When the well-known atheist, Leah Libresco, announced her entrance into the Catholic Church’s RCIA program I was blown away, like many others. I have to admit that, after reading her posts, much of what she said went over my head. I’m not up on ‘athiest’ speak. But, I was very excited and encouraged by the prospect of her entrance into the Church.
We have one thing (at least) in common. I’m a convert, too. I went through RCIA back in ’93-‘94 at St. Mary’s in College Station. (Whoop!) It was my freshman year at Texas A&M.
After growing up in the south, with heavy Baptist influences all around me, I was well aware of the dramatic impact of the ‘testimony’. Growing up, my Baptist friends took me with them to youth events and well-appreciated trips to Six Flags every summer. In the midst of the fun, I heard testimonies of the youth leaders – great, dramatic and sincere stories of their journeys of faith. I longed for a story of my own.
Once I started my journey into the Catholic Church, those testimonies were still present. I met other RCIA members who had beautiful, inspirational stories of their journey to the Church. I read Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins. Friends at St. Mary’s discussed their questions about the Eucharist and how they intellectually arrived at the conclusion that it was real.
Again, I tried to craft my own story. I felt that having a ‘conversion story’ to share would make my decision to enter the Catholic Church more valid. Like Leah and my friends, I wanted to have something to proclaim to the world – “Here, this is what happened to me, this is the dramatic moment when it all CLICKED!”
My taciturn father even asked me, “The Catholic Church! Really? What made you choose that?” The only answer I could give was, “I don’t know, Dad. I just love it.”
Now, looking back, I agree. This was a simple answer, but also a most perfect one.
“Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas
I remember the pew where I knelt when I came to believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. One Lenten afternoon before my entrance into the church, I was there praying and looking at this beautiful gold monstrance with a little white piece of bread inside. And, all of a sudden, I believed. It filled my heart and I believed. I knew. I could not express it in words and still can’t. The difference now is that I no longer feel the need to.
A few weeks ago, I watched an interview with Leah Libresco on CNN. The interviewer asked, “What is it like to go from a self-described atheist to a practicing Catholic”. Leah grinned and concluded her answer with, “It’s exciting to be able to participate in the Mass and thinking that it’s actually, uh, you know, the Eucharist!”
Wait. What did she say? That sounds familiar… Jesus. The Real Presence. The same exact Jesus that I fell for.
Leah could have answered with a more intellectual statement. She’s a Yale grad, for goodness sake! She could have said that she was looking forward to learning apologetics, or debating, or reading the Church Fathers. All of which would probably be true. But, no. She simply said she was excited about the Eucharist.
“If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.”
– St. Maximilian Kolbe
There’s a reason why so many have made a mad dash for the Catholic Church. Jennifer Fulwiler, Heather King, Abby Johnson, Norma McCorvey, Caryll Houselander, Sigrid Undset, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, G. K. Chesterton, Edith Stein, Walker Percy, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day. They see in the Church the one thing necessary: Jesus. And, more importantly, Jesus in the Eucharist. Because of the glaring brightness of this Real Jesus, they see past everything else in their way.
From St. Augustine and Edith Stein, to my 10 year old boy who receives Holy Communion with reverence – it’s the same Jesus that draws us in. And in comparison with HIM, we are all equal. We all have a story. Whether we’re dramatic, CNN-newsworthy bloggers or little babies baptized at 2 months. Our stories are meaningful, but they are just that – a story. What matters infinitely more is what we DO with our story. How does our story, secret or newsworthy, change us and bring us and those around us, closer to heaven.
Many great people have come to love the Catholic Church. And many ordinary people, too. The Lord loves my journey as much as he loves Leah’s and yours. So, if you have a beautiful story, share it! Go forth and inspire! Or, you may be like me, with a story that is so melded to your heart that you can’t for the life of you put it into words. Take heart, and know the power of your love for our Lord.
“I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament… There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that.”
– J.R.R. Tolkein