Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Comtemplating Lent

The season of Lent is coming fast. Next week is Ash Wednesday. As I have been doing a little reading on this period I have decided that there are many thoughts to ponder. Here are a few phrases that have made me stop to think.

Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock.

Last year, I did not understand the true significance of Lent. I thought it was just about giving up something important so that we reflect more on Christ. Which is to a degree true, but it is and should be so much more. It should involve deep soul searching and not focusing only on denying ourselves something, but committing ourselves more in our faith with prayer.

"Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. It is a somber day of reflection on what needs to change in our lives if we are to be fully Christians."

One of the big fears I had in coming back into what I generally called "religion" was the change that I felt I would have to make in myself to be able to call myself a Christian. What I found, though, was that I didn't have to change. A change happened in me, but it wasn't because of anything that I did. There was so much more at work and I finally understood that God can work in me and through me and it's not about what I think I can or cannot do. His will be done. Not mine. I continue to state that I am a work in progress. I always will be until I am called home. But at least I am now heading in the right direction.

Lent is a season that reminds us to repent and get our lives centered, our priorities straight, and our hearts clean.

I hope that I will take the time to really do this especially as I come into full communion with the Church. Luckily, I will be able to go through my first confession during this time. Although it is something I both look forward to and dread, I anxiously await the healing that will come from it.

I still am giving thought to what I intend to give up during this season. Although I have some ideas, I am also planning to incorporate more prayer and time with God as well. I am still amazed at how fast this journey has been. I am in awe of the changes in me and I am so very thankful for the many blessings.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Common Conversion Elements

One of the forums that I read daily is the Catholic Online Forum and in particular the Converts and New Catholics thread. The other day the following was posted in regard to a common thread that is noticed in most converts to the faith. My comments are italicized after each point.

1) Few (if any) have started their conversion from some knocking on their doors handing out Catholic tracts or "witnessing".

Absolutely nobody came to me in regard to becoming Catholic or even going to Church. I just found an interest because of knowing Marty and meeting his family.

2) Researching on one's own. Seems as if a LOT of people do at least some research (if not a lot) either before they decide to convert or just after. I think Catholic bookstores must do a thriving business from people pondering entering the Catholic Church.

I did a GREAT deal of research before making the decision to convert. I started reading in Sept. 2004, emailed the local Parish in Feb. 2005 and then called in March. Although I hadn’t decided 100% at the time, it was because of the research I did that led me to that point. It was the experience of attending Mass that led me to know it was right.

3) Individual decision. Seems as if everyone's decision came from themselves and not from an open discussion with others. What I mean, is that each person genuinely reflected and prayed on this decision. And when he or she announces the decision, others are somewhat surprised.

This one is true in every sense of the word. Although I had talked to Marty about it to some degree, it was really all my own decision. And yes, several were surprised, but most seemed pleased at the decision.

4) Reverance and history. Seems many people are drawn towards the reverance of Mass. And they are also amazed at Church history. Also, they "discover" the Catholic Church was indeed established by Christ.

Again, true in every sense. I adored the tradition, the reverence and history. As I have continued to study the faith, it is all the more clear that this is the Church founded by Christ. It also makes the most sense compared to other denominations.

5) The Eucharist. Many seem not to have had so much of a keen desire for the Eucharist until they get closer to their acceptance into the Church.

The Eucharist is something that didn’t mean much to me when I first started attending. But as I have begun to understand the sacraments, it is something that I cannot wait to receive. I am not quite “giddy”, but I am getting excited!

6) Peace. Wow - it really does seem a lot of people feel inner peace.

I can’t even begin to explain the peace I have felt since coming into the Church. It is absolutely amazing. Certainly I still have worries and things to deal with, but everything seems to be so insignificant in the scheme of things. I am finally understanding and trying to follow God’s will for me and it is such a great comfort.

7) Spiritual joy. How can I describe this?

I have found true spiritual joy and I am really surprised by it. I thought of myself as so very lost and almost in a pagan state for so long. I am awed by the fact that I have been so driven in this journey. You would understand better if you knew more about my background, but let me say that it is a pleasant surprise.

8) The fight. Seems many people really struggle with themselves over this decision. And almost always there comes a time when the convert says, "OK, Lord. I'm done fighting with you."

This is the only thing that didn’t ring true for me. I have always had the mindset that when God wanted to build a relationship with me again, then He would let me know. I would have to say it was just a lot of gentle nudges that I didn’t fight, but said more or less…"O.k., I get it. This is what I am supposed to do."

9) A void or a calling. Seems as if many people have felt some sort of void or something was calling to them.

I’m not sure if I would say it was a void or calling. It really started out as simple curiosity and it snowballed. So I guess the calling was there… and sure the void was there as I had given up on religion for about 10-11 years.

And this was added by another reply.

10) Catholics who life their faith. While few have been converted by people knocking on their door, many have been converted by the personal witness of other Catholics.

My interest truly originated by the simple observation of Marty’s family and their devotion to their faith. As I have been going to Mass it has continued to grow from the wonderful people I have encountered. My sponsor, Carol, is a great inspiration to me. I am not sure if I would be where I am without her. I have also found that everyone I have met within the church have been absolutely warm, welcoming and genuine. That is why it really feels like home.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Baptist Revival

My son went to a special service at the Baptist church tonight. I am not sure what brought this on, other than the promise of lots of pizza. Hey, can you blame him? He hasn't been to a Baptist service in a long time, but he thought why not see what it's about again? Before I dropped him off I told him what to expect. Preaching that they were all sinners. That all they needed to do was say this little prayer and commit to Christ and then they would be saved. Then there would be the altar call. He said he knew, but that was o.k. When I picked him up a few minutes ago he informed me that it was exactly as predicted. He went on to say that they said that one had to completely turn from sin, blah, blah, blah.. but he was disconcerted with the fact that there was no mention of continuing such a lifestyle after the magic prayer. In the car he said that he felt that Catholic and Episcopalian services seem to be far more religious that the Baptist. He didn't care for the contemporary feel of the service and the fact that they don't sing hymns. Oh, they had hymnals, but they didn't use them. He summed it up with the term unorthodox. He said that although the Catholic and Episcopal church did seem a bit "cultish" with the bowing and such, he still felt it was more reverant. Which is exactly how I feel. Well I don't think it's cultish and I explained that in a way all religions can have a cult feel in the fact that we worship Christ. It is just that the alter etc. represents Christ and that is why we bow to it. He understood.
I don't want you to think I am just bashing the Baptists. I feel there are truly righteous people within the Baptist church, like my friend Bret. And I think he is realizing that it's not about the numbers in those altar calls, but how many people actually convert themselves to a Christian life. Isn't that what it's about? Although I still have a difference of opinion on his views, I still respect him and his works. But I also know that my decision the to come home to the Catholic church is right. Not just because it "feels" right either. I know it in my mind, my heart and my soul. And I can't wait until I am in full communion with the Church.

Still Here with a question

I am still here, still in RCIA, still committed to the Catholic faith and greatly looking foward to Easter Vigil. I have just be swamped with other "life" things right now and I haven't had time to blog much. I still have many things I want to write about but I have to prioritize right now and everything else is coming before blogging at the moment. I know I may lose the few readers I had, but if anyone is still reading, please be patient. I will be back soon. I do want to throw something out there though and perhaps a few people might respond... come on... you can do it.. just hit the "comment" link. It's really easy.

Would it be appropriate to send out an "announcement" of sorts in regard to my upcoming confirmation. Friends and family do know that I am converting, but I am not sure if they understand the true importance and significance of it. Any thoughts??