I didn’t blog yesterday, Thursday blogging is likely going to be rare because I have a thing, every single Thursday night. I ate a bit poorly yesterday. Two days into Lent and I am already struggling. Good stuff.
Now, without further ado, My Reversion Story in 7 not-so Quick Takes. I like reading conversion and reversion stories, so I will write my own.
My name: Rebecca
Parents: Still married. 28 years next month.
Siblings: 2 brothers (13 months older, 16 years younger) and 2 sisters (3.5 and 7.5 years younger respectively).
I live in Canada and was raised Catholic. My family goes to Church every single Sunday, even while travelling, which I always hated. I always wanted a break from Church. I never got it.
Growing up I always understood the “whats” of Catholicism.
Go to Church on Sunday.
Don’t eat meat on Friday during Lent.
Don’t eat much of anything on Good Friday or Ash Wednesday.
Always make sure you go to Mass at Christmas, New Year’s and during the Easter Triduum.
I learned the Hail Mary, the Our Father and the Glory Be. I learned the Guardian Angel prayer. I received First Communion, Reconciliation, and Confirmation (and Baptism, but I don’t remember that one).
I never learned the “whys” of the Church though. First Communion class we made sheep out of cotton balls. Reconciliation class we learned to tell the priest what we have done wrong, but nothing of the supernatural graces and blessing of the sacrament. Confirmation class was a complete write-off. A bunch of 12 and 13 year olds and a lovely, friendly priest who couldn’t get us to focus on anything but doodling and joking around.
We got confirmed in the Faith, anyway.
In high school I started attending a different parish from my parents because there was a LifeTeen mass. I had friends that went, so I went.
I re-learned a lot of the same whats as above, Mass is important, Confession is probably a good idea too. Don’t have sex unless you are married, birth control is not allowed. Abortion is wrong. Also, the Rosary.
I was still lacking on the whys of the teachings though. Our leaders at the LifeTeen meetings were wonderful, but it often felt like they were trying so hard to be one of us that they glossed over the more uncomfortable things about the faith. They focussed on the easy stuff.
I felt nothing about staying in the Church and I didn’t feel challenged to actually live my faith. So I was catholic, but I wasn’t Catholic. If that makes sense.
As I got towards the end of high school I kept going to Mass and LifeTeen, but at that point it was mostly habit. It wasn’t from a desire to actually be AT Mass.
Then I moved away from home and went to University out on the East Coast of Canada. I went to a “Catholic” university (it no longer brands itself as such) and I stopped going to Church.
I became an agnostic, I was no longer sure God existed but I wasn’t ready to give up on him yet. I was looking for something I couldn’t find. I minored in Religious Studies. I took courses on Islam, New Religious Movements (cults), Spirituality without Religion and a Catholic studies course.
I couldn’t find what I wanted. I stopped caring. I no longer saw absolutes.
On Abortion: I would never choose that option but it is their choice so I can’t stop them. Especially if they were raped.
On God: As long as you are a good person, if there is a Heaven, I’m sure God will let you in.
On Contraception: Better to be safe than sorry, (or punished if you are Obama…)
On Sex: If you are in a relationship and in love, why wait?
It was also in university I met my first openly gay friends. I loved them and still do, although for the most part we have all drifted apart. I became a supporter of marriage equality, because it didn’t seem fair otherwise.
I felt comfortable in my beliefs or lack thereof. But I was unhappy. I would hang out with my friends and drink, go dancing, and make out with random guys at bars. It was shallow and fun and I was still unhappy.
But, in the midst of this God was working.
Shortly before I graduated university my friend and I discussed abortion and I told her I was personally pro-life, but didn’t feel like I could push my beliefs on another person. My friend told me I was pro-choice. And I fought her on it, but then I realised my rationalization was a pro-choice argument. I was horrified. I couldn’t be one of them. They believed it was okay to kill babies! In that moment I became a very quiet pro-life supporter. I wasn’t ready to come out as pro-life to my friends. They would never understand.
I moved to Toronto to take a one year culinary course after I was done university. I spent most of my time hanging out with a good Catholic friend, Chantelle. She had this unfailing faith and I wanted that, but I was so full of all of the anti-Catholicism that I had encountered in University and in College and the media that I couldn’t.
After I finished college, in a fit of unhappiness, I moved back home.
Accepted a job that I hated. And just felt like a failure. I had no friends left at home because they had all moved away. I was living with my parents, again. And it was awful.
I worked at the job that I hated for 11 months, and I developed an office relationship with a man-boy that I would’ve never looked twice at if I hadn’t been so miserable. It was a terrible relationship for a number of reasons, first because he was engaged (I had no idea at first, and then it was just too hard to breakup) and second, when I was with him I ended up doing so many things I’m not at all proud of. I’m just so glad I didn’t sleep with him. That abstinence pledge I took when I was 14 stuck with me, no matter how bleak things were, it was the one thing I could hold on too. The one thing that told me I hadn’t completely failed yet.
After 7 months of pure misery, I got the best news. My best friend had gotten a job about an hour away. Visiting distance. It was the best thing that could’ve happened. I love her because she didn’t judge, or ask questions. She let me cry. She let me choose the movies when we hung out. She let me spend entire weekends on her couch.
She asked me if I wanted to go to Church with her, I said no. She asked again the next time I was at her place. And I felt something in me change. This time, I said yes. I had to relearn everything, the responses in Mass had all changed. It was starting all over.
And it was just a start.
After I went to Mass with her I quit my job. A few weeks later, I moved back to the East Coast. I had fallen in love with my University town and felt pulled to move back. So I did. I found a job and a place and I moved.
But then I couldn’t figure out what to do next. I loved my university friends, but I wanted a fresh start. Thankfully, my best friend’s family live in the same town I had moved to and her mother (my “other mother”) told me about a Catholic Young Adults group that meets Thursday evenings. She thought I might be interested.
I was, but I didn’t go right away. I was terrified. I was sure it would be people who were all freaky homeschooled people who were going to become priests and nuns. Who were sheltered and I would have nothing in common with. I wanted to meet people and be catholic, but I didn’t want to be Catholic. Catholics are against gays and contraception! I can’t be one of them.
When I did finally go, I was pleasantly surprised about how wrong I was about the people attending. For the most part they seemed so normal. But they were Catholic and happy and unapologetic. I ended up walking home with a girl from the group and we chatted and bonded. I felt freer and happier than I had in ages.
But I still wasn’t ready to commit. My Mass attendance was still sporadic, and my new job had me working nights. So I stopped going to the group for several months. Eventually got back on to day shifts and started going again.
I spent a lot of time talking with the young priest who was the de facto leader. And he started to challenge me. He would never tell me not to do something, but he had this distinct way of saying things or subtly correcting me that would stick in my head. Eventually, usually after a few weeks, I’d realise he was right or that his words made sense. Then I started researching his side of things. I started to see the problems with contraception from a Church and scientific perspective. Suddenly, I was no longer okay with contraception or downloading music for free. Or skipping Mass.
The one sticking point, for me, was gay marriage. I couldn’t get the whole equality fight out of my head. I didn’t understand why marriage was such a big deal. Two people love each other, they get married. End of story.
And then we read Arcanum by Pope Leo XIII from 1880. And I read this:
 …but in our own age, much more pernicious is the sin of those who would fain pervert utterly the nature of marriage, perfect though it is, and complete in all its details and parts. The chief reason why they act in this way is because very many, imbued with the maxims of a false philosophy and corrupted in morals, judge nothing so unbearable as submission and obedience; and strive with all their might to bring about that not only individual men, but families, also-indeed, human society itself…
 Nevertheless, the naturalists… who profess that they worship above all things the divinity of the State, and strive to disturb whole communities with such wicked doctrines, cannot escape the charge of delusion. Marriage has God for its Author, and was from the very beginning a kind of foreshadowing of the Incarnation of His Son; and therefore there abides in it a something holy and religious; not extraneous, but innate; not derived from men, but implanted by nature. …our predecessors, affirmed not falsely nor rashly that a sacrament of marriage existed ever amongst the faithful and unbelievers….
The whole encyclical was powerful.
Of course marriage could only be between a man and a woman, there is no other way. Nature, in its design, is meant to be a continuous. Marriage is necessary, because it is a protector of what is most precious. The family. The children. Same-sex marriage is contrary to nature because it cannot bring forth life. It cannot shelter and create new life. The unity that men and women can create, the complementariness of that they bring to sex requires our protection.
I also came to realise that the rules of Catholicism are not a negative. They are in place because they foster love. And I have learned that love isn’t wanting someone to be happy. Love is wanting what is best for them. And as hard as it is, sometimes a “no” that is hard in an instance becomes an enduring “yes”.
Catholicism is about the yeses. So the tail end of August last year I went Confession. And I felt the graces that Confession gives. I finally said yes and told God he won. And I cried. And I was home.
That was really long. If anybody actually reads it all, hats off to you!
Now, I have nothing left so say. Except I’m working with a youth group and I’m trying to teach them the whys. It is a struggle, the other leaders are really into comfortable teachings. And Catholicism isn’t about comfort, it is a challenge every. single. day. It is a constant yes to God. We need to say yes, every day. But oh, how much easier it is once we say yes.
And in the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “The world offers you comfort, but you were not meant for comfort. You were made for greatness!”
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!