God

Q: Do you look at God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, differently now that you've become Catholic? If so, how?

A: My view of God has changed a bit but not drastically since converting to Catholicism. I now understand that my sin grieves God to a great degree. Previously, I don’t think I understood the depth of grief that God feels for those who turn away in sin. I still don’t fully grasp it but I’m getting to understand on a deeper level that sin severs my relationship with God and that I cannot just assume that that relationship is repaired unless my heart is truly repentant.

I am also beginning to get a grasp on the role of the Holy Spirit in my life... though I am not really able to put this into words. Previously, the Holy Spirit was sort of ignored. I don’t know if that was a result of my ignorance or a result of the way I’d been taught but I realize now that the Holy Spirit is active and should not be ignored...

Through study and prayer, I believe my view of God will change over time and I believe that this is true for anyone who is growing in the Lord. I believe I had a much more infantile look at God a year ago and my image is shifting into something more mature... Every day is another lesson. Every day I seek to know a little more of God and his purpose for my life.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

No Regrets!

Q: Do you have any regrets or apprehensions regarding leaving your Protestant faith and conversion to Catholicism?

A:Every single time someone has tried to influence me negatively against Catholicism, the twinge of doubt may enter for about 2 seconds and then I remember all that the Lord has shown me in the last few months and all doubt disappears.

I have to say I would be worried if I didn't have a little apprehension creep up on me now and again. This causes me to re-evaluate and bring it before God. God has always affirmed that I am doing the right thing and he removes all apprehension. In the process, I learn a little more, grow a little more and feel the presence of God a little more.

Just this morning, I got a message from a "very irritated Catholic" who said, "...if more people actually knew what the church fully taught they would have a lot less followers than they do. Also you were quite vitriolic on carries blog, In my experience converts tend to be quite judgmental and quite to point out the flaws in others faith. So RELAX!" [spelling errors corrected]

Of course, this is certainly not the way I like to begin my morning... but I thought it was quite appropriate timing in light of the question asked by tiber jumper. This is a perfect example of the comments I often endure that *sometimes* cause apprehension... but, like the others, I gave it up to God and remembered that God brought me here so comments such as this have little long-lasting effect on me.

What strikes me most about the comment is the assumption that people don't know what the church "fully" teaches... I'm curious to know what these teachings are that would cause people to leave if they "actually knew". After all, if I am being led astray, I think it would be better for them to present these things to me rather than making some sort of blanket statement with nothing to back it up.

Second, I didn't even know who Carrie was at first and then I remembered that this person is referring a blog I visited quite some time ago... I've never been "vitriolic" toward anyone. On the other hand, Carrie herself accused me of copying and pasting the comment I left her, and later had to back-track when she discovered that I did not, in fact, do that. She was over-all less than charitable about my comment because it was already covered by someone else. Needless to say, I quickly abandoned this blog because I found it to be "vitriolic" against Catholics. Not necessarily by the author but by so many other less charitable people.

Last, I don’t believe I'm being judgmental at all... and the simple truth of the matter is that there ARE flaws in other faith traditions. I believe I can say this because I lived it for the last 30 years. I'm not just slinging mud. I simply point out what I see as erroneous thinking. I am not condemning anyone... but I can and will point out the problems I have in reconciling those beliefs with what the Bible actually says. The most interesting thing about this comment is that I am not permitted to point out the flaws of other faiths, yet this commenter felt free to indicate that the Catholic faith has flaws.

In fact, their entire comment was self-contradictory.

But back to the question... While this has been one of the most difficult thing in my life, I have never been so sure of anything! I have no regrets. There are some things I miss terribly about my Protestant faith but I would never give up what I have now for those things.

I remember a prayer from long ago when I said to the Lord, "I want to obey you but I fear the outcome of such obedience." When I finally decided to let go and obey God, He broke me... and brought me to deep despair and pain. I had to rely only on Him. When He finally had me all to Himself, he brought me home... to His Church. This was not easy and it continues to be painful at times but I would not give it up for anything.

The Lord tells me not to worry and to be anxious for nothing. He knows my heart and He is ever faithful.

I am a Catholic Christian and I have no uncertainties because God is in control!

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Re-focusing

Philippians 2:1-4
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.


This is a passage I need to spend more time contemplating in my life. I so often get caught up, as many of us do, in looking to my own interests. I do this in all aspects of my life... even with my own children.

It seems that the more I work on building my faith, the more I am attacked by the world and the more it seems that the evil one tries to break down what the Lord has built up in me. Yesterday was particularly difficult. I was irritable all day, easily frustrated and annoyed by my children. I woke up this morning with a prayer on my heart to seek ways to get over that frustration and subsequent negative reaction I give my children.

Their lives are so precious and I have them only for a short time. I want to show them my best but it seems they often get left-overs from me and I don’t want that for them.

Lord,

Please give me patience and the energy to focus more on them and less on myself. Please show me ways that I can encourage faith in them while they are still young so they will grow to be firmly planted in a relationship with you. Do not let negativity flood my relationship with them, but give me an abundance of your love and patience so I can positively encourage them in all aspects of their little lives.

Amen.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

They Just Don't Understand

It seems my sister is even more opposed to my conversion to Catholicism now that I asked her to be the Christian witness. When I explained what that would mean, she was upset by the "rules" which she says alienate people.

I can understand this because this is how I felt about the closed communion before I understood the reasoning. Isn't it funny how we're all ready to follow the "rules" put out by our government: paying taxes, driving the speed limit, etc? But as soon as the Church has a "rule", it's legalistic or alienating? These rules, help me maintain a healthy relationship with God and help my children also get the best possible upbringing. Isn't that what we all want?

This gave me an opportunity to talk about the history of Catholicism and the authority the Catholic Church was given by Christ himself (in Mt 16) but I'm not sure if she really listened to much that I said. Unfortunately, we were nowhere near a Bible since we were in the middle of the mall so I was not able to substantiate much based on actual scripture but rather on paraphrased scripture.

I asked her what the pillar and foundation of truth is for the Bible. She said, "God." I told her about 1 Timothy 3:15 and said, "Why does God tell us in the Bible that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth?" She told me that she didn't agree with that... of course, she has to because it's in the Bible!

She said she didn't really want to talk about it... and I got the response I had been waiting for, "Well, I went to four years of Catholic school so I know what they teach!"

If my family truly knew what the Catholic Church taught and held it up in light of scripture, they would also be converting.

This exchange with my sister made me realize how difficult it will be to EVER get my family to understand my reasons for conversion. It breaks me heart that they view me as "lost" when I am so much closer to God now than I was a year a go... when my understanding of Scripture is so much deeper than it was a year ago.

I am so thankful to know there are others out there who share in this journey because I cannot imagine how lonely I would feel otherwise. I feel like the outcast in my own family when I know that what I'm doing is right and that it's what GOD wants me to do. People are constantly trying to re-write my story for me. They cannot accept that this would be God's will and they'd rather believe I was never saved to begin with.

On one hand, this whole journey is joyous but it also comes with a lot of loss for me... but from suffering comes greatness. If Christ could suffer for all my sins, I certainly can suffer this small thing as I follow Him in obedience.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Finding a Godparent

In roughly three months, I will be officially accepted into the Catholic Church. I am waiting with great anticipation and, at the same time, I have the task of trying to find a godparent for my three children, who will be baptized in the spring. I have no idea who this person will be.

Several weeks ago, I asked my sister if she wanted to be the Christian witness, but I'm not sure she's up for the part. She is not staunchly anti-Catholic or anything but she doesn't understand the faith and, therefore, has some reservations about it. She's the only one in my immediate family who is not condemning my decision to become Catholic. Ironically, she's also the only one who attended a Catholic high school. (I find this amazing in light of my parents' reaction.)

My children are willed to her should anything happen to me but this presents a small problem because she would not take them to the Catholic church. I asked that she only NEVER speak negatively of the Catholic faith in front of them, which I don't believe she would, and that she permit them to still attend the Catholic Church should the godparent (whoever that may be) be willing to take them in my place. I asked her to think and pray about it and talk it over with her husband, who happens to be a former Catholic.

Strangely, my sister and her husband are godparents for their niece but I'm puzzled at how this was permitted since neither of them are practicing Catholics... I'm also puzzled why someone would choose godparents who are not practicing their faith. Doesn't that seem a bit contrary to the purpose of a godparent?

There is no one else I'd will my children to. I only hope that it will never come down to that and if it does, I pray that the Lord would continue to guide them in the Catholic direction. I'd hate for them to miss out on all the beauty and treasures contained in the Catholic faith, which encourage such a reverence and love for the Lord.

I thank the Lord for my Protestant background, which I believe has led me to a deeper understanding of the Catholic faith. Everything good in Protestantism remains with me still and I will encourage those positive aspects in my children as well. I know if something happened to me, that my children would still be raised knowing the Lord, which gives me comfort but I pray that God will bless my children with a faithful Catholic who will stay actively involved in their growing faith... a godparent that God may be preparing even now for such an important role.

Amen.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Blessings

I find it utterly amazing how much I've grown in the last few months... With all I've learned and all the Lord has shown me, I am truly blessed. I can even look back to the time I told my parents that I was going to join the Catholic Church and see how much of a "baby" I was then compared to now.

Upon reflection, I definitely would have handled it a bit differently. Not that the way it went was wrong or anything... just that I think I could have been more effective if I had been ready for the attacks they threw at me. Of course, there was no way of knowing which way they would take it until I actually approached the subject anyway.

The Lord has blessed me tenfold with other Catholics and others who are also joining the Catholic Church. I receive emails on occasion from others who are searching for truth and asking questions. Many are sincere and non-confrontational. I like this because it tells me who is actually seeking truth and who just wants to attack for the sake of winning an argument or because they believe I'm "going to hell" for becoming a Catholic... Yes, I've actually had people condemn me, as if they are The Judge.

This doesn't make assurance of salvation very assuring, however. After all, I've believed I was saved since I was nine, along with every other Christian in my family. Funny how many will bow out of this dilemma by merely stating I must not have been saved at all. But, like I said, how sure of salvation can one be in that case?

But I'm not taking this entry in an apologetic direction.

If you had asked me one year ago if I'd ever even consider being a Catholic, I would have scoffed at the idea. This was the very last place I ever thought the Lord would lead me, and here I am!

I can recall the devastation I felt when I realized what a decision like this would mean. I remember how alone and abandoned I felt and the anguish of nearly losing my faith. Today, I have made some wonderful new friends, mostly through the internet... and God has made it clear through them and in many other ways that I'm following him in obedience. I thank the Lord for each affirmation!

Thank you, Jesus, for coming into the world in such a humble manner in order to feel what we feel and show your undying, unconditional love for all sinners.

Thank you, Jesus, for bringing me into the fullness of truth that is found in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Thank you, Jesus, for revealing yourself to me through others who love you so deeply.

Thank you, Jesus, for giving your Mother to us in your dying words on the cross.

Thank you, Jesus, for making your presence known in my life, taking my mustard-seed faith and growing it into something I can share with others.

Today's prayers:
Damion
My children
Cindy
Brian and his wife and their journey
Melissa as she continues to seek Truth
M.V. who is also seeking Truth but finds it difficult to accept some teachings of the Church

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Mary, Did You Know?

This is one of my favorite Christmas songs of all time. It nearly makes me cry every time... Really take in the words. It will move you too! Of course, we know that Mary *knew* but I think this just speaks to the awesomeness of God and how amazing it must have been to be His mother!

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy will calm the storm with His hand?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?

Mary did you know.. Ooo Ooo Ooo

The blind will see.
The deaf will hear.
The dead will live again.
The lame will leap.
The dumb will speak
The praises of The Lamb.

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you're holding is the Great, I Am.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Thanks be to God!

"The Almighty has done great things for me."

As a single mother of three, I have been blessed beyond measure. I don't often take inventory of the blessings I've been given. Today, I'm going to take a minute to reflect on all that I have to be thankful for. This is a very random list:


  • First and foremost, faith in God

  • Jesus' death which atoned for my sins

  • A good job that allows me to stay out of the welfare trap

  • Three beautiful and healthy children

  • Youngest son overcoming his speech disorder

  • Oldest son coming through neurosurgery (7 years ago)

  • Daughter overcoming her asthma condition

  • A roof over my head

  • The ability to turn on the heat when I'm cold and not worry about the expense

  • A car to drive that fits my whole family comfortably

  • The bad relationships which allow me to realize how blessed I am to have Damion in my life

  • The Lord guiding me to the Catholic Church and all the people that have since inspired me to be a better Christian

  • Catholic radio and all it's programming

  • The brokenness that is bringing me healing

  • Friends who care unconditionally

  • My family

  • My great-aunt Sue - a strong Catholic who gives me encouragement

  • Plenty of food and good water to drink

  • Being born in a free country


The list, of course, could go one forever... but these are a few things that came to my mind today.

What great things has The Almighty done for you?

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Are they listening?

It seems I will never reach those close to me with the truth of Catholicism. It nearly seems like a pointless uphill battle. But then, I think of how I used to be. When I was talking about faith matters with Damion, and I found I could be wrong, I never admitted it. But this is what brought me into the state of seeking God that finally brought me into the fullness of truth. So, I realize that even if my own friends found that the Catholic position makes sense, they will probably not be quick to admit it either... In fact, they'll likely never let on that they'll consider it for a moment...

No one wants to be wrong. No one wants to think that what they've believed their whole life about their own faith could be lacking a bit of truth and very few non-Catholic Christians ever want to admit that Catholicism could have some truth in it. Non-Catholic Christians have been brainwashed with straw man arguments for so long, they have no idea what true Catholicism is!

This is something I need to keep in mind when I speak to my friends about Catholicism. While they may not let me see that I'm making sense to them, they may be hearing more than I think they are.

Often, when an airtight position is presented, people will begin to say the most ludicrous things and it's likely that even THEY will think that what they are saying is ridiculous.... After all, anything is better than admitting that you could be wrong, right? But eventually, they will be alone with God... pondering the truth. Eventually, it will all make sense. For some, this is a slow process. For others, it's nearly instantaneous. But we must always be ready... ready to share our faith with others, even when it seems they don't hear a word.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

From Anguish to Hope

I've been so swamped with school and the month of December in general and my mind has been swimming with so many thoughts that it has been too difficult to write. Every time I've tried to start to write, I cannot seem to put a solid thought together.

I've decided I'd like to share a blog I started when my journey first began. This blog only has two entries but they explain the anguish I was experiencing before I gave Catholicism a thought and at the point in time when Catholicism was beginning to make sense.

When I read these entries, I am amazed at how far I've come in such a short time and I can see how much God has worked in my life in the last few months.

If you read these entries, please scroll down and read "Journey" and then read "Glimmer of Hope"... since it makes more sense if you read them in order. If you would like to comment, please comment on this blog.

Click Here

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Following God

Well, those last few posts turned out to be a lot of "work" but I learned a lot from them! By the end of the first response, my friend no longer wanted to discuss it and prefers to just agree to disagree. I sent two more after that anyway because I simply want to clear up the misconceptions about the Catholic Church. My purpose was not to convert him but to show that this website where he's getting his information about "those Catholics" is completely faulty. In fact, I saw some horrible comments made about the Catholic Church. The writer indicated that God speaks to her and that He wants her to deliver people from Catholicism, which He [God] "hates". While they may have been "kind" in their approach, they took everything out of context and argued against the typical straw man attacks...

*shrug*

I am amazed at how my faith grows and I become more certain of the direction God has taken me every time I research these topics. But in the midst, I came to a realization that I have a difficult time with.

It seems that non-Catholic Christians don't "believe" that God is leading me into the Catholic Church. They have no trouble believing that God leads them but they indicate indirectly that they don't believe He is leading me. Perhaps they believe I'm simply being ensnared in a trap of the "lie of Catholicism". I believe that God knows what He's doing. I believe that God is possibly NOT going to lead people into the Catholic Church and I believe that our all-powerful God uses all denominations to speak to people. He meets us where we're at and loves us. He's taken the "wrongness" in the disunity and used it for His purpose and His good. So, I don't need to worry about convincing or converting others, because that's God's job, but I cannot just sit back and allow people to continue to believe and propagate the lies!

Perhaps those of us who are led by God to leave non-Catholic Christianity are to be the little bridges of unity... called to shed light on the truth of Catholicism, to be examples of "those Catholics" who are truly Christians so that we can start a process of unity! And in the process, we will provide the seeds needed for those who God IS calling to the Catholic faith.

I have purposely avoided tell many people for fear of rejection and to save my parents from all the questions. I have no idea how many people my parents have told and I never know how much their friends "know" when I see them... but I've decided I'm ready to tell the world. I am convinced that I am moving in the direction that God has called me and I'm not going to keep it to myself anymore. I am ready to give an explanation for the hope that is in me, regardless of the cost.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Struggling

Have you ever learned something new, heard an amazing story, or discovered something that you just wanted to share with everyone you know?

That's how I feel about the Catholic faith and the truth I've discovered within. But disappointment has set in. Those I want to share it with the most, don't want to hear anything about it. I've been re-directed in conversations and emails have been flat out ignored. If I'm talking like a Protestant, all is well... but if I say anything about my personal faith journey and growth, they shut down.

The unity I've found within the body of Christ has brought disunity within my own family. They doubt my faith. They doubt my salvation. It's as if they never knew me at all! It's as if the faith they saw in me my whole life has been reduced to a lie in their eyes...

I want to tell them the truth! That everything they have been taught about Catholicism is inaccurate... it's just a collection of lies propagated for the last 500 years! I want to tell them that they don't have to push verses they don't understand under the rug! I want them to read John 6 and its undeniable reality that Christ is truly present in Holy Communion! I want them to understand that Catholics don't "worship" Mary, that the saints are their "very alive" brothers and sisters in Christ, that Christ truly IS the bread of life present in the Eucharist that isn't merely a symbol, and that the Holy Spirit truly washed them free of sin at their baptism! How can I keep such fullness of faith a secret? How can I NOT share with them all the beauty and significance in the rituals and sacraments of the Church? How can I make them understand that Mary is their mother too and that Christ gave her to us... that they should call her blessed like the Bible says, instead of ignoring her? How can I make them see that what they view as legalism is simply a prescription given by God and the Church for healthy living?

It is so difficult to just sit quiet and to sense their disappointment when I know with my whole being that I'm following Christ into His Church!

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Monday, October 30, 2006

"Master, I want to see." / Letting go...

Reflection on Sunday's gospel reading:

I spent some time thinking about how my life relates to the story of Bartimae'us. The first thing that jumped out at me was when Bartimae'us said, "Master, I want to see." I thought about the boldness of this request. Never having sight, Bartimae'us had to have a bit of fear as to what it would be like... to see for the first time, physically and spiritually. For me, asking God to open my eyes to truth does have a small element of fear. What should I expect? What will God ask of me?

Despite that fear, this journey has led me to be bolder in my request for God to allow me to "see". I don't want to be half-blind to the truth but I want to understand all the fullness of God's truth...

Secondly, Bartimae'us was rebuked by those around him as they told him to be quiet. But Bartimae'us persisted. He believed that Jesus could heal him and did not give up calling out to Jesus. For me, this was a picture of what I'm going through with the friends and family who do not understand the journey I'm on. They are telling me how wrong I am from all sides... but I know that if I persist in following Jesus despite their rebuke, Jesus will be faithful to me. I cannot let those around me keep me from calling out to the Lord.

* * * * *


A while ago I posted that it was going to be difficult for me to transfer from Protestant services to Mass... that I was really going to miss what I had always known. I remember several times, especially before I informed my family, trying to let go... and saying goodbye. I thought the transition might take a long time...

It took a shorter amount of time than I thought it would. I went to my Protestant church for the last time this Sunday. I actually had only gone once in the last several weeks and as I browsed their website last week, I stumbled across a video of one of their services... I began to watch it and realize that I could no longer sit through another service. The biggest reason? I can now hear the subtle digs at the Catholic faith (or rather what they THINK is the Catholic faith). I feel that sitting through these services do not benefit my growth in faith any longer.

This week, the music pastor, made a comment. It went something like this:

"We're having a Harvest Party this week to take the place of trick-or-treating. Please bring family, friends and neighbors. Everyone is welcome. What often happens is that new people will come into the church... they expect to see an organ in the corner... Instead they see drums and think, 'Hmm... looks pretty cool... I might have to come back and check this church thing out!'"

How sad it made me to think coming to church wasn't "cool" without a set of drums... that churches without rock music and a coffee cart were somehow "less than"... Even sadder was that I used to think the same way. They've turned church into a cool "hang-out"... that isn't worthy of our attention otherwise. Sad.

I love the music in my former church... but to take that music and make it a reason to come to church, is wrong. We're there to worship, with drums or without, with an organ or without. I believe too many churches have replaced an altar for a stage...

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Rite of Acceptance

The rite was beautiful. I wanted to post all the details but I really think it should remain a surprise for those who have not experienced it so I won't spoil it here. I believe I will have to write it elsewhere though just to keep it fresh upon my mind.

(Thank you, Cindy, for your prayers!)

I finally know who my sponsor is. She's a wonderful lady named Ruth. I can just feel the love of God coming through her. What I think will be best about my pairing with her is that she seems to be so in tune with the "heart" aspect... where I am lacking. She does not seem to be the intellectual/apologetic type. I think this will really help me to put the intellectual conversion together with the heart conversion.

On a completely different note, I have three past marriages going through the annulment process. There is some paperwork I have to get together which has caused me to rely on other people. Being patient is difficult. One person is a friend and for some reason, she is not being helpful. It's a matter of getting to a fax machine and she simply hasn't "gotten around to it" for several weeks now. It is frustrating... I am also relying on a county clerk's office in another state. They haven't gotten back to me and it's been about 6 weeks. I really just want to get the process back on track but it seems I've hit some walls. What's worse, the paperwork that is most difficult to attain is probably the most essential. Any prayers for me in this area would be helpful and appreciated.

Last night, my five-year-old prayed: "Dear Jesus, thank you for the day. You touched my heart. Please keep our tiny treasures safe with you... Amen."

Today's prayers:
Damion
Marshall - joy
Richie - teen with cancer... there is nothing more they can do for him
Anna - steeped in new age and other anti-Christian activity
My family - for understanding and openness of heart
My children - to grow knowing God's love for them

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Monday, October 16, 2006

This church is very special...

While leaving Mass yesterday, my 5-year-old son and I had a little conversation:

C: "This church is very special!"
Me: "Yes, it is... why do you think it’s special?"
C: "Because everyone loves God here!"

Children are amazing. It's things like this that give me affirmation about the direction God is taking us. I was so worried about them at first. This same child did not do well when I put him in religious education classes. In fact, he was downright uncooperative! So, I decided not to force him to go and decided I would just have to teach his class next year. Outside of that, all three of my children are adjusting well to the change.

They also seem to be learning quite a bit about Jesus and other characters in the Bible. In fact, the 5-year-old was walking with a tall stick the other day while we were loading up in the car:

Me: "You need to put that stick down and get in the car... "
C: "But I'm Moses!"

Moses?

These little things touch my heart.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Joy will be restored...

I've been reading "Rome Sweet Home" and I cannot begin to express how great this book is. I can relate so well with Kimberly Hahn.

"Lord, the joy is gone. Who are you? I've known you all my life. I thought I understood you but now I don't understand anything... I'm so confused."

Joy. It is what I've longed to have restored to me. I desire to feel God's presence in my life again... like I did when I was a child but with a greater thirst and a more mature heart. I no longer want to be a child in my faith. I want to be where God wants me to be. I want to do what God wants me to do. I don't want to just get in the boat, but I want to be in the center of the boat... I don't want to make excuses and I don't want anything to hold me back.

Last night, on the way to RCIA, I felt so content. It was a feeling I cannot recall feeling before. I mean, I really felt GREAT! I knew this was the last class in the Inquiry stage and I was anticipating the move to the next step. On October 21, 2006, I will go through the Rite of Acceptance and become a candidate. Though I have had people come at me from all sides, God is keeping me firmly planted. I have no doubt that I am obeying God and coming home to the Church He established.

Some of these good feelings are so foreign to me that I don't know what to do with them and I try to push them away. It seems strange but I have to focus on NOT pushing them away... on letting God just work on my heart. I know now that living my life they way I have, has caused more damage than I imagined to my heart and to my spirit. God is pulling me out of the miry clay and setting me upon His truth. But there is still a lot of work to be done in order to heal all the damage.

Joy. It is what I've longed to have restored to me. And the more I surrender my will to the Lord, the more joy I feel. Last night, I thanked the Lord for breaking me and for bringing me into the fullness of truth.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Unfamiliar Words

"Catholic theology is, for Evangelicals, positively bestrewn with great ideas that are couched in frightening language." - Mark Shea

I cannot begin to express how true this is. One of the biggest problems I had in the beginning were the words used. They were unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Even today, some words will hang me up a bit. For example, when I hear the word "purgatory", what comes to mind immediately are my Protestant thoughts regarding purgatory. I believed it was a place between heaven and hell in which a soul was either stuck for all eternity or they'd have to work their way toward heaven out of purgatory. I thought it was someplace that Catholics believed that unbaptized babies would be... forever. This, I knew, was not Biblical... and I didn't know why someone would make this up!

Of course, now I understand it. Catholic understanding:

"All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven" (CCC 1030).


The Bible does reference a "purification":

1 Corinthians 3:14-15
"If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire."


Nothing impure can enter heaven (Rev. 21:27) so it is necessary that we be purified before we enter. This is all purgatory is... a period/place of purification. It may be as short as the blink of an eye or it may take a bit longer. We don't know for sure... but the Bible also mentions a waiting place other than heaven for souls already heaven-bound (1 Peter 3:19-20). This may not be referring directly to purgatory but it does indicate the possibility of a place other than heaven or hell.

But back to my point, the words used are often so different that they would trip me up. Mark Shea has a short list of examples:

Merit = fruitfulness under the influence of grace
Apostolate = Ministry
Venial sin = stumbling
Mortal sin = backsliding
Formation = discipleship
Indulgence = gift of mercy
Temporal punishment = discipline of the Lord


Understanding the differences in terms helps me to see that what Catholics believe is not so far off from what I already believed and this understanding helped to bridge an enormous gap for me.

Along with this is the idea that the phrase "personal relationship with Christ" is not often used in Catholic circles, but this does not mean that Catholics don't have one and, if you define it, many will agree that they DO have a personal relationship with Christ! I've also found that some Catholics get hung up on the "born again" phrase. Of course, if you define born-again, Catholics will say, "Yes, I fit that description!"

At one point, before I was even exploring Catholicism, words like liturgy, mass, eucharist, and homily, also bothered me greatly. They seemed so formal, odd and out of place in today's society.

Homily = sermon
Eucharist = communion
Mass = church service (loosely)
Liturgy = rites, prayers, ceremonies and sacraments of the church (something missing from my non-denominational background)


In short, I see how careful I have to be when talking with non-Catholic friends and family about Catholicism. Simple words could cause them to seriously misunderstand certain aspects of the faith.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Why Catholic?

I love this and want to share it:



Credits to Katerina Marie

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Friday, September 29, 2006

"Former" Catholics

It seems the most difficult people to inform about my conversion to Catholicism are those who were "raised Catholic" and are, for various reasons, bitter against it. I encountered this last night at my Bible Study when I informed them that I was becoming a Catholic but would like to continue attending the study, if they would be okay with it.

One gentleman was not out and out rude or anything but he told me that maybe my calling was not to enter the church but to attend in order to bring people OUT. As graciously as possible, I said, "No... Actually I AM being called to enter the Church. I've done a lot of reading, studying and praying and this IS where God is taking me." He then made some comment like, "Well, if during the study you ever felt led to stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down... (ha ha)" I said, "No, no... when in Rome..." I could sense his "horror" at the idea that I was becoming a Catholic. He announced, "Well, we will need to be praying for YOU then!" I responded, "Thanks! I appreciate your prayers and I ask that you do not pray that I will leave Catholicism but that I will follow God's will because that is what we should ALL be doing... following God's will for our lives."

Other members of the group said they have enjoyed my insight up to this point and that they will enjoy hearing my perspective of things in the future... This was wonderful to hear. One of the guys said, "I only hope you'll continue to be comfortable with US!" I said, "Absolutely! This is what I've always known. This IS my comfort zone... I love the people of that church and I love the pastors. I simply don't agree with all of the theology but it doesn't mean I want to end all my relationships with the people."

Overall, the reaction, though not positive, was not really negative and I left feeling good that I was able to let them know where God was taking me without being condemned on the spot. I told all of them that if they EVER wanted to discuss with me the various doctrines or question the things they believe the Catholic Church teaches that they think are in error, I'd be more than happy to plan a time to meet with them or talk with them on the phone. I let them know that I realized many would not understand this decision without an explanation and that I completely understand because I would have thought the exact same way less than 6 months ago!

But back to the original thought... the most difficult to talk to are the ones who left the Catholic Church... I think it's horribly unfortunate that their experience left them with animosity toward the Church since that is never what the Lord would have wanted.

There are also those who have had one bad experience that formed their opinion of the entire Church as well. My dad, for example, went to the funeral of a friend when he was much younger in which the priest condemned to hell the guy who'd died stating that anyone who lived like him would also end up in hell. This one experience gave my dad the impression that ALL priests do this... HORRIBLE! But I told him that this is NOT normal nor allowed and that one cannot base their entire opinion on one bad experience. If one has a bad experience at a grocery store, do they stop going altogether? At the doctor's office? The dentist? The car repair shop? They don't blame the entire industry! They just find another one within the industry where they have better customer service...

It saddens me when I hear someone was "raised Catholic" and they claim to never have heard about what Christ did for them... about a personal relationship with Christ. How could they look year after year at Christ crucified and not have an understanding of what Christ did? Why does the term "personal relationship" used in Protestant circles with Catholics make them think they didn't already have a personal relationship just because that term hasn't been used?

This makes me realize how much I must ensure that my children grow IN the faith... with a deep understanding of the faith so that when they grow up, they will never doubt that they DO have a personal relationship with Christ and have a full understanding of who Christ is and what He did for us. My hope is to raise my children to love God and the Church that He established so they will not be a "bitter former Catholic" who simply missed all the beauty and truth within Catholicism.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Update

I just want to say a special thank you to all those who have prayed, are praying, and those who will continue to pray for me and my family.

Whenever a doubt creeps up, something is said that puts everything back in place. Have I ever mentioned that I love Catholic radio?

I love Catholic radio.

There... I said it.

I missed RCIA last week but I'm looking forward to going back tonight. Finally getting it out to my family was a good move because I don't have to "hide" it anymore and I feel I can freely continue to pursue God's will for my life.

I just started Chapter 18 in "Catholicism and Fundamentalism". What a great book! It's taking me forever to get through it with school and work and church and kids and... and... but every time I pick it up, I don't want to put it down!

I wrote an email to my parents yesterday and sent a couple of links from Renewal Ministries' "Food for the Journey" program. I wanted them to see that I'm not falling into something whacked and heretical... that this whole thing is about God... not the Pope, not Mary, not legalism... or any other imaginable thing. It is ALL about God and I wanted them to see that Catholics believe this no less than they do.

I hope they will keep their hearts open.

On another note, please keep my sister and her husband in your prayers... The birthmother, who convinced them she was 100% sure about her choice, backed out of the adoption.

Today's prayers:
Damion
Sister and husband - peace and strength
Deanna's husband - health
Parents - understanding
Self - motivation, patience, peace

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Informing the family

I was not nearly as nervous as I expected to be as I spent the afternoon with my family. I told my sister first. She was great about it... understanding that Catholics are ALSO Christians. She even told me that she's experienced moments in a Catholic church where she felt very close to God... And she knows she's in no position to judge.

My mom and dad did not take the news as gracefully. I informed them that I would not be regularly attending church with them any more and they questioned me as to why. I told them my personal story... leaving out some details of course, or I would have been there all night!

My mom asked me how I justified praying to Mary. I explained that one is not required to pray to Mary to be a Catholic but explained the difference in prayer to Mary and prayer to God. "They are 'dead'" was her main point... dead in body, yes... but their soul lives on and is still a part of the body of Christ. I don't think my answer was heard, much less accepted... which was to be expected.

What hurt the most about the whole thing was my mom asked if I was "saved". I couldn't believe my ears. It was like my own mom didn't even know me. I told her that I do not believe that salvation is a one-time event and that is why we are called to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling". She told me that that is not what that verse means! I suppose there are a million different interpretations for that verse, able to be used by anyone for their personal advantage...

In short, when the conversation began to heat up a bit, I simply said, "I don't want to argue... I just wanted to let you know what was going on with me. I don't expect you to understand and your reaction was also not unexpected. I have a book I can leave with you that easily explains various doctrines of the church if you so choose to read it."

My mom then asked me if I would be willing to read a book written by an "ex-Catholic who left the Catholic Church". I told her I'll read whatever she wants me to read.

I left the book but she didn't have on hand the one she wants me to read.

She asked me if I believed "this" and "that" and I told them yes but explained that I am not willing to answer questions shot at me like ping pong balls. I told them if they wanted to discuss a particular area of concern, that I'd be more than happy to plan a subject and a time...

I also explained that I was no just jumping blindly into Catholicism... that I've been reading and studying and praying for a while about everything... and that I'm only following God.

Both of my parents hugged me when we were done talking with each other (so at least I know they aren't going to disown me!)

My prayer is that they will see I am still the same person.

I thank God for my sister and her very kind and loving reaction.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

It's Time

Sunday is the day.

I'll be going to my parents' house on Sunday afternoon and I will be telling them the good news.

I pray for wisdom in my choice of words.

I pray for calmness and clarity of my mind.

I pray their hearts will be prepared to hear me.

I pray for understanding on all our parts.

I pray that I will know if the time, for whatever reason, is not right.

I pray that the Lord will hold us all together.

If the Lord puts it upon *your* heart, please pray for all of us.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Doubt

My second RCIA class included a thorough tour of the church. It's nice to have a better understanding of everything. There's more I had written but I lost it all and I don't want to re-write it.

It seems I'm having a few doubts today but I'm not up for posing the questions that are in my head. I'm thinking that by tomorrow, I'll be feeling secure again so it would simply be pointless.

I'm really trying to do what I need to do to build on my faith but I'm still feeling so little. It's almost like I'm waiting for something more noticeable. It makes me wonder what I'm doing wrong.

I've been really unmotivated to write lately... Just letting things swim around in my head and visiting forums.

I'm seeking joy... genuine joy. It seems impossible to attain.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Smiling

Mass was great for me this weekend. I went on Saturday and wasn't up for going when I did but I knew I needed to go anyway. In fact, on the way there, I almost turned the car around but decided that, with the mood I was in, going to church might help out a bit. So, I went anyway.

For the first time, there was a noticeable difference between how I felt going in and how I felt going out. I cannot say what it was, although the fact that my kids were angels for a change really helped out! All I know is, when I left, I felt at peace and I was smiling... I'm so glad I didn't miss it because it was just what I needed.

When the Mass came to an end, an elderly woman behind me told me I have a beautiful family... I swear, it was just what I needed to hear... Thank the Lord for her words. It's slow in coming but I am beginning to feel God tug at me in small ways. Sometimes, it's just a few words that someone says, something I hear on the radio, or some small passage I read when I suddenly feel like I "get it"... and something else becomes clear to me.

After church, I took the kids out to dinner and they continued to behave like angels. Perhaps they sensed the peace I was feeling?

I signed the boys up for religious education classes which begin in the middle of September. Now I just have to figure out how I'm going to pay for them... RCIA begins Wednesday of next week (sooner than I thought before) and I'm looking forward to it.

I have been putting more thought into how I'm going to present this to my parents. Writing a letter seems like such a large task but it will allow me to accomplish what I want to accomplish without argument. It will allow them time, after I inform them, to settle the emotions down so that harsh words aren't exchanged... and it will also allow me the opportunity to explain everything I need to without being interrupted and confronted. Thing is, when I think about beginning the letter, it just seems overwhelming.

Perhaps I could simply email them the link to this blog? Nice and easy!

I wish.

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

Today's prayers:
Deanna's husband - for his health
My sister and her husband - regarding the possible adoption
Damion

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


Quotes by Saint Augustine

"Unhappy is the soul enslaved by the love of anything that is mortal."

"God has no need of your money, but the poor have. You give it to the poor, and God receives it."

"This very moment I may, if I desire, become the friend of God."

"I will suggest a means whereby you can praise God all day long, if you wish. Whatever you do, do it well, and you have praised God."

"God bestows more consideration on the purity of the intention with which our actions are performed than on the actions themselves."

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Please Pray

My sister and her husband are unable to have children of their own and have thought for some time about adoption. My sister knows a woman at work who has a pregnant friend who wants to give up her child for adoption. She previously gave up her two-year-old because she just didn't want to responsibility any longer.

My sister's co-worker mentioned to this girl a while back (before she'd decided to adopt her baby out) that she knew someone who was wanting to adopt. Yesterday this girl asked about my sister and wants to meet them. She said she wants to get everything figured out as soon as possible because the baby is due in December.

My sister knows all the horror stories about adoption, especially when you are approached privately, so they are going to be very cautious.

I'd like to ask everyone to please pray that this is legitimate and that this will be something they will be able to work out between them if it is the Lord's will.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Community

The sense of community in the parish I attend is very different than what I'm used to. Of course, since I am new there, and I have not yet gone through RCIA, I haven't had much opportunity to get involved or to dig and find out what they offer. I am hoping to find that sense of community within RCIA... I figure, since I'll be with others who have something in common with me, it will be a great opportunity to connect with people and build on that fellowship that I'll be missing from my former Protestant church.

It has always been a bit important to me to feel welcome in a church... and in fact, I think that some churches do better than others in understanding and carrying out ways of making new people feel welcome. One church I attended used to bring baked goods to the doorstep of all newcomers... This can be a huge task for a large church but it's one of many ways that help people to feel welcomed into the church community.

As a Catholic-to-be in a Catholic Church, you are automatically a bit of an outsider, I think... since you are not able to fully participate. Sometimes, especially when I am there without Damion, I wish that just one person would recognize that I am "new" and say something. But after Mass, most people just rush out the doors and to their cars...

I find that I want to linger around, like I always have... but for what? I'm out of place if I do such a thing. I think it's a little sad. I would think that more people would want to build relationships within the Church they attend since our spiritual life should be the biggest part of who we are.

Once RCIA begins and I am regularly attending the same Mass every week, I think things will be a bit better in this regard. I will then be acquainted with a few people and I won't feel so alone in the Catholic-to-be world.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Conversion is a Process

The following was left in a comment by robk

If you believe what you said about the real presence, then you know that the Mass is the ultimate prayer, and there is no substitute. So what is it holding you back? What is it in your gut? You say, you are not converting because of feelings. The intellect and will are involved. But conversion happens in the heart as well as the mind.

EucharistIn response:

First off, thank you for asking questions because they challenge me and encourage my spiritual growth...

I do believe in the real presence on an intellectual level... and I understand that because of this, it is the ultimate prayer.

A couple of things must be kept in mind here:

1. Conversion IS a heart matter... as well as the mind and I understand this fully. But, my faith has been based very much on intellect for a long time. I have felt, likely due to poor life choices, that God has been very far away from me for a long time. I believe I have caused this distance... a hardening of the heart due to pain from consequences... but I've always known in my mind that God IS there and He does love me... It's a long story and difficult to explain... and also what has brought me into this search in the first place, which is why I know my heart is sure to follow if I continue to seek Him.

2. I was not raised a Catholic and the Real Presence is a completely new concept for me... I never even had much opportunity to oppose the idea because I didn't even know this idea existed until recently. I have always viewed communion as a symbolic act in obedience to God and nothing more. When I read John 6, I see that it is MUCH deeper than that and that Christ was obviously speaking literally about his body and blood in relation to communion. However, since I have not yet entered the Catholic Church, and have not yet had the opportunity to receive Holy Communion, my heart has not followed suit. I have faith that in time and before I actually do receive it, I will begin to have a great desire for it. But I cannot force a feeling that isn't there yet.

I have spent years allowing my faith to atrophy, not praying, not reading my Bible, not seeking God's will and being angry for my life circumstances. It is a daily struggle for me just to pray because I feel like my prayers go unheard and unanswered. Unfortunately, the only thing I really continued to do was attend church. The best way to describe all this is spiritual numbness. I feel nothing good or bad.

It's a horrible feeling and one I never wish to feel again. So, though I still feel very little in the heart, I am working with the intellectual aspect because I know that if I diligently work to grow in faith through prayer and reading, that my heart WILL follow. It's just not there yet. At this point, my heart is touched in small and fleeting ways. It's a progression and it takes time.

Imagine someone who's been incapacitated for quite some time, perhaps through an accident and has been unable to walk. Their legs have become weak due to lack of use. In order for them to walk again, it will take exercise, physical therapy and time. One cannot just get up and walk out of the blue. This is how faith is at times, when one allows their faith to waste away, when they don't take the time to work on their spiritual growth, it will take exercise and time to get things back on track.

This is where I am. But the exercise, until it becomes habit and I become a bit stronger, is painful and difficult. A daily battle...

So, what is holding me back? Nothing! In fact, for the first time in a long time, I'm finally moving forward. But growth takes time... and with that growth, I will begin to embrace with my heart what I am embracing intellectually.

In His time.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Lessons in Faith

Today it occurred to me that I have spent so little time working on my faith throughout the last few years that I cannot now expect everything fall into place overnight. God is asking for my obedience... for a two-sided relationship. I realize how difficult it is for me to spend even five minutes with Him each day.

Why is this?

My faith has become what it is, in part, because I don't work on my end of the relationship. How can I expect to feel growth if I don't do anything? It is this way with our earthly relationships. I won't know anyone if I don't spend time getting to know them... so I MAKE time. In fact, in certain relationships, I demand time and feel unloved if I don't get enough of someone's time. Why would I think it would be any different with my relationship with God?

Admittedly, I have been improving in this area but I still feel so little. However, I realize I cannot base my relationship with God entirely on feelings. Even those close to God in the Bible, did not always "feel" as if God were near... yet, they knew otherwise and still praised God through it all.

This is what makes me see how little my faith is at times. If I don't feel Him, He must not be there. Not logical but this is how it is when you base it all on feeling.

God is there. I know this. And I know if I continue to seek Him and to seek His will for my life, He will be there always.

I have been praying that God will allow me to feel something... just to confirm that I'm going in the right direction. Sometimes I do think He's trying to let me know but then I wonder if it's just what I want to see instead of what God wants me to see. So, I ask for something bigger. Like lightening or something!

Yes, I know... Oh, ye of little faith!

So, this whole change is also an exercise in trust. Do I trust that God is leading me? It's a tough question to answer when He seems so distant. I trust that He CAN lead me... I simply don't KNOW if he is...

Which means, this is also an exercise in patience.

Faith.
Trust.
Patience.

And let's not forget listening.

Mass was very good this morning... it felt peaceful and I'm finally feeling comfortable there. I was thinking about the wonder of this whole past few months... and how I am finding myself where I never expected myself to be. I had definitely put God in a box. I remember writing several months ago that, though I wanted to follow God, I feared where I would end up if a totally surrendered. I am still working on that surrender and it's a daily mountain to climb, but I'm finding that with God I have nothing to fear and that wherever He takes me, I will not be alone in it.

Even when I don't feel Him, He is with me... always.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Difficult to Let Go

Yesterday, I suffered some doubts...

At this point in time, if the Catholic Church isn't "it", then I think I would be forced to be an orphan of sorts... and that idea terrifies me.

I suppose the doubts are normal.

I am still attending the non-denominational church with my parents as well as Mass with Damion. I am in a strange middle place, trying to get used to the idea that I have to let go of something I've loved for so long. See, some people don't like the "loudness" of non-denominational churches but it's all I've ever known and it saddens me to leave it behind. I don't hear "loudness" or a lack of reverence. I hear passion... and a great love for God. Thing is, Protestants love God no less than Catholics... just differently and they are unintentionally ignorant to the fullness of Christianity that is found within Catholicism.

I am not converting because of feelings. If I were, I would not be converting at all. I am converting because I am following God. This is, without a doubt, one of the most trying times in my life. I seem to go along just fine one minute but then I am brought to tears.

I don't have any particular attachment to the specific church that I attend, but rather an attachment to the WAY in which I've always worshipped. Catholic worship is so different and I'm struggling to "attach" to it...

I know eventually, over time, I will fully migrate over to the Catholic Church but I simply don't feel ready to let go of my non-denominational worship. Intellectually and theologically, I am no longer non-denominational. I do not participate in their communion anymore and I no longer hold to sola scriptura...

But I'm going to allow myself the freedom to slowly let go. I find comfort knowing that I don't have to give everything up completely. I love Christian music and though I won't hear the songs I've grown up with in church, I can still listen to them on CDs and on Christian radio.

I'm going to take my time... and I have faith that God will show me the beauty in Catholic worship and someday I hope to feel at home in it.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

RCIA

Tonight I will be going to my first RCIA class... I've been anxious and a little depressed lately. I believe there are forces working against my decision to enter the Catholic Church... making me uneasy.

I have a pit in my stomach.

This is, without a doubt, a very difficult journey.

Since I suffer from depression by nature, I expect to have some dark moments throughout this time in my life, although I am praying that the Lord will see me through them as He has in the past.

I am also in the process of trying to get my children into the religious education classes. It is possible that the only available time is at 4:00... an option not open to me as a single parent who works until 4:30. The church has a 6:15 pm class but it may be full already... I'd hate for them to miss out.

Please pray for the doors to open and for the relief of my anxiety.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Spiritual Warfare

"Sleep well here on earth; a firey judgment awaits you should you fail to repent."

This is what a Protestant told me the other day when the subject of Mary came up. Though I do not pray to Mary, I understand and defend the Catholic view point...

"...you choose to deny the Lord Jesus Christ and pray to what you believe is the spirit of a dead woman, instead. You are beyond hope, in other words, and in direct violation of God's Word."

It floors me that I am judged and condemned this way by "fellow Christians" who do not even know anything about me or my faith.

Thing is, he got it wrong. He said what I believe is the spirit of a dead woman... but I don't believe she is dead. She is part of the body of Christ, and therefore, very much alive... in fact, more "alive" than I am! He also got it wrong when he said I deny Christ... I do not know ANY Christian who denies Christ!

Interestingly enough, today's homily addressed the issue of spiritual warfare. It is very real. I simply never imagine that the warfare would come from others claiming to be Christians... nor did it ever occur to me that Christians would be so blantant in persecuting other Christians.

I understand that we don't see eye to eye on many issues but I cannot grasp the lack of tolerance that exists in the Christian world today, which was always must more miniman throughout my upbringing.

There are websites devoted to the spread of lies about Catholicism and knowing what I know now, it is extremely disheartening to see such misconception being thrown at us in the name of the Lord.

I realize how much broader the warfare is... because not only must Catholics fight to spread the news of the Gospel, but we must also constantly be defending ourselves to those who should be WITH us!

The other day, when I told someone I was dating a Catholic, I was looked at with a bit of surprise when she said to me, "Oh! So you have some work to do!"

"What do you mean?" I asked... but I knew what was coming.

"Well," she said, "Not all Catholics are Christians."

"Yes, but neither are all 'Christians'!"

She agreed but she was quite surprised by my answer. She then informed me that she was raised in the Catholic church but never once was taught what Christ did for her... and neither were her parents.

"How unfortunate but you cannot blame the Church for that!"

Then I wondered why no one ever questioned the crucifix. The crucifix is displayed in EVERY Catholic Church I've EVER been in! How could she and her family attend Mass regularly and not know what Christ did for them?

At this moment I realized that one cannot simply leave the learning of the faith up to the Church alone. One must live it in their home and teach it to their children. They will not know it otherwise.

I thought it sad that she had such richness at her fingertips and somehow the entire family missed all the beauty and truth within.

Today was the fourth Mass my children attended. I've been working with them on the Sign of the Cross and it's so great to see them excited about it. My eldest son asked if he could pull the kneeler down before the Mass began so that he could pray. He is only seven and to see him kneeling there, hands folded, head bowed, and praying nearly brought a tear to my eye... and I thanked the Lord for it.

Entering the Catholic Church is not going to be a popular decision but if there is one thing I've learned, it's that doing what is right is NEVER what is popular.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Family

Being raised in the non-denominational church, I learned all the basic anti-Catholic ideas about Catholicism. Although no one spoke horribly about the church in my family, it was thought that there were SOME Christians within the Catholic Church.

I even remember my mother stating that she believed her aunt, despite her Catholicism, was definitely "saved" because she had such an obvious love for the Lord. I suppose even I felt sorry that she was so devout in Catholicism though I never thought to ask her about her faith at all.

She is now ailing and there is supposed to be a family reunion of sorts in Southern California in September. I would *really* like to be able to speak with her, tell her about my journey and hear her own story of faith.

In fact, through the last few months, I find I am quite inspired by the conversion stories of others. I just finished "Suprised by Truth" by Patrick Madrid. I found myself near tears while reading it and realized how much I have in common with many of them. The light-bulb moments, as I call them... in which you gain a whole new understanding of a passage of Scripture that you previously had no explaination for and, therefore, ignored.

These are all things I wish to address through this blog... one day at a time.

When I finally approach my family with the announcement that I am entering the Catholic Church, I don't doubt that I will be asked a lot of questions about how I have been able to accept certain dotrines within the Church. But I am resting easy in this because the Lord is faithful. There is still so much to learn, so much to read, so much praying and studying to do. But I need to be prepared to answer as many of their questions as possible.

I want it to be clear that I'm not just doing this based on emotion. It is truly the last thing I ever wanted to do but I am constantly reminded to follow God and I see a treasure of beauty waiting to be discovered within the Catholic Church that I now long to be a part of.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

About Me

I was born in Reno, Nevada on December 20, 1974. For as long as I can remember, my mother brought my sister and me to church. I have fond memories of Sunday School: the songs, the lessons, and the friends. I remember listening to "Bullfrogs and Butterflies" and "Psalty's Kids Praise" tapes in the car wherever we were going. We'd all sing along together and it all instilled in me a love for God. I'm forever grateful to my mom for taking us to church and teaching us about God, even in the dark seasons of her life.

By the time I was nine years old, I had a huge passion for Jesus. I loved Keith Green and remember attending one of his concerts not long before he died. He was passionate for the Lord and it was something I could sense in every word he spoke and sang. I wanted to be a part of it all and I accepted Christ into my heart as my Lord and Savior. It's a moment many Protestant parents dream of: when their child makes this choice to be a follower of Jesus. Not long after that, I was baptized in a local public pool with my family and other church members in attendance.

It seems necessary for me to mention that my mother took us to church alone because my father was not a believer. My mother accepted Christ shortly after they were married and this is where her journey of prayer for my father began. I would be another 30 years or so before he would follow suit. He accepted Christ September 9, 2005 and was baptized on June 27, 2006... an occasion we'd all awaited for so long.

I continued to grow up in church. Over the course of my 31 years, I've attended eight different non-denominational churches. They were all similar in practice and doctrine and I never had any reason to doubt anything I was taught. I thought all Christians believed in the same essential truths but that some had practices that were not Biblical. As a non-denominational, I believed that included anyone inside a denomination, especially Catholics, which were likely farther from the truth than any other. I believed that while there were some truly "saved" Christians in Catholic churches, if they were truly saved, they would likely find their way out and when I would meet one that had a visible passion for God, I'd simply hope that they would find their way to a greater truth and leave the Catholic Church.

Through most of elementary school, I was a happy kid with a great sense of humor and passion for life. I loved Jesus and I didn't understand why anyone wouldn't. As I grew a bit older, I realized that my passion for God was something that separated me from the majority of my peers. I was called a "good little Christian girl" and though a part of me was proud of that, it seemed a greater part of me was hurt by it. I didn't want a label and I didn't want to be different. My status as a "good little Christian girl" did not get me in with the popular crowd and I spent much of my adolescence as a loner. I lost my happiness, my sense of humor and my passion for God.

I never stopped believing in God and I knew I loved Him and that He loved me (at least in my mind) but I was not bold unless I felt I had to defend something. In high school, I was miserable. I attended high school with kids I'd known most of my life who would not give me the time of day. Friends came and friends went but few stuck around for very long. I was depressed, cynical and pessimistic...

My senior year, I became friends with Damion. I can't remember how it came to be that I hit it off with a guy two years behind me but we were inseparable. We spent hours debating religion and just hanging out together. I finally felt I had a true friend and I fell in love with him. He liked me despite my pessimistic attitude and put up with all my moodiness. Like many good things at that time in my life, the friendship and all hope for a dating relationship came to an abrupt end that slowly began to be mended about the time I graduated from high school. Damion went to another school the following year and over time, we lost all contact with each other. But I never forgot him and he held a very special place in my heart.

Though I never stopped attending church, I spent the next several years making very poor choices. In short, I was married three different times, never to a Christian man and never with any thought about Biblical marriage. I just did whatever I wanted to do and lived my life any way that I wanted to live it in the moment, believing that no matter what I did, though it might have earthly consequences, I would be forgiven and my salvation was assured. The consequences of my poor choices brought three blessings into my life: my children.

My faith over the years had dwindled, at least in heart, and I no longer felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. I still attended church regularly and wished that I would feel "something". The only time I'd pray is when I was so low in self-pity, I didn't know what else to do. I attended Bible studies and other small groups, always with the hope of being "grabbed" and regaining that feeling of faith that I had as a child. It never came. One day, I was informed that I should not expect to ever feel that way again. It broke my heart. If I would never feel passion for Christ like that again, why even bother with the whole thing at all? Yet, I continued to attend church and other small groups, still waiting and hoping to be grabbed but doubting it would EVER happen. Where is God? Why bother praying when it changes nothing?

In this time, I also found that I had a serious problem with depression. Counseling only took me so far and so I began to take anti-depressants. They helped... took the edge off the depression and anxiety and allowed me to be a calmer and more rational person in my everyday existence.

In late June 2005, I found Damion through an internet search and we decided to meet. I discovered, much to my surprise, that he was a Christian and much to my dismay that he was a Catholic. I thought I'd just pray him out of the Catholic Church and all it's error. He was "just a Christian attending a Catholic Church" and it would only be a matter of time before I could show him the errors and he'd leave.

Instead, when issues of faith came up, we did nothing but argue. I continuously found more and more things that were debatable ... things I never even KNEW were up for debate. I understood that Christ wanted unity with all Christians and especially in marital relationships and Damion and I both strongly felt we were brought together by God... But how could two Christians be at such extreme odds with one another? There were days when our arguments would cause me to doubt whether or not I even wanted to be a Christian at all. We got to the point where we could not discuss issues of faith at all and the subject was ignored for several months. Every time I heard anything about Catholicism I'd cringe.

What is truth?

If I am to believe that God exists, then there must be an absolute truth. He would not want us blindly following a false interpretation of his living Word. Between Damion and I, if we are supposed to be able to agree on issues of faith, then who has to bend? Could it be me?

Around the beginning of May 2006, I hit a very deep low point with my faith. It is difficult to reflect on those feelings adequately even three months later because the despair I felt was so painful.

On May 8, 2006, I wrote:

I absolutely struggle with the concept that God can fix, heal or solve anything. Thing is, even though I know he CAN, I always doubt that he WILL. I also know how little effort I put into believing that he will...

It is difficult for me to admit that my head knowledge does not often reach my heart. Easy for me to tell someone else to pray about something but when it comes to myself, I don't because I don't believe it will make any difference whatsoever. Prayer often feels like an empty one-sided conversation...

I read otherwise, see otherwise, know in my head otherwise... but cannot seem to apply it to my own life and problems... as if they are too big and God is unwilling... They aren't too big but I still don't know if God is willing. I cannot know if God is willing if I don't surrender it to Him... but to be honest, I do not know how to do that and on an even more honest level, I fear the response for such obedience.

I hate to admit it but I question my faith right now more than I ever have before and more than I ever thought I would. I almost feel that in the big picture, I nearly lack faith completely at this point... and although I want to turn it around, I feel like I lack something necessary... perhaps the faith itself.

I have never felt such self-loathing, despair, hopelessness and helplessness. I find joy in very few things. Perhaps He is breaking me... I feel devastation with nothing to feel devastated about except the lack of faith itself... it pains and saddens me very deeply.

But I cannot give up.... though I'd like to just cease to exist... to walk away... to push aside the reality of God and His great existence, I can't. I know Him to be True... to be unfailing, loving, sacrificial... the Savior. This life is not an accident. My problems, my doubts, my fears... they all serve a purpose. God has given them to me with a long-term purpose in mind... something I prayed for long ago. The only thing I have faith in right now is that I will not be in "this place" forever...

While sitting in service on Sunday, my faithlessness and all, there was a small and fleeting moment where the Holy Spirit touched me. I nearly burst into tears but quickly pushed it aside. It hurts... I don't want to be broken. I don't want to break. I don't want to feel the pain of it all... I don't want to face the reality... so I just keep ignoring it, pretending all is well. "I'll be fine."

I tell myself to just work it out on my own. "Don't tell anyone... no one will understand..."

But I realize I'm putting God in a box... limiting what He is capable of doing and His awesomeness.

God is infinite... indescribable, immeasurable, uncontainable...

This, I believe, was the start of an amazing change. I just wanted to know what was true with no doubts. Was I really saved? Was my belief big enough? Had I lost my faith? Would I never again feel the passion I felt as a child?

I joined a Christian online forum. Little did I know, but this forum was focused on evangelizing Catholics out of the Catholic Church. The debates were HUGE and argumentative and I found myself joining in and arguing against Catholicism with fervor though inside, I just wanted everyone to find something in common. On both sides, some posts were loving while others were spiteful and condemning. But one day, in the midst of a debate, my entire attitude suddenly changed. I suddenly wanted to understand how Catholics KNEW that the Catholic Church was the church Christ founded and how they knew that the early church fathers didn't mess it up. It was such a bold claim to make that I had to know what they had to back it up. One Catholic poster thought I was being sarcastic (the drawback of debating in writing) but I was serious and I made a request for a God-loving and kind Catholic to sincerely answer my question. One did... I could not fully grasp the answer at that time but I abandoned that forum and began to take a genuine look at Catholicism... not from non-Catholics but from Catholics themselves. I reasoned, "Would I want a Mormon learning about Christianity from other Mormons?"

I had to go to the source and I had to keep all my searching private for now. I did not want to be swayed by anyone close to me in any direction. I wanted to search for truth with the help of God alone. I began listening to Catholic radio and on the first day, I tuned in to the conversion story of Drake McCalister. I could not believe that I was hearing someone from a Protestant background who converted TO Catholicism. Weren't they supposed to leave the Catholic Church if they were true Christians? His story was amazing and since I could hear his voice via radio, I was able to hear the passion for God in his voice. He sounded no less Christian than any other Christian I had known.

Since then, I've been doing a lot of reading and have a lot more to do. But one thing keeps coming to mind:

Matthew 16:13-19

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesare'a Philip'pi, he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?"

14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Eli'jah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

16 Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.

19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

What continuously sticks out at me is that Christ said he would not let the powers of death (or gates of Hades) prevail against His church. The Catholic Church traces its origin all the way back to Jesus Christ himself and they were essentially (with the exception of Orthodoxy 1054 AD) the only church for the first 1500 years.

Either Christ did as He promised and protected His church, or he did not. Did He lie to us? If Christ did not do as He promised, this would force me into, at most, agnosticism. On the other hand, if Christ kept his promise, then the only logical conclusion is to assume that the Catholic Church is his church. The term "catholic" was used as early as the first century.

At this point, I realize that I must either enter the Catholic Church or completely denounce my life-long faith in God, in which I find there to be too much evidence for His vast existence.

There are many other dogmas of the Catholic faith that I have come to accept... others, I do not yet understand. But I know that God will be faithful because this is where He has taken me. Many will not understand this decision and I anticipate the loss of many of my Christian friends, but I do not follow them, nor would it be right for me to do so.

Matthew 10:37-38

"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me."

Saint Augustine wrote, "Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand."

For the first time since childhood, I am beginning to feel a little tug by the Holy Spirit, letting me know that I'm being obedient to God... There are so many other things that I have learned so far, I could not possible share them all on this opening page.

I invite you to read my blog and to come back often to share in my journey with me. I no longer believe that salvation is a one-time event but a daily and life-long journey. We are called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13).

I would also like to ask anyone willing, to pray for me and my family - that we would continue to grow in faith and follow God wherever He may take us.

In Christ,
Amber

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