Why Did You Convert?

October 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Books, Conversion, Faith, Work

My long-time friend (and now boss) Marcus Grodi is known for being a Protestant minister who did the unthinkable when he converted to Catholicism.

He’s in good company.

Even before Patrick Madrid’s classic book Surprised by Truth (a compilation of Protestant clergy conversion stories) hit the market, the ranks of former non-Catholic clergy coming into full communion with the Church was growing steadily. The mission of the organization Marcus founded, The Coming Home Network International (CHNetwork), is to assist these individuals when they decide to “come home to Rome.” The stories of these clergy converts are both heart-rending and inspiring, as they often make extraordinary sacrifices in the pursuit of Truth.

One of the best parts of working at CHNetwork is being a part of an organization committed to encouraging ongoing, life-long conversion. My younger years included a decision to “accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior” that proved somewhat temperamental, particularly during my teenage years. Since that time, and especially after being baptized and entering the Church in my twenties, I have come to see conversion less as an event, more as a process.

On EWTN’s popular program The Journey Home, Marcus interviews many guests who have converted – or reverted – to the faith. I always find the stories inspiring, and believe that part of our charism as an organization is to facilitate the stories being told. By doing so, we cooperate with grace and the Holy Spirit does the real heavy lifting – changing hearts.

Part of the allure of conversion stories is hearing so many people who have been attracted to the Church through so many different means – and for so many different reasons. These reasons are as varied as the personalities of the guests, yet there is something compelling about the sense of discovery that permeates each story. My Dad, a former Presbyterian minister, came into the Church out of a desire for Christian unity. The key to unity, as he came to believe, is the Eucharist.

One of Marcus’ latest projects (among many) is a follow-up to his first novel, How Firm a Foundation. The sequel is called Pillar and Bulwark, and will be released late this year. I was privileged to read an advance copy, and found it thoroughly engaging. As Marcus has said, the beauty of fiction in this context is that it allows the reader to enter into a conversion experience from the perspective of the characters. Many of the interior struggles that occur within individual converts go beyond the types of things you would hear on The Journey Home show.

Although Catholic fiction doesn’t have a broad market (with the possible exception of Michael O’Brien’s novels), after reading Pillar and Bulwark, I wonder if it should. There are many useful concepts contained in the book, and it really got me thinking about why people convert, and how much individual life circumstances have to do with the process.

Regardless of whether you’re a convert, a revert, or a lifelong Catholic, all of us generally go through phases of reflecting on faith in the context of our life experiences. We then make decisions accordingly – or choose not to (which is still a choice, to paraphrase a popular song). My question is for those of you who are converts to the faith – why did you convert, and how did you get past the main obstacles on your journey?

No matter who you are, or where you stand in your journey, know that I’m praying for you. The obstacles to conversion are real, but as countless clergy and lay people around the world know, the benefits are priceless.

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10 Responses to “Why Did You Convert?”
  1. Here is a link to my conversion story. I hope you will forgive that I am simply doing that. If I can claim to have had a hand in it, it was simply to realize how, prior to discovering Christ in the Eucharist, it was mainly the *idea* of Jesus I loved. To encounter Him in actuality and sit in His presence made it impossible to ever stay outside of the Church.

    http://thedevoutlife.blogspot.com/p/my-conversion-story.html

  2. Kevin says:

    Thanks for sharing, Mindy – you have a wonderful story! I appreciate your comment and welcome you posting this link.

  3. Teri Shrader says:

    Hi Kevin,

    I have been in full communion with the Catholic Church for a little over a year now, and I have yet to write out my conversion story!
    I hope your blog will spur me on to put it down on a blog, if not paper, at the least!
    I must say that many of the amazing moments that I have experienced since since then have only further enriched my faith!

    Also, if I had wrote it then, I think I would have been quite a bit more defensive towards some of the Protestant faiths. When you are in the midst of your conversion and know that “turning around and swimming back” is not an option you want support and encouragement. Of course you get the opposite from those around you that vehemently oppose “Rome”.

    Thank God that I have some amazing brothers and sisters in Christ that were Converts as well during my RCIA time.

    Honestly, one of the points that I would stress to anyone that is considering this amazing journey would be to EXPECT OPPOSITION. Jesus did not call us to be popular, loved by all and “pleasers of men”.
    You may encounter opposition in and out of The Church. It calls you to a higher level of faith, love, forgiveness, and trust.

    Believe me, it is worth all of it when you realize the treasures of the Sacraments you have been given! Most especially Our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist!

    Peace of Christ be with you,
    Teri

  4. Kevin says:

    Thanks Teri – great perspective! My wife was counseled to divorce me during our conversion process by a well-meaning but misguided (and unfortunately, former) friend. But I agree, the sacraments are treasures beyond compare!

  5. Not too long ago, I learned about the great work that Mr. Grodi is doing. As a convert myself, I found a lot of the resources that he makes available on CHNetwork very valuable.

    I did not know that he had written any novels. I will have to look for “How Firm a Foundation.’ I’ve already got a pile of books on my reading list, but it never hurts to add one more. 😉

  6. jeh says:

    I did not convert, but I am in the process of reverting so to speak, and so while I was always quite familiar with Church teaching and not used to thinking about things a different way, I have been reexamining the why behind the what. It’s been at times difficult, joyful, perplexing, trying, profound, encouraging and comforting. What has sustained me in this entire process honestly has been prayer, both offered up by me and thankfully by numerous other friends on my behalf.

  7. Andy McNutt says:

    It is easy when “former [insert brand here] pastor” is part of your label to look back to the reasons why you came into the Catholic Church and why you left your former traditions. It’s also easy to recount everything that you gave up. Up until only recently, I was known in Catholic circles as “former Southern Baptist pastor, Andy McNutt”, and I guess that helped people understand that 1. I was a convert and 2. that I was from a particular brand of protestantism. Now, almost 10 years later, people around my diocese know me as Andy McNutt. The speaking engagements are more limited now because I’m plugged into my diocese and parish and I guess too my novelty has worn off.

    I guess reading this post made me remember everything that I gave up to become Catholic. I lost friends to be sure, but the biggest sacrifice was my career. Uprooting my family and moving to take a “secular job” across the state was no easy task, nor was the realization that I would forever be without a career. All my education and seminary certainly help my teaching opportunities when they come, but they do not really apply to my job as a marketing and sales guy, do they? That’s the thing that keeps me up some nights when I am feeling sorry for myself, especially when the money just isn’t there for whatever bill or expense we are facing.

    But then I remind myself of the surpassing value of the Eucharist. It is more than the high point of the Mass. It is more than a common meal shared with other Christians. It is the very resurrection life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is what transforms my life and gives me the grace to do what I must. The Eucharist makes all the difference in the world, and when I remember that truth, all of my complaints are put in better perspective and I lay myself at the foot of the Cross of Christ.

    Convert or cradle Catholic, it is the Eucharist that is at the very heart of our being – that no one out of communion with Christ’s Church can even comprehend. It is worth the sacrifice. He is worth the sacrifice.

  8. Mandrivnyk says:

    Both during my conversion and my later reversion my primary obstacle was fear, more or less, of the radical cost that would come with being Catholic. I never really had an intellectual obstacles, beyond the sense of scepticism/relativism/pragmatism I had always known as a pagan/occultist and later developed in my studies. In the end, truly, the main help was love – there is nothing in the world like Catholicism, and everything pales in comparison to Christ. Truly, the Holy Spirit did the work.

    If you are interested, this is my conversion story: http://psalm402.blogspot.com/2009/09/although-i-am-convert-to-catholic-faith.html

  9. Charles Feicht says:

    A common thread of converting and reverting Catholics, of course, is the recognition of the priceless value of the Eucharist. To many of our Protestant brethren, this is, at least perplexing if not unfathomable or worse.

    Here’s what I would offer to them, and I am not a theologian. The Eucharist, the Church teaches ( this means all the accumulated past and current authoritative teaching-that which is settled truth), is the Body and Blood of Christ. What does that mean ? It is ultimately a mystery so any explanation is going to be inadequate.

    One way of thinking of it is the material and the spiritual together as one. In Catholic terminology – “Body,Blood,Soul and Divinity”. And He is here on earth, with us, in time and space, not just a “spiritual” reality. God is with us, here, now, in Heaven and on earth. How could it be otherwise? If you would catch just the faintest glimpse of this glorious truth, then I would urge you simply to attend a Eucharistic adoration, which happens all over at local Catholic churches.

    In the Holy Eucharist, time, space, past, present, future, your very being and above all your salvation, your embrace by God Himself, forgiveness, and Peace beyond understanding all are present.

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