by Catherine Quinn
How I found happiness in the place I least expected
Growing up, I wasn’t exposed to God, or the Catholic Church. I knew that my grandparents were Catholic, but no one talked about this, and I didn’t know what “Catholic” even was.
Due to terrible abuse, I was removed from my home at nine. I lived in an asylum for a weekend, an orphanage for eight months, and then once a space became available in a foster home, there until I was twelve.
The courts ordered my mother to take me, and this was how we met. After moving in with her, I came across a group of Christians in the park one day. They said nothing, but simply invited me to Church. Curious, I went. I met the pastor’s wife, and she told me about Jesus. At this time, I didn’t even know what a Protestant was. I didn’t know what an atheist was, but when I came home and told my mother about Jesus, I found out right away that she did not approve of God — at all.
Despite continual ridicule, I continued to go to church. I was mesmerized, and so happy in God and had hope I would be able to press past my bad experiences at home. I wanted to hear more no matter what.
Angry at God
At the age of fourteen, with no warning it was happening, I was told that I was being sent back to my father’s home. No chance to say goodbye to friends from school or the church I loved. My mother didn’t want to be a mother, and so I was sent back.
At my father’s house, I had no church, I couldn’t have friends over, and the abuse continued, escalating to sexual abuse.
It changed me. I became angry at God for not answering my prayers, for not helping me. I became angry at my father. I was unhappy again. At seventeen, I couldn’t take it anymore. So I ran away.
I met a group of people who believed in pagan deities, which was also new to me. I became exposed to feminist ideology as well.
Destructive spiral of no joy
Among them, I never felt the joy I had felt with Jesus, but I was intensely informed that he did not exist. Christianity was a false religion built on the pagan faith, they told me, and it disempowered and hated women. Catholics, they claimed, were the worst of offenders. I was referred to writers like Simone de Beavoir, Gloria Steinem, Camille Paglia, etc.
For a lost girl at seventeen, this was the beginning of a long and destructive spiral. No real moral law existed. “Don’t harm another, but do whatever else you please” was the sole guideline. But even this was not actually abided by. Everything was permissible. Without limit. Homosexuality was okay, sexual immorality was okay, contraception was okay, abortion, anything you pleased. Further, traditional lifestyles were frowned upon.
Women did not support one another, but routinely and regularly obliterated one another, all the while subscribing to Matriarchal rule. Men became less. Divorce, open relationships and a slew of other choices were the norm. Consequences weren’t considered in the least bit, rules did not apply, and nothing was asked of you. It was a hedonist paradise.
By the sole grace of God, I did not engage in many of these things, but I saw them on a continual basis. And I slowly began believing the lie, with disastrous consequences for my soul, as well as my mental and emotional health.
When I was 34 — almost 20 years down this path — I came across the writings of Margaret Sanger. They made me feel ill. I never did agree with contraception or abortion. Eugenics and her outlook on women who chose to remain with their children also went against my way of thinking. This was when I finally began to slowly disconnect.
No love in my life
I looked at my life, and I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t growing, and I felt alone.
When I looked around, no one seemed to actually love one another. It was rife with in-fighting, ego, and every woman for herself. I began to question the feminist ideal. I remembered my time with Jesus as a child and sadly remembered how happy I had been despite circumstances around me. I was “empowered” now, but felt miserable and alone.
I had developed a hatred of men, patriarchy, and what I thought Catholics represented. I thought they were thieves and oppressors of women. They were the worst kind, and I swore I’d never go near them.
As a lover of history, I wondered about Henry VIII. I couldn’t believe someone so reportedly terrible could really be all bad. He had to have some humanity somewhere, right? I decided to dig and find it. He was maligned, I was convinced of it.
During these studies, I finally truly became aware of what Protestantism was, or so I thought. I also couldn’t understand why Katherine of Aragon or any self-respecting woman could tolerate his behavior. Then I discovered she was Catholic and cringed. Still, why was she also so unswervingly loyal to an oppressive church that hated women?
I kept digging, and was mightily surprised to find that the Catholic Church’s teachings regarding social justice issues, contraception, and abortion matched my own. I was also very surprised to discover their view of Mary, women, and the importance of the traditional family unit. I started to feel something that I couldn’t describe, but resisted. And then there was Jesus in the center of everything. I was so overjoyed to know that Jesus existed there. I failed to even notice that a year had gone by and I’d left behind my old friends for this new information.
Finally, I decided that I wanted to find out what a Mass actually entailed. This entire time, a Catholic Church stood at the end of my street. I had stared at it for one year in earnest but had never set foot on the property. I walked inside, and they were getting ready to hold a Mass. It was Easter 2011. I watched, mesmerized. I held my tears, my emotions, all of it inside. I started to feel that pull once again.
Ran into RCIA
I went home. I kept wondering. Finally one day I marched into a building in the back, running straight into a woman who asked what I had come looking for. I told her I needed an education. She laughed, informed me that she was the director of religious education and signed me in for RCIA classes.
The parish priest came and spoke with me, and said “I have never heard of someone coming into the Church via Henry VIII before,” and handed me a book to take home.
As classes began, I fell more and more in love. I got to know my parish priest, and a couple who would sponsor me.
At the washing of the feet I cried quietly. I met our bishop and I cried again.
The Church was the reverse of every single thing I had ever thought it was.
When I announced that I was joining the Church, my friends were aghast and my mother said “why would you do a thing like that”, but my husband brought me my first statues of Mary and Saint Jude.
So happy I cried
At my baptism, April 7, 2012, I was so happy that I cried. I then spent time alone with Jesus’ body and cried in gratitude. After all my years of searching for the truth, I had found it.
When I was unbaptized I had been taught do whatever I chose. I spent years angry, stubbornly defiant in my right to choose as a feminist and a pagan. Now, I chose to be baptized into God’s Church. I gained a worldwide family.
Amazingly, my husband is signing up for RCIA. My mother finally says a God exists and reads the Bible. My son was blessed and laid to rest a Catholic, by the very priest who baptized me.
I finally found my friend Jesus again, in his absolute fullness and origin.
I learned the value and true beauty of being a woman. In the purest sense I discovered my real right to choose. I love my church. I love my family. I love my parish. I love my priest. And I am so very, very thankful to be home.
(© 2014 Aleteia published 12-29-14 )
Catherine Quinn is a phlebotomist and Laboratory Technician. Married nearly four years, she is a Sidewalk Counselor and the mother of one child in heaven.