Category Archives: Catholicism

How a Protestant Learned to Pray Like a Catholic (and actually started LIKING prayer)

IMG_6974The only reason I pray is because it makes me feel better. There I said it. I’m not very happy about this. I really wish I was one of those people who prayed because it was the good and godly thing to do. Because their hearts were heavily burdened for the poor. Because they liked praying.

I don’t like praying. It’s uncomfortable and difficult. No matter WHAT time of day it is, praying seems TOTALLY inconvenient. I have this iPhone alarm set on my phone and every time it dings, reminding me to pray I’m like: What? Pray? NOW?! But NOW is inconvenient!!!

But then I pray anyway because prayer is like a shot of WD-40 into my brain. It unsticks things. It loosens things up. I run more smoothly after I pray.

It wasn’t always this way.

Growing up Protestant, I’d been rigorously trained in the practice of prayer. Which meant: lots of THINKING. Lots of PLANNING. Lots of PROPER TECHNIQUE.

Praying was sort of like giving a well-prepared speech: 1. Insert 1-3 Scripture references, 2. Glorify an attribute of God, 3. Give thanks for 1-2 answered prayers and most importantly, always always use proper format when opening and closing prayers. We prayed to “Dear Heavenly Father” and we closed with “In the Name of the LORD Jesus Christ, amen!”

If there was a Chicago Manual of Style for Prayer, we had it. And used it exclusively. Only lesser Christians (read: WORLDLY, PAGAN, HEATHEN, CATHOLIC etc.) prayed outside THE STYLE.

But praying like this was exhausting. Also, it lent itself too conveniently to spiritual pride and showboating. Every time we had a church meeting, you could count on some guys engaging in what could only be described as Competitive Praying.

You know, some zealous bro would burst out in a prayer incorporating Old Testament types and shadows, only to be loudly followed by another bro reciting a bunch of verses from memory and then a third bro booming out a mini-exegesis of the book of Daniel culminating in the ETERNAL FULLNESS OF THE TRIUNE GODHEAD, forever and ever amen.

It was like Dueling Pianos except minus the pianos and minus the awesomeness.

When you grow up that way, learning to pray like a Catholic is almost like learning a foreign language. You gotta unlearn a whole bunch of stuff. And by that I mean, you gotta stop thinking and sorta just feel it.

The first time I heard the Rosary, I was breastfeeding newborn twins. They were eight weeks old and pretty much I’d been stuck in a rocking chair 24/7 feeding them. I was worn out. No, that’s an understatement. I was a ZOMBIE OF EXHAUSTION.

I was flipping through the TV channels and came across EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) 10401726_1428455147417535_1232132536_sand saw a group of nuns praying together. Their voices soothed me. It felt like listening to a gentle lullaby.

And in my achey, exhausted, postpartum state—that was exactly what I needed.

So it began. Every morning after I’d gotten my babies all “plugged in,” I flipped on EWTN and just let myself sink into the rhythm and cadence of the nuns’ lilting, gentle voices.

It was like relaxing into a warm, bubble bath. Except it was a bubble-bath for my mind.

I mean, on the one hand I was pretty sure Catholic prayer was TOTALLY blasphemous because they kept Hailing Mary like every five seconds. But frankly, I didn’t care. It felt good.

Eventually, I started murmuring along with them. For the first time in my life, praying felt good.

There was no thinking involved. It didn’t stress me out. I didn’t have to get all freaked out planning my prayers. There was no showing off for God–or anyone else.

Catholic prayer was accessible. For an exhausted mother of five, this was EVERYTHING.

But even after I’d begun praying along with the nuns on EWTN, I still felt a little guilty like maybe I was doing that whole “vain repetition” thing. I had this idea that my prayers didn’t really “count” unless each one was a unique, original composition. I’d been taught that saying the same prayers over and over was empty, meaningless, borderline irreverent. A mockery of true, authentic prayer.

If that were true, why did I feel so much better afterwards? Why was the Catholic way of praying making me calmer and more peaceful?

So, I decided not to worry about it and just kept praying. The more I prayed, the better I felt.

The Catholic way of prayer, I discovered, was only vain repetition insofar as ANY prayer is vain repetition when uttered indifferently, from wrong motives or without heart. I came to treasure the simple, Catholic prayers because they were beautiful, succinct and relieved me of the burden of trying to invent something new every time I prayed.

What a relief to discover I didn’t need to re-invent the prayer wheel. Jesus had already taught His disciples how to pray. And the Church had built on that foundation, providing me with a treasure-trove of readily accessible, written prayers. Prayers for every occasion! Patron saints who prayed for specific requests! HA-HA-AT LONG LAST A PRAYER FOR FINDING MY LOST KEYS! YESSSSSS.

Learning to pray the Catholic way–sometimes only half a Rosary or a scrambled-brain-Rosary–even those imperfectly prayed prayers have changed my life. The biggest change of all? A renewed love for Jesus. 

No way THAT would have happened if praying like a Catholic was just “vain repetition”!



I believe in God the Father…{why Christians use “He” when referring to the First Person of the Trinity}

This past week there’s been some Internet talk about whether Christians can rightly refer to God as a She, as God our Mother. I find this conversation fascinating. I also find it troubling–especially since Christians can’t seem to have this conversation without throwing around the word “heretic.”

I don’t find it helpful or loving for Christians to call each other heretics. I think it creates an us vs. them mentality and does not advance the cause of love in this world. So, let’s not do that here, k?

Allow me to preface this post by saying this: God is big enough to find us anywhere. It’s OK to be wherever we are on our faith journey. You will have no judgment from me in that regard. Peace and love and light be with you as you travel! If your journey takes you outside Christianity, I still have nothing but love and acceptance and big, warm hugs for you! :) 

I’m writing this post is for those of us who have found our way back to Christianity. I’m writing this post for those of us who DO affirm the Nicene Creed. For us, there DOES come a time when we defer our preferences (and for me, my FEARS!) to the teachings of our Christian faith. With that in mind, I’ll share my thoughts on why it’s important for Christians to be careful to how we refer to God.

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As Christians, we have been taught how to refer to God by Jesus Himself.

I find it only respectful to defer to the pronouns God has chosen to use about Himself. Which is to say, God calls Himself Father. And when Jesus taught us to pray, He told us to address God using the words: “Our Father.”

Yes, throughout Scripture, God uses traditionally feminine imagery to describe facets of His nature and His behavior towards us. But figurative descriptions are not the same as literal statements.

When Jesus teaches us about His Father, speaks about His Father and prays to His Father, He always uses male pronouns. Why? Because the First Person of the Trinity is God the Father, not God the Mother.

I’ve had several people tell me that Jesus taught us to pray to a Father because, in a patriarchal context, a female pronoun would have scandalized the listeners. That doesn’t seem right to me.

I mean, what are we saying? That Jesus was just trying to make His words relatable to a certain time and place? This can’t be true because if Jesus’ Words are Truth then they transcend time, place and context–patriarchal or otherwise.

Furthermore, by claiming the use of male pronouns as contextual to patriarchy, we are saying that the Holy Spirit was bound by time and place. By dismissing “God our Father” as the result of patriarchal society, don’t we diminish the power of the Holy Spirit?

Patriarchy wasn’t (and isn’t!) more powerful than the Holy Spirit.

Patriarchy isn’t the boss of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus didn’t bow to patriarchy’s preference for male pronouns. The Holy Spirit didn’t check in with patriarchal society and get its pronouns approved before letting Jesus teach us how to pray!

The work Christ did was for all times and places and peoples–and His Spirit was at work then just as it is now.

And through the power of His Holy Spirit, Jesus chose to use the word Father. Jesus used a male pronoun all the time when referring to The One Who sent Him. If nothing else, I think it’s wise for me to respect the pronoun Jesus chose to use when addressing His Father.

Furthermore, it’s a fallacy to claim Jesus used “Our Father” because He didn’t want to scandalize His followers. Jesus never shied away from scandalizing His followers. In fact, scandal was the very definition of His ministry! After all, His scandalous claims got Him crucified.

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Still, I agree that God–as expressed in The Trinity–contains both male and female. This is why, in Genesis 1:27, we are told that both male and female are created in God’s image.

I also completely understand the desire–no, the NEED–to be able to relate to God via my God-imaged femininity. As a woman who has experienced severe spiritual abuse at the hands of men, I completely understand the pain of being forced to relate to God through a male-dominated narrative.

It took me a very long time to be able to call God my Father again. It’s a sad testament to the abuse I experienced that I am often triggered by “alpha male” language–especially when it is used in conjunction with Scripture.

However, what I’ve discovered is that my reactions are often sourced in reactions to prideful POSTURING and not MALENESS, per se. I am triggered by swaggering, bigger-than-you posturing. I have been bullied and abused by behavior like that.

And to be quite honest, I also suffered the same kind of abusive posturing and behavior at the hands of women. Abuse isn’t mutually exclusive to men. Both men and women can engage in abusive behavior and posturing.

But as I’ve found a gentle mother in Mary, she is teaching me about the gentleness of my Savior. Her merciful, sweet love has gently led me back into an increasingly trusting relationship with God my Father.

I am discovering God my Father delights in me. He loves me with an everlasting love. He provides for me, loves me unconditionally and cares for my every need.

God is doing for me what I could not do for myself; mainly, heal from the abuses of men. Earthly fathers may have failed me, but God my Heavenly Father is demonstrating His abounding faithfulness to me.

It is my honor to call Him Father, Daddy, Abba.

His arms are thrown wide to welcome me–to welcome us all.

My comment box is a safe space. Conversation and discussion is encouraged. Disagreement is allowed. Disagreeable behavior is not. All unkind, baiting, name-calling, hurtful comments will be deleted. I appreciate your help in keeping my site a safe place for people of ALL different persuasions and opinions. Thank you! xo. EE.


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Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer–the “stone of help”–for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!” I Sam. 7:12, NLT

As soon as my feet touch the sand, I feel myself relax into this space–this holy space.

The ocean and seashore have always felt like my soul-home, a place where my spirit finds rest. The rhythms of tides, the sound of rolling pebbles and crashing waves. I can breathe, here.

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My children scatter in all directions. The twins run back and forth along the edge of the foamy whitewater. They open their arms like birds, running full hearted and free into the wind. The boys dig for crabs and write silly messages in the sand with long sticks of sun-blanched driftwood.

My ballerina dances barefoot ballet, her body moving lithe and graceful beside the sea.

photo 4

Me, I just watch the ocean and breathe. Exhale pain and the past. Inhale peace and grace.

I sink my toes and body into the sand, grounding myself.

And then I build a little altar of rocks, my own Ebenezer.

The children come by adding bits and stick, several feathers. James draws lines around my Ebenezer using his toes–a sort of Zen sand-drawing. One by one I ask them what they’re grateful for and why. I ask them to remember how far the Lord has brought us. I ask them to remember this.

Remember this.

Remember God loves you, always and unconditionally. Remember God with us. Remember God has a beautiful plan for your life and no matter the pain, suffering or abuses we suffer–LOVE is stronger.

And then, I stand and dance myself. I dance for freedom, I dance for hope, I dance for the future.

My feet make a question mark in the sand.

And so, I dance the question.

I embrace the mystery.

photo 5

I am Elizabeth Esther. I am courageous. I am a survivor. I am free and I am strong. My story is broken for you.


This evening at Easter Vigil, my three oldest children will enter the Catholic Church through baptism, confirmation and First Communion. Tonight is a milestone in my family history, another Ebenezer. Your prayers for peace, unity and continued reconciliation within my extended family would be deeply appreciated. Much love, EE.



How Loving Mary Helps me Love Jesus #StoriesofEaster

This year, as I journey toward Easter, my eyes are fixed on the ultimate act of love: Jesus giving His life for us. But I also remember to see the whole picture, and so I look to the foot of the cross.

There I see the Mother of God kneeling before her Son, staying with Him, suffering with Him.

As a mother, I can relate to her pain. For me, there is nothing worse than watching my children suffer. I want to kneel beside Mary and comfort her. I want to thank her for raising such an amazing Son. I want to walk each painful step with her. I want to love Mary, for she is my Mother, too.

This Easter, I believe what St. Josemaria Escriva once wrote: “The beginning of the way, at the end of which you will find yourself completely carried away by love for Jesus, is a trusting love for Mary.

READ MORE ON THE CONVERGENT BLOG…plus! Write your OWN Stories of Easter and join us for synchroblog on Good Friday!

Nourishment for your tired soul this weekend #EEGentleLent

I really can’t thank you enough for sharing your Gentle Lent stories with me this past week. I’ve read every post and I’m sitting here all warmed, filled, comforted. Your words, my friends. They HEAL.

Since my Lenten practice includes encouraging others, I wanted to share a little collection of Internet goodness to inspire, refresh and make you laugh this weekend. Enjoy.

1. Nineteen year old Finnish YouTube user speaks gibberish to show how we hear a foreign language. Brilliant! And funny!

2. WWII widow waits 60 years to find out what happened to her husband. What she eventually discovered is just so beautiful. Inspiring.

3. What Legos taught me about Lent: All at once I understood.  This is why we observe Lent.
It’s not about punishment, and it’s not about denial.  It’s about righting our hearts, creating space in our lives for the things that matter.  Most of the time I don’t see that my life is out of balance until it is too late, and I’m spent, exhausted, a heap of remorse on the floor.  Lent is a chance to disconnect from the things that consume us.

4. The Road to Everywhere: why you can’t put off that trip any longer.  I didn’t exactly know what to do with my dad’s Elantra. So I drove. I got in the car and took my first independent road trip. It was the only thing I could do to both honor my dad and escape the overwhelming pain and death at home.


A Gentle Lent Linkup #EEGentleLent


Lent is a penitential season in the Church year wherein we attempt to draw ourselves closer to God through repenting of earthly entanglements and giving ourselves to prayer and service.

This year I’m making a Gentle Lent–read more about WHY a Gentle Lent, HERE and have invited you to join me.

Today, I’ll share a brief reflection about prayer and then open up the conversation to YOUR posts and conversation (LINK-UP WIDGET BELOW!). I’m looking forward to sharing this season with you.

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Prayer is very difficult for me–as I suspect it is for many of us. My ADD makes it difficult to sit still for ANY length of time and my ADD brain makes it difficult for me to focus. For most of my life I’ve felt like a Prayer Failure not a Prayer Warrior. Last week I found this advice about prayer:


Doesn’t that just make you heave a sigh of relief? No strife. No wracking the brain for something Important and Eloquent to say to God. Just a few words spoken whole-heartedly. Now, THAT I can do. (Feel free to grab the above graphic for your own use!)

In his book, Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales speaks of a very gentle yet devout spiritual practice that uniquely serves our own individual vocations. In other words, I am not a nun. I am a busy mother of five. I can’t spend hours in prayer each day because my vocation is motherhood. But I can pray a “few words with my whole heart.” Thank God it’s OK to be me!

This Lent, I’ll be spending five minutes each day in silent meditation. I’ll speak a FEW words whole-heartedly and keep it simple. I’m giving up R&B music and listening exclusively to classical or worship music. As for service, I’ll be writing notes of encouragement each week. I’ll also continue reading Introduction to the Devout Life.


How about you? How are you making a Gentle Lent? Feel free to share posts via the link-up or start a conversation in the comment box.

Part of my service this Lent is to speak encouraging words and/or answer your questions so I’d love to converse with you in my comment thread and read your reflections on your own site. Much love. EE.

Here’s how to participate:

    1. Paste a link to your specific “penitential” or “reflective” post in this linkup (not your home page)
    2. Spread the word: tweet using hashtag #EEGentleLent, share on FB, invite others to join
    3. Engage the conversation in this comment box or others.
    4. You can also add THIS BLOG HOP CODE to your OWN blog post: get the InLinkz code

I look forward to reading your posts and comments and sharing a Gentle Lent with YOU.

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Do All The Things! All at Once! {How NOT to do Lent—from someone who’s learned the hard way, aka: fiery crash-n-burn}


Remember last year when I tried to go whole-hog-100%-all-sold-out-for-Paleo? Yeah, that lasted a whole seven days at which point I crash landed into a jar of Cookie Butter. 

I do the same thing with exercise. Someone mentions they’ve started doing yoga and I get all inspired, rush off to the store to buy All The Yoga Outfits, mats, blocks, stretch bands and DVDs because apparently I’m planning on becoming a yogi. Overnight.

I do the same thing with spirituality. I rush in, dive-headfirst, make Big Promises to God and then ICHABOD! the glory departs and I find myself weeping and wailing and gnashing mine teeths.

I’ve burned out so many times that I’m finally ready to do something different. 

In his precious little book, Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales gently cautions against Doing All The Things. In fact, after providing a few suggestions for placing oneself in the presence of God, he concludes by saying:


One at a time. Briefly and simply.

What a relief to know I don’t have to make my spiritual practice some huge, complicated thing. I can keep my devotion brief and simple. I can do just one thing at a time.

This week? I’m going to go see the doctor because I can’t shake this fatigue after being sick for two weeks. It’s time for me to take care of myself. ARRRRGH! *plugs ears, la-la-la* *wants to pretend there is nothing wrong* #denial

But, I’m going to do this ONE thing. Please ask me about it by Tuesday, k? Accountability! WOOT!

Also, are you thinking about your own Gentle Lent? Don’t forget to join us on Ash Wednesday for a linkup and conversation. Feel free to share the graphic invitation above and invite your friends. All welcome. xo. EE.


Join me for a Gentle Lent?


I wake to the sound of rain on my rooftop. The house is quiet. And so is my soul–finally, at long last.

In the wet, pre-dawn darkness I dress for Mass and then tip-toe downstairs to brew coffee.

I have come to love these quiet Thursday mornings, beginning the day in prayer. There aren’t many people who attend Mass at 6:30am; mostly elderly, some with canes, one with a wheelchair, a few day laborers, immigrant mothers with worried faces. But every Thursday morning they arrive silently, limping and hobbling into the pews, heads bowed. And I read Scripture for them.

I am the lector for Thursday 6:30am Mass in my parish. Being a lector means I read aloud that day’s Scripture: a reading from the old testament, a Psalm and a reading from the New Testament–one of the letters or epistles.

“Mom, you have such a gentle voice when you read Scripture,” one of my children remarked after hearing me read during a Sunday Mass.

I guess I do. At least, I try. My faith practice is very gentle these days.

I consciously slow myself down when I enter church, dip my fingers in holy water and make the sign of the cross over myself. I genuflect before I enter the pew, dipping one knee down while I bow forward and cross myself again. These gestures–the bowing, genuflecting, crossing myself, kneeling, standing, lifting my hands during the “Our Father”–somehow these bodily movements slow me down, like speedbumps to my ever-worried-frantic-soul.

I find myself sinking into the soothing ritual of Mass like sinking into a soft, feather bed.

All is gentle. All is rest.

This is how I want to approach Lent. Not frantically, not busily. Remembering that only one thing is needful: drawing nearer to Jesus.

I intend to make a gentle Lent.

If you’re like me, you probably need less doing this Lent and more being. Lent always seems to sneak up on me. I muddle through January cleaning up Christmas, sluggish after so much wining and dining and celebrating—seem to find my stride in February and just when I catch my breath–oh! It’s Ash Wednesday.

My tendency in years past has been to overdo Lent. To fast from So Many Things. To overcommit to So Many Hours of daily prayer. To pledge alms and then, forget to actually give it.

This Lent, I’m too burned out and exhausted to do ANYTHING big or busy.

This year, I’m being gentle.

For me, being gentle with myself and others is penitential–it helps me turn away from my busy doings that often lead to mistakes, distractions and worry and turn towards the merciful love of Christ.

Would you like to join me this year for a Gentle Lenten practice? Here’s what we’ll do: I’ll share a few ideas for making a Gentle Lent. Think about your own Gentle Lenten practice and next week, on Ash Wednesday, I’ll host a link-up where we can all share our thoughts and reflections.

Ideas For A Gentle Lent:

Stillness: set a timer for five minutes and just be still. Breathe. This Lent, my goal is to sit still and meditate silently for five minutes each day.

Fast from something simple: Lent is a time to examine the people, places or things we’ve become too attached to; things that are hindering us from living a fully free life. This Lent, I’m detaching from my inordinate affection for R&B music. :) During Lent, I’ll listen to classical or meditative music.

Almsgiving: can you give either time or talent to someone else? This Lent I’ll be writing one encouraging note a week and mailing it. I’ll also be providing service to my parish through volunteer work.


Even if you’ve never practiced Lent before, please join me!
Even if you’re not religious or attend church, this Gentle Lenten practice is open to ALL.
Maybe you have questions about Lent? Write about it!
Perhaps you’d like to reflect on Lent from years past? BLOG IT.
Maybe this year you’re feeling angry with God or in a spiritual wilderness? POUR IT OUT!
Then come back next week and share with us.

If nothing else,
maybe you’ve been waiting for a good time to rid yourself of that Diet Coke habit! :)
Don’t go it alone! Let’s do this Gentle Lent together!

photo sources linked in images

I’m a bad Catholic and The Catholic Church is Right About All The Things. No, seriously.

Yes, I cover my head in Mass. Because 1 Corinthians 11.

Yes, I cover my head in Mass. Because 1 Corinthians 11.

I’ve heard it said that conversion is a journey and if that’s the case, I clearly need more converting. I’m obsessive about brutal self-honesty–it’s why I journal every day of my life–and the truth I’ve discovered is that I’m a rebellious Catholic. This is not me being cute. This is not me being hip. This is me admitting that I’ve been full of spiritual pride.

Ever since I became Catholic in 2009, I’ve tried to bend Catholicism to meet my Own Ideas About What Catholicism Should Be. Let me be brief: this journey has ended in disaster.

For one thing, it’s exhausting. For another thing, it was atheistic. At least, behaviorally.

Meaning: *I* was deciding what was true or not true. *I* was deciding–based on some personal, arbitrary standard of Me-ness–to decide whether the Church Fathers were right about All The Things. I didn’t need any Thomas Aquinas giving me the what-for on doctrine. Who did he think he was, anyway? Pffft. He was “just a human being” like me. He was FLAWED. And don’t get me started on the Pope and all that infallibility nonsense! AS IF A HUMAN BEING CAN BE INFALLIBLE BA HA HA HA, am I right?

Because. Obviously. It was MY relationship with Christianity! It was MY relationship with God! It was all about meeeeeeeeee.

And therein lies the pride of my Protestant heritage: protesting as a way of life. Protesting as a practice of faith. Picking and choosing and white-washing my rebellion as just “being a good Berean.”

Oh, the many-splendored manifestations of my pride!

Can I just admit something, here? Being The Arbiter of All Truth is exhausting. I should know, I’ve given it a good run. And, as I said: it’s ended in disaster.

Picking and choosing has made me a liar and a hypocrite. I’ve tried to please everyone except God. I’ve ignored and/or watered-down my adherence to certain, difficult Catholic doctrines because, well, THEY ARE UNPOPULAR. And, apparently, I’m all about being popular.

But I’m gonna go ahead and resign from being the Pope. Yeah, I’ve been playing Pope. You know, like: “Well, I believe THIS about the Church but I don’t like THAT so I’m declaring what’s true and not true.” Even if I didn’t say it in so many words, I said it through what I practiced.

Thing is, I’ve been proven wrong so many times (about the Eucharist, about Mary, about the communion of Saints) that it’s actually SMARTER for me to assume The Catholic Church Is Right About All the Things. I mean, there’s one Pope and I ain’t him.

I know! I know! WHO AM I BECOMING???? (Feel free to unsubscribe now)

OK, now to be fair to myself, here is what I was protesting. I was protesting being a Mean Catholic. I despise Mean, Know-it-All People and the Internet is especially full of them. In other words, I felt that being a Faithful Catholic meant I needed to be like Certain Internet Catholics who use words like “militant” and “Catholics born for combat” as their claim to fame–NO, I WILL NOT MENTION NAMES OR LINK TO SITES.

Point is, I thought that being a Faithful Catholic=Being a Mean Catholic and BEEN THERE DONE THAT. Thank you, fundamentalist childhood.

So, I didn’t want to become a Mean Catholic. But I never realized I could just become a Sweet, Kind and Faithful Catholic. Basically, I was spending too much time around Internet Catholics and not enough time with Real Life Catholics.

All I have to say is that Real Life Catholics have been more than generous with me. They let me into their Church, they welcomed me to the Table and they prayed for my further conversion. I mean, they probably stopped reading my blog because well, UNFAITHFUL TO THE MAGISTERIUM OF THE CHURCH. But they didn’t punish me or sic The Inquisition on me.

Instead they were patient. And kind. Which, shockingly, is kind of like God.

So, this is me saying I’m tired of trying to bend Catholicism to ME and instead, I’m committing to bend MYSELF toward it. Because I believe in God. And God brought me to Catholicism. And then God brought my husband in. And now my children. SO CLEARLY THERE IS A PLAN, HERE.

It’s time for me to repent and start ACTING like I believe God is God. Which is just another way of saying: freeeeeedom!

Why the Immaculate Conception makes Protestants squirm {and why it doesn’t have to!}

Virgin of the Immaculate Conception by Pierre Puget

Virgin of the Immaculate Conception by Pierre Puget

When I was a Protestant and heard Catholics talking about the “Immaculate Conception,” I assumed they were referring to how Jesus was conceived–you know, without the act of sex. Because I guess Sex is Dirty? And NOT immaculate? So, since Mary got pregnant with Jesus WITHOUT HAVING SEX it was therefore: ta-da! The Immaculate Conception.

Well, I was wrong on all counts.


[Before I try to explain this whole shebang, please remember that I'm Totes Fallible. That's a real thing. I'm just a Catholic who likes to read stuff and then translate it for Ma Blog. If thou art a Catholic who hath more time to spend studying this stuff feel free to correct me where I'm wrong. BUT BE NICE. Thank you. Le Management.]


First of all, the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s conception and secondly, it isn’t referring to the act of sex at all.

The Immaculate Conception refers to the sanctification of Mary’s soul at the moment of its creation, at the moment she was conceived.

In other words, Catholics believe that as preparation for the special role Mary would play in bearing the Son of God in her very womb, God granted her a unique grace by preserving her from the stain of Original Sin before it had a chance to blemish her soul. To understand why this was necessary, it’s important to understand what Catholics believe about Original Sin. When Catholics talk about Original Sin they’re either referring to the sin that Adam & Eve committed in the garden of Eden OR the hereditary stain of sin passed down to us.

When Catholics celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception we are celebrating the extraordinary abundance of grace that God gave Mary at the moment of her conception, preserving her soul from the hereditary stain of Original Sin.

Perhaps an easier way to understand this is that while you and I are redeemed after we are born, Mary was redeemed before she was born. Like us, she needed a Savior. God simply chose to save her at an earlier point in her life than the rest of us. This pre-birth redemption of Mary, so to speak, is what we call The Immaculate Conception.

La Purísima Inmaculada Concepción by Murillo

La Purísima Inmaculada Concepción by Murillo

To be honest, when I was a Protestant, all these Marian doctrines confused me. And even after I became Catholic I struggled for a long time with the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Why was it so important that Mary be preserved from the stain of Original Sin? Why did Catholics make such a fuss about a woman who was “just” Jesus’ Mother? To me, it always seemed that venerating Mary somehow detracted from the centrality of Christ.

It has taken me awhile to understand that Mary always brings us to Jesus. I’m not supposed to try and understand her apart from Him. In the end, all the Marian doctrines are really ALL ABOUT JESUS.

In fact, I realized it was a mistake to get all caught up in literalistic questions about Mary, demanding exact chapter and verse in the Bible. The thing is? The earliest church fathers were writing about Mary’s purity before the Bible was even compiled like whoa.

As St. Hippolytus (170-235 AD) wrote: Mary was a “tabernacle exempt from defilement and corruption.

St. Proclus (died circa 447 AD): “She was formed without any stain.

St. Ambrose (340-397): “A virgin immune through grace from every stain of sin.”

St. Augustine (354-430): all the just have known of sin “except the Holy Virgin Mary, of whom, for the honour of the Lord, I will have no question whatever where sin is concerned.

Stunner: Catholics have been writing about Mary’s purity from the earliest years of Christianity. In fact, when I was in RCIA, one of our teachers told us about an ancient church, circa 200 AD that he’d visited with a mosaic in the ceiling acclaiming Mary Immaculate.

So, if the earliest Christians believed this–even if it wasn’t dogmatically defined until much later–why was I so hasty to discount it? Did I really believe that the best and most faithful witnesses to Christianity only appeared on the scene right around the time of Billy Graham? Or maybe, if we were reeeally reaching back, the Puritans?

Ultimately it came down to an issue of trust: could I trust that the Holy Spirit had led the early church? Wouldn’t it be more prudent of me to rest on the hard work and prayer of those saints who had gone before instead of saddling myself with the Herculean task of figuring it all out for myself?

I finally rested in believing that it’s enough for me to agree with what the Church teaches–agreeing that the flesh from which the spotless Son of God was formed should be immaculate, too.

And so, like the Angel Gabriel I hail her as “FULL of grace” and answer “YES” to God just like she did.


With deep gratitude for saints’ quotes and doctrinal explanation from and to Devin Rose whose book “If Protestantism is True” helped me better understand Marian doctrines from a former Protestant’s perspective. Also, to Mark Shea and his book: “Mary, Mother of the Son: modern myths and ancient truth”. Lastly, my deepest gratitude to Scott & Kimberly Hahn whose book “Rome Sweet Home” was the first book I read that helped me in my journey home to Catholicism.


Other articles I’ve written about Mary:

How Mary Brought Me Back to Jesus Part 1 and Part 2

Putting Mary Away

Jesus Sent His Mother to Comfort Me