Our post today comes from Sara who writes at A Shower of Roses. Sara is a wife and mother to 6 children. She has been homeschooling for 17 years with only 2 kiddos remaining in the homeschool nest.
Conversion was not on my radar. I never once considered it while dating my future husband, nor in the first 4 years of our marriage. I was happy in the church I grew up in—the Church of Christ. I planned to raise my children in that faith and they would be baptized when they were old enough to profess their faith and ask for baptism. At least that is what I told my father-in-law when he asked when we would have our first child baptized.
When we returned home from that visit, my husband sat me down to discuss the subject, and I discovered that he had let go of his agnosticism and was ready to embrace the Church he was raised in. He also said that we would have the children baptized Catholic and should attend Mass together as a family. I was still welcome to attend my church, if I chose, but we would go to Mass together and raise the children Catholic.
I was a bit taken aback by these changes as I really had no inkling they were coming, but I felt I could deal with the infant baptism—after all, if it didn’t count, they could be baptized again when they were older—and I hadn’t been comfortable going to my church alone, so it would be nice to go somewhere as a family. I could always go to the Church of Christ if I felt I needed to go to church, if Mass were not fulfilling my need to worship.
At the time, I was already pregnant with number 2, so we had plenty of time before the subject of birth control came up. I don’t know if he had already been thinking of it, or if that needed more time to develop in his brain. By the time our son was 6 months old and I suggested it was time to start thinking about what we wanted to use—the pill, the diaphragm, or whatever—he had done his reading of Humanae Vitae, and possibly more, and decided we could no longer contracept.
I don’t recall ever having thought of this at all since his revelation that we were going to raise the children Catholic! I was completely floored and said something to the effect of “it’s not the Pope who is going to be having a baby every year!” It’s funny how I can see that the hand of God was at work, because even though I was so unhappy with this conversation, the seeds of a solution had already been planted.
I had been attending La Leche League meetings for over 2 years, ever since our oldest was 1 month old. I had read many books, some written by the Catholic founders of LLL, though I didn’t know they were at the time. I had heard about Natural Family Planning in the course of my reading, and how it worked so well with breastfeeding. I had also seen an ad in our parish bulletin for NFP classes. Having been extremely unhappy with all the birth control methods we had tried, I was more than willing to use a natural method to space our babies. I’ve always preferred a more natural approach to everything, anyway, since I think that God’s design is usually the best one. So, I said that I would be willing to learn NFP, and we would both be happy. We’d be happier with our “birth control” method, and he would be following the Church teachings and his own conscience.
We started classes, took the first 2, and got pregnant. Since I was still “returning to fertility” we thought we’d get serious about following the rules after I was fertile, counting on the fact that a very small percentage of women actually ovulate before their first post-partum period. We didn’t mind though; it was a little early, but we had planned on more children, anyway.
Despite the fact that we never actually used NFP during that time (except to chart temperatures), the fact that we were officially using the the marriage act the way God intended seemed to have had a profound effect on our marriage. It was already a good marriage; we were close and compatible, and very happy. Suddenly, it was different and we could both feel it.
Don wanted to become a promoter for the Couple to Couple League, through whom we had taken our NFP classes, and we were introduced to a couple down the street who were in training to become teachers. I didn’t want to be a promoter because I was still on the fence about abortion, but we became friends and I joined the Catholic homeschool group to help my kids learn their faith.
I still had no intention of converting, but being on the shy side, it was easier for me to join a group like this to find friends. And they were very friendly. The women I met were beautiful Catholics who lived their very real faith. Most of them didn’t know I wasn’t Catholic as I just quietly sat and absorbed what they were teaching my kids. When they found out, little by little, they offered to pray for me (No thanks. I’m fine.), and they were always very charitable when I (probably rudely) dismissed articles of faith like infant baptism and told them what I believed.
About the same time that we started our NFP classes, Don fully came back into the Catholic church by going through classes to be Confirmed. We also discovered that we had to have our marriage convalidated by the Catholic Church since we had not been married by a priest. So then, all the floodgates for grace were open: we were in a sacramental marriage blessed by the Church; we were using NFP and open to life. And flow they did.
I already said that marriage was better. I was surrounded by friends who taught me the Catholic faith simply by living it. My husband was very gently and gingerly answering my questions and praying for me daily. And I was paying more attention at Mass, as much as I could with squirmy babies and toddlers. Don likes to point out how I slowly crept farther and farther forward on the pew until one day, praise the Lord, I actually knelt for the consecration.
He gave me a children’s story about St. Therese one time—it might have been in my Easter basket—and I read in there that she had written an autobiography. I casually mentioned that it might be interesting to read, and he brought it home from the bookstore not long after that! We watched The Song of Bernadette on videotape, and I had to read the original book. Little by little, I was was convicted of the truth.
But I still couldn’t make the commitment. I was held back by the anti-Catholic biases I had grown up with, and I knew how disappointed my whole family would be if I converted. Not just disappointed, but angry. I also felt that by being pro-life I would be judging the actions of others in my family. It was the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (year C) when all those doubts fell away. I had been asking for a sign as to what I should do, and I had gotten what I asked for, but refused to believe the answer. That Sunday, the reading was Luke 9:51-62 (go read it!), and the priest spoke very forcefully about Commitment. It couldn’t have been any clearer to me. I broke the news, casually, in the car on the way home, and it’s a wonder my dear husband didn’t drive off the road. I know he was thrilled. To be honest, I’m thrilled, too, to have a faith that challenges me to do better, and that doesn’t waver from the Truth.
Thank you to Sara, for sharing! I like how she shared how her road to Rome was filled with fear and doubt. Conversion is easy for some, but more intense for others; for some the journey is short, for others much longer, but the end is always the same.
If you have words for Sara, you can share here or over on her blog. And please do share!
If you have a conversion/ reversion/ thinking about converting story you’d like to share with the Caffeinated Catholic Mama family, please send me an email at: caffeinatedcatholicmama (at) gmail (dot) com. Please put “Coming Home” in the subject line.