Preach always. If necessary, use words.

Preach always. If necessary, use words. –St. Francis of Assisi

Two years ago, I was in the Confessional, arguing with my priest. This is what I do. I go confess my sins and then end up arguing about stuff. I’m like a whiny little kid, all defensive about my ridiculous self. Thankfully, my priest finds this amusing and not offensive.

On this particular day, I was confessing a sin I’d confessed at least fifteen times before: angrily arguing with my husband about the Catholic Church. Suddenly, I stopped. From behind the Confessional screen, I could hear my priest chuckling softly. It was an affection chuckle–the kind I sometimes use with my own kids when they are being So Predictably Ridiculous.

“Father!” I exclaimed. “I’m serious! If I could just get my husband to read this one book about the Catholic Church, he’d understand everything!”

“Elizabeth,” he said, “you just need to stop.talking.about.the Catholic Church.”

“B-but! Talking is what I doooooo!” I wailed.

“You’re trying to do the Holy Spirit’s work,” he said. “This is not your job.”

“So, you mean, like, I just stop talking about it?”

“Yes.”

Silence. I was waiting for more.

“That’s it?” I asked. “Just. Stop?”

“Just stop. You can trust the wisdom of the Church and simply rely on the Holy Spirit.”

AUUUUUGHHHH! That hit the mark. I felt pierced to my soul. Trust the wisdom of the Church. Rely on the Holy Spirit. Those two things were the hardest and most difficult tasks I’d ever been assigned. They struck to the core of my deepest fears:

  1. I have MASSIVE trust issues with any church. Because, hello, spiritually abusive past!
  2. I prefer to rely on myself rather than this nebulous, intangible thing called the Holy Spirit. Because, like, WHAT IF THE HOLY SPIRIT GETS IT WRONG? Because, clearly, I know better than the Holy Spirit! Yes, I actually think thoughts like that.

Still, I had to admit that my current tactics (read: constantly talking) were not working. The more I talked about how much grace and love I was experiencing in the Church, the more my husband grew annoyed and suspicious. He said the Church was corrupt and idolatrous. Just look at its bloody, horrific history! He said there was no way he would EVER become Catholic, period, end of story. He said he couldn’t believe that I would become Catholic after all I’d experienced in fundamentalism.

He spat the word Catholic like it was a dirty word. He refused to let me take the children to Mass.

He said I’d joined the biggest cult of them all.

All my words were useless.

My priest was right. I needed to stop talking about it.

Strangely enough, I walked out of the Confessional that day feeling light as air. The truth was, I’d been carrying a heavy burden. I thought it was all up to me. Being raised Protestant, I’d been well-taught in apologetics. I knew my Bible! I could give an answer for the hope within me!

As I drove home I thought about the journey God had taken me on. I came kicking and screaming into the Catholic Church.

I’d wrestled with John 6 for weeks. I couldn’t find a way to get around Jesus’ explicit words: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drink My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.

I’d been taught that these words of Jesus were symbolic. He wasn’t reeeeally saying eat My flesh, drink My blood. It was a memorial. For as literally as fundamentalists interpret the Bible, we found all kinds of wiggle room when it came to Communion.

I remember taking my Bible to my Dad and saying: “Please convince me that John 6 is meant to be taken literally.”

He tried. He did his very fundamentalist best. I’d heard all the arguments before. This time, though, none of them were convincing.

Why? Because they didn’t answer one, pivotal question: If Jesus didn’t mean what He said, why did He go to such lengths to reiterate it and hammer it in?

Why did He repeat Himself like three times (I am the Bread of Life, I am the living bread, eat My flesh, drink My blood)? I mean, HOW MUCH  MORE LITERAL did Jesus need to be before I believed what He was saying?

The final moment of surrender came when I couldn’t answer this question: if Jesus didn’t mean what He said, WHY did so many of His disciples leave him immediately after that? (vs. 66)

I finally concluded that it was more reasonable to say Jesus meant what He said than to try and explain it away with a bunch of loopholes, analogies, parables, comparisons, etc. There are many portions of the Bible which are NOT MEANT to be taken literally, but John 6, I realized, was MEANT to be taken literally. Jesus was not speaking in a parable. He was not making some analogy. Jesus was speaking literally and declaratively.

In fact, many of his disciples turned away from Him at that moment because they understood what He meant and they were offended.

The Eucharist brought me to the Catholic Church. But I had to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit works in different ways for different people. By trying to persuade my husband of the truths I’d discovered, I actually got in the way of the Holy Spirit.

I finally stopped talking about it.

That was two years ago. Since then, I’ve said not one word. I let it all go. I told God that even if it never happened in my lifetime, I was OK with that. I would continue to honor my vows, love my husband and love my children.

Oh, but how I prayed. I prayed and prayed and prayed.

And oh, how I’ve failed and screwed up and sinned and confessed
and confessed again.

I’ve been praying for four years total–two of those years I didn’t argue, convince, persuade or USE MY WORDS. :)

Last week was our 15th wedding anniversary. The day before our anniversary, my husband said he had a gift for me. He said something had changed in his heart, something he never expected to happen. He said first it was appreciation for the Church, then he started reading the Catechism (just to see what those crazy Catholics believe) and then, one day, he felt his heart shift. He believes.

He said he was entering the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil.

My husband is becoming Catholic.

I fell on the floor. Like, literally fell. The children ran in and asked what was wrong. I couldn’t move. I wept. I thanked Jesus. I thanked Mary for her intercession. I thanked all the angels and saints. I thanked all my friends who have so faithfully held us in their prayers.

Then I stood up and danced around screaming and laughing.

We are whole! WE ARE WHOLE! 

It’s been ten years since we left the fundamentalist cult of my childhood but we are finally, finally, finally whole again.

By God’s grace, I am learning to trust the wisdom of the Church. By God’s grace, I am learning to rely on the Holy Spirit.

By God’s grace, all is redeemed. 

Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit
as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be
world without end.
Amen.

  • jen

    That is AWESOME news.

  • http://twitter.com/NatalieTrust Natalie Trust

    Elizabeth, my heart is caught in my throat over this news. I felt such a kinship with you when I first began reading..I am a convert as well. I cannot even begin to express HOW HAPPY I am for you, for BOTH of you! This has encouraged me to continue to pray that my husband will someday enter the church too.

  • http://heathershodgepodge@blogspot.com HeathersHodgepodge

    Congrats!

  • kim

    Holy moly guacamole!!! My mouth is hanging open!! yay!! Wow!! God is good!! Thank you Jesus!!

  • Laura

    I am so thrilled for your whole family! May God continue to bless you all richly!

  • irws

    OHMYGOSH!! This is wonderful news!! “welcome home” EE’s husband!!

  • irws

    P.S. “Welcome Home”! you are in good company with many others :-)

    http://www.ewtn.com/tv/live/journeyhome.asp

  • JessieLeigh

    I wish you could see my teary smile right now, EE… because that’s how I roll, tears and smiles all together. This is beautiful, wonderful news. My own husband was raised in a Baptist church and became, um, disenchanted. Now, he goes to Mass with me (and our children) every Sunday, but I know he’s still skeptical. One random morning, I found him reading the bulletin and he murmured, “… just checking out this RCIA thing.” I didn’t say much, but I’ve been praying fervently ever since. I would love to be able to share such amazing news, too. :)

  • http://devinrose.heroicvirtuecreations.com/blog/ Devin Rose

    This is the most awesome thing I’ve read in a long time. I am so happy for y’all. God love ya!

  • Ami

    I’m not Catholic, but I still am so happy with this post. I think family unity is one of the most wonderful things in life. Your family is united in faith together and that is a beautiful thing.

  • Maggie

    Cool beans! As a convert who FINALLY gave into the Holy Spirit nudging and converted in 2010, I just wanted to say how happy I am for your family!

  • Rebecca

    I am so, so happy for you and your husband; really, for your whole family. That is truly amazing!

  • Patrick Finley

    Hello Elizabeth

    I came across your blog as I follow your friend Devin via facebook – I want you to know I was in your place 9 years back. My wife is also a convert, and like you, I was a little over zealous in getting her to see the light, and like you, I finally realized through my confessor and others, that I wasnt letting the holy spirit work. Like you, once that happened, wonderfuls things happened and by God’s grace she came into the church easter of 2005. We had been married in the church, but it never felt “complete” till that moment. Its so wonderful to read about someone else who at one point had a similar circumstance. All the prayers in the world go to you and your husband

    Keep in mind the real journey is just beginning for him and for you – I remember the year leading up to her baptism was both wonderful and stressful – For every question that got answered it seemed 5 more came into play (and still do..that whole pesky mystogogy thing) – So glad again to read this though, and I appreciate your blog, first time reader.

  • Leila

    HOORAY!!!! Praise God for this miracle! I am so happy for you and your husband and your whole family! What joy!!

  • ARM

    Wow – how lovely! And how nice to hear that your priest gave you such wise advice. I know priests are just people like the rest of us and make many mistakes. . . but sometimes like in this story you can really see how the grace of Holy Orders (and the experience of hearing Confessions I’m sure) can give them truly understanding hearts.

  • JL

    So incredibly happy for you, EE. As someone who came out of a fundamentalist cult – and who about a year ago found peace and wholeness in a liturgical, “mainline” church…we have lived such parallel lives. When I began meeting with the pastor a year ago – so eager to join the church on my own…he gently asked me to give the Holy Spirit time to work in my husband’s heart. Being the possessor of “great faith”, I internally rolled my eyes and thought “Yeah – that’s gonna happen.” I would sometimes pray about it – but it seemed impossible. Then the Holy Spirit did His work.
    This coming Sunday we are going to be received into membership as a family, and have our children baptized as well. Miracles do happen. I rejoice in yours, and mine :).

  • http://danileekelley.wordpress.com/ Dani Kelley

    Can’t stop smiling for you both!

  • http://www.wineandmarble.com/ Hännah

    Aching with joy for both of you.

  • http://twitter.com/angipratt Angi Pratt

    Yay! Praise God! Like you I often think I know better but man I’m so thankful its not up to us!

  • Andrea Mercer

    Oh what happy news! God is so, so good. Congratulations!!!

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ HopefulLeigh

    I am THRILLED for you, friend. No matter what we’re hoping and praying for, we all need the reminder to let the Holy Spirit do its work.

  • David Bates

    Oh that is AWESOME!
    (In the real sense of the word)

    Your husband still has to get you flowers etc. though for your anniversary – he doesn’t get out of it that easily!… ;-)

  • http://www.nebraskagraceful.blogspot.com Michelle DeRusha

    This. is. Awesome. Thank you for sharing this miracle with us, Elizabeth.

  • http://twitter.com/byzcathwife priest’s wife

    :) that is all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vanessa.pawlovich Vanessa Pawlovich

    wow. soooo happy for you and your husband!

  • Melanie Bettinelli

    Elizabeth, This is awesome, amazing, wonderful. I am so very happy for you. Truly God is good!

  • Lizzie

    This is beautiful – I will be praying for you all. It gives me hope for my dad who we have all been praying for for decades…
    God is good.

  • http://www.elizabethhillgrove.com Elizabeth Hillgrove

    Praise be to God! I’m in tears! What a wonderful reminder to us all!

  • Mark S.

    My joy simply reflects your own. How marvelous is God’s work beyond all understanding. I think of how much more support all your healing will have when you and he are together. How glorious that the silent preaching of our lives is what consistently has the most impact in so many others. You are a graced person my dear EE and it will be a personal joy for me to know I will have a new brother in Christ in communion with all of us this Easter. Yahooooooooo!

  • http://twitter.com/kellymantoan Kelly Mantoan

    Wow. Just WOW. Congratulations to your family!

  • Marianne

    How wonderful for your whole family. When my husband became Catholic I felt like were newly married.

  • http://www.fromtwotoone.com/ Danielle | from two to one

    Oh friend, I am REJOICING with you and singing PRAISE GOD for this miracle. I am Catholic, but my husband is not, and while it’s never been a point of contention, I do wish for him to experience the fullness of Communion. I literally teared up at work reading this story. Thank you, friend!

  • http://www.shaneyirene.com/ Shaney Irene

    So happy for you and your husband, Elizabeth! I am not Catholic, but I see such beauty in God bringing you and your husband to the same expression of the Christian faith. God bless you both.

  • http://twitter.com/DandelionHaven Kateri

    Oh, my. I am so happy for you and your husband. What a beautiful story, Elizabeth!

  • http://www.kelleynikondeha.com/ Kelley Nikondeha

    Elizabeth – celebrating with you! The Spirit moves – hallelujah! This Easter, when I’m at Mass, I will hold your family in my heart and celebrate with you. Resurrection will be much more potent for us all this year!

  • Amy

    “The more I talked about how much grace and love I was experiencing in
    the Church, the more my husband grew annoyed and suspicious. He said the
    Church was corrupt and idolatrous. Just look at its bloody, horrific
    history! He said there was no way he would EVER become Catholic, period,
    end of story.” This is ME. This is MY story. Right there. And you’re giving me hope right now that I’m not at the end of the story. Thank you! (And… Yay!!!!!!!!!)

  • Anonymous

    You made me cry just now. So beautiful. Thank you.

  • http://www.joyinthisjourney.com Joy in this Journey

    I have goose bumps all over. And I’m going to shut up.

  • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

    I have so many goosebumps……this is amazing. I’m so happy for you guys :D

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    Wow, awesome!

  • http://twitter.com/mollyann_hesser Mollyann

    Mine too!

  • Anonymous

    Ah, because my day isn’t complete until I’ve sobbed over someone else’s life, God gave me you. ;)

    I had a similar experience within my marriage. Not quite on this scale, but similar enough for me to know what it’s like to shut up when my words have always been my best weapon.

    My 2013 theme is about taking the words of Jesus literally. Hard hard hard hard hard, but somehow way simpler than most of my church experience.

  • http://twitter.com/HouseUnseen Dwija Borobia

    Oh girl. I needed something wonderful today and this…oh, this is IT! Sobbing and laughing and reveling with you in this. Thank you! Thank you! And most especially, thank God.

  • Janet

    My story was similar, although we were already Catholic. It’s so counter-intuitive, isn’t it? Yay for God–and your great priest!

  • http://twitter.com/mmgutz Melissa Gutierrez

    So cool. There’s this quote from the book “The Gift” by Lewis Hyde I just read: “Partners in barter talk and talk until they strike a balance, but the gift is given in silence.” I’ve been thinking about not-talking this week too, good timing on this post :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/rozdieterich Roz Mackraz Dieterich

    This makes me very, very happy. Think of it – God in his merciful economy got more of your husband and way more of you at the same time. I almost envy you the profound trust he’s built in you God’s in the process of making me willing to let go of something too, and your testimony of his loving action really helps.

    • Marie

      “God in his merciful economy got more of your husband and way more of you at the same time.”–so profound! I loved that. :)

  • Meg Monacelli

    This brought tears to my eyes! To God be the glory forever and ever. He is so good. I’m currently praying for my sister to return to the faith. Your story encouraged me to keep praying. Thank you and congratulations. You are whole!

  • Cherri

    This brought tears to my eyes! I’m going through this same struggle with my oldest, who is a young adult. I know, I too, need to pray & let God. Thank you for giving me hope.

  • sarahlcc

    OMG! That is so awesome! I am so excited! If it can happen for you it can happen for me too! I’m gonna keep on praying and keep my mouth shut! Okay, starting to tear up now. So amazing! Miracles!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kathy.yew.cosham Kathy Yew Cosham

    I am not Catholic, but I am so very happy for you!

  • http://twitter.com/waywardson23 James

    Congratulations.
    I was raised a cradle Catholic. My wife was raised evangelical. She tried Catholicism, but found it wasn’t for her. Right after she joined, we moved away from the parish we both loved to a different town. There, let’s just say we each had a bad experience with certain individuals who ran us both off.

    We tried being Episcopalian (Catholic-lite since 1534!), then gave that up.

    Eventually I came back. She currently does not attend any church, nor does she see the need to. She doesn’t see how mass can be any more spiritual than a quiet house on a Sunday morning.

  • Nayhee

    I haven’t read your blog in a few years and at that time you were not attending any church, though you felt drawn to Catholicism. So I am a little late, but I like reading the story this way—it is giving me hope. Thank you for posting, and congratulations to your family. I know I will be thinking of your husband and others this upcoming Vigil. How beautiful.

  • http://www.thesejoyfulmysteries.blogspot.com/ Kathleen

    What a beautiful and wonderful story. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Carly

    This is freaking awesome. I’ve tears of joy in my eyes.

  • Erin Pascal

    Praise God for your husband’s change of heart! God works in mysterious ways and He knows exactly when the time is right. We grow impatient with getting what we prayed for sometimes but God knows exactly what needs to be done and when. I am extremely happy for you. And I am pretty sure heaven is rejoicing too!

  • Marie

    What a testimony to surrender and waiting on the Lord! (even for a Protestant like myself :)

  • http://thereforeiambic.blogspot.com/ Elena Johnston

    That must be such a relief to be on the same page again, all together as a family. Rejoicing with you!

  • Lynn

    WOO HOO!

  • Ashley

    Interesting, I am currently abandoning my faith to my husbands sadness. I have started a blog to talk about it with others. If you are interested, stop by.

    http://catholicismontherocks.blogspot.com/

  • BenB

    Please read John, 6:62-64 The Spirit give life, the flesh counts for nothing. The WORDS I HAVE SPOKEN TO YOU ARE SPIRIT AND ARE LIFE….NIV

  • Allison Grace

    We’re in, too; love to you and yours!

  • Dylana Skye

    MY HEART IS SO OVERWHELMED WITH JOY! Oh how beautiful! Praised be Jesus Christ!! My eyes are filled with tears. Both my parents are converts. Oh, and my brother. PRAISE GOD!!

  • Angel

    I have just recently started following your blog. From this post I have a question about your faith. You said
    “He said he was entering the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil.

    My husband is becoming Catholic.

    I fell on the floor. Like, literally fell. The children ran in and asked what was wrong. I couldn’t move. I wept. I thanked Jesus. I thanked Mary for her intercession. I thanked all the angels and saints. I thanked all my friends who have so faithfully held us in their prayers.”

    Where in the bible does it mention that any one except for the Holy Spirit interceeds on the behalf of those on earth? I only know of the story about the man asking if he could just return for a moment to warn his family about hell. He wasn’t allowed the chance. I don’t have a lot of experience with the Catholic church. I do know there are ones that will not go to heaven just because it is lip service just as there are those just like this in all churches. It is not true as many are taught in other churches that Catholics are not “Christians” I don’t believe that for a moment, but I do have a problem of praying to a human rather than God. Am I misunderstanding what the rosary is and the prayers that seem to go through a “Saint” rather than directly to God? Anyway, just wanted to understand more. Thanks, I love what I have been learning about myself when it comes to sex and the hesitations I have had now married. The freedom hasn’t been there that I have been “told” would be. Thanks for your openness about a subject that is often ignored in churches.