Seeking Divine Mercy

 

 

Returning Home

The journey returning home is not always easy when there are loved ones not of the same beliefs or mindset as the person who has committed to their return home. The following is a testimony of one who has unselfishly offered to share her personal experiences so that others may know they are not alone should conflicts with loved ones arise on that path leading back to that one Church Jesus Founded with His Blood; the Catholic Church

 

 

 

 

Struggles in Returning “Home”

 

            The intent of this article will be to hopefully help those who may be struggling with their return to the Catholic Church due to either conflict within family members or friends who are not supportive of a denominational change or personal conflicts in making a decision to leave belief systems that one has been a part of for many years.  I was a part of both of these conflicts and I hope to offer some hope to those desiring to return to a Church, 2,000 years old; rich in both history and beliefs that I had discovered to be full of wonderful grace and solace to a very weary traveler.

 

            As I traveled across West Texas recently on a trip to the New Mexico Mountains, I noted with certain sadness how dry, hot and parched the land was.  As far as the eye could see, the land, which normally is rich with a mix of dark and light greens of the mesquite and cedar trees and farmland the color of red soil growing cotton and various other crops needed for a thriving economy, was sadly dying from lack of rain.  Farm equipment lay to the side of the road and in some cases had “for sale” signs on them. Tractors were abandoned in the fields. Many ranches have had to sell their cattle and the small deer that roam the plains have left their fawns due to lack of water.  I saw some of those on the side of road, fed on by those roaming scavengers looking for a meal.

 

            Observing all this while driving down the long stretch of highway, I was reminded of how I felt a year ago when I began searching for fulfillment in a faith that was that had become for me, unsatisfying.  I was parched, dry and thirsty.  I was unable to grow spiritually much like the crops of Texas.  I began searching for the flowing waters that would soothe me and bring me to that green, grassy pasture of my soul where I could lay down by those streams and cool my parched lips bringing me closer to the One I needed so desperately.  As the psalmist sings in Psalm 23:2 “In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength.”

 

            When I began contemplation of returning to the Church of my childhood, I knew it would conflict with those closest to me.  Having been married 41 years and part of the Methodist Church during that time, I realized this would take me on a journey requiring much prayer,    knowledge of the Catholic faith and most importantly spiritual guidance.  For one contemplating this return, these three essential elements are needed in order to complete the journey, remaining somewhat intact and able to weather those developing storm clouds on the horizon that may occur.

 

            The most important beginning of any journey is prayer.  One must develop a deep relationship with the Holy Spirit in order to be able to recognize the call to return to the Church.  It is a “spark” that may lie dormant for many years but once rekindled will burn out of control requiring immediate attention and the realization that God is at work in you.  I actually “wrestled” with the call and found myself in a state of some deep depression for a while because I resisted the “call”.  I fought it with every fiber of my being even though I knew this was what I had been searching for over a period of many years.  During this time, I shared my feelings with no one, not ever those closest to me.  I knew that the decision to return to the Church had to be made by me alone without any outside influences either Catholic or Protestant.  I begin to pray unceasingly for guidance during this time.  It was this constant prayer that would eventually give me strength to overcome questions from family and friends, skepticism from well-meaning Protestant friends, seeing the looks in their eyes whenever I came into a room and just the overall feeling that I had abandoned everyone by choosing to return to the Catholic Faith.  I was especially concerned about my marriage and if it would survive at all.  Knowing I was following the call of Christ made me realize I might lose all those that were dear to me.  This caused me many a sleepless night and the shedding of many tears that would have easily filled a water trough for cattle on the King Ranch in south Texas!

 

            Once I was able to overcome the insecurity of the decision I had made through prayer, I began the laborious task of delving into Church history in order to understand my faith better.  It is one thing to tell others of your return to the church but quite another to be able to defend it especially around my many Protestant family and friends of whom I knew would be more than willing to point out what they believed to be the flaws of the Catholic Church whenever prompted. For years I was quite content to take the easy road in accepting a belief that really did not require much effort other than following scripture, regular attendance at church with the understanding I was assured of salvation by merely following these principals and by basically leading an exemplary life through volunteer work within the church. 

           

            I began reading many books by many other “reverts” and converts to the faith to gain a greater appreciation of what it was that was drawing me home as well as Church History, the Catechism of the Church and writings by many mystic Church fathers. Two books in particular were Scott and Kimberley Hahn’s “Rome Sweet Home” and Marcus Grodi’s “Thoughts for the Journey Home”.  The authors of these books are former Protestant ministers who became converts to the Catholic Church and their stories tell of the struggles they encountered leaving behind their Protestant belief systems, life-long friends and the challenges of starting over in a completely new belief that led them to embrace a faith that profoundly changed their lives forever.  There are references to some other recommended books on the resource page of this website that I would encourage one to read before taking the final step 

 

            Being married to a Protestant, I found myself called upon to defend the sacraments especially the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation.  For a Protestant, these are fundamentally two of the most talked about and argued over sacraments as well as the role of the Blessed Virgin in Catholic life.  Knowing I would no longer be able to take communion in the Methodist Church initially caused a deep rift within my immediate family.  The infallibility of the Pope, celibacy of priests, annulments and Canon law in general will illicit many an argument and it is extremely beneficial to at least be able to say “I don’t know but I will find out for you”.  Then go to those sources you have studied for the answers.  Eventually you will be able to remember them in discussions you will encounter.  Social issues also will surface.  Birth Control, abortion, divorce, death penalty and many other issues that not only face us as citizens of this country but face us as Catholics because our belief system demands a true accounting of where we stand on these topics.

 

            And finally, seek out a spiritual guide.  I found help through this website as well as with a priest at the church I eventually became a member of.  It was extremely difficult to walk in the door of the parish office the first time and sit and talk with a future “confessor” about why I had left the church in the first place.  But he was of extreme comfort to me and I have continued to make regular visits to him for confession and to just discuss issues of concern.  It is critical for one’s spiritual health to have someone in whom you can trust in order to share and discuss any questions that may arise causing you discomfort, anger, depression, loss of faith or even the tendency to want to quit pursuing a return to the Church due to the extreme outside resistance and discomfort it can cause. I have been extremely blessed to have had access to both a priest and a website mentor that have provided me with the tools necessary to complete the Journey Home.  Even though I have completed the mechanics of this journey, I am still faced with the fact that as a part of a Protestant family there are many challenges to overcome.  One cannot do this alone.  These challenges can be very personal. I for instance, do not have that spiritual connection with my husband I once had and even though I attend church with him on Sunday morning at the Methodist Church, I attend Mass on my own on Saturday evenings.  For him to not be able to receive communion in the Catholic Church continues to be a source of contention between us and thus is never discussed. For many years we shared our faith journey together, spent time talking about scripture and topics of the Methodist Church, but now the subject rarely comes up and I find myself wishing I had that part back as it is a very lonely walk at times.  Only those in this environment can fully appreciate these obstacles. It is still painful but I do know where to go to be reassured I am on the right path and in some cases receive advice as to how to handle those difficult moments. It is a critical component in becoming a member of that faith that calls us home.  Spiritual guidance for me will always be ongoing and with prayer it is where I draw my strength.

 

     As a side note to all of the struggles that occur during this time of transition, I found that sometimes when communicating with my husband or loved ones, it is helpful to write a letter explaining my feelings and discoveries of my faith, as it allows the person to better understand than if done in verbal discussions which can tend to turn in an argumentative atmosphere.

 

            These three elements mentioned above, I believe, will give one that hope needed to consider what it takes to return home.  I do not for one minute regret the time I spent as a Protestant.  I think it was all part of God’s plan for me to come back; a better Catholic, stronger in my faith and with a commitment to work at guiding others back to the church as well.  It is with all its difficulties, an exciting journey. Once you are back in the Church and able to share in all the sacraments especially the Eucharist, you will look back and realize what you have missed over the years.  All the painful and difficult steps of the journey will eventually become but a distant memory. 

 

            As I began the assent into the cooler mountain air of New Mexico some 9,000 feet closer to heaven, leaving behind the dry, parched, sun-soaked soil of Texas and watching the car thermometer go from the low 100s to the upper 60s, I realized how thankful I was of God’s abundant grace and His blessings He has bestowed on one who was spiritually dead.  My prayer is that others like me will find comfort also through websites such as this one in order to complete the journey of faith and to ultimately be reunited with Christ and His Holy Church. And as the rest of that particular passage in Psalm 23 reads: “You guide me along the right path, for the sake of your name.  Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm, for you are at my side, your rod and staff gives me courage”. (Passage from Psalm 23 taken from The New American Bible.)

 

Written by a follower of SDM website

 

 

 

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