A very brief account of my conversion, posted first by Gerald.

This is a very brief account of how I came to the Catholic Church. I can’t call it a conversion, because to convert you need to be something to begin with. I wasn’t anything. I was raised without religion, in eastern Kentucky, where there are very, very few Catholics.

First, a word about my upbringing. My mother is from Buffalo, New York, and my father is from Cleveland, Ohio. Going back to my great grandparents on both sides, you would find regular churchgoers, Congregationalists on my mom’s side and Methodists on my dad’s. When you get to my grandparents, you find four people who went to church semi-regularly for most of their adult lives out of a certain concern for middle-class respectability. By the time you get to my parents, children of Aquarius, you find a couple with very little regard for God or religion.

I was baptized, along with my brother, at the insistence of my grandparents. They held out a superstitious regard for the sacrament, on one hand, not taking their religion seriously, and, on the other, not wanting their grandsons to go to hell if they died young. It was at Mt. Washington Presbyterian Church in Uniontown, PA. After that, I didn’t see the inside of a church for about eight years.

I was raised in eastern Kentucky from age two on. Religion, in particular the hard-shell variety of Protestantism, was a force in daily life among my peers. My mother, from time to time, would take my brother and I to a church near by the house, again out of concern for middle class respectability. But, in every case, our attendance would fall off eventually due to an unpleasant encounter with a congregant.

In time, I realized that I had no religion. This was because I had encounters with my school peers, all of whom were church members, and all of whom, to a man, were protestant. I was distressed by my lack of religion at an early age (about seven,) and I approached my parents as to why we didn’t go to church. Mom told me that, when I was ready and had studied the subject, I could belong to any church I wanted.

I took up the subject of religion, drawing mostly from the Encyclopedia Brittanica, edition of 1969, that we had inherited from my mom’s parents. At the public library, there were several books about religion, and I read all I could. In time, I realized that polytheism was too vague to be true, Judaism too fatalistic, and Protestantism too fractional. I focused on Catholicism.

The serious books on Catholicism in our little country branch library were these: Modern Catholic Dictionary by Fr. John Hardon, S.J., Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott, and a Catholic Bible. I checked them out and read them over and over, making reference and praying for guidance. By age 10, (yes, it seems far fetched that I read Ott at age 9 and 10, but so help me it’s true) I asked my parents if I could join the Catholic Church.

The answer was a flat no, adding that “you can join any church you want” didn’t mean to include the oppressive, backward, and authoritarian Catholic one. Beside, the nearest catholic church was in town, about 20 miles away. I was encouraged to bide my time, maybe consider the Episcopalians or Unitarians. I was to wait quite awhile.

A few years later, on a trip to Beaufort, South Carolina, I stole away to the old St. Peter’s Church downtown on afternoon. The old church, since 1986 replaced by the much bigger church for regular worship, had been converted to a perpetual adoration chapel. There I absconded with piles of literature (God forgive the theft,) and, very importantly, a rosary, which I prayed secretly in the back of the van on the way home, following the instructions on the pamphlet. I asked God to make me a Catholic.

I was given the chance a few years later when I transfered to the city high school. Now I was only two miles from the Catholic church. One day after school, with the help of a friend who drove, I went to the Church and asked a priest for instruction. I told him I could walk there after school. He told me about two things I didn’t know. First, that I would either need my parents permission or have to wait until I was grown up. Second, that to enter the church I would need to enroll in something called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, which, considering the time of year, would take another year and a half.

My parents, while not pleased, were still liberal enough to allow my instruction, provided that I get to the church myself. So, for a year and a half, once a week, I walked to Church for instruction. For mass, I traded a ride with a friendly Episcopalian in exchange for my bass voice in his chior. After their service, I would strip out of my robe, book it to the Catholic church down the street, normally in time for the Gospel.

Without getting into too much detail, I can say that the church, the liturgy, and especially the RCIA, as presented, were not the Church “as advertised” in the books and other literature I had read (mind you, there was no internet at this point, so I couldn’t make independent reference.) My RCIA teachers, modernist feminists all, and I argued for the entire year and a half about the Real Presence, the Petrine office, contraception (not an appropriate topic for a 15 year old,) and the Mass. I was already wondering why it was changed after so many years. Finally, the instructors told me, a week before my scheduled entrance into the Church, that I was not ready and would require another year of “instruction.” I had to appeal to the Pastor, who overrode the harpies (God bless them they were harpies,) and on Easter Sunday, 1993, I was received into the Church. My folks gamely tried to support me, but ended up leaving the church a third of the way into the Vigil because the pews hurt. We have since naturalized the subject of religion in our family, as I am the only one of my immediate and distant relations who goes to church regularly, and I am the only one in living memory to be Catholic.

I give all the credit and thanks to God for calling me to his holy Church early in life. I can’t explain how it happened, or even why, other than to say that God loved me very much.

There is much more to this story, including the death of my primary antagonist in RCIA. The details regarding RCIA are really interesting, cautionary, even lurid at times. In 1995, I told my story to Fr. Hardon, who said I should write a book or long article about it. I said I would, but I haven’t made good on the promise yet. Pray God, some day.

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