Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How my baby saint brought me to The Church

A little over 10 years ago my husband and I experienced a life changing event.  We lost our little girl Lily at 13 weeks gestation.  I had already experienced one normal, and uncomplicated pregnancy, and I thought I had safely passed through the first trimester.  We traveled to Florida for a friend's wedding and to see my husband's Grandmother.  We had a marvelous time…until the night before we were to return home.  It was dreadful.  Another story for another day (which you can read here).  Today the story is all about that little baby saint and how she brought me to The Church.

So there we were.  My husband, our little toddler Anthony, and I.  We were living temporarily in cold, gloomy Oregon.  We had some great friends in Oregon, but all our family was back in Arizona.  My mom took the first flight to come be with us and stayed as long as she could.  But once she was gone, and the baby was gone, we were filled not with hope for our future, but rather with emptiness.

And my husband spoke some wise words

 "I think we should find someone to talk with"

All I could do was nod.

We made an appointment with Father Juan.  Upon moving to Oregon we did a little church shopping and landed at the Catholic church nearby.  It was pretty traditional looking and the music was horrible, but we felt very welcome which was important because I wasn't even Catholic.  My husband was a mostly-practicing cradle Catholic.  He ate meat on Fridays during Lent and missed an occasional mass to play golf, but he loved God and The Church.   I was a devout Protestant who had worked at my church, sang in the choir, even sat on the search committee for a new pastor when the old one (who was my dad's racket ball partner) retired.   Our church growing up was pretty liberal.  It was a community church, but felt more like a community center.  There were lovely people, and great potlucks, and lots of intergenerational interaction.  Everyone knew your name and everyone dressed up.  Church was fun, but not really spiritually challenging in any way.

Then we sat down with Father Juan.  And for the first time in my life I felt what it was like to be in the presence of the Holy Spirit.  It was amazing.

Father asked
"how do you feel right now?' 
I responded
"like I am all wrapped up in a warm blanket"

I literally felt His presence covering me with love.  I was able to ask him all those questions, like "why does this happen" and I got answers that spoke to both my mind and my soul.  He offered to hold a private mass for our little one, but since my husband was the only Catholic there we declined.  He prayed with us and for us.  He encouraged us to name her.  

Day by day things got better as my heart healed, and my mind grew more and more curious about this whole Catholic thing.  The Church recognized my baby - not just as a 13 week old fetus - but as a life to be both cherished and mourned.  They saw her as more than a 'mass of tissues' which is how the doctor had referred to her as.  The contrast between the way the medical community treated her and how the Church cherished her was stark.  

Which got me thinking… what do Catholics believe anyway? Why did the church ever split? I only had protestant answers and those weren't enough anymore because I had FELT SOMETHING in this priest's presence.  They had something that I didn't have.  

My heart pulled me to the Church, but my head wanted answers.  So I searched.  I was writing my dissertation during nap times then, so whenever I sent off a draft for review, I would have some down time to research.  And slowly the barriers to conversion were lifted through research.  

When we returned to AZ, I met with the RCIA director.  She explained the process to me and I discussed the few lingering reservations (NFP & transubstantiation).  She told me that I could start the program in the fall, and decide in the spring if it was something I was ready for.  All she asked was that I come with an open heart and open mind.  I sat down with my husband and announced my intentions, and asked him to be my sponsor.  I had intentionally kept him unaware of it all and he was shocked.  

My conversion needed to be about me, not him.  It needed to be about my relationship with the Lord, with my Savior.  I was worried that if I told him before I was ready to commit, he would try to convince me to convert.  I didn't want my conversion to be about pleasing him, but rather about pleasing the Lord.  There was a part of me that didn't want to tell ANYONE.  It was so personal.  It was so real.  It was so important.  

This Easter marks 8-years of being in full communion with the Church.  My conversion and my husbands re-version happened after 7 years of marriage, and gave us both individually and jointly a serious spiritual jolt.  We had answers to questions we didn't know existed.   Knowing finally WHY the church taught what it taught, and seeing the continuity in its teaching was great. I had the benefit of getting a life's worth of catechesis when my mind was ready for it.   We learned and grew and loved as a couple.  It was a beautiful experience.

Lily's short life and death brought me to Christ in the flesh, body, blood, soul, and divinity. It brought me to His Bride - His Church.  It brought me into communion with The Saints and His Mother.  My mind wasn't immediately convinced because it was ignorant, but my heart was pulled by my little saint.  During those months following her death I dug deep and searched for the rationale behind all the crazy things that I thought Catholics thought and believed.  I got past the stereotypes to the truth of the faith that has remained for thousands of years.  Lily got me to accept more from God.  She got me to accept the fullness of truth.

This Easter and the coming Pentecost my prayer for all of us is that we can set aside our pride, and allow our hearts to grow larger and accept more God.  May all of our hearts learn to conform to His will, not our own.  

Thanks for stopping by to think with me!

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