28 September 2007

Conversion now and Zen

Yesterday, at least I think it was yesterday, I watched The Journey Home on EWTN. The guest was Francis Beckwith who spoke about how he left the Evangelical Church and became Catholic. He had been raised Catholic, but left the Church because he became more involved in and enamored with the exuberance of the evangelical movement. He is a bright man who eventually became president of the Evangelical Theological Society. In the interview, it seemed that he never really broke with the Church, but just drifted away by initially participating in a Catholic Charismatic Renewal bible study, then attending a Jesus People Church. Eventually, he was well into the Evangelical camp, but still in tune with a lot of Catholic teachings. People even asked him why he wasn't Catholic. Recently, he re-joined the Catholic Church after reading some early Church fathers on the subject of justification. Once that key was in the lock, the rest of the Church's teachings made sense to him.

My husband is a convert from Lutheranism. Nominal Lutheranism. His parents, wanting him to have some appreciation for religion, would take him to church on Sunday, drop him off at the church steps and then go do something else for an hour. This is a real head-shaker for me. Instead of the old Borg slogan of "Resistance is futile," this was more along the lines of, "Attempts at religiousizing are futile." I shouldn't be flippant, maybe these times in church were what gave him the grounding to one day become Catholic. The more I hear the conversion stories of others, the more I see that there is no clear path to look down from this end, only the trail you see in retrospect.

It's all amazing.

My husband (back then he was just a friend) went and asked the pastor of the church he attended once in a blue moon, why Lutheranism and not Catholicism. The pastor, according to my husband, had little to say. He seemed to be resigned that one of his sheep was leaving the flock. He almost acted like he, or the church he belonged to, had been seen for what it was. The emperor had no clothes. The pastor's only suggestion to the kindly barrage of questions of my husband's, was for my husband to read "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values."

Odd. Even my husband thought it was odd and left his meeting with the pastor feeling very disappointed and even sorry for the man. The pastor had had no answers to my husband's questions.

After a few meetings with my father, a great apologist, discussing Catholicism, my "friend" was certain that his leanings toward the Catholic Church were correct and he was ready for RCIA.

I still ask my husband how he "came around" to Catholicism. He said he always (ALWAYS!) had something telling him the Church was correct. He had no stumbling blocks, like the Real Presence or Mary, that he needed answers to. In fact, he had always believed, as best a nominal Lutheran could, in the Real Presence. Why Lutherans don't believe in the Real Presence was the big question the pastor couldn't sufficiently answer.

The more I hear conversion stories, the more I am amazed at God's Brownian motion through mankind. Nothing is predictable. I guess it's true that God works in mysterious ways and His ways are not our ways!


Ray from MN said...

I remember going to a Lutheran wedding when I was in my 30s. I almost fell over in shock at discovering how much of the words of the Mass were being used.

I grew up with lots of neighbors as Lutherans. I just assumed they were all akin to pagans. I guess not.

Actually, I have recently met a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese who formerly was a Lutheran Minister. He converted along with his wife and kids and was accepted (after some seminary work one supposes) as a married Catholic priest and is pastor of a parish in a suburban community.

I don't ever recall seeing any TV or newspaper stories on this priest.

Maybe Archbishop Flynn wanted it that way.

swissmiss said...

I grew up in the burbs and everyone was either Catholic or Lutheran. I thought they were pretty much alike in many respects (meaning the Lutherans had a very similar liturgy, but still was a cavernous distance away on important issues). My husbands grandparents were Catholic, but fell away from the Church, joined the Lutheran church and raised their kids Lutheran...kinda. In just a generation, it is remarkable how much the family is so removed from Catholicism and any organized beliefs. Since I have always been Catholic, it is very hard for me to understand how someone can persist in life without resolving the religion issue one way or another.