(audio version available here)
This is my conversion story, also known as a witness or testimony story- the main events that led me to where I am today in my faith journey, and this is what led me to start the Worshipping Biblically online ministry and bible studies.
I was baptized as an infant in the Catholic faith. I went to church every Sunday and attended eight years of Catholic elementary school. I walked away without any huge convictions about my faith. Being Catholic was just what my family was, and I don’t think any of us ever really questioned it, but I don’t think we truly understood or appreciated it either.
It was in high school that I started to have a true sense that God was watching me, and while I wouldn’t say that I had a deeply personal relationship with Him then, I did feel that He cared about me as an individual, and that He was looking out for me, even if I was just a teenager worried about dating, dance team, and other high school stuff.
I attended a Catholic college where the vast majority of students had similar faith backgrounds as my own. We believed in God, we attended Mass on Sundays, but we probably didn’t make the best decisions all the time. While I know there were very devout and spiritual students on campus, the majority of my social circle was not terribly religious. Like I was in high school, I was definitely more innocent than most, but I led somewhat of a reckless life in that I just knew that it would all fall into place one day. I guess that’s a good thing to trust in, but I was not living purposefully. I was focused on the here and now, and I didn’t think or pray as much as I should have. I acted on a whim way more than once.
Thankfully, I was never in any real danger; I just made many selfish, immature decisions, much like many people do in their late teens and early twenties, but every once in a while, especially my senior year, I would remember God, and feel that sense that He was looking out for me personally, like I did back in high school. Each night my senior year, I knelt in prayer and looked out the window at the giant cross lit up on my dorm’s bell tower, and just prayed that it would all be okay in the end, no matter where I was going in this life.
A few months after my college graduation, a guy came up to me in a bar with a pickup line I had never heard before in my life, and I thought I had heard them all: “So, do you have a church here?” It was not only a super odd pickup line, but it was a question that ultimately began paving the way through my faith journey for the next ten years. I had just moved to a new city, and no, I didn’t have a church yet. I was intrigued. Nobody had ever asked me that before. The next weekend, I attended my first Sunday service at a Christian evangelical church plant in a school cafeteria, and joined my first-ever bible study small group with that guy. I very innocently brought my “Catholic Study Bible, New American version”, not realizing the faux pas that I was committing at the time. My new non-Catholic friends assured me that Catholicism was wrong, and after twenty-two years of growing up in church, I did not know how to defend my Catholic faith.
I was mad and disappointed that I had essentially no biblical knowledge. I listened to my new friends, came to know and love Jesus in a way I had never done before, and fell in love with the Bible. I was amazed that I had lived this long in church without knowing Scripture. I was mad at my parents, and I was mad at being Catholic because I didn’t have this growing up. My notes in my Bible from the first few months of that initial bible study were actually very cynical. I was not sure what to think. The Scriptures were a completely new world to me. The more I read, the less I felt that I understood. I felt very alone in who to talk to; my Catholic friends had never questioned their faith, so they couldn’t fathom why I was so confused, and my new, non-Catholic friends “knew” that being Catholic was wrong, and most of them were very uncomfortable discussing any potential merits of Catholicism. For them, there weren’t any, and I was so uneducated in the Catholic faith that I didn’t know what to think or where to go, but something kept telling me not to give up on Catholicism just yet.
Fast forward about a year later: I moved out of state (again), married my (Catholic) college sweetheart, and we found a Catholic church, because that’s what we knew best, and my husband did not feel comfortable in an evangelical Christian setting, so, a Catholic church we chose. We were married in the Catholic Church because we knew that’s what our parents would want, and that’s really all we knew, and we attended Mass sporadically as a married couple until we became parents for the first time.
For the first two years with our firstborn, we attended Mass every week. We valued the tradition we had both been brought up with, and we wanted to create that for our daughter as well. However, my Catholic faith was pretty lukewarm. When our second child was born, I truly wrestled with being a complacent Catholic or leaving to join an evangelical Christian church. If we left, we would potentially be hurting both of our families, and we would be hypocritical because we had both of our children baptized as infants in the Catholic faith. I knew my husband was comfortable in the Catholic Church, so we stayed.
Still, I attended non-Catholic Christian bible studies and moms’ groups, and made many non-Catholic Christian friends. With very little exception, I had yet to connect with a Catholic who truly understood and lived out his or her faith as ferverently as my non-Catholic Christian friends, until I met a girl named Amy. She taught me so much about the Catholic Church, and she actually lived it. We started a Catholic Christian moms’ group that met in my kitchen every Friday morning for almost three years. These were wonderful Catholic women who actually lived out and understood their faith! It was because of them that I began to embrace being Catholic.
However, there were no decent, consistently-scheduled bible studies at my church, so I attended a “non-denominational” Christian bible study at a neighboring church (typically, “non-denominational” almost always means “non-Catholic”, by the way). I embraced this bible study in a full school-year calendar of studying Genesis, readopting my evangelical Christian language of “being saved”, having “quiet time”, etc., while not telling a single soul that I was Catholic. Genesis, and nearly all of the Old Testament (except for of course the deuterocanonicals, but that’s an entirely different post for later!), are pretty much one in the same for both Catholic Christians and non-Catholic Christians. It’s the interpretation of the Old Testament, and how it figures into the New Testament, that can have varying thoughts.
I grew immensely in my faith that year, made some wonderful new friends (who didn’t know I was Catholic), and signed up for the following year’s study of Matthew in the New Testament. There is so much personal interpretation in the New Testament among non-Catholic Christians, and some of those interpretations do not mesh with the Catholic teaching. That next year during Matthew, those passages constantly rolled around in my head. I was always thinking about the Catholic versus non-Catholic debate, day and night. I ate up apologetics, read theology books, and I was so tired of hiding my faith, but I was also so afraid of being shunned for being Catholic. I became sick to my stomach and had panic attacks each week bible study occurred. Finally, after much prayer, I let my secret out.
I was extremely worried about what my non-Catholic Christian friends would think. I thought so highly of two women in particular, and we had become good friends. I was so afraid to lose them when they found out I was Catholic. I was also thinking of my children, who were good friends with their children, and I didn’t want to hurt those relationships either. However, I finally grew tired of holding in my faith, and decided to tell one of these women. I felt like I was going to throw up, and I couldn’t stop physically shaking for an hour after our discussion. But guess what- she didn’t care! I mean, she did care, and she was thankful that I felt our friendship was strong enough for me to tell her, but she didn’t shun me, she didn’t go running away, and best of all, she didn’t try to convince me to leave my church for her church.
She asked a few questions- the first one being, “Do you go to confession?”, and the second one being, “So…are Catholics….Christian?” It was at that moment that I felt called to learn how to fully explain my Catholic Christian faith to people who didn’t understand it, both Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
I also told my bible study leader, who was, unfortunately, one of stereotypical anti-Catholics that I was afraid my friends would be. She was a wonderful lady, but ultimately used her energy towards the end of that year to get me to leave my Catholic faith and be “saved” the “real way”, but asking Jesus to be my personal Lord and Savior in my heart. After months of phone conversations, both of us asking respectful questions about each other’s faith, it stung so badly for me that she didn’t view me as a real Christian because I didn’t say those magic words out loud, and I told her that. She apologized, and I sincerely believed that she meant well, but that spring semester in my non-denominational bible study, I just became more and more frustrated that I couldn’t talk about the Eucharist, the Last Supper, and so many other things that were Catholic in the Gospel of Matthew, because it was frowned upon, and we weren’t supposed to discuss our churches’ beliefs, only what we gleaned from personal interpretation of Scripture.
A few times, I was able to sneak in a few comments about the fourth cup of the Passover during Jesus’ Passion, and how the early Christians really believed they were eating Jesus’ flesh, and were condemned as cannibals. Some women in my group looked really intrigued, but obviously, we could never go fully into it. I felt like I had finally discovered something that I was sure of in my Catholic faith, and it was in Scripture, but I couldn’t share it with the people who would appreciate it most, because I wasn’t allowed to in this study.
That spring, I told my leader that that would be my final year in that particular bible study, and that God was calling me to write my own. A few years later, this website is that bible study. The “Intro to Worshipping Biblically” audio recording series is everything that I found in Scripture and through other apologetics authors that brought me back to the Catholic faith, and that helped make me proud of being a Catholic Christian.
The bible study I was a part of discouraged people from discussing individual faith denominations and church practices. I want to foster faith circles where Christians form lasting friendships, open the eyes of all Christian denominations, and help people discover why they do the things they do in church and in their faith lives. Ultimately, I’d love to unite all of my readers and listeners to the Catholic Church, but I also want to invigorate the Catholic Church with the amazing evangelical Christian experience I saw in my old bible studies and that former church plant years ago in the school cafeteria, and ultimately, I desire everyone to worship our God in a truly biblical way.