Monday, July 30, 2012

How did I get here?

I am so excited to begin writing this blog with Celeste! We only met 4 months ago, but quickly discovered we have lots in common: both grew up in Protestant churches and became Catholic, both love Charlotte Mason and intend to homeschool our children using her methods, both got graduate degrees in English, both taught at the university level. Our children have become friends as well, and somewhere along the line I suggested we co-write a blog about how we are going about this homeschooling business as Catholic mommies! Happily, she agreed. So, I'll go did I get to this place?

Dear Angela 10 years ago:
You are going to make a major conversion and join the Catholic Church. You will homeschool your two children.
Me 10 years ago:
Rolling on the floor laughing.

But really, somewhere deep inside, that made perfect sense. I sort of always wanted to be Catholic;)

The homeschool decision came first. When The Girl was not quite two, the idea of homeschooling came onto my radar somehow, probably from one of the parenting forums I was reading through, or maybe the now-defunct Mothering magazine. I remember bringing the idea up at Christmas, in Tahoe, and being very surprised by the positive reaction I received from all of the grandparents. Luckily, my husband was excited by the idea as well, and it continued to percolate and grow over the next few years, gradually moving from one of several acceptable solutions to the "where do we send these precious children to school" conundrum (now including The Boy too), to being the obvious and settled choice.

And in the winter of 2009, I had a quick conversation with a friend which came at precisely the right moment to complete this picture. She knew I was wandering in the no-man's land of indecision about faith and God, and said, basically, "You have kids now. You have to decide." And she was absolutely right. For several reasons I knew I didn't want to raise them in the church I grew up in (sorry Mom and Dad!), and I made a grand tour of other Protestant denomenations without getting that settled, "this is it" feeling.
Mega-church? Weird and uncomfortable. Why are they eating donuts and drinking coffee in the sanctuary? There isn't communion every week? Why? No songbooks? Projector screens? I left and never went back.
Presbyterian? Lots of very old people. No young families. The liturgy was closer to what I was hoping for (more reverent, more tradition), but the whole endeavor seemed to be about "social justice," which was very clearly code for left-leaning politics, which is fine and dandy, but not really church to me. I hung out for awhile, thinking I just wasn't getting it, but soon gave up. I had the gut feeling it was wrong for me.
Episcopalian? More families, kid-friendly activities, and more traditional aspects to the worship. And this is when it dawned on me: this is almost Catholic. Why not just go all the way?

This was, again, Christmas time. All big things seem to happen to me at Christmas. I was baptized at Christmas. My husband and I began dating right about Christmas. Homeschool became a viable option at Christmas. And so, one night I had a dream. Which sounds silly, I know, but that's how it happened. I had been wrestling with this Catholic question, wanting to follow up on the idea, but not knowing how, exactly. I didn't really know any practicing Catholics, just social Catholics. But the dream was a very obvious push. In it, I was at a Catholic church near our home, St. Mary's, where I had been maybe 20 years earlier, helping my dad while he was photographing a wedding. I had only been there that once, but in my dream I could see what it looked like, I could smell the candles, I knew what the big steps out front were like. I even remembered the shape of the sign which listed the mass and confession times. It was incredibly vivid, and when I woke up the next morning, I left the kids with my husband, went out in the rain, drove to the nearby town, and found the church, looking just as I had left it 20 years earlier. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I walked in and found some older ladies there, getting the church decorated for Christmas. I asked one of them where the office was, and she walked me over. The first face I saw when I walked in was Adrienne, who would become my sponsor when I joined the church the following Easter. She was very friendly and warm, and explained the process of classes one must take, the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). There was a class going on at the time, and I could join if I wanted to. So, the following Tuesday, and every Tuesday for the next five months, I learned about the Catholic church. I should really say, I studied and read and fell in love. And the fact that I never felt nervous or unsettled really told me I was headed in the right direction.

There were several things which really helped me understand and love what the Church teaches. I think I checked out every book the library had to offer on Catholic apologetics. I read them all. I devoured everything Scott Hahn has ever written. I credit him with about 25% of my conversion;) He is a convert himself, moving from being a Protestant minister and theological seminary graduate to a passionate defender of the Catholic church. He writes in such a clear, logical, reasoned way, and that was just what I needed. I also asked a ton of questions in RCIA classes and talked with the priest. I came across a wonderful blog, Conversion Diary, written by a young mom who also researched her way into the Catholic Church. She writes with great humor and intelligence, and asked a lot of the same questions I did. And Catholic radio! Did you know there was such a thing? I did, only because I had seen the bumper stickers and billboards over the years, and somewhere in my memory, I logged the frequency, and one day, very early in the process, I discovered Catholic Answers Live, a daily call in show, where incredibly patient, kind, and intelligent Catholic apologists or priests answer the questions with which people phone in. So many good questions! Why does the Church venerate Mary? What is the communion of Saints, and can it be defended with scripture? Why does the Church baptize infants? You know...all the questions it makes sense to ask about the faith. The answers were (and are!) clear and rooted in tradition from the earliest days of the Church, and there is almost always "the" answer, meaning there are not multiple opinions and interpretations, which is what you get when everyone can interpret scripture for himself.

Without going into too many many more specifics (this is a blog post, not a book!), I saw the beauty and truth preserved in the Church, and happily received my first Communion and Confirmation at the Easter vigil, 2010. The children were baptized on June 19, 2010, and here we are! We've changed parishes, and now attend mass closer to home, having moved to find a parish with more of a homeschool community, and more of the traditional liturgical and devotional practices that I was looking for.

Of course, I am still learning, and I have no idea how to be a Catholic mommy, teaching the faith to her children. I'm very new, and am making it up as I go along:) And we are a very divided family, with Protestants, practicing and not (Hi Grandparents and Husband!), Jewish believers (Hi cousin!), and none of the above, too (Hi everyone else!). But I had to decide for myself, and once I discovered and understood the Catholic Church, there was no going back. Happily, my husband is on board with raising our children Catholic, and they are developing a great love for the mass and ask wonderful questions, which challenge me every day.

So, how did I come across Charlotte Mason, a devoutly Protestant, British educator? How are we applying her wisdom in our homeschool? That's coming up next!

Celeste, it's your turn! You are a convert did you get here?

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