Two years ago, on October 30th, I came back into union with Rome. I walked into St. Catherine of Sienna parish in Wake Forest on an otherwise typical Wednesday evening. The lighting was low, and candles were lit, and priests were available in the confessionals. My heart was pounding, and I had my 5 year examination of conscience in hand. I was excited to be in a state of grace from confession and then to receive the Eucharist, the Holy Sacrament I desired so deeply to receive.
I knew that the only thing I had to lose within confession was my sins, yet I was nervous. I had come to understand at least in the simplest of ways the availability of God’s mercy and grace present within the sacrament, but crossing the Tiber is very intense. I suppose I wasn’t scared of what I would lose within the confessional, rather I had a fear of what I could lose once stepping out of it. I knew that this was a pivotal moment for me spiritually, and I knew in my heart that once in union with Rome there was no turning back.
I understand the severity of conversion to the Catholic Church and how life changing it can be. Behind the scenes I had a reasonable fear that this conversion would lead to a divorce between my wife and I. I had already undergone an intervention attempt by some Protestant associates along with my wife who tried to deter me from conversion, and I had to stand my ground and I can’t describe the difficulty in that .
I knew my conversion meant potentially losing those acquaintances. I had made many connections within the Prosperity Gospel community which upon my conversion would be severed as well, which meant all the ways and avenues I had been able to use within my day to day life would drastically change. I would have to establish a whole new manner of life, with a whole new way of thinking, having to refigure how to manage and establish a whole new network of connections, all the while potentially as a divorcee.
I knew that this conversion wasn’t going to be easy on my marriage (which would have to be validated sacramentally within the Church). My wife and I were not on the same page at that time with Catholicism and here I was already sleeping apart from her to observe a chaste and abstinent lifestyle until we could come into the Church together. I was going about this spiritual endeavor without her support. I was going it alone more or less. It caused, or perhaps rather amplified, a plethora of issues within the household which brought about substantial tensions. I knew what coming into communion with the Church could cause me in my life, namely losing everything. But the spirit was willing despite the flesh being weak and fearful.
My whole conversion was not possible without God. As I talk about in “The Road that Led Me to Rome”, it was a direct and sudden intervention of the Lord which caused the walls around my heart to begin to crumble. Nothing else can explain my sudden openness to Catholicism after years of vile hatred and black bile like words being spewed from my mouth at the Church. I was an anti-Catholic “non-denominational” Protestant. The Church, in my eyes, was a stain on Christianity. I saw those who adhered to the Church’s teachings as being in chains. To me, within the Catholic Church, the veil which was torn in two after Christ’s death was remade within the form of all of its formalities and priests which acted as obstacles between the faithful and the Lord, thrusting its followers back into the Law.
But into the confessional I went, and by His grace I emerged a few minutes later. I received Our Lord in the Eucharist within the following hour. And after that I bawled my eyes out realizing all that I had been gifted to receive that evening by the mercy and grace of the Lord. It was overwhelming. I was home.
I did lose a lot from my conversion, but oh I gained a hundred fold in response. I lost all of my friends I had made within my 5 years away from the Church, but in their stead I reestablished many past friendships and on top of that made many more life changing friends. I did lose many connections, but in their stead I was gifted many more which have been blessings to me and my family. I did lose the relationship I had with my wife, but in its stead, like the legends of the phoenix, our marriage completely changed and flourished as it was elevated sacramentally through the Church and it is now a mountain compared to the mere dirt mound it was in comparison. We never had the eyes to see how beautiful our union could be while we were outside of the Church. It feels like a completely different relationship.
Over the past two years I’ve been able to witness my wife go from anger towards my conversion and the idea of being Catholic, to being a prayerful and spiritually penitential mother, who wears veils and long, flowy, beautiful dresses to mass; who went from reading Joyce Meyers to reading St. Ignatius of Loyola on discernment of spirits and St. Alphonsus Liguori on uniformity with God’s Will. Our conversations as a couple have gone from ”how much should we give to Kenneth Copeland this month” to discussing moral and sacramental theology while our children take their naps. It has opened us up to being more vulnerable with the Lord and with each other, leading us deeper into the healing of Our Lord and understanding what it means to be One within marriage. Our union within the Faith has helped us face wounds and hardships together, including the loss of our son Joel by miscarriage, which we would not have been able to handle had we not had Catholicism.
Words can’t fully describe all of the blessings we have been bestowed during the last two years, and all the ways we have grown by the grace of God. But one thing is for sure, I am so deeply thankful that through even slight cooperation with His grace I was gifted courage to come home to Rome and Our Lord despite my fears in the face of life changing losses. I am so thankful for God slapping me upside my head in such a drastic way which, like the siege of Jericho, caused the walls around my heart to collapse.
I did not come home by my own volition. Through my own weakness as a fallen man, had God not extended me that grace to come back to the Church, I would still most likely be a Protestant in deep spiritual suffering from not knowing who within Protestantism had the correct answers for me. This has caused many reflections on conversion itself, and how ultimately it is all by His grace that we come to acknowledge truth when we hear it. We are nothing apart from God, our Creator. Thank the Lord for the Church, and thank the Lord for His grace and love and mercy, without which I would be lost.