The first time I stepped into a Catholic church was November 30th of this year. It was the feast day of St. Andrew, and I was told that he was the first called of the disciples of Jesus. During the homily, it was said that Jesus cherished the friendship of Andrew.
Auspicious? Perhaps, but either way, I hope both Jesus and the Church see me now as a friend instead of the enemy I once was.
In many ways, Catholicism was the perfect month with which to end Project Conversion. That isn’t to say that Catholicism is a better faith than the rest, but only that the best features of a Project Conversion month shined through. Here are a few of those sought after elements:
- Local faith membership
- Local and enthusiastic Mentor
- A deep faith tradition
- Wealth of literature
- Multiple events
- Various off-site locations
- Acceptance and welcome of Project Conversion
- Desire for on-going relationship
- Various modes of spiritual expression
Each month this year demonstrated at least one or more of these features, however I seemed to have lucked out because my experience with Catholicism contained all of these. Their presence made for a deeply personal and rich learning experience, even if it was exhausting at times with all that was going on.
This photo represents a single snow flake at the tip of the iceberg of literature, scholarship, and discourse produced throughout the 2,000 years of Catholic history. If you ever meet a Catholic who doesn’t know their faith deeply and intimately…it’s their own fault. I just love the fact that I could spend lifetimes swimming through the ocean of thought and development within the Church.
On the other hand, all the books in the world cannot fully articulate the clarity of experience. My “adventures” with Mentor Jason helped clarify many theological issues I struggled with, such as the role of Mary, the religious orders (monks, nuns, etc.), and the Eucharist. These trips helped me understand more deeply a lot of what Project Conversion is about. You see, Catholics like to speak of moments of conversion. This doesn’t mean that they switch faiths, but that their minds are changed, developed, and nurtured into a whole new plane of understanding. That’s Project Conversion. It’s a conversion of one’s mind and heart via the deeply transformative power of experience.
Catholicism is very strange…yet familiar. I recognized a lot of the terms, practices, and symbols from my experience years ago with Protestant Christianity, but there was so much more with the Catholic side of the coin. In a way, I suppose, it was like catching up with a long lost friend. I had a base with this faith, but so much had happened along the way.
The sheer volume of artistic expression within Catholicism is mind-blowing. A patron of the arts in the highest order, the Church itself commissioned many of artistic geniuses we hold in such high esteem today. Much of a church’s architecture, no matter how small or large the building, seems to proclaim the gospel of Christ. Just as the Holy Spirit is said to transform the essence of the bread and wine of the Eucharist, that very same Spirit seems to transform the churches themselves into bold proclamations of the gospel.
I know that many of you take issue with the Church for much of the controversy and abuses of its past (and some may consider its present). I understand that it may mean little to you that the Church has apologized for many of these past offenses and reiterates the fact that while Christ set up the Church, it is operated by humans. As with any month, I have done my absolute best in trying to open doors to new light regarding Catholicism in order to help mend wounds and foster a spirit of brotherhood and companionship across the spiritual divide.
In other words, I’m not trying to convince you to like the Church, but only to reach out to it and other faiths you may disagree with theologically and at least try and produce a better future together.
When I woke up this morning, Heather asked me “Remember how you felt this time last year? How do you feel now that it’s about to end?”
It’s a good question. When I started Project Conversion, I never knew it would turn out like this. I thought a few local folks would find out and it would be an interesting local story. On the contrary, no local papers or news agencies were interested…
But the rest of the world was.
I’ve spoken with people all over the globe. I’ve become life-long friends with people I might have never otherwise met. These people–YOU–have changed me forever. You are my Congregation, a family I can no longer see myself living without. And I thank you for that.
This time last year, I was nervous, anxious, wondering what the hell I just got myself into. I wasn’t sure how things would turn out. I didn’t know it would be this hard, cost so much. It seems like today should be a relief, a reason to breath easy because tomorrow it will all be over.
How do I feel now, a year later?
I’m even more anxious, more excited, more nervous, and wondering what the hell I just got myself into. Because I’ve got miles to go before I sleep…miles to go, before I sleep.