Sunday, November 25, 2012

This is my story. It might be your story, too.

Finally, after much procrastination, I have updated and shortened my old reversion story. Cradle Catholics born in or after the 1960s: What follows may sound quite familiar to you.


+++++++


I was robbed.

I am a "Generation X" Catholic, raised and catechized in the tumultuous aftermath of Vatican II. My peers and I were victims of "renewal" and experimentation gone awry, and the results have been catastrophic for my generation. Today, the overwhelming majority of adult Catholics don't have even an elemental understanding of their Faith, and as a direct result of that ignorance, millions have left the Church.

As for me, I never actually left the Catholic Church (though I considered it), but for most of my young adulthood, I was not in the Catholic Church, even as I considered myself "devout".

I was born in the late 1960s into a practicing Catholic family, the daughter of an Arab immigrant and an small-town Ohio girl. My older sister and I were taught by our parents to love our Faith.

My family, 1967.
In my first year of life, I was clearly already contemplating higher truths. 

We always attended Sunday Mass and holy days (including my mom, who did not officially become a Catholic until I was three), and though my sister and I attended public schools, we were enrolled in weekly CCD classes (i.e., religious education) at our parish every year. By the time I began CCD in the 1970s, the Baltimore Catechism was out, and “experiencing Christ” was in. My parents trusted that our classes would teach us the Faith, but sadly, that never happened.

The volunteer CCD teachers probably tried their best with the vacuous new materials they were given, and I can see that a couple of them must have been alarmed at the “new and improved” methods and wanted to sneak in the fundamentals. For example, one year a teacher made us memorize the Ten Commandments; another year (high school?) I heard the word transubstantiation for the first and last time. Aside from these rare moments, I assure you that little substantive information was imparted to us youngsters. The countless, tedious hours I spent in religious education were missed opportunities.

We colored, we cut and pasted, and we were shown a lot of cartoon slide shows depicting Jesus and His parables. I don’t remember anything particularly Catholic about the presentations, aside from a brief foray into the sacraments when it was time for First Communion or Confirmation. (But if you’d have asked me to explain what a sacrament was, I couldn’t have done it.)

My First Holy Communion, 1975.
The girl next to me was in a blue dress,
as tradition had already started to decline.

We weren’t taught any Catholic prayers, although we all knew the Our Father from Mass attendance, and in my case from nightly prayers. I learned the Hail Mary along the way somehow, but for many years I knew only the first half. We never discussed the lives of the saints, nor were their names ever mentioned. I remember sitting at Mass wondering who this “Paul” fellow was who wrote all those letters!

I can tell you in three phrases the content of a decade of catechesis: God is good, Jesus loves you, and love your neighbor. Now this is good and true, don’t get me wrong, but it’s only half the gospel. And sometimes half the truth is more treacherous than an outright lie.

Thankfully, I was raised before the last vestiges of Catholic tradition could be stamped out, and some of the more pious and beautiful hymns were still often included in the Mass. Songs like The Church’s One Foundation, Immaculate Mary, and At That First Eucharist were powerful to a child, and they have stuck with me to this day. The dramatic, colorful Bible storybooks I read at home also presented a lasting image of a mighty God and his glorious Son. These sublime melodies and bold images, combined with my parents’ faith and the common themes of my religious education, did instill some important truths in my heart: I never wavered in my belief in God Almighty and in the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of His Son. Now, just who or what the Holy Spirit was or did was anybody’s guess, although I did recognize that the Holy Spirit was one of the Persons of the Trinity – whatever that meant. (I believe this particular bit of knowledge came from the repetition of another traditional hymn, which spoke of “God in three Persons, Blessed Trinity.”)

To give you an idea what all of those years of religious formation amounted to, here’s a short list of terms that, for my first 28 years, had no meaning to me because I had never heard of them:

Sacred Tradition; Magisterium; Sanctifying Grace; Scapular; Benediction; Act of Contrition; Sacramentals; The “Glory Be”; Apostolic Succession; Four Last Things; Indulgences; Eucharistic Adoration; Four Marks of the Church; Corporal & Spiritual Works of Mercy; Joyful/Sorrowful/Glorious Mysteries

I’d bet that the average American Catholic would not be able to identify or explain most of the above. And to follow are some terms that may sound familiar to those born after Vatican II, but that are not understood correctly and/or believed:

Purgatory; Communion of Saints; Infallibility; Transubstantiation; Mortal/Venial Sin; Immaculate Conception; Incarnation

In addition to the doctrinal ignorance, the moral attitudes of Catholics I knew in my teens and twenties reflected the fact that my generation was unfamiliar with the Catholic call to personal holiness: Confession? Ha, ha, I’ll get there one of these years (wink, wink). No premarital sex? Are you kidding? (One Catholic friend did go so far as to find a “compassionate” priest who consented to give her absolution before she moved in with a man!) Active homosexuality? A lifestyle choice. Contraception? It’s the responsible thing. Abortion? Sad, and we don’t like it, but it’s a woman’s private decision – too bad her partner didn’t use a condom. Anyway, who are Catholics to say we have the truth? There are many paths to God and a mature spirituality admits that everyone can be right!
     
The culture we live in is merciless when it comes into contact with a poorly catechized Catholic. American society today is designed to destroy one's faith, as objective truth and moral absolutes are rejected concepts. When modern, "enlightened" catechesis echoes the messages of the culture, and when those charged with informing the Catholic conscience take an "experiential" rather than informative approach, what can you expect? You can expect the outcome we have: Catholics who believe "conscience" means "opinion" and who place subjective feelings and personal experience above objective Truth. In fact, the prevailing philosophy today is that there is no one "truth", because truth is whatever anyone says it is: “You have your truth, I have mine.” (Kind of puts the lie to Christ's definitive statement, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life", doesn't it? What were those silly martyrs dying for?)

Like every other Catholic I knew, morally I pulled away from adherence to the Faith during high school, and after enrolling in a Catholic university across the country (Boston College), I started skipping Mass regularly as well. Thousands of Catholics partied hard during those four years that I was on that Jesuit campus, but I don’t remember anyone ever going to confession or even mentioning it. I myself had not gone to confession since grade school.

Fall 1985. I wasn't the biggest partier on campus,
but since I went to one of the biggest party
schools in New England, that's not saying much!

So how is it that a Catholic who went to Mass every Sunday growing up and went through all the proper catechism programs at her church could continue on mostly unconcerned while carrying several serious sins on her soul? I do not offer the following as an excuse, but only to give context. My generation of Catholics grew up with a keen understanding of God’s infinite love for us. We knew that His mercy could not be exhausted, not matter how badly we behaved, but at the same time, we heard almost nothing about God’s justice. I guess no one wanted to hurt our feelings with Church teaching -- for example, that by willfully persisting in serious sin, we could separate ourselves permanently from God, condemning ourselves to an eternity in hell.

The God presented to us was a God who hardly needs to be worshipped, since He’s our pal, our equal. No need to fear Him or stand in awe, no difficult obligations on our part – we need only feel the warm fuzzies He showers upon us, until we die and He takes us instantly to Heaven. I myself was guilty of presuming on God’s mercy, and I thought that because of my “deep faith” I could continue in one or another serious sin. I knew I was doing wrong, but I was too lazy and comfortable to change, and I just knew that God, my buddy, would look the other way.

But what would we say of any other father who asks no obedience and forgives every transgression automatically with no requirement for an apology or recompense? We would call him a wimp, a pushover, a sap, a fool. After all, good and loving parents don't ignore or reward bad behavior and disobedience. Rather, they set down boundaries that a child, for his own good, must not cross. Should that child choose to persist in disobedience and wrong-doing, good parents don't expand the boundaries to encompass his bad behavior, they hold firm and hope for his repentance precisely because they desire his happiness and success. They do not cease to love him, even as they let him experience the consequences of his poor choices. Such it is with God and sinful man. He loves us infinitely, but He cannot force us to love and obey Him against our free will. None of this was explained to post-Vatican II Catholics.

Shortly after I graduated college, I became engaged to Dean Miller, a nice agnostic Jewish boy. My identity as a Catholic was strong enough that I had come to the relationship with certain non-negotiables: I would never get married outside the Church, and any children of mine would be baptized and raised Catholic. Dean respectfully agreed to my conditions, and we were married a year later by my childhood priest.

The happy (if religiously confused) couple, July 1990.

Over the next four years, Dean and I welcomed three beautiful babies, and even though my conscience often gnawed at me, I continued to skip Mass. When I did go, I “church hopped”, trying to find a parish that didn’t annoy me with endlessly lame attempts to make the Mass hip and entertaining. All of the hand-holding, applauding, trite songs, and political correctness were a monumental turn-off for me. There was no reverence, no awe, no transcendence  -- nothing in these Masses to snap me to attention and focus my mind and heart heavenward. I wasn’t “getting anything out of it.”  (Of course, I did not fully comprehend that one doesn’t go to Mass to “get something out of it”, but to worship God in and through the Holy Sacrifice on the altar.)

The only moral challenges I heard from the pulpit were calls to help the poor, or admonitions against racism and sexism. But it was obvious to me that every good atheist/secularist out there was saying the same thing. So why bother being a Christian? Why get out of bed on Sunday morning and go to Mass when I could turn on any news program or TV show and get the same message? Americans generally are sensitive to those types of social justice issues, since we're immersed in a culture that never ceases to speak out on such things. What is rarely heard, what we need to hear, is the need for personal morality -- for repentance, for conversion, for holiness! We also need to know doctrinal truths: Why are we Catholic? What do we believe? Why does it matter anyway?

Spiritually confused and doctrinally unmoored, I continued to try to find meaning in the Mass, but found myself too often driven to distraction as I read the words of Sacred Scripture in a missalette while the lector read a distorted (and illicit) "inclusive language" version of the same readings. My intelligence was insulted as words like "brothers" and "men" were purged from both liturgy and song (apparently the “enlightened” liturgy committees decided that I as a woman was either too stupid or too fragile to understand that such words include me, too). I once sat through an Easter Mass where the priest donned a bunny suit for a homily/skit, and balloons were tied to the pews. And I sat with my mouth hanging open as I heard one priest use that morning's gospel reading to condone homosexual acts.

I never did disagree with the universal Church's stand on controversial issues such as homosexuality or abortion, and I had even heard, almost by accident, some of the Church's arguments against artificial contraception -- arguments that made sense to me. Of course, I excused myself from actually having to go along with this teaching. I did plan to learn Natural Family Planning one day, sure, but certainly not now, in my young married years. After all, “God understands”.

Despite my personal moral laxity, I knew intellectually that being a Christian is exactly the opposite of what the “feel good” culture was selling. I knew that following Christ is all about the Cross -- about sacrificial love and putting God’s will ahead of our own. As I saw it, the Catholic Church in America seemed too eager to fit right in with the culture, and instead of the Church influencing and changing the world, the world was influencing the Church. I knew enough about Christ’s message to recognize that a serious gulf existed between what the Pope and the Bible were saying and what American Catholics were hearing. At some point, the American Church and the world became almost indistinguishable in my eyes.

Meanwhile, I had begun to have religious discussions with a fellow young mother and friend, Kim Manning, with whom I also co-wrote a regular editorial column for our local paper. Kim had been a lapsed Episcopalian turned New Age feminist, and we’d never seriously talked religion until her dramatic conversion back to Christianity (read her story here). Because of my core belief in an objective right and wrong, I was attracted to what she was telling me about her experiences at a nearby Bible church. These evangelicals stood firm on moral issues and were not afraid of offending anyone by proclaiming Christian morality. Her church seemed a refreshing possibility, as I was raising children in an increasingly relativistic society, and I yearned for community support. I was not surprised to hear that a good portion of her church’s congregation consisted of young ex-Catholics who, like me, were raising families.

This is a good place to debunk a popular myth. One of the classic lines from dissenting Catholics is this: "Young people are leaving the Church because it refuses to get with the times and approve birth control, abortion, masturbation, gay marriage, women priests [and so on].” I tell you, this is rubbish. I do not dispute that there are many Catholics who have left the Church with these reasons on their lips, but these reasons mask the real problem: They either lost their faith or they never really had it. The need here is not for accommodation, but for conversion.

And for all of the young Catholics who leave the Church because it is not politically correct enough for them, there are others who are leaving for opposite reasons; namely, they feel the Church has become too liberal, too morally lax, too reflective of the secular culture. These Catholics are filling the pews of fundamentalist and evangelical churches seeking solid ground amidst the quicksand. They are searching for Jesus Christ and a high standard of Christian morality, and they don't believe they can find either in the Catholic Church. (Ironically, by leaving the Catholic Church, they are actually walking away from the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and leaving the faith that holds the highest and most difficult moral code of them all.)

My first three babies, December 1994, right before my life (and theirs) changed forever.

By February 1995, I just wanted out. I was ready to send out a trial balloon to my mom, to see how she would react to my inclination to leave Catholicism. Because my mother had been raised a Protestant, I thought she would be easier to talk to than my father. I nervously asked: "How would you feel if I left the Catholic Church for a Bible church?" She answered with the words that would not only change my life, but countless other lives as well: "Before you leave, you should find out what it is that you're leaving."

Mom then proceeded to give me some of the reasons she had left Protestantism. For instance, she said it never made sense to her that Protestants place all their belief in the Bible alone. The question for her became, which Bible? There were so many different translations, and everyone had a different view on which version was authoritative. She was also wary of non-denominational churches in general, and she talked about "the cult of the personality," or the tendency for the congregation to rally around a well-liked, dynamic pastor who usually had a new and brilliant interpretation of Scripture. He would be the reason that they came, and if he left, the congregation would leave with him.

Everything she said made sense to me, and that evening my thoughts of leaving Catholicism were at least neutralized. The final blow came a couple of weeks later when my mom handed me a book. It was the kind of book I had never seen before. The kind of book I never knew existed. It was a book of Catholic apologetics. It was Karl Keating's Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians".

Some people may roll their eyes in disbelief when I say that I never knew such a book existed. I don't blame them -- even I cannot believe that it never occurred to me that someone out there might find it necessary, useful, even noble to defend the Catholic Faith! It seems so silly to me now. How could I have been ready to jump the Barque of Peter into a Bible church without even investigating the doctrinal issues involved? Why did it never even cross my mind that a Church of 2,000 years might be able to present an argument on her behalf? Maybe it's because in my lifetime as a Catholic, I had never heard anyone defend the Faith.

But once that book was placed in my hands, it was all over. I was excited, amazed, impressed that someone had taken the time to spell out the differences between Protestants and Catholics not only with precision and clarity, but also with a profound love for the Church. It only took reading a few pages of this wonderful book to keep me Catholic and set me on a path of knowledge that has led my soul to burn for the Faith. It is a passion that has not waned in almost 20 years now, and I still pinch myself, knowing that I have only dipped my little toe into the vast and glorious ocean that is Catholicism.

I was home for good, but over the next several months, Kim and I engaged in a series of friendly but extremely intense debates, basically replaying the Reformation. We went head to head on issues such as papal authority, the priesthood, the Real Presence, Mary, infused vs. imputed righteousness, eternal security, and even the implications of the Inquisition. We gave special attention to the two doctrines that separate Protestants and Catholics: sola scriptura (the Reformers’ belief that the Bible is a Christian’s only authority) and sola fide (the Reformers’ belief that we are saved by our faith alone). At times it was like the blind leading the blind, but we each used the best apologetics we could find from our respective sides.

Kim Manning and I in the mid-1990s,
when we were "Generation X" editorial writers for The Arizona Republic.

Meanwhile, my husband Dean was being sucked into all this “God talk” whether he liked it or not (I was so excited about what I was learning that I discussed it with him when he let me). Kim and I had “discovered” the Old Testament prophesies which so clearly vindicate Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, and I excitedly pointed out these passages to my dear Jewish husband, who was shocked. I’ll never forget the night when he reluctantly admitted that it appeared Jesus might actually be the Son of God.

Both Dean and Kim had opened their hearts and had one overriding principle: They were searching for objective Truth. They didn’t come to conclusions based on what was comfortable or what “felt” right. Seeking and then submitting to Truth is never easy, but it is what God asks of us, even at the cost of our comfort, our security, sometimes our very lives.

In Kim’s quest for Truth at any price, she kept praying and studying, even after we agreed to suspend our debate. She gave Catholics one last chance to prove themselves by reading Patrick Madrid’s now legendary book, Surprised by Truth, in which eleven converts, many of them Protestant ministers, give their reasons for becoming Catholic. In three nights that she called the darkest of her life (she did not want to leave Protestant Christianity), she was shown the biblical and historical truth of Catholicism. Six months later, at great personal cost but with great joy, Kim did what was previously inconceivable to her: She received the sacraments of the Church. Within a year, her husband announced his own intention to become Catholic, and with great joy and all gratitude to God, I can report my own husband’s profound conversion as well. I watched Dean receive the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil Mass 1997, on my 30th birthday -- as both his wife and his RCIA teacher!

Dean at the moment of his Baptism
With my newly Christian husband!
(His soul was as bright and illuminated as my blouse!)

Some other fruits of my reversion? I returned to regular confession after more than fifteen years away (what a grace!), and Mass, which I once avoided, is now as essential to me as breathing. Contraception? Gone, with great benefit to our marriage. Our hearts were opened to new life, and we have welcomed five more precious children into our family (and one intercessor in Heaven!). I’ve dedicated myself to teaching the Faith to others even as I continue to uncover the treasures of Christ's Church. In Catholicism I've found the secret of the universe, the key to life, and indescribable interior peace.

Some of the more tangible fruits of our conversions of heart!

Yet how easily I could have lost it all! How easily my friends and contemporaries have lost or could lose a Faith they’ve never really understood. Feel-good, inoffensive, nebulous catechesis doesn't provide an even minimal foundation of faith, and a faith so unfortified cannot withstand even the smallest challenge.

So, just what did I learn on my own that I never learned in religious ed? Almost everything, but here are some of the biggies that shocked me: I learned that after Christ’s ascension into Heaven, He did not leave us floating out here alone on Earth with just a Book to try to interpret individually until He comes again (and since the vast majority of humanity was illiterate, why would He?). I learned that the Catholic Church is the one Church explicitly founded by Jesus Christ on the rock of Peter, the first pope, and that the New Testament was written, copied, protected, canonized and handed down by Catholic Church, and she alone has the authority to interpret it. I learned that as Christ promised, the Holy Spirit has been protecting and guiding the successors of Peter and the Apostles for all these 20+ centuries. I learned that, because of this supernatural protection, the teaching authority (Magisterium) of the Church cannot err when speaking on matters of faith and morals -- the Church does not, has not, and will not change doctrinal teachings because she cannot. The Deposit of Faith has remained pure and intact since public revelation ended with the death of St. John, the last Apostle. I learned that the Church has always rightly claimed to be the protector of Christ’s Truth, with the authority to proclaim, explain and apply that revealed Truth to the world. I learned that since the inception of Christianity, submission to the Church has meant submission to Christ.

I learned that the crown jewel of Christianity, the Eucharist, is clearly evident in the New Testament, and was brilliantly prefigured in the Old Testament millennia prior. It’s no wonder, then, that the earliest Christians and all of the Church Fathers were staunch believers in the Real Presence (and were thoroughly Catholic in the rest of their doctrine as well). I learned that the sacraments of the Church were instituted by Christ and are direct channels of God’s grace into our souls, the surest links between Heaven and Earth. I learned that God did not make it difficult for man to find the Truth, provided that he honestly seek the Truth.

The thing that shocked me most of all? Everything I mentioned above can be known biblically, historically, and through an exercise of reason. Catholicism is not a religion of “blind faith”. Yet I and my Catholic contemporaries were never told any of this.

As I said at the beginning: I was robbed and my peers were robbed. The loss is incalculable, as how do you count the cost of even a single lost soul? As for blame, well, there’s enough blame to go around, and I am fully aware of my own culpability in all of this. I could have asked more questions, and I could have sought to do God’s will as best I understood it, but in too many instances I did not. I have had long discussions with my parents, and they have willingly accepted their share of the blame as well. But the biggest subverters of the Faith are those dissenting Catholics in positions of power within the Church, be they individual bishops, priests, deacons, nuns, theologians, professors, university presidents, catechetical directors, liturgists, or reporters. They have witnessed two generations of Catholics raised up in complete ignorance of the Faith, they see wide-scale rebellion and disdain for authentic Church teaching and authority, and yet they continue to water down, ignore, or defy those teachings and that authority themselves, often openly encouraging more dissent.

I am not so na├»ve or despairing to believe that even wide-scale apostasy or ignorance among American Catholics at every level will destroy the universal Church, which is the Bride of Christ. We know from Jesus Himself that the gates of Hell shall never prevail against her. So even though we needn’t be concerned with the Church’s survival, we should all concern ourselves with the Church’s primary mission on earth: the salvation of souls. Too many souls have been allowed to slip out of the Church due to catechetical neglect or sabotage, and it’s time to turn things around.

The first step is to throw ourselves at the mercy of God, begging forgiveness for the mess we’ve made in His Church and His world. Second, we must pray for the conversion of those within our Church who seek to undermine the very Faith they claim to profess. Third, each Catholic must take it upon himself to learn the Faith and then commit to a life of proclaiming the Truth to others – this is the “new evangelization” by the laity advocated by Blessed John Paul II (and I am pleased to see so many of today’s Catholic youth heeding that call).

Finally, how about a Catholics’ Bill of Rights, to be handed out to every new Christian along with his baptismal candle? Maybe it could go something like this:

  • You have a right to your Catholic heritage.  
  • You have the right to hear the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth, by having the Faith of the Apostles transmitted to you unfiltered and undefiled.  
  • You have a right to be catechized by an instructor who must first be required to profess his loyalty and obedience to Rome, and who humbly submits to all the teachings of Christ through His Church. Anything less is not only nonsensical but scandalous, and might lead you away from the Church.  
  • You have the right to expect Catholic orthodoxy in all Catholic classrooms and institutions, and you have the right never to hear radical feminism, pantheism, or secular humanism taught as if it had anything remotely to do with Catholicism. 
  • You have the right to remain Catholic. If you give up that right, it will be your free will choice and not the result of poor or scandalous catechesis. In other words, you have the right to know what you’re leaving before you leave it. 

While I lament that I never knew my own Faith until I was 28 years old, I know that I cherish it so dearly precisely because I almost lost it. I know that God’s ways are not man’s ways, and I am forever grateful that He chose this way to lead me back home. I pray that He might lead all other lost Catholics home as well.



(AFP/ Getty Images)



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79 comments:

  1. Great post Leila. I grew up in the UK but had much the same experience.

    My twin sister went on the pill at 17 and my Dad turned to me and said "I suppose you'll want to as well?" That's when I realised that my parents were just going through the motions of being Catholic. I really needed someone to tell me you shouldn't move in with your boyfriend etc.

    I changed at 33. I studied the Catechism with the Maryvale Institute in the UK and now I'm studying Theology and teaching Scripture. It's the highlight of my week. I so want the children I teach to receive the fullness of the Catholic faith.


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    1. Yes I grew up in the 90's and started catechism in the mid-80's. Somewhere in the garage are the banners we made in CCD from felt and construction paper. Something I wish I had now that I realize what they meant! I came home from college after the many drunken nights in frat parties, flunked out and had to go live with my parents (since I spent everything I had in savings account!) >.> Interesting enough, at the age of 30 is when my parents and I realized how FAR I was from the Church! Now I know as a "revert" myself.
      Wonderful article!

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  2. I love it - especially all the pictures!

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  3. Yes, you were robbed and so were your peers. In the name of my generation (the "Boomers"), I apologize to yours. I am thankful to have seen the Light early enough to help steer my own children, but it was a constant battle. Unfortunately, it was "fought" most often IN the Catholic schools. Thank God for wise women like yourself. Thank you for sharing your story and your blog!

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  4. So, if a priest begins condoning blatantly sinful acts, what's the appropriate response? I feel like I'd be so angered that I'd just end up making a scene.

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  5. Tonia, so sad, but praise God for what you are doing now for the Kingdom!

    Nancy, that means a lot. Thank you.

    R.E.O., you can approach him privately (or write), then if he does not respond, you can take it higher up the chain. Ultimately, pray hard for such a soul, as an unfaithful priest, one who breaks solemn vows, will face a harsh judgement before God. Pray for our priests, as the devil is gunning for them especially.

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  6. Love this post. And love the pics!!

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  7. Leila, I love this. My mother-in-law was born in the 50s, but I think she suffered from a lot of the same. She is non-denominational now and has no idea what she left, and even with my own conversion there was so much "dumbing down" of the faith even though we were all adults (not sure if they just didn't want to scare us away, or what). Thankfully my son's baptism inspired me to learn more about the faith and I am frequently amazed that the Holy Spirit was able to help my bumbling, crazy feminist self home despite myself!

    I do think the pictures make this. I love the one of your big happy family! :)

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  8. You found your faith again at 28 --- how I wish I had. I found it at 40, enroute to my second divorce. And, in truth, I didn't find it as much as the Mother of God, Mary, dragged me back. I'd like to think that eventually I would have studied my way back, as you did, but I don't know that's true. A Mother's love began my reversion, and only then did I begin to read about my faith --- the one I believed despite not having been to church in seven years.

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    1. Did you notice the statue of Mary behind Dean in the picture of his sacrament of initiation? It sure looks like she is welcoming him home!

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  9. Beautiful post as I can relate to it in some ways! Like you I went through the motions of being Catholic and I went a Catholic Elementary School. In college I was friends with alot of non-denominational Christians and I envied that they held higher standards than those in my Catholic church on campus. I was tempted to leave the Faith and/or questioned it over and over again! But, it was the Eucharist that kept me in the Church. It wasn't until I had my children and am now homeschooling them and reading the lives of the saints to them every day that I realize just how rich and beautiful our faith is and how much these holy men and women sacrificed to pass down our Faith! I have a blog about my family/homeschooling called A Slice of Smith Life if you want to check it out at www.asliceofsmithlife.blogspot.com

    God bless!
    Tracy Smith

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  10. PS: My husband is also a convert to the faith since 2006 :)

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  11. I loved reading this! And yes, I could relate to so, so much. I'm a revert myself after considering myself an anti-Catholic Protestant for many years. Now I'm home and so is my husband. The goal for the rest of my life is to not steer our children towards a repeat experience of what I (and obviously so many others) went through as well. There will be no lazy Catholicism in this house!

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  12. Sacred Tradition; Magisterium; Sanctifying Grace; Scapular; Benediction; Act of Contrition; Sacramentals; The “Glory Be”; Apostolic Succession; Four Last Things; Indulgences; Eucharistic Adoration; Four Marks of the Church; Corporal & Spiritual Works of Mercy; Joyful/Sorrowful/Glorious Mysteries...

    Purgatory; Communion of Saints; Infallibility; Transubstantiation; Mortal/Venial Sin; Immaculate Conception; Incarnation


    You're talking a foreign language here.

    Seriously, the only terms that I heard of prior to 2005 were: Scapular (knew what it was, not what it was about), Act of Contrition, Infallibility (knew the term, did not properly understand), Mortal/Venial Sin (actually understood, and also understood that you were NOT to receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin), Immaculate Conception, and (I think) Incarnation.

    I new what a Rosary was prior to then, but I did not know how to pray it. That changed around 2005 when a friend gave me a guide to praying the Rosary. It wasn't until the past couple years that I've prayed it regularly, so I've got the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries down.

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  13. Beautiful story, Leila! I was raised protestant. I converted to please my fiance at the time, who was in the middle of a reversion himself. I went through RCIA with a priest who told me birth control was ok! I also never learned that Sunday Mass was an obligation. Thanks to my husband's new zeal for his faith, I redid RCIA at his parish after our wedding. There I truly learned the faith, and I learned to look to Mary's example. We became regular mass-goers, threw out the birth control, and never looked back. Thank God!

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  14. Thank you for sharing your story once again - I can certainly identify! I am mindfully taking responsibility for the catechesis of my own children, not trusting that they'll learn everything they need to know from their faith formation classes at church. I think our parish does an ok job, from the materials I've seen, but there's a whole lot of "Jesus loves you" and "take care of the world," messages in my kids' CCD books.

    I have a lot to learn as well, but the more I learn about the Church, the more I sink into her loving arms and am so glad I found my way back.

    I also wanted to say, you have a beautiful family!

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  15. Wow, your stories and comments are great!! I want to hear more stories, so keep 'em coming….

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  16. Great to read your story again. "I was robbed" is a constant refrain running through my mind at the moment. I converted to Catholicism 25 or so years ago, from Pentecostalism. But I came 'across the Tiber' with my own Protestant teachings virtually UNCHALLENGED! I cannot now believe my own arrogance, but also the liberal attitudes within the Church that let me! Although I fully accept responsibility for my own mind and actions. However, as a consequence, my two older children left the church for the Baptists, with my blessings!

    Thanks to my husbands incredible conversion (he's always stuck with the Catholic church, but within that framework, suddenly God 'got him'!) - thanks to my wonderful husband, I began to discover this amazing TRUE Christian faith. That the Catholic Church is not simply another denomination, it really IS Jesus body; His idea: that He hasn't left me to try and work out His word, or pray and hope for enlightenment every time I heard a Pastor speak! Most of all, I stand in awe of the Eucharist. That it is really Jesus Himself, feeding me. Why didn't I know this before? Why didn't I get?

    Anyway, better late than never, and we pray for our eldest two that they will 'come home' soon spiritually. The youngest (14) 'gets' it, and will stay with the Church, and the next one up is now at Seminary, so I guess we have much to be grateful for.

    But grrrrrr .... robbed robbed and indeed robbed. And that from a convert!

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  17. Thank you, so much for this Leila. It always makes we tear up when I read your story, because it makes me realise how much I LOVE and adore our faith and God!

    I had a horrific Spanish speaking session this morning where I was the only one defending the Church against all kinds of ridiculous claims - misogyny, hatred of homosexuals, greed...the usual. Some came from the professor leading the class, but most of them came from a girl who thought she knew our faith because she went to a Catholic school! She thought that the Church doesn't allow women priests because women are 'lesser beings' in the eyes of the church - and that's what she was taught at school! My mind just boggles at the state of our Catholic Schools. They all seem to be Catholic in name only (at least in England).

    And I couldn't adequately defend my faith in Spanish! What were throwaway comments to members of the class, easy bite-sized chunks to spew about how 'wrong' the Church is, needed so much more time and skill than I possess to properly answer. All I could do was mildly correct what they thought, and direct them towards the *real* teachings of the Church. *sigh* It was a huge motivation to throw myself into learning Spanish!

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  18. "Where sin abounds grace abounds all the more." Romans 5:20. I can so relate to much of your story. I will be 41 in January. My "thirst" to know more started in my early 20's and I'm still yearning and desiring more. I don't think we ever stop learning. I think God knew exactly what He was doing in your life as He needed you to help proclaim His word. You have a gift Leila....THANKS for using it.

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  19. Thank you for sharing your story! I'm so glad you found your way.

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  20. Thanks Leila, I see so much of my own experience (I am of the same age as you) reflected in yours. And you know that it is even worse in Europe. I am a previously lapsed Catholic, almost left the Church disappointed by its representatives, but then before making the decision, re-examining once more what it is exactly that I am leaving. How did Grace work in my particular case? Through a mention of C.S. Lewis in a liberal weekly paper, no less, and through priests in minority Catholic countries like England and Hong Kong teaching the Faith and being powerful living examples of it. As Steph just beautifully quoted St. Paul "Where sin abounds grace abounds all the more."

    From today's reading of the Catechism (the daily reading shared by you weeks ago!): (311) For almighty God..., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.

    And further down: (313) St. Catherine of Siena said to "those who are scandalized and rebel against what happens to them": "Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind."

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  21. Wow! You are all courageous and strong and faithful, and it inspires me. I especially admire those of you in Europe. I can't imagine the struggle there.

    Those quotes are simply wonderful, and since I am obsessed with St. Padre Pio now, here is one that I came across recently:

    ‎"Why is there evil in the world? Listen carefully. There is a mother who is embroidering. Her son sitting on a low stool sees her work, but upside down. He sees the knots of the embroidery; the tangled threads, and says: " Mother, what are you doing? Your work is not at all clear?" Then the mother lowers the embroidery frame and shows the right side of her work. Each color in its place and the variety of threads form a harmonious design. So, we are seeing the reverse side of the embroidery. We are sitting on a low stool." -- St. Padre Pio

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  22. This post makes me CRY! I'm a former Protestant turned Roman Catholic Religious Ed teacher. It is such an uphill battle to teach kids the Faith--and not the shiny, sweet kids--fighting with people who "know better" than to teach boring, difficult Truth to young kids.

    One First Communion Teacher told me "she doesn't do prayers". She made up a separate class for Future First Communicants who don't know the Hail Mary. I took it on to myself to teach my 1st Grade Class the Hail Mary, to prep them for this next teacher--even though its no where in our materials. I started weeping with the honor! It is so amazing to teach a kid how to say a Hail Mary. It is heaven to teach that prayer.

    Thank you for sharing your personal story. It encourages me to fight harder and keep my own soul cleaner! God bless you!

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  23. Abigail, that is so frustrating and sad! And, so unnecessary. Thank God for you! Thank you!!

    Guys, I wish all of you could spread this story far and wide. I wish all the bishops in the nation would get a copy of it. Not because I am looking for accolades (I would probably get some derision), but because a lightbulb has to go off at some point. And because, as Abigail shows, this is still going on!!

    And we wonder why the HHS mandate stands, abortion on demand is the law, Planned Parenthood is still funded, and the Church is more and more marginalized, and yet we have about 60 million Catholics (and more ex-Catholics) in this land? It's a crying shame.

    Which saint was it that said that if we were who we were supposed to be, we'd have the world aflame?

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    1. St Catherine of Siena. I always pray to her to give me the courage to defend the faith even if its against the clergy! I am a CCD teacher and have to "sneak" in the teachings on heaven, hell and purgatory. These lessons always have the kids' attention and questions spilling over into lunch. They are hungry for truth. 'God loves you' is only half of the story. I say to them, so what are you going to do about it? You've got to choose Him and His will - Heaven isn't automatic. God is too much of a gentleman to force himself on us. I want the kids to love Him back and say "yes". The kids also love stories of the saints like Bernadette and Pier Giorgio. I think it gives them hope of something better than what life serves up in a godless world.

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  24. This is me, but said much more eloquently.

    I couldn't tell you what I learned in 12 years of CCD. I know I had to answer the Bishop for Confirmation, but I'm pretty sure he made them easy questions!

    I was lucky enough to attend World Youth Day in Denver in 1993 - the year I graduated. That, more than anything, pulled me back to the church, at least started the pull. How incredible to be able to attend a Mass that the Holy Father officiated - it was amazing!

    During college and the first few years of married life, I lost that feeling. And this from the girl raised by my "church lady" mother. She knew all the prayers and went to church twice a weekend, because she was the organist for 20+ years. Somehow, she thought that CCD was teaching us and we didn't learn it at home. She has apologized for that, because she didn't realize it wasn't happening at home.

    It took having our first baby to really pull me back to church and my husband being deployed to Iraq for it to really hit home.

    By the Grace of God, we switched parishes and joined one closer to our new home and has been amazing. I honestly look at the strong parishioners in our church and pray to be like them. If I had half their knowledge, I would feel better about my own faith.

    I've been teaching 7th Grade Catechism for the last few years and each year struggling with how can I teach them, when I am still learning. So, I pray to the Holy Spirit every day before I try to teach them, so that what I tell them is correct and will stick with them. Our diocese - Diocese of Green Bay, is really trying to overcome the problems with misinformation or not true teachings. The catechists now have to attend continuous education classes to be allowed to teach. Right now, I am in the middle of a 10-hour class on Prayer. We also have to do a class on Bible and Teaching Methods and at least one more. I am learning more in these classes than I ever did before.

    When I see my own kids come down after listening to their CDs and my 4-year-old can tell me what some of the Mysteries of the Rosary are and why they are important, it makes me realize that we're not letting the next generation of Catholics just be "feel-good Catholics," but responsible, knowledgeable, TRUE Catholics. I also hope to be one of those!

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  25. Traci, beautiful story! Those WYD's have such an impact on the Body of Christ, elevating and building it up, breathing in new life.

    I am so glad your diocese has begun to fix things…. I always think that the biggest problem is trying to catechize the parents of all the kids in catechism. The kids might be open, but so many of the parents are still living the first half of my story, ack!

    When I started my journey, the diocese here was a liberal mess. Thanks be to God, we now have a humble warrior as our shepherd, and the place has transformed. That parish that had balloons and priest/bunny? Now it's a reverent, faithful parish, a true refuge and consolation for the faithful. Amazing what a little grace and faithfulness can do!

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  26. ok..how did you know my story? Scary. I too was born in the late 60's. Only I went through 12 years of Catholic school...I was taught maybe a little more than you in religion class, but not much.

    What brought me back to The Church..was the "discussions" with my Protestant-raise husband. He is now in RCIA contemplating the Catholic Church.

    Funny how things happen.

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  27. Leila, I'm around your age and had the same sad CCD experience you did. Even sadder, it's thirty years later and I'm given the same kumbaya, "Jesus loves you" lesson plans to use for my son's 7th grade RE class. He was in Catholic school last year so I wasn't aware how bad things were in our Parish until I started teaching this Fall. After the first couple of classes I now just toss what the Parish gives me and create my own lesson plan each week. It's an amazing amount of work, but what choice do I have?

    There are still many liberal Parishes robbing our children of their faith and it pains me to see it happening. I complain to our Pastor about the poor RE program, but it just falls on deaf ears. Beyond sad to me. I truly fear that in 50 years, the pews will be empty.

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  28. I love your updated story, Leila! I can really relate to most of it, as I've said in the past. My oldest (2nd grade) is receiving three sacraments this year -- Penance, Eucharist, and Confirmation. In our parish, 4th graders do Reconciliation, but 2nd graders do Eucharist and Confirmation together. We have the option to include our 2nd graders in Reconciliation as well, but it is not required until 4th grade. I just cannot imagine sending my son to receive his First Holy Communion (and every Sunday thereafter) two years before he ever confesses a sin!

    The parish classes are frustrating too. The "book" is more like a magazine full of stories, similar to the watered down stuff we both experienced when we were younger. They do, thankfully, have to memorize the Act of Contrition. His assignments consist of things like writing his name on a sheep and gluing it on a piece of construction paper. I could go on and on.

    Anyway, since I am accustomed to homeschooling my kids despite the fact that they are now in the classical school, it was obvious to me that religion would be a year-round homeschooling effort. (Classical school is Protestant, not Catholic.) We have been doing the Faith in Life series, and I am reading the Compendium with my son and explaining things as we go along. My goal is get through the entire Faith in Life series for second grade plus the Compendium this year given the importance of three sacraments. Kids love the deeper material when you give them the chance. They love to ask questions and ponder these things. They have heard "Jesus loves you" and "help others" over and over again. They need more foundation and knowledge to even truly appreciate those phrases. If I learned one thing in my wasted CCD classes, it was never to trust someone else to pass on a solid foundation of Catholicism to my own kids. I can tell that you took that lesson to heart as well :). I pray that our families will experience the blessings of this renewed faith for many generations (hopefully until the end of time).

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  29. Sorry *Faith AND Life Series. :)

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  30. Abigail, that makes me cry as well. Considering my 2 and 1/2 year old can say the Hail Mary.

    Leila, if you wanna know the sad truth of it. I became Catholic in 1999. Or rather that's when I finished RCIA and was baptized, confirmed and received the Eucharist. Unfortunately my RCIA was so lukewarm and watered down much like your (and my husband's CCD classes) that I didn't really KNOW the faith until about 7 years later. On the bright side, however, I'm not sure whether or not I would have become Catholic if I knew all that I know now, then. So at least the watered down stuff, kept me interested long enough to hook me in, then it was just a matter of the Holy Spirit wearing me down. But you've heard that story before. :)

    Oh but the things I remember hearing back then when I was going through RCIA that make my skin crawl now that I know the TRUTH of it all. I shake my head and think, how do any of them live with the hypocrisy of their lives?

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  31. My story is similar to yours. But my awakening came when I had a son and started looking for "good" Catholic materials that could teach him about our faith. I realized that so much of it was watered down and cutesy, or had too much emphasis on social justice. There's nothing wrong with social justice, but first teach the kids the basic tenets of our faith, so they understand what it really means to be Catholic and why we are so blessed to be a Catholic. We need much better catechism programs for all ages of Catholics. I discovered the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program; what a breath of fresh air! It was developed in the 1950s in Rome and retains the "meat" of our faith, without dumbing it down for kids. It also helps them develop a relationship with Jesus.

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  32. Ann, amazing and hooray!

    Danzma, sounds like when I taught RCIA… Kim Manning and I made up our own curriculum from the ground up!

    Elizabeth, wow. Hey, when I had my first confession, it was while sitting on the priest's lap, two years after my First Communion! Talk about crazy!

    Bethany, your last question keeps me scratching my head, too.

    TCIE, I love you, babe.

    Cheryl, my kids loved the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd when we had it at our parish!

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  33. As an older Catholic who clearly remembers the Church prior to the sixties, I am greatly heartened to find that there are younger Catholics who find their own way to the wonderful and eternal truths that we learned in church, at school and at home.

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  34. This is so my story too! AND, to make matters worse, The Man and I just realized a HUGE flaw in his RCIA process from 10 years ago. He had almost ZERO exposure to confession - and the times we had gone together to an Advent or Lenten penance service since it turned into "Communal Absolution" (in the situtations it was probably borderline if it was actually permitted, but that's another story)...so he has actually never been to confession. (Since he was baptized, he didn't have to do it before Easter and it wasn't part of the mystagogia after.) I couldn't ever quite grasp why he never really talked about it and didn't engage when I did, I just assumed it was one of those things he wanted to keep more to himself and seeing as how I've only come to embrace Confession for the awesome healing that it is in the last 18 months, I didn't feel I should push the issue.
    To say this brought up all of my anger over not being taught correctly again is an understatement.
    So now, 10 years AFTER RCIA, The Man is gathering the courage (and we all know it takes a lot) to make his first confession. I get so angry at how he was failed I could spit, but instead I pray and cry and offer my tears up for him.

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  35. I recently discovered your blog and made it through your original opus reversion story (the one without the pictures). I have not read the new edition other than to browse through the pictures, which I think are a nice touch.

    Although I was once a staunch RC, I am now a self-classified God-seeker (i.e., unaffiliated). Also, I do not define myself as a Christian, at least in the normative, orthodox sense. There are many good reasons (I believe) for my decision. Your blog has got me pondering if I should write my own faith journey story for my blog.

    As a seeker, I have not turned my back on God. As a former RC, I read your reversion story to see if it contains anything I might have missed in my own journey. (I peeked at the book you cited but from the Amazon comments, I don’t think it would have the same kind of affect on me).

    One common area we share is the poor quality of RC education in our early years despite being active (and enthusiastic) members. I went to RC grade school till 5th grade, CCD through high school; the Newman Center was my second home during college and after; during school I was an altar boy; during college a member of the several church choirs; as an adult, I was a reader and eucharistic minister and for a short time, a member of my parish council.

    Ironically, the straw that finally broke the camel’s back was my marriage and subsequent divorce and the being abandoned by the church during that time (in several ways). What I have noticed is that the RC Church as a whole is a lot of talk but not much walk (but I am aware that there are many fine examples of exceptions to that generalization).

    The bottom line for me is the “Jesus issue.” While I can follow the logic of the theology, it doesn’t make any sense to me. Jesus is not real for me. I wish it were different but that is how it is. The threat of hell does not scare me because God knows my heart. I am not going to go through the motions just to so others will be comfortable that I have religion too.

    And so, I keep on going, reading and studying my bible, praying, and trying to listen. Keep up the good work with your blog.

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  36. StevieD, welcome! Rest assured there are many of us working to turn things around, especially the young priests. :)

    Rebecca… ack! Sometimes the road is long, but thank God he's arrived at the door of the confessional! And like my own husband, how nice to have been baptized as an adult, when all those actual sins committed prior to baptism don't have to be confessed, as our husbands became new creatures in Christ. Of course, a general confession (as opposed to a general absolution, ack!) is a great exercise for all of us. I did a general confession a few years back. Forty-five minute of going over all the sins of my life, in the confessional. Powerful! But a general absolution?? Um, no…. :)

    fRED, thank you for your honesty and integrity! I appreciate it very much. Have you read a lot of Chesterton? If you are an intellectual (you seem to be) you would no doubt be edified. And of course C.S. Lewis.

    I also HIGHLY, HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend Fr. Barron's acclaimed "Catholicism" DVD series, which I just completed with my agnostic Jewish mother-in-law (who was blown away…). It is astounding. If there is any way you can get your hands on that, give it a chance. "Wow" is all I can say. Also, Fr. Barron has a large YouTube presence and his Word on Fire ministry.

    I am sorry you experienced no support as you walked through the trial of your divorce. The Church is full of sinners (I am sure I have driven folks away from the Church, to my sorrow), but remember to look to the saints for the Catholic truths well-lived. Right now I am a bit obsessed with St. Padre Pio. There really is no better witness to the faith than the tens of thousands of canonized saints that we are to look to as our role models.

    I hope you stick around the Bubble. You are my kind of ex-Catholic. ;)

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  37. I've read your first reversion story, but I like this one better with the pictures! As usual, your story inspires me. :-)

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  38. I am writing a new evangelisation blog to inform generation x about their catholic faith. It also contains a weekly gospel newsletter to use in schools and parishes. Please check it out... http://faithinourfamilies.wordpress.com/

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  39. Leila, love your story and the photos! My siblings and I have my parents to thank for the fact that all nine of us are still practicing Catholics. My mom made sure we said the Rosary while we were growing up - I feel so sorry for kids who didn't get that! - and my father is smart, knew his faith well, and could explain any of it to us. He also loved CS Lewis, funny how so many Catholics do even though Mr. Lewis never became Catholic. The inclusive language thing always insulted me, too. I admit to quietly keeping the old, truly inclusive words when the songs are being sung. I just don't use the hymnal, so if people hear me they can think I just don't know the new words. Or maybe they think I must be really OLD that I remember the old words! :)

    I wanted to push a 'like" button, Leila, after your response to fRED. Your comments, Fred, reminded me of the Holy Father's comments recently about practical atheists - those who say they believe in God but act as if He didn't exist. There are far too many people like that today, and you are not one of them. I picture God watching you as you read, study, pray and listen. You are so much closer to Him than those others are! I hope you ask Jesus to make Himself real to you, even as you question who He is.

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  40. There is no story more powerful than our own testimony! Thank you for sharing yours!! I could not stop reading it!

    As a former evangelical protestant, I was drawn to the Catholic Church because I was hungry - no starving - for othodoxy. I knew I was pro-life but didn't fully understand the "why" of it all (enter Theology of the Body).

    I was drawn into the Church at first by all things theological in nature. The issue of authority was central for me. Do you know how many churches I attended prior to becoming Catholic? It gets exhausting after a while. How many "life groups," "cell groups," "bible studies" and "fellowships" I have been a part of? These things are not bad. However, I still felt lost. Like I wasn't really a part of "something."

    As a child of divorced parents, I desperately craved to feel part of a church family. The protestants were great at welcoming people like me (the broken). However, that only goes so far. Sooner or later, questions arose for which they had no answers. (do I need to be baptized to be saved? Is salvation something that can be lost? What about Communion? What is it supposed to really mean? Why does every church do this differently?)

    For each of these questions, I read ten different answers. Why would God leave us in the dark on these things? If the Bible was so clear, why did NO ONE have the same answers on things? Too often I was told, "these are the non essentials so its okay to disagree among denominations." But who gets to decide which things are essential and which ones are nonessentials?? And what if that person is wrong?

    I was spiritually exhausted until I decided to open up my mind and heart to the Catholic Church and her claim to be the Church that Christ Himself founded and still guides to this day. Something happened inside me, though, and I found a true inner peace when I did so. I haven't looked back, and now I can rely on the sacraments to renew and refresh me so I can live my vocation faithfully. I don't spend all my time trying to figure out these doctrinal questions anymore, either. I am just living out my vocation, which is hard enough lol!!

    I find so much beauty in the simplicity of the mass. I don't have to worry about whether I like or dislike the "preacher" in order to remain in my Church because its not about the priest, not at all. It's all about who is on that altar - Christ Himself.





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    1. I am a cradle Catholic and thank God and my parents for my faith. In my restlessness and searching, I always find Christ through the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the teachings of the church and especially in the sacraments. This morning the Holy Spirit led me to this blog and to a renewed vigor to live out my vocation today. Praise God!

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  42. Cindy, good choice to remove the comment. I never blamed Vatican II, and my parents certainly did bear responsibility. I hope you removed the comment because you actually took time to read the article. Thank you.

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  43. LifeHopes, you NAILED it. Thank you!

    Becky, faithinourfamilies, and Sharon, thank you as well!

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  44. Thanks, Leila! I loved the post and the pictures. I'm currently praying for both my brothers to "re-vert" back to the Catholic church. One brother left completely, the other hasn't officially left the Church; he just doesn't go. I, by the Grace of God, met some faithful Catholics in my early years of marriage and experienced my own reversion. My husband converted in 1996, just shy of 2 years of marriage. It was such blessing. God is so good! We have 7 tangible fruits and 2 prayer warriors in Heaven. :D God bless you for your blog!!! My family and I are blessed by it. My 16 year old son has subscribed as well.

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  45. Thank you for your story. Very similar to mine. Love the pictures of your beautiful family.

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  47. Such a beautiful story. It is similar to mine. I am a 20 yr old who had went through a poor CCD program through church once I went into the public system from my private catholic school, from elementary school to middle school. My sister, who is away from the Faith, had the same problem in that direction and is part of the reason is away from the Faith, as well as those Catholics you described which I call Catholic in name but not in practice or faith that she went to school with. I continually pray for her conversion. My parents even parents even went by with not having her finish the program and get confirmed, so if she does come back to the Faith, she will have to go through the RICA program and get confirmed through that, which the RICA program does a much better job at teaching the faith than what CCD does, at least from where I am from.

    I love the zeal with which you write with and has given me strength in my fight to defend the Faith in my life at a public university. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    God Bless!

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  48. This is beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. What a gift it is to read this. And it's powerful testimonies like this that so often remind me what a gift our Catholic faith is. God is GOOD!

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  49. Oh, and your family photo is perfection! With God's Grace, I hope to have such a brood myself someday. ;)

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  50. Thank you it is good to know I am not alone. I'm a cradle Catholic who began learning THE TRUTH 5 years ago. It has been a long journey!! My brother was the first to find the TRUTH, he brought me in, I brought my husband, we brought my mom, my mom brought my dad, then my aunt followed and she brought my grandmother.It is incredible how hungry people are for the TRUTH. My husband comes from a protestant upbringing and he says it’s the liberty to choose to be good without being judged that he loves most about the Catholic faith.

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  51. A beautiful testimony! From another Leila (also half Arab) -- your journey gives hope -- thanks for sharing your quest for the truth. And how blessed you were to have a friend -- two -- to share your journey towards the truth together!

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  52. Leila!! I am a big fan of yours! What an honor, and thank you!

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  53. I stumbled upon your article through somebody else's post on FB. Was born in the early 70s, never went to a Catholic school. Barely recalled my Catechism classes except being told to close my eyes when I received my first Holy Communion! Guess what? So happened that I received my first communion from Blessed John Paul II and didn't really get the chance to see him bec I closed my eyes :) . Yet, I would not understand then his importance as well.

    Was lost during college years, day by day I was dissatisfied, unhappy with life, seeking for purpose. Dreaded to go to Sunday mass. I was being drawn to the more charismatic born-again Christian type of thing as an aunt of mind had already converted to Protestantism.

    One day, it just hit me that before I would jump out of the ship of the Catholic faith, I will have to learn what I am leaving behind so that I can "defend" my choice for joining a new faith and be able to say that my Catholicism was indeed wrong. It must be the HOly Spirit that had implanted this thinking in me. Then, one thing led to the other. I met a senior girl in college who was on fire for the Catholic faith, introduced me to a holy priest (passed away in 2010) who patiently taught me my catechism and answered my questions and essentially just put a whole meaning to my existence by showing me how the Catholic faith is the fulfillment of our deepest yearning for happiness.

    Anyway, this has been long. Am just writing to tell you that am inspired by your story. Thank you. It eloquently represents thousands if not millions of Catholics experience around the world not only the American Catholics for I grew up in Asia, specifically in the Phils and yes, our catechism is also in a deplorable state. The homilies are lacking in substance most often. Though things are changing and there are a lot of lay organizations who are now grounded on the apologetics of the faith. Still a lot of damage has been done and need to be rectified. I, for one, knows that I have so much to learn.

    Am planning to print out your testimony and share it with my fellow Catholic friends here in Canada where I am based now.

    Have a blessed day!



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  54. Denden, what an amazing story! Thank you! And oh my goodness, Blessed JPII gave you your First Holy Communion? No wonder you are an amazing Catholic today! ;)

    Keep fighting the good fight!

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  55. I, too, was born in the late 60's and suffered. My growth went thru seaching Islam (quickly discarded)to a period of atheism, not to be confused with non-belief.
    My exposure to Catholicism was through theological studying on my own. Mass was a zombie-like state for me and nothing was gained. Even now, I am drift around like a ship without a rudder trying to keep on course.
    This is better than many of those I know that have no course pick a direction not caring if it is the right direction.

    AJ

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  56. AJ, please allow me to recommend reading The Diary of St. Maria Faustina. It will change your life. May the Peace of Christ be with you always.

    Leila, thank you for this writing. It had me in tears. I have multiple siblings that left the faith a long time ago, and I pray constantly that they will come home.

    PAX CHRISTI

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  57. Incredible amazing, I reverted back after one year of protestantism and wish Id had someone to guide me the way you had. You, your family, your children are all very beautiful. God bless

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  58. Thanks for being so ordinarily, normal, relatable, real individual - reading your story makes me feel normal and gives me hope.

    God bless and keep you charged. GH

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  59. Hi Leila,

    I have a sister who is the classic "Gen X Catholic" She does everything exactly the opposite of what the Church teaches: no need for confession, cotraception, cohabitation, gay marriage supporter, supports abortion in all stages (btw she hates kids), says there is such a thing as "good witchcraft" and last but not least...questions the validity of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I have tried sending her material to peak her interest and explain things of why The Church says this and why we don't do this but she says she is held firm in her beliefs and that she will never change.She thinks we practice two different faiths. Any advice from you or other viewers could be helpful.

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  60. Very lovely story. As a young Catholic on the edge of the Church -- not sure whether to leave or return, it's interesting to hear what others have to say. I hold pretty liberal views and have been on the verge of leaving several times. However, something always pulls me back no matter how much I disagree. I'm interested in learning more about the Church, and will look at some of the books that you posted.

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  61. Hi Leila,

    I've really enjoyed discovering your blog! I can't believe we've been in these similar circles for so long (STA and now SJA) and I'm only just now learning you have these amazing discussions going on here. When we chatted at VBS I talked your ear off about meeting Kevin and now I see how much I wish I had done the question asking of you!! I look forward to it next time we run into each other. My mom's family is Jewish, my dad comes from a born again Christian family but is a professed agnostic and I converted to Catholicism my junior year in college! I can relate to the types of discoveries you and Dean made over those few years! I would love to hear more how his family reacted?

    Many blessings,
    Jessica

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  62. Jessica, yes, we need to talk more! :) There is much to tell. The most miraculous thing of late is that Dean's mother (an agnostic Jewish lady who was not thrilled with his conversion to say the least) is going to be baptized, confirmed, and receive her First Eucharist next month! God never ceases to surprise and delight!

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  63. Love this! I still have yet to write my reversion story, but after Catholic school 1st-12th, I stopped going to Mass for my first semester in (public/state) college but I already started to hear God calling me back my 2nd semester. Within the year I went to confession for the first time in many and am still working on learning what the church teaches and what Truth is. I want to raise my kids with a better understanding than what I grew up with!

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  64. Elizabeth.....keep learning and seeking......you will find truth and you will be raising your kids with a richer understanding than you and I may have received. I'm proud of you.

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  65. I was reading this, and recognized it... but could NOT place where I had read it previously. About half-way through, I had to go and see where the link to your "OLD" version was... and as soon as I saw the title I remembered... including the beautiful background you used to have! I do not remember exactly WHEN I found you that first time (A long time ago, and probably NOT long after you'd first written it...), but I shared it and shared it and shared itu ntil one of my early computers crashed, and I lost you. I now even know why your name sounded familiar when I followed a link to your blog. =) ( And yes, I'd also read your friend's way back then, too... )

    I am older than you, but your story is my 9 younger sibs' stories, also, and to a smaller degree, mine.

    God bless you, Leila! It's been good to 'see' you again! LOL

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  66. I was born in 1954; in my first three years of school, we actually studied the Baltimore Catechism, but only through No. 2, which covers only about half the material in the full Catechism. In the fourth grade, they told us about a new teaching method that said that memorization was actually bad for kids, so we no longer had to memorize the Catechism. Not all our teachers bought into that, though; with the Catechism no longer available, they invented other ways of exercising our minds.

    This is all incidental. The point is, I retained just enough information from my three pre-V2 years to sustain me through five more years of "catechesis" that made little to no sense. When I left my Catholic ghetto at 25, I was lost when Protestant fundamentalists bomarded me with arguments that I discovered I had no idea how to refute. When I went to the parish priest for help, he referred me to a set of books that I later found out were heretical. I tried going to adult CCD classes, and they were even worse than my grade-school religion classes. But the fundamentalists had done what God intended them to do for me: They sent me running to my Church trying to fill the yawning gaps (more like chasms!) that I discovered existed in my religious education. But I do have to admit there was a foray into New Ageism in there, which was actually encouraged (??!) by the Sisters of Mercy teaching our adult CCD class! It wasn't until ten years after I had left that parish because I had moved to another part of the state that I ran into a staunchly traditionalist pastor who was FINALLY able to give me the guidance I was looking for.

    Umm...exactly WHERE is that "subscribe by e-mail" link? I can't find it!

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  67. pargontwin, isn't it amazing how even when we are led so far astray, God brings us back if we are open?

    And, I see the "subscribe by email" just below this box and to the right-ish, but I have heard that on certain devices it's not accessible? Frustrating!

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  68. So many things ring true to me, but especially this:

    "As I said at the beginning: I was robbed and my peers were robbed. The loss is incalculable, as how do you count the cost of even a single lost soul? ... You have a right to your Catholic heritage."

    I started to feel this way when taking my kids to Holy Thursday services, and instead of "Pange Lingua" they started singing "Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom," over and over ad nauseum; and for adoration put the Host into a glass cookie jar on top of a spotlight, around which we all knelt looking at each other, presumably so that we could "see Christ" in one another.

    It's truly a miracle how many of us are drawn back despite all the forces seemingly working against us!

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  69. Leila, Your story is beautifully and brilliantly and convincingly told. I thank God that He draws people like you (and me) out of errors and into His Truth. Every conversion or reversion story is proof of God's living power to attract souls to Himself. Your family is a living, gorgeous, testimony of your faith in God's providence.

    I too was raised Catholic, but I left the Church in 1963 as a university freshman, because of intellectual pride (reading false philosophers like Jean Paul Satre and Simone de Beauvoir had convinced me that religion was for weaklings who weren't tough enough to unflinchingly face the meaninglessness of the universe). Even though Vatican II had been going on for a year, I knew nothing about it. Then around 1974, I came back to the Church, because by the grace of God I had become convinced of the truth of what I had been taught about the Faith as a child.

    So imagine my shock when I discovered the results of the "Spirit of Vatican II." Bishops, priests, religious, and lay people now seemed to think that the Church had been wrong for centuries until some mid-20th century "theologians" explained it all to us. Then after I was back, it took me almost 40 years of wandering from one Catholic "community" to another to find Catholics who still believe in the Faith handed down from the Apostles. But find them I did. And thanks be to God for that additional grace.

    After a divorce before my re-conversion, I had been left to raise my two children alone. I saw the kind of bad catechesis you experienced when I sacrificed to send my children to Catholic schools. For one great lack, they were not taught about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist when they prepared for First Eucharist, and for another thing, their teachers were "dress for success" sisters who defended tolerance for great sins such as abortion.

    I used to joke that the only Catholics left, as far as I could tell, were me and the pope, and sometimes I wasn't too sure about the pope. :-)

    There's much more I could write about, but a combox is not the place. So I'll bring this to a close. Just need to add that I now am sure about the pope. :-)

    Thanks again for your lovely testimony.

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  70. Thank You all for validating my story also...God never gives up on us. I am grateful for your struggles. I am grateful for my struggles. Now lets just live fully our best selves. Amen Sisters.

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  71. This is my life too!!

    My life changed the night of my mother's funeral. Although I never officially left the Church in bodily form (just spiritually) her prayers, I know, brought me back to the Church.

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  72. Oh what a feeling to read a 'twin' experience to my own! We have recently found a church where the priest is wonderful, trying hard to get his congregation to live and understand our faith. He even started classes this fall to help those who don't know the faith well, to become stronger in the faith. I am also so grateful for author Scott Hahn and his wife Kimberly who wrote Rome Sweet Home, that many of my questions were answered and I learned many things I wasn't even aware I didn't know! There is still much to learn, but I am enjoying a beautiful peace I never knew prior to delving deeper into the Truth of the Catholic faith.
    Thank you so much for this article. It certainly makes many of us feel less alone in our journey :)

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  73. I am really moved by your story. And I want to express my thanks. I think your testimony helps me understand the reality of American culture. Though I was born in the 60s (but still during the Vatican II) my world was/is much different in many respects.
    I guess you might find something interesting here: http://www.domesticchurchfamilies.com/
    God bless

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  74. I tried to read your whole story, but my urge to comment before I finished and forgot what I wanted to say made me stop reading.

    To make a long story short, you have come to the conclusion that the only way to live out the Catholic faith is to be all in. I have come to the conclusion that one should either be all in or all out. Either way works better than trying to be a little bit Catholic or a little bit atheist. Your blog has led me to decide to be all out. I don't mean to insult your blog. But there is integrity in both extremes and confusion and hypocrisy in everything in between.

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