Why I love conversion stories

The other night, in an effort to ward off the pre-dinner crazies, I turned on a show called The Journey Home.  I’d never watched it before, never knew what it was about, but I needed something to keep me from hollering at my poor kiddos for the 47th time in an hour.  So I banished them to the yard and turned on an episode about a woman who converted to Catholicism at the tender age of 69.  And no, she did not seem to be suffering from any stages of dementia.

Hooked, with a capital H.

Later that evening, I tried to explain to Kevin why I love conversion stories so much.  I’m a cradle Catholic who strayed a bit during college and after, but never fully left the Church, so it’s not like I can truly identify with conversion stories, right?

Conversion Stories

I distinctly remember, right out of college, I had this thought: “I’ll probably always be Catholic, because that’s how I was raised and it makes the most sense to me.  But people are leaving in droves, and it’s not like anyone actually converts to Catholicism. Poor Catholic Church, on its way out.”

Perhaps some of my cradle Cath friends can identify.  My convert friends are laughing.  And all the millions of teens and young adults at World Youth Day are like, “Say, whaaaaaat?”

say whaaaaa

What exactly, I wondered, would make anyone convert to Catholicism?  I’d always understood why people convert to various other branches of Christianity, even why some people would leave Catholicism to do so.  Let’s face it.  Catholics aren’t particularly good at a lot of church-y things.

Exhibit A, Music: studies show that only 3.8% of Catholics can carry a tune.  Social aspect?  Not so great.  Welcoming new members? Borderline dismal.  And yet people do convert to Catholicism.  When I first realized this, I was beyond baffled.  I’ve since read my share of conversion stories and there are common threads:

1. There’s logic, consistency and a profound love found in the teachings of Catholicism that are wholly lacking in our society.  People crave all of those things, I think.

2. There’s a timelessness about the liturgy that appeals to far more people than I expected.

3. In the end, the true presence of the Eucharist draws people towards the Church.  A passionate hunger for a physical union with Christ cannot be satisfied elsewhere.

I guess I always figured that we Catholics had to get waaaaaay better at evangelization (not our strongest suit) or that seekers would have to set aside their logic to get into the Church, until I witnessed a couple miraculous conversions of my own.  That’s when I knew it wasn’t us at all.

But back to my original point: I’ve now gorged myself on enough conversion stories that I understand why I love them with such a fierce passion.  Far from not being a convert, I am in a constant state of conversion and reading these stories strengthens me to try again every day.   How much more does God expect of me, who was handed this gift of faith by my parents and didn’t have to look very hard to find it?

Even more profound is the love of God I see written in the pages of every conversion story.  The Love that says I will seek you wherever you are and draw you into my Body.  There is no one who is lost to me, and I love you enough to keep coming after you.

Now that’s a Church I’m proud to be a part of.

Comments

  1. I came from a similar upbringing (cradle Catholic who assumed I would always be, for the same reasons), and I also never heard of people converting to Catholicism when I was growing up, or in my 20s. It wasn’t until Catholic radio came to our town that I started to hear conversion stories. I agree that they’re fascinating, but I haven’t seen the explanation for that articulated the way you put it here. Beautifully said!

    • Thanks, Kristi. It’s remarkable though, considering the gift of our faith, that so many of us take it for granted. Right?

      • Absolutely! I do think that, growing up, if there was less stress on church as an “obligation” and more emphasis on the fact that it and the Eucharist are a gift, and that the mass is *for us* and not for God, it could have gone a long way in improving my understanding (and general attitude). I don’t know that I heard that message as a kid. I don’t place blame for that, but I’m happy to be discovering these things as an adult! I suppose in that way, this type of delayed catechesis is another similarity between us born-Catholics and those who later learn about the beauty of the faith, and decide to convert. 🙂

        • Yes! I was raised in a faithful Catholic family and I don’t remember understanding that aspect of the Eucharist hardly at all! The Eucharist was just a part of Mass! Not GOD coming to ME to strengthen ME.

          Thank goodness for converts, right? They give us a chance to learn more about our faith.

  2. Great post. When I was a teen our priest told us something similar – we each have little conversions every time we turn back fully to God. My MIL is a convert and loves listening to Journey Home stories.
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  3. I love conversion stories, too. I’m a cradle Catholic who started attending Protestant churches as a teen and young adult, along with my entire family, due to the influence of relatives who had left the Catholic Church. It was plain ignorance on our part, though, we didn’t know enough about our faith and what it meant. I became uneasy hearing anti-Catholicism from the pulpit and among dear Protestant friends. That, among other things, led me back into the Church and to do research.

    Great post! Thank you!

    • And that’s why catechesis is the single most important aspect of our school day. If I don’t do a good job with it, I’m putting my kids at risk. It’s a lot of pressure, but at least I’m trying!

  4. “I am in a constant state of conversion and reading these stories strengthens me to try again every day.” – Yes! I love conversion stories, too. Great insight in this post – thank you.
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  5. I love, love, love conversion stories too! I was baptized Catholic, but later raised in the Assemblies of God Church after my dad decided to abandon Catholicism. I was completely anti-Catholic for so long, even (and especially) after my husband converted. But God can change the hardest of hearts! People from all walks of life are discovering the beauty of the Church, and it is always fascinating for me to see how other converts were called into the faith.