On the Feast of St. Polycarp

Today marks 14 years since I was received into the Catholic Church. When I first began my journey to the Catholic faith, I was uncomfortable with parishes that felt too traditional. I wasn’t ready to leave the comfort of my Evangelical Protestant environment, so I sought out a Catholic parish that felt more Protestant. That, I soon realized, was a mistake. After a short stint in an RCIA class at the first parish, I received private instruction from a Jesuit priest at a very traditional parish. When my instruction ended, I was given the option of joining the RCIA class at the traditional parish, or being received into the Church privately. Lent was coming soon and I wanted to experience it as a Catholic, so I chose to be received privately on the Feast of St. Polycarp. You can read more of my conversion process in this post.

In the last 14 years, my faith has grown and faded and been renewed. This anniversary is bittersweet. I love my chosen faith, and the fact that there is always room to grow deeper in it. I have no regrets about becoming Catholic and no desire to follow any other spiritual path. But it hasn’t been an easy path.

The passing of this day brings to mind the loss of some beloved friendships, and the alteration of other friendships–those who felt the choice to convert was misguided. It also marks how many years have passed since I first learned of my now-ex-husband’s unfaithfulness, right as we were completing the conversion process, and reminds me of the fact that he no longer shares my Catholic faith. In his suffering over my desire to end our marriage and seek an annulment, he chose to return to our Evangelical Protestant past, remarrying in a Protestant church on the Feast of St. Polycarp, before the annulment was granted. The chasm between our two faith paths makes it that much harder to pass on the Catholic faith to our kids.

The sweetness of this anniversary comes in the sense of peace I feel in my faith and in my parish. When I walk in those doors, I feel the presence of Christ. I feel home. I love that I can follow the Church through the life of Christ every year with the liturgical seasons. I love that the Mass is the same in every parish everywhere. I love that my parish is open around the clock for anyone who might want to spend a few moments with Jesus in the middle of a sleepless night. I love that all of my babies have been welcomed into God’s family there, and that my new husband and I exchanged our vows there.

The decision to become a Catholic was probably the most carefully thought out decision of my life. Many hours were sacrificed to reading books and articles and having deep discussions about theological issues. I used to hope that my experience would lead others to consider the Catholic Church. Now I just hope that I can become a better Catholic myself. This lenten season, I am working on deepening my faith through prayer and spiritual reading, so that the growth and healing can continue for the next 14 years.

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