Reflections on loving God, being Catholic, being a woman, being ill, loving life and anything else that comes to mind.

Monday, September 07, 2009

He Remembered!!!!

During my detour through the Anglican Communion, I seriously considered entering religious life as an Anglican nun. For reasons I shall not try to explain now, I came to the decision that God was not calling me to that vocation. Several years later, I became friends with Fallen Sparrow who is, in many ways, the brother I didn't have until I grew up enough to believe I didn't need one. I soon decided that if someone like him could be a Catholic then there was hope that I could be one too.

My detour into the land of Anglicans occurred partly due to my own pride and partly due to bad catechises. I had fought my Southern Baptist minister foster-father's denunciation of Catholics, had even kept a child's version of the catechism hidden under my mattress and read it over and over. At 11, I began sneaking out to go to Mass. By 13, a paperback copy of Franz Werfel's, The Song of Bernadette joined my hidden catechism and Bernadette became a dear friend. But while preparing for confirmation in NY at 16, I discovered that sin seemed to have been degraded to bad feelings and attitudes, to misunderstandings; it wasn't really my fault. Pre-marital sex was not a sin as long as both parties were "honest" with each other about being "ready" for sex. So much that I had thought clear was suddenly very confusing. And when I encountered priests who ridiculed and belittled me (even shouted at me) or told me a particular work was "over my head", I began to ask myself, Is this what I worked so hard to hold onto? After university while looking for a new parish, I wandered into St. Thomas' Church on Fifth Avenue and by the time I realized it wasn't Catholic, I was mid-way through the class to prepare for reception into the Anglican Communion.

In the late '80s, I found greater orthodoxy in the Anglican Communion than I did in the Catholic Church and more kindness. Not that I conducted any sort of search for either among Catholics, I thought the Church was the same everywhere. Besides, I wasn't being asked to stop believing anything I already believed. The only real difference was that Anglicans believed that the Pope, as the bishop of Rome, was first among equals rather than the head of the Church. But they deferred to him, there were even classes for reading Papal encyclicals; education is taken seriously in high Anglican parishes. And worship was taken so much more seriously, as it was when I was a young child sitting at Mass between Marmar and Papa.

At first, I was simply awed by the amount of sheer knowledge available to me and I imbibed as much of it as I could. During that time, I began to seriously consider becoming a nun. The All Saints Sisters of the Poor in Catonsville attracted me. I spent time with them and actually began the daunting application process. And though I did not join them, in the short time I knew them, I came to love the All Saints Sisters precisely because of their desire for holiness.

Eventually I realized that learning was making me able to comment knowledgeably about all sorts of churchy things but was not helping me to love God better. I saw that holiness was impossible unless I returned to the Catholic Church, that I just couldn't do it on my own. And though I had been taught by Anglicans and Catholics that the Church is run by old white men who are out of touch with current reality, after many conversations with God and with FS, during which I insisted that I was an Anglican and had no intention of returning to the Catholic Church, I woke one Sunday morning to the proposition, What would happen if I went to Mass? So I went to Mass and nothing happened except that I knew I couldn't go back to the Anglican Communion. And I didn't. But since my return, the conversion of the All Saints Sisters of the Poor has been in my prayers because it has been obvious to me that they are Catholic and Catholics belong at home.*

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of my return to the Catholic Church. I had forgotten. At brunch, several friends told me that nearly an entire convent of traditional Anglican nuns in Maryland had become Catholic and I knew of whom they must be speaking. And so it is. As a friend told me yesterday, whether I had joined them or not, it was God's intention that I come home. And it was His intention that the All Saints Sisters come home too, and that I receive a lovely, lovely anniversary gift: ten of the All Saints Sisters and their chaplain (the only Anglican confessor I could ever find) - how awesome! Doesn't God give such lovely gifts?

* Now I can look forward to all the others I'm asking Him to convert, like the President and his family. Praying for conversions is so exciting!


peskemom said...

Wow, Drusilla....for 35 years my husband and I lived in an innovative Anglican Religious Order. I am intrigued by your story. Ours is still unfolding. But I came HOME to Rome and welcomed my husband this past January. Seeing All Saints Sisters join us is exhilirating, isn't it! I do know from my RCIA catechetist training that we should not engage in 'triumphalism' - so let's stay a notch below that. Can we exchange emails to communicate more directly?

since you have to approve this to publish, I'll put it here:

Diane Peske
San Diego, CA

Warren said...

I was an "evangelical" Anglican who described himself as small-c catholic (though I didn't read papal encyclicals, I had a lot of respect for the pope). But I had the interesting trouble of believing more in the catholic faith (as expressed in the Nicene creed) than our Bishop.

And there were Anglican priests in our anglican diocese, who believed in even less of the catholic faith than the bishop. For example, the rector at Resurrection parish, didn't believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ.

What I will say, is that if you go to ten evangelical churches, anglican or otherwise, and ten catholic parishes, you'll get invited for tea, or home for dinner, with great regularity at protestant churches, and basically never, at catholic churches.

Why is there nothing like hospitality in any of our parishes? One parish I know has "tea time" after mass, and they charge a dollar for tea. How would it feel to arrive for a cup of tea, find you have put your last ten dollars into the offering plate, and leave without further ado, to the coffee shop down the street, where at least they will accept your debit card.




Drusilla said...

Warren - I'll try to write more about this later but I used to feel the same way. Then I discovered that as an Anglican, I had many acquaintances but few friends. Back in the Church, I have many real friends - when I was on chemo, several women actually invaded my home, took over my kitchen and cooked for me. They didn't ask permission, my need was sufficient.

We must each extend invitations to those we encounter at Mass - even if we are the newbies. Since it's really one big family, we might as well ask if we are not asked. That said, I do know the Church is chillier in Canada - at least according to my experiences in Halifax and Montreal. I'll pray for you and others who have similar gifts to warm things up. Just invite! And keep on inviting until your invitation is accepted.

God bless and congratulations on your wedding.

Meghan said...

Tremendous! Homecoming stories always bring tears of joy to my eyes and this one especially! Come Holy Spirit!

Carol said...

Awesome, and amen.