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Project Conversion

Good morning and welcome to my first day as a Catholic. This is also Project Conversion’s last month of the year. That statement seems impossible. Did we really make it this far? Are there really people who have followed me since this all began in January?

Yes, and thank you.

As with any month, the transition is always difficult. I described my first experience with the monthly change over in this post back in February. Some have asked “how do you do it?” The answer: I just do. There’s no special formula other than guts and pinch of insanity. It’s base jumping off a cliff. The hard part is walking up to the edge and letting go of your fears and inhibitions. Falling…that’s the easy part.

Day one of every month (which actually begins a few hours the night before) is all about preparation. I cram for hours, reading sacred texts, commentary, websites, setting up altars, creating sacred objects…all of which dramatically sheds the old Andrew away and brings about my new spiritual persona.

This month’s transition was pretty tough considering the faith I just left and the faith I’m entering. Jains (November’s faith) do not have a central creator god. Catholics do. Jain’s do not believe in a savior (Jainism is a sramana path, meaning one’s own effot). Catholics believe Jesus, the son of God, paid the price for our sins on the cross. With Jainism, I meditated on my own soul and worked toward its perfected, karmaless state. This month, my goal is union with Christ.

The therapy bills will be huge.

Aside from all this, I selected Catholicism (more specifically, the Roman variety) for the same reason I picked Wicca, Islam, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Because while a Christian in high school, I condemned them all. Catholicism was a system of the devil, I thought. The lineage of the Pope would produce the anti-Christ. Yada, yada, yada. And I made all these assumptions with zero knowledge about the Church. I was burning with ignorance. This month, like the others, is my chance to change all of that.

So, let’s get started.

First, I needed a few books:

Starting from the top and left to right: The Church Catechism: Second Edition, The New Catholic Answer Bible, "Being Catholic Today", "Catholic Customs and Traditions", "Handbook for Today's Catholic", and the brand-spanking new Missal "People's response" update.

What’s really interesting and exciting about this month is that I’m basically learning new material along with my Catholic friends. The Vatican recently updated the Missal translation of the Mass (service, translated “celebration”) procedure. It’s caused some drama, but I’ll get into that later.

This is what I started reading last night until about 2 a.m., and what I’ll continue reading (along with whatever goodies my Mentor provides) throughout the month.

Can you see my eyes bleeding from here? No, it's not a stigmata. That's just pure dedication my friend, dedication!

Something else interesting happens this month, something I haven’t done in nearly 10 years. I’m wearing a cross necklace. It’s the one my mother gave me in high school and I haven’t worn it since I left the faith. My mother and I dug through a box of my old stuff (she’s a pack rat) and found it tarnished in its original white box. With some jewelry cleaner and a little love, I shined her right up and am proudly wearing the symbol of Christ’s sacrifice for all mankind once again.

I also geeked out when I discovered that Catholics use prayer beads called rosaries. I’ve developed something of an obsession over prayer/meditation beads from different faiths this year, so grabbing one for this month was particularly enjoyable.

So these are some of the basic features of the month. Additional items may come along but for now, this is it. Another great part about this month is that I have a local faith community. There were many months in the past where I rarely saw another member of the faith, had to drive for hours to meet them, or like last month, had no one at all. The Catholic church I belong to this month is within walking distance and my Mentor is the youth minister there. We even played on the same soccer team in high school. Small world!

Saint Francis De Sales Catholic Church

The church community here is very warm and accommodating. I actually meet with my Mentor and another church member this afternoon to establish our game plan for the month. Can’t wait!

So there it is, my introduction to the world of Catholicism. I’ll spend most of my time today reading over this mountain of books, studying prayers, and reading up on juicy Catholic news. I encourage you all to get involved, especially with the Congregation, invite your Catholic friends and family, and really help make this month shine. We have a lot of work ahead but I think with everyone’s help, we can finish this adventure in a glorious way.

May God bless you all, and peace be upon you.

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