My Conversion Story, by Lisa Graas
My parents were protestants and basically just gave me a Bible and told me to read it. They didn’t give me any other instructions. So, I read (some of it). After reading, I believed in the God of the Old Testament but wasn’t sure about Jesus. My only problem with Jesus was that He said, “You must eat My Flesh and drink My Blood or you will have no life in you.” Wow. How could anyone do that? He died 2000 years ago, and who would want to do that anyway? So, I had trouble with it. Since I believed in the God of the Old Testament, I made Him a promise. “God, if you show me how this is possible, I will believe in Jesus and follow Him always.” That was that.
Years passed and no word from God yet on how that was possible. Finally, I began dating a Catholic who would end up being my husband. He worked out of town a lot and once he was working in Knoxville, TN. We live in Kentucky and Knoxville is far but not so far, so I decided to surprise him and invite him to dinner with me. I knocked on his hotel door and he was really happy to see me. I asked him out to dinner and he said, “I have to go to Mass first.” It was Ash Wednesday.
I said, “How the heck can you go to church so far away from home? You can’t know what they believe.” He said, “The Catholic Church is the same, no matter where you go, no matter even what country you’re in.” This really got me interested and, as he looked for the nearest Catholic Church in the Yellow Pages, I pondered this. Finally, I said, “Hey, can I go with you?” He said, “Sure!”
We went to Holy Ghost parish in Knoxville. It’s a beautiful old church. When we walked in the front door, there was no one there to greet us. I was used to going to protestant churches where there would be a throng of greeters. I was impressed, not so much because I don’t like to be “thronged,” (I do not) but because it meant that everyone’s focus was at the front of the church, at the altar. I was curious and impressed by the reverence, but…still hadn’t much of a clue.
I just sat there when he kneeled but stood up when he stood up. I didn’t yet know there was really a good reason to kneel. I don’t remember the homily at all. It wasn’t good or bad to me. I just don’t remember it. Finally came the consecration. “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body,
which will be given up for you.” Um….WOW. Then the second part: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.” BINGO!! This was it! This is how! This is what it means in the Bible where Jesus says you have to do this! This is how!!! Wow! I had to contain my excitement. After all, this was a Catholic Mass and I couldn’t stand up and say “Hey, everybody, etc.!”
I was literally trembling in the presence of God. I didn’t know what to do. I mean, God is here! Everyone started filing up to Communion and, to me, it was like they were filing up to the gates of heaven. What came next may seem trivial but it meant a lot to me. There was a man in the pew behind me and he had a little girl with him. She said, “Daddy, she didn’t go to Communion.” He replied, “That’s okay.” She said again, louder, “But Daddy, she didn’t go to Communion.” He said, “It’s okay. She doesn’t have to go if she doesn’t want to.” It then hit me. I can do this! I can become Catholic and go receive our Lord in Communion! It’s up to me! I can do it “if I want to!”
Then I kneeled….and I knew exactly why I was kneeling. After Mass, on the drive back to the hotel, I told him, “I want to become a Catholic.” He said, “Really?” I said, “Yes! I want to become a Catholic!” He explained to me about RCIA and that was it. I enrolled in RCIA immediately. Again, it was Ash Wednesday. My husband proposed on Easter Sunday.
One thing I would like you to be sure of is that when your kids are saying weird things at Mass, don’t worry about it. It might just save someone’s soul.
PHOTO CREDIT: Holy Ghost parish, Knoxville, TN.