I started to type up a post and my wrists wigged out. I'm two-finger typing this little intro, but am so grateful to KLB who is sharing her great story with us today. Please welcome her to CWCL!
The most common question I’ve been asked in the past year is a variation on, “What made you decide to become Catholic?” The tone has differed, depending on the asker. I’ve dealt with excitement, curiosity, hostility, confusion, warmth, happiness, surprise, and disrespect.
I’ve also asked the question of others. It’s not so surprising to hear the myriad conversion stories when you think about the universality of the Catholic Church, and sometimes I’ve been a little embarrassed that I didn’t have an exciting adventure of religious epiphany to relate. My answer to the question is, in short, “I went to Mass and I liked it.”
Of course it took a lot to get me to Mass in the first place.
When I was a freshman at one of the most Catholic colleges in the country, my brother and I were invited to sing with the choir at the United Methodist church in our hometown. We began to attend Sunday services regularly. By the time I was a senior, I had become a Sunday School teacher, I had been baptized in the Methodist Church, I was a member of the Pastor-Parishioner Relations Committee, a regular deliverer of children’s sermons, the new director of Vacation Bible School, and I shared Choir Director/Accompanist duties with my brother.
I took theology classes and had philosophical discussions at school, but I never went to Mass. I had respect for my Catholic friends’ beliefs, but I never went to Mass. It didn’t matter to me whether someone was Methodist or Presbyterian or Catholic or Russian Orthodox: we were all Christian, so what difference did it make?
That began to change. I don’t know when, exactly, but little niggling thoughts began to curl around the back of my mind. I spent most of my free time during my senior year with three very close friends. Suffice to say it’s hard to hang out with two seminarians and a young woman who lives her faith without entertaining a few Catholic thoughts. When my Sunday School students asked difficult questions, my answers usually came from my theology classes at school. When I had difficult questions, my Catholic friends always had an answer for me. I thought perhaps I’d raise my future children in The Church, even if I didn’t convert. Then when a friend from my Methodist church mentioned he’d once been Catholic, I thought to myself, “If you’re already Catholic, why would you leave?” This thought brought me up short. At that point, I thought perhaps I should go to Mass.
An opportunity arrived after my church purchased a projector. Methodists place a lot of emphasis on music as worship. John and Charles Wesley were two of the greatest hymnists in the world, and my brother and I were in charge of the music in our church. We took our jobs seriously. I was staunchly against the projector purchase, but I was in the minority. With the projector came a hookup for a laptop. With the laptop came poorly made youtube videos set to poorly written contemporary Christian music. Our traditional hymns and live music were summarily replaced.
I lamented to my three friends at lunch one day. Palm Sunday was the following weekend. “I don’t want projector music to ruin Palm Sunday,” I whined.
One of the guys, E., offered a solution. “Come to Mass with us,” he said.
I was nervous at first, but my friend T. sat with me and coached me through it. He explained what was going on when he could and he helped me follow along in the missal. And so it happened that after four years at a charismatic Catholic university without ever attending Mass, I found myself at the cathedral downtown. I went to Mass and I liked it.
I had been discouraged at my own church because with the projector music, no one knew the songs and no one was singing along. We were becoming passive observers in our own worship services. There was something participatory and together in the Mass. Even though I didn’t know the music or the words or the responses, I still felt included. I was fascinated by the Liturgy. I wanted to know what the priests were doing during the Liturgy of the Eucharist and why. I wanted to know why the Bishop took his miter off sometimes and why the bells were rung.
I couldn’t deny that the Catholic Church seemed to have the answers to all my nagging questions. They had the history, they had the crazy stories of Eucharistic miracles and incorruptible saints, they had the scripture references to back up their theology, they had freedom within their spirituality.
On Tuesday during Holy Week, I sent a facebook message to the three friends who’d gotten me to Mass. “I think I want to be Catholic.”
We met for lunch the next day. When I brought up my missive, T. and E., the future priests, smiled knowingly. T. said, “What are you doing tonight?” That night I skipped my night class and sat with T. for the Tenebrae service. Afterward, we left the church in silence as the choir sang Were You There. Outside, T. turned to me and said, “So what did you think?”
I wiped the tears from my eyes and replied, “Where do I sign up?”
“Let’s go talk to Father,” he said....
KLB came into the Catholic Church this Easter! She recently started a blog to chronicle her adventures as a new Catholic. You can read more of her beautiful conversion story, and her experiences about entering the Church at her new blog: Walking Shoes.