The Breech & The Turning–A Convert’s Story

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a four part series that we will be running on successive days at Catholic Exchange. Yes, we think it’s that good.  Cari Donaldson’s journey takes us through a teenager’s doubts, a stint among New Agers, an encounter with the South’s Christ-hauntedness and finally to the miracle of new birth, times two.

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There are parallels between conversion stories and birth stories.  Both start with a tiny seed, planted in darkness, result in the birth of a new creation, and involve blood, sweat and tears.  And while I resisted writing the story of my conversion to Catholicism for a long time, it seems fitting that when I finally did so, it would be toward the end of my sixth pregnancy.

While writing this has involved slightly less blood than the birth of my children, it was accompanied by yelling and tears.  There is nothing more frustrating than trying to convey your experience with the Word when it refuses to fit nicely into any words.  So I ask you, like all mothers presenting their newborn to the public for the first time, please overlook defects of style and appearance, and focus instead on the potential, the innocence, the love that created, sustained, and labored to bring the finished product into the world.

 

On My Way to “The Triple Goddess”

I was raised, in no particular order:

  • With both mother and father, who modeled what a strong marriage can look like
  • With one sibling, my brother, who used to be younger than I am, but since I’ve stopped aging, he’s now older
  • In a suburb of Detroit, in a dark brick ranch my grandfather helped build and my mom grew up in
  • Going to the same Presbyterian church my mom went to when she was a child

 

We went to church regularly, and I attended both Sunday school and youth group.  Any other religious expression was an individual pursuit.   I don’t remember reading the Bible as a family, but I do remember my gold foil “Good News Bible,” with stick figures and crinkly onionskin paper.  I don’t remember praying much as a family, outside of grace before Thanksgiving dinner, but I do remember, from a very early age, talking to God.

Specifically, I remember talking to God every night, and asking Him to “put my Grandpa on.”  I’d wait, imagining God going to get my Grandpa Bob, who had died when I was five.  I’d sit patiently in silence, until I imagined Grandpa coming to the prayer line, and we’d chat for a bit.  Then God would get back on, and we’d say our goodbyes for the night.

Child Praying I remember my childhood religious formation being strong enough to forge that vital element—a prayer life, something I never ever lost.

I remember the rest of my childhood formation being tenuous enough that I had slipped it off by college.

My best friend in high school gave me a book to read right before I left for Michigan State.  It was called Judas My Brother, by Frank Yerby.  Briefly, it is a book that strives to strip Jesus, and by extension, Christianity, of anything divine or mystical.  It has footnotes and endnotes galore, and to a 17 year-old girl with little grounding in theology, it was a revelation.  With no education in Christian apologetics to help me critically consume the book, I was happy to embrace the whole thing.  The ability to toss aside some Bronze-age set of patriarchal ethics all while spouting off quotes from a historical novel is extremely attractive to a new college student.

So, convinced that at its heart, Christianity was nothing more than a monstrous tale of a monstrous God who sacrificed His own Son to Himself to appease His monstrous anger, I chucked it all.

More or less.

I still prayed.  Every night.  There was that remnant of my childhood faith that I couldn’t even begin to shake.  Even if the prayer was nothing more than, “Thank you for this day, goodnight,” I still said it.  I didn’t think too hard about who was on the receiving end of my prayer, but I always knew that there was Someone to whom I was grateful for another day of life.

Pages: 1 2 3

Cari Donaldson

By

Cari Donaldson is the author of the upcoming book Pope Awesome and Other Stories . She stepped through the looking glass when she married her high school sweetheart in a Presbyterian ceremony back in 1999. Since then, she and her husband have found themselves the parents of six children, and on the corporate gypsy trail, with transfers moving them from the Midwest to the deep South to New England. The most startling developments however, have been the conversion to Catholicism in 2006, and the discovery that blogging provides an excellent creative outlet. You can find Cari on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/clan.donaldson and Twitter at @CariDonaldson and here on Catholic Exchange.

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  • Micaela

    I love it even more reading it this time.

  • PattiArmstrong

    Hi Cari,

    Great story. I graduated from MSU and grew up in Dearborn, although now I live in ND.  I was blind and open to New Age ideas too but now homeschool and have a large family.  It’s fun to hear from another Michigander. I’ll look forward to part 2.

  • http://www.clan-donaldson.com/ Cari Donaldson

    Hi Patti! I’ve never been to ND, but can you get decent falafel there?  Ever since leaving SE Michigan, I’ve missed good falafel.  We were so spoiled and didn’t even know it.

    I can’t wait to see what other parallels your life and mine share!

  • chaco

    Thank You SOoo much !!! for “Fanning the Flames” of our faith with your witness.  Just that little seed of night time prayers, urged by a mama and backed up by the Daddy/enforcer, can grow into a mighty experience of The Risen Savior; I too drifted into my own interpretation of what “Truth” was but retained the habit of addressing a”Higher Power”.  Boy!  it’s a good thing I did; In my early teens, I had reached the dreaded “Inferiority Complex” ( I thought girls didn’t like me and I wasn’t funny like the other guys etc.). I was even contemplating ending the pain of it all. One pain-filled night I addressed the God I was taught about; “JESUS, WHAT’s WRONG WITH ME !”  I can tell you with  “BLESSED ASSURANCE” (even present as I write this) that the habit my parents helped to form in me pays  $ Holy $ Heartfelt $ Dividends $  “…whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”(Acts 2: 21)

  • http://www.clan-donaldson.com/ Cari Donaldson

    Teen Angst is hard enough even WITH a prayer life!  I remember one night flipping through the Psalms and having one catch my eye that was exactly the same in substance to your JESUS, WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME! prayer.
    And, like you witnessed, no matter how often God hears that same sentiment, He never fails to respond.

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