I am a convert to the Roman Catholic Church. When I think about it, thanksgiving for my conversion fills my heart. I take a deep breath and whisper, “Thank you, Lord, thank you, thank you.” I want to play two sticks like Saint Francis. I want to sing of “la joie parfaite” and dance. I want to tell everyone how good the Lord is and how he has blessed me by bringing me home. The gratitude never ceases. The joy never stops. I am overwhelmed with it. Come! Celebrate with me the joy of our faith!
I converted at the Easter Vigil Mass in April, 1994. It was not easy to leave my Protestant church, husband, family and friends. I was the only one in my RCIA class who cried while sharing my story. For most of them, it was an occasion of spouses and families uniting, but for me, I was experiencing the broken body of Christ in leaving others behind. The Lord opened the door, and I knew without a doubt that he was telling me to no longer delay making the decision.
Initially, I felt like a child in a room with many doors and cabinets. The Church was the room, and every time I opened a new door, there were blessings and gifts and surprises. How rich we are! What spiritual wealth! Beginning with the Easter Vigil Mass in 1994, grace upon grace upon grace poured down from heaven and has never stopped.
I am no longer frustrated or searching for a home. Before, there was always a hunger and desire for more than was being offered and a desire to surrender and commit more than was being asked. I have a certain peace for the first time since I was eleven years old. I was baptized that year but never felt content in any church I joined. Although each has blessed and taught me and helped me along my journey, it was never enough. There was always an emptiness. I felt that I was walking through the valley of the dry bones of Ezekiel. My heart cried out, “I thirst.” The Reformation threw away too much. Protestant churches have been stripped of so much of their precious Christian heritage.
Several months before my conversion, I read a book on desert spirituality. It was entitled Soul Making, by Alan Jones. I identified with statements he made in the introduction: “I find it increasingly difficult to feel at home with my fellow believers. . . . I want a kind of Christianity that can be embraced with both passion and intelligence. . . . I want a gutsy, old-fashioned, demanding religion with no compromise and no nonsense. I want a great deal. Often, I feel that as yet, I have nowhere to lay my head.” Well, as a Roman Catholic and Secular Franciscan, I have what I wanted, and although the road is hard at times, I am at home. Now I have a place to lay my head.
My soul is at rest. I experience a sense of great serenity knowing that as a Roman Catholic, I am in the splendor of truth. I have the fullness of the faith. I have the seven sacraments. I have the Eucharist and the Real Presence. I can stand on the authority of the Church and willingly submit to its authority. It is not built on shifting sand but on solid rock, on Sacred Tradition and Scripture. It needs no defense but stands on its on. If it falls into error, the Holy Spirit corrects, and someone like Saint Francis is sent to lead us back and to rebuild.
Then there is the comfort. In all my trials and suffering, in deaths and losses, I experience comfort at a more profound level now within the Church. There is also a great sense of safety in all things, both physical and spiritual. Our mother, the Church, carries us in her womb, ultimately to be surrendered to the Father.
Catholics, never cease giving thanks for the Church and do not compromise your faith. Stand firm with your head high. Never cease praising God for the gift. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Recall the words of Saint Francis as he was dying of the necessity of holding to the faith of the holy Roman Church.
Today, as I walk with Jesus, living my Christian life as a Roman Catholic and Secular Franciscan, life is flooded through and through with joy and gladness. My husband converted a couple of years after I did. We owe much to our Catholic friends. They helped us on our way by patiently loving us and accepting us where we were and by showing us, through their example, that they had something we wanted and that something was their Catholic faith.
My cup overflows. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6.)
Ouida Tomlinson, SFO