How many of you are converts?
How many of you are cradle Catholics?
Who has experienced a renewal of their faith?
With these questions, I opened my presentation to the Women’s Guild of St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church in Dallas, Texas. The women were gracious and became intent listeners due to the noisy refrigeration unit nearby. With no microphone, I almost shouted my talk, which claimed their attentiveness.
A shaky music stand had to do because no podium was available. In the middle of my presentation, the music stand began to collapse. I held onto it like a long Popsicle stick so my iPad with my notes wouldn’t go flying! The Holy Spirit and my guardian Angel did double duty that evening.
“What do we mean by the word conversion?” I asked them rhetorically.
“Conversion,” writes Saint John Paul II, “is a gift of God, a work of the Blessed Trinity. It is the Spirit who opens people’s hearts so that they can believe in Christ. . . From the outset, conversion is expressed in faith which is total and radical and which neither limits nor hinders God’s gift.” (Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Mission of the Redeemer (1990) 46.)
The total and radical faith of conversion is defined in terms of leaving atheism or a non-Catholic denomination to embrace Catholicism.
Reversion or returning to the Church is another path of conversion, another way to receive this gift.
Renewal of our faith is a conversion of heart when our faith is invigorated, and we renew our commitment.
Every one of us needs to make an adult commitment to God so we can live the abundant life that God intends for us to enjoy.
Pressure cooker or slow cooker?
Although conversion can come to a point gradually, a conversion moment of decision defines it. More than insight or inspiration, a conversion event involves poignant memories in which we can see the scene, hear the voices, and feel the emotions decades later as clearly as the first time.
A conversion can happen in many ways, but the timing usually happens in one of two ways: A pressure cooker, where the work of the Holy Spirit comes to a boiling point quickly, and love explodes. Or a slow cooker in which the realization of the love of God for us individually takes longer to come to the surface. Conversion comes like a thunderbolt of love or a gradual awareness of the love of God for us.
God’s only way
As a Protestant, I committed my life to the Lord when I was a shy teenager. I loved my church family. As a young mother, I came to realize I belonged in the Catholic Church with my husband and children.
I’m sure that falling in love with my Catholic boyfriend in college was the only way God the Father could ever get me into the Catholic Church. He goes to any extreme to guide us into the joy he has for us. And I find great joy in belonging to the Catholic Church.
He gives us what we need and gift-wraps it in what we want. I wanted a strong Christian marriage. God wanted that for me—in the Catholic Church. So he wrapped it in an irresistible package. I might have been happy as a Protestant married to a Catholic but what joy to share the Eucharist and many ministries with my husband and children.
Our unique conversion story
Each of us has a unique conversion story that only we can tell. It is meant for those the Holy Spirit has prepared to receive it. Now, that shy young Protestant I once was gives seminars to Catholics on how to share your faith story through your personal witness. Yes, conversion is a gift. And I thank God he gave it to me and inspired me to use that gift to evangelize.
The evening started as strangers (except for one new acquaintance) shared a lovely dinner with me. After my presentation on the Gift of Conversion, two women shared a little of their conversion stories. Another woman is planning to write her story to publish on JOYAlive.net. Yes, conversion is a gift – and one that is contagious among women of faith.
The meeting ended with a book signing among many new friends.
Are you a convert or a cradle Catholic with a renewal story that you would like to publish on JOYAlive.net?
(© 2017 Nancy HC Ward)