Project Conversion

Project Conversion


First Day as a Catholic, Last Month of the Year

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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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abowen

posted December 5, 2011 at 12:08 am


Anne,

Obviously you don’t keep up on the Facebook page. My Mentor, along with other members of his church, have actually tripled my reading materials since we began. You should keep in mind also that I have only 31 days to absorb, digest, and present as much as humanly possible. Seeing as it’s day 4 and you’re criticizing me for not giving a whole picture is a little silly. My mission is the presentation of each faith as an introduction via my personal experience in living out each religion. While I appreciate your resource recommendations (I’ll certainly try and find these), keep in mind that I only have one month, that I’m doing the best I can (which everyone seems happy with), and that I’m not preparing some intellectual tome or dissertation. In other words, lighten up a bit and enjoy the ride. Peace



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abowen

posted December 5, 2011 at 12:02 am


Darla,

Thank you and what a wonderful perspective!



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Anne C

posted December 4, 2011 at 8:58 pm


I think you need to expand your reading list by quite a bit, especially if you want to get a view of the wide range of thought that exists within official Roman Catholicism. Your brief summary in another indicates that your grasp of Roman Catholicism and its place within the “catholic” church as well as within christianity is incomplete. If you want to understand a bit more, I would suggest you add some “conservative” and “progressive” Catholic websites – the conservative side appears in sites such as Beliefnet’s “Catholic” site, EWTN, Fr. Barron etc, all of which accurately reflect interpretations of Catholicism, as expressed by Rome in its current and previous pope, but not, for example, fully reflecting Vatican II nor Pope John XXII. The views of the majority of Roman Catholics are not found on the conservative sites – to read about the views of the majority (with input from the conservatives), you can start with Beliefnet’s “Discuss Catholicism” board, and add to it Commonweal, especially the blog (http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/, America magazine (americamagazine.org) (also online), National Catholic Reporter (ncronline.org). The Roman Catholic church is polarized these days, coming together on Sundays in relative peace, but sharply diverging on essential issues, beginning with a common understanding of “who” is the church, and how does the Holy Spirit act through the church (Vatican II affirmed John Cardinal Newman’s belief that the Spirit works through the entire church, not simply the hierarchy and the pope). Etc.



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Mrs. DarlaG

posted December 4, 2011 at 6:57 pm


As an LDS, I’m really glad to see you going Catholic this month. Like, us, I think they have been unfairly demonized in culture and society, and unfairly ignored for the great about of good they as a church and a people do throughout the world. And Catholics not Christian? Oh, right, LDS aren’t supposed to be either- though both unequivocally embrace Christ as the Savior. In my opinion, there are too many conditions placed on who gets to hold the title “Christian” and not enough focus on Who is the epicenter of their beliefs.

I’m not too keen on Pope Benedict’s recent call for a one world style government, it nearly made blood shoot out of my eyes, and, yes, they have been guilty of making some other really awful decisions throughout their close to 2000 year history…but hey, who isn’t going to make some mistakes over 2000 years?

Overall, I see them as a positive influence on the world, and I see my numerous friends who are Catholic, as wonderful people, striving to be good God-fearing folks.

P.S. A couple of really good books to consider, just on the general Christian-side of things: “The Case for Christ” & “The Case for Faith,” by Lee Strobel. Both have brief documentaries made from them which are available on Netflix. Powerful stuff…for me at least.



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abowen

posted December 2, 2011 at 1:39 pm


Jim,

Very good question. I was asked to not partake of the Eucharist since I am not truly a Catholic. I will always respect the boundaries of each faith.



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abowen

posted December 2, 2011 at 1:36 pm


Ryan,

No worries, it’s a good question. I asked my Mentor about that issue and he said that it didn’t matter, that the intention behind wearing the piece is what counts. My rosary has a crucifix, however my necklace has an empty cross. Both remind me of Christ, which is the important part anyway.



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abowen

posted December 2, 2011 at 1:34 pm


Art,

Haha good one pal.



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abowen

posted December 2, 2011 at 1:34 pm


Niki,

I absolutely will explore the namesake. Thank you for bringing that up! Yes, food is nice ; )



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Jim.

posted December 2, 2011 at 12:28 am


What do you plan to do about communion? I think that they may require you to be catholic to share the eucrist.



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RyanH

posted December 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm


This may be naivety or misinformation speaking, but I’ve gotten the impression that Catholics do not typically wear crosses, but crucifixes. Or maybe it’s simply the other way around–that Protestants wear crosses but NOT crucifixes, but that Catholics might also wear “empty” crosses. (i.e. a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square…) I’d be curious if the former impression is true. (I’m 99% positive that Protestants do not wear crucifixes.)



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Art Sherwood

posted December 1, 2011 at 2:39 pm


St Francis de Sales – Sounds to me like the patron saint of bargain shopping (Sorry, cheap joke, I know. Couldn’t help it).

This should be a fun month. I’m looking forward to it.



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Niki Whiting

posted December 1, 2011 at 2:26 pm


St Francis de Sales – If I’m not incorrect, I believe he is often associated with the social justice side of Catholicism. Do you plan to explore the name sake of your church?

I remember reading the Catechism (yes, I read the entire thing) about 12 or 13 years ago. It had some beautiful bits in it.

I also am curious if you are enjoying food again. ;)



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