Another version of my conversion story

Update, Feb 3, 2020: Decided to make this post a bit more presentable since it’s been getting views recently. It looks happier now. I’ve learned a thing or two about posting since 2012. (What’s that, Miss Lucy Dawg? Oh, really? Well, yeah, I guess I still do have to learn a thing or two. Smarty.)

I posted a brief version of my conversion story on the About Me page a while back. But during a conversation here on the blog someone (Hi, Lauretta!) asked me what drew me to Catholicism. I don’t know if she knew what she was letting herself in for, but I wrote a few paragraphs by way of reply and thought I’d share that reply in a post of its own (slightly edited because I can’t ever just copy/paste anything without editing it and because it’s a post now and not a reply). Bear in mind that even though this goes into more detail than the About Me page does, I’m still leaving out a lot. I didn’t go into all the various false paths and blind alleys and dead ends I wandered into along the way before I found Him Who is The Way, the Truth and the Life. So without further ado, here’s the story of my conversion, take two. (Hey, wake up, the post is about to begin!)

My Conversion Story: What Drew Me to Catholicism

I could probably write a book about my journey to conversion. There is no way I can cover it all in a few blog posts. But I can tell you that books played a large part in my journey. And Scott Hahn played a large part in my journey, too (and I got to tell him that when I met him at Samford University a while back). His story was out on cassette tape then and somebody gave me a copy of it or we had it at the Catholic bookstore where I was working. While I was a Buddhist, I might add. Yes, you heard that right. While I was still a Buddhist. Had been for many years, though I was raised Methodist.

I had many questions as a child and young adult and I never heard answers that were satisfying to my heart or my mind, so I went on a long and winding road of exploration and experimentation. And when I say long, I mean long! Forty years (counting my whole life up until I finally heard the call) of searching for truth and finding glimmers and tantalizing hints here and there and yet I knew that I had not found IT and I didn’t even know what IT was, only that I had not found it.

Video: Scott Hahn’s Conversion Story, the Original 1989 Recording. This is the talk that set me on a journey that continues even now. Dr. Hahn loves the Church, you can hear it in his voice and see it in his eyes (though this is an audio-only version), and I caught that enthusiasm from him and it remains with me, thanks be to God!

In the meantime a close friend of mine had decided to get serious about her faith or, rather, the faith of her grandfather who was Catholic. She went through the RCIA and got very active in the Church. And since we did everything together back then, I got very active in the Church right along with her, helping with the music side of things, playing guitar for the youth group when they sang at Mass, washing dishes and cleaning up after Lenten meals, things like that.

On the way home from work one day I happened to spot a little Catholic bookstore. Aha, I thought, I’ll have to tell my friend! I dropped in to explore a few days later and fell headlong into an entire world that I had not even suspected existed. Like falling down a rabbit hole.

Dagnabbit, that warn’t no rabbit hole, that there was a wormhole!

I started working there as a volunteer without any thought of converting, mind you. But I had volunteered to put the books in order (they were just placed any old way on the shelves and that drove me crazy!), and to put the books in order I had to at least read a little bit of them to see what kind of books they were. So I read a little of this kind of theology and that (who knew there were different kinds?), a little Church history, the lives of a few saints, a few of the great spiritual writers, some Fathers of the Church, some apologists and some Bible studies. Then I discovered Scott Hahn’s tape sets. I was hooked! Fascinated! When I became the buyer for the store, I started stocking every tape set of his I could get hold of. And listening to them over and over. Thrilling stuff!

Bookstores are among my favorite places to work. As much as I enjoy discovering a digital book and acquiring it instantly, I do miss talking with customers, learning new things from them, and seeing their joy when I was able to locate some hard-to-find book for them. Blogging and tweeting are how I continue to do that.

And then my friend and I got into an argument. She said that I should be Catholic and I was perfectly happy as a Buddhist. Even though I was still searching for the ultimate truth and was beginning to suspect that the Church might have at least some of that truth. (Oy, how hard-headed could I be?) Then the new Catechism was published and we started carrying stacks of them at the store. Couldn’t keep them in stock. And everywhere study groups were popping up and my friend mentioned that her parish was holding study classes on the Catechism. And I shocked her by asking if I could attend the classes with her. Well, why not, I said, I’ll just collect another religion if nothing else. That was what I was thinking but God had different plans.

The class was led by a facilitator who somehow somewhere sustained an injury early on and the parish priest took up where she left off. And the class really took off, too. How mysterious are the ways of the Lord! The priest was from Ireland and had been in this country for many years, a good faithful devout knowledgeable priest. And he made Catholicism come alive for us! That was one of the best summers of my life and by summer’s end I went to the priest to ask for instruction. Our instruction class only had four people in it, we didn’t do the RCIA, just a simple talking about the teachings of the Church and what it means to be, to live as a Catholic.

Could not keep Scott Hahn’s book, the Lamb’s Supper, in stock at the Catholic bookstore where I worked. Gave away copies, too. Highly recommended book. Also highly recommended: every version of his talk I’ve heard on the Eucharist/the Lamb’s Supper.

I was received into Holy Mother Church at the Easter Vigil in 1996. I was on fire then. I’m on fire now. I have my struggles but the good Lord and His Church help me through them. My struggles are not with the Church but with myself. I accept all that the Church teaches and I wouldn’t change a thing even if I could. Would that more Catholics would embrace their faith and live it! But I know many who do. Sometimes I wish I had grown up Catholic but I realize that God can use even the stupid things I did to bring good out of them.

Wasn’t received here. I only wish I could see magnificent churches like this one. Sigh.

So, in answer to the question, what drew me to Catholicism, I’d have to say: Truth. And He Who is the Truth. In Catholicism I discovered the Church and the Church led me to Christ. I also discovered the Blessed Mother and she also led me to Christ. I discovered the Catholic interpretation of Scripture and Scripture, read in the Church at Mass and interpreted by the Church, also led me to Christ. The Rosary led me to Christ. The Divine Mercy devotion and teachings led me to Christ. Devout Catholics led me to Christ. Thanks be to God! May nothing ever separate me from Him or His Holy Church as long as I live! Amen!

I spruced this post up a bit tonight (Feb 3, 2020), it’s been years since I wrote it, after all. Thanks for reading. Until next time, then, whoever and wherever you are, may the Lord bless you and keep you, and may the peace of Christ be always with you. +JMJ+

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11 thoughts on “Another version of my conversion story

  1. Pingback: A longish ramble about my longish rambling, the Church, the Rosary, and other things – Catholic Heart and Mind

    1. Fallen in love, that is exactly the way I feel about it, exactly what happened. Thank you, peacefulpartings, for your warm words and well wishes. I keep in my prayers all who read and comment on the blog. Please, keep me in your prayers, too. Merry Christmas and peace be with you! :)


  2. I am a convert myself and must say that your story was fascinating. I think I too was seeking truth. I grew up with a non practicing reorganized Latter Day Saint and an atheist, but attended church frequently with my friends at a small Baptist church. My atheist mother had great respect for the Catholic Church because of the education it required of its priests, monks, nuns, as well as its parishioners. She’d grown up around a large community of catholic friends. After not attending church at all throughout my adult life, in my late 30’s a friend of mine was converting while getting married and I asked to attend RCIA. Akin to your story there was a wonderful priest and he’d seen it all. A year of teaching later and I realized that The Holy Mother Church is what my life had been crying out for all those lost years. I thank you so much for sharing your story and allowing me to as well. Julia


    1. Greetings, Julia :) Amazing, isn’t it, how the Lord calls us no matter where we are, calls us to come home to Him, to His Church. No matter what path we have chosen for ourselves, no matter what our plans are or what influences there have been in our lives, He uses whatever He can to bring us home, to lead us into green pastures.

      The only contact I had with Catholicism growing up was one Italian friend in high school, brief glimpses of the Church in movies, and mentions of Saint Francis and Saint Augustine in Sunday School. We went to church every Sunday and during the week, too, and I sang in the choir from a very young age. Also attended youth fellowship every Sunday evening. Requested baptism when I was twelve. I was very into the whole thing but I had so many questions. I wanted to understand how Christianity “worked” and was so frustrated that I couldn’t seem to find the answers I deeply desired.

      And that desire to understand led me to explore the New Age (which I realized even then was for the most part stuff and nonsense) and Eastern religions and philosophy and theosophy, to name a few. But I also kept an eye and ear open for anything that might shed light on Christ and the Bible. Yes, I know now that I was going at this backward: Christ is the Light Who illumines the darkness. But there I was, expecting the darkness to shed light on Him Who is the Light of the world but the darkness knew Him not. Oh, how I resisted Him! How I resisted His Church! And how new the world became when I stopped resisting and embraced our good Lord instead.

      Did you find that to be true, Julia, that the world became a place you almost didn’t recognize after your conversion? I felt as if I had stepped through the looking glass. Only the world I found was the real world and not a world of fantasy. I discovered that I had been living in an unreal world all along and had not suspected the beauty and wonder that was waiting for me if only I would say one word:


      Thank you for sharing your story, Julia, and allow me to offer you a heartfelt, however belated, Welcome Home! Peace be with you. :)


  3. Lauretta Fagan

    That’s incredible- thanks for sharing this. The neatest thing about a personal testimony is that it’s uniquely our own. No one can refute the great things that God has done for any of us!
    I’m curious to know: With the Catholic and Buddhist influence, did the writings of Thomas Merton influence in any way? He was such a deep person. I have only become aware of his writing within the last few years and I enjoy his books immensely.
    I had to laugh out loud when you described the books being shelved haphazardly. Funny how God will use our quirks to lead us to him.


    1. I never read Merton until I was already very interested in Catholicism, but I still haven’t read much of his work. I read Seven Storey Mountain first, though I don’t remember much about it now. But two of his smaller books on the Psalms, Scripture and Lectio Divina made a deep impression on me. For the most part I have found his fascination with Buddhism to be something that I prefer to stay away from, having spent many years as a Buddhist myself and having turned away from it for Christ.

      I’m not knocking Merton, I just haven’t been as drawn to him as others are. I’m more of a Scott Hahn, Tolkien, Michael D. O’Brien, Bishop Sheen, Fr. Barron, Fr. Mitch, John Paul II, Pope Benedict, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Faustina, St. Augustine kind of girl. ;)

      Oh, yes, it was funny how the Lord whispered in my ear, “Why, you can’t shop in this store the way it is. Why don’t you offer to put things in order? You could label the shelves and arrange everything. Wouldn’t that be fun? Go ahead. You know you want to.” I did want to! That’s how I became a volunteer and that was how it all began, such an innocent beginning. I actually told my friend, after working at the Catholic bookstore for about a year, that I would NEVER be a Catholic. NEVER! Famous last words… ;)


      1. Lauretta Fagan

        That’s a good point about Merton and his fascination with Buddhism. Maybe that would have hindered you. The great thing is that you’re aware of that possibility and found something more relevant.

        I love Fr. Barron’s series, too. Great stuff.


        1. Yeah, Merton’s fondness for Buddhism is probably not a big deal to someone else, but I spent years getting free of it. Really, I was so attached to the religion of no attachment, ironic, isn’t it? ;) It’s only now that I can look at Buddhism again and feel no pull back to it. Same with New Age. When that stuff gets into the blood, it takes a while to get it out. I think all the years of Holy Communion, receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our dear Lord, Jesus Christ, has been like getting a transfusion! ;)

          I got to meet Fr. Barron when he came to Birmingham and gave a presentation at the cathedral. Got him to sign my copy of the Catholicism book. I’ve got the Catholicism series and I love it. Also went over to EWTN to be in the studio audience for his appearance on EWTN Live with Fr. Mitch. That was fun. :)

          How blessed I am to live near EWTN. How I hope to be well enough to go back to Mass by next Sunday or maybe earlier during the week. I miss Mass! Argh! ;)


      2. Marian Moran

        Thank you for sharing your story, I too I went through an amazing conversion experience around 7 years ago. Although I was baptised a Catholic I had lapsed and went seeking down the wrong pathways also. I found them all empty and wanting. I spent a year in despair as I had left the church in the height of the abuses as I couldn’t sit and listen to homilies by the innocent priests I knew, without taunts flooding my head and disturbing my peace. after the year of darkness and despair reflecting on my path I had grown and decided to return like the prodigal and somewhat more adult in my perception of priests. The pedestal had been removed and humanity was cloaked in the vestments. I like that you have shared as sometimes its hard in an everyday life capacity to believe I cannot be alone in these experiences and they are not just reserved for the Saints we read about. Sometimes the Church itself disbelieves an ordinary person can receive such graces and I have to forgive as they do not know. God is alive and active today this I know and it is heart warming when I meet someone I know has been blessed with conversion of heart. It truly does take one to know one. I was reassured in Fr Barrons video on born again as it was a literal breakthrough of grace in the most bazaar and unbelievable fashion that converted me. Perhaps like so many others its the only way I could have understood the enormity and awesome experience for nothing on this earth could have provided me with my personal conversion and its long term fruit. God bless you fellow disciple and I am cheered to see St Teresa of Avila on your reading list hers was the first book I read in the Way of Perfection. I am at this moment contemplating writing around conversion which is how I came across your blog, I know there are probably more people on this earth going through conversions of heart than we are allowed to know about. I can also understand the need for restraint by the Church in listening to conversion stories, maybe we are more conservative in Europe in these stories? So thank you once again for sharing yours, you and others have given me encouragement. I pray for the courage to tell my story without prejudice. Marian


        1. Greetings, Marian :)

          I’m so glad you came back to the Church. Amazing how our ancient enemy taunts us, disturbs our peace, tempts us to leave. And we fall for it! But, thanks be to God, He is able at last to get through to us and call us back.

          I think it’s not so much that the Church disbelieves an ordinary person can receive such graces, but that some people in the Church may disbelieve it.

          Have you ever watched Marcus Grodi’s show, The Journey Home on EWTN (check out episodes on YouTube) or looked at his website, the Coming Home Network? Oodles of conversion stories on the show and the website. I’ve been a fan since the show began. (I don’t know what you mean about the need for restraint in listening to conversion stories.)

          When you write your story up, are you going to put it on a blog? Do you have a blog? Let me know when you post it so I can read it. :)

          Thanks for reading and commenting, Marian. May the Lord shine His Light on your path. God bless you! :)


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