Interview on February 25, 2021, with Christina, who entered the Church in 2013 at age 34.
What was your faith background?
Christina: I was raised very conservative Protestant homeschooler, the no rock music, no dating kind of conservative. Because of issues with my parents, I had trouble grappling with the Father’s love. I could accept Jesus’s love, I could accept the Holy Spirit, but the Father was more distant. I was quote-unquote “born again” at age four. You can’t really make that kind of decision at that age, but when I was young I believed it. The best way to explain it over all is: I believed but I couldn’t tell you why. Then I rebelled and then I looped back around.
What first attracted you to Catholicism?
Christina: Nothing, honestly. I got pregnant with my eldest when I was in law school and her dad wanted nothing to do with her or me, so I left law school, moved in with a girlfriend, and had my baby on my own. Then I met my husband. My husband went to Thomas Aquinas College. He was a quasi-practicing Catholic. We got married, we had a really rough marriage, honestly, lots of stuff going in. We did Retrouvaille and Retrouvaille encouraged us to go to each other’s churches. We did that for four months. We would go to my church on Saturday night and his church on Sunday mornings.
We had a four-year-old at the time and I was looking at getting her into a school. Every single door shut for me, in terms of getting her into the Protestant schools, but there was a Catholic school there in Sacramento that had a good program. I went one day to drop off my daughter for preschool and I met the priest’s dad in the parking lot, dropping off his granddaughter. He struck up a conversation with me and he said, “Come to Mass.” He was the first person who had told me to come to Mass. All my husband’s friends were like, “Oh, it’s okay you’re not Catholic, that’s neat.” But he was like, “Come to Mass, you need to make friends.”
The first homily was on redemptive suffering and that piqued my interest. I had never heard that concept before. I have really bad pregnancies where I’m on IVs and bed rest most of my pregnancies and I was planning on getting my tubes tied as soon as my third pregnancy was over. After the homily, I was like, “Okay, there’s a reason for our suffering. Not only am I suffering to bring a child into the world, but God can use this suffering.” Then the second homily was on “we vote pro-life.” I had worked in politics for years and he gave this intense homily on “I don’t care if you like the candidate, I don’t care if he’s the candidate you would pick for other issues, you vote pro-life no matter what.” And I was like, “Okay, this is ringing true to me.”
I kept going to Mass on Sundays with my husband. I was getting I guess you would call it spiritual direction from my former youth pastor and she told me to look into the Catholic Church to be united with my husband, be more on the same page with him. So I started to do RCIA and I did not tell my husband. My brother-in-law was studying in Rome to be a priest and his family is very, very Catholic and I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up. I didn’t want any pressure. My husband thought I was going to Bible studies for the first couple of months. I just said, “I’m going to church” and then I went and did RCIA.
Was there a tipping point that made you decide to enter the Church?
Christina: There was a family holy hour at our church and they were singing “Emmanuel, Emmanuel, God is with us.” It was at that moment that I went, “Okay, this is the only true Church. We are the only Church that can sit here and sing the song and God is actually right there, present, twenty feet in front of me, there to be with us. He’s not some faraway story of Jesus being born in a stable. He’s right here, right now, physically there, and there’s no other church that can say that.”
How can Catholics better evangelize Protestants?
Christina: I think it boils down to the fullness and wholeness of the Catholic faith. Like if you’re doing a diet why would you do half the diet? Why would you only do part of it when you could do the fullness of the Catholic faith? People get caught on the tradition, “Oh, there’s all the tradition and it’s run by men,” “oh this” and “oh that.” I went down this rabbit hole once about why women weren’t priests. It was really bad. I was convinced that it was sexist. Then I realized the root of why women are not priests and I was like, “Okay, this makes sense.” I think a lot of it is just that people are poorly catechized and they don’t understand the roots and traditions are there for a reason. It comes across as judgmental and we have all these rules. They don’t understand how they’re all connected and they all matter.
What would you say to someone who doubts the existence of God because of the existence of suffering?
Christina: If you’re looking at it without original sin being passed down, it looks harsh and cruel. But choices have a ripple effect. Adam and Eve sinned and we have original sin. This world is not perfect, it’s fallen. God didn’t do it, that wasn’t God’s choice. When original sin entered the equation, bad things happened, but God turned it into good and we never know God’s plan.
In terms of redemptive suffering, whatever way we are suffering, we can take that and offer it up for a greater good. In my pregnancies sometimes I throw up twenty times a day. I will lose twenty pounds in a pregnancy. I can’t sit up, sometimes. I roll over to throw up and that’s it. I’m so sick. But each time I throw up, I thank our Lord that my baby is healthy – because I’m throwing up, so that’s a good thing – and then I offer up my suffering for good priests and for the protection of priests.
I haven’t fully grasped the whole concept of redemptive suffering, there’s so much deeper that I can go with it, but in a nutshell it’s just that I can take something that is hard for me and give that back to God and say, “Can you use this to help this other person?”
We all know we are fighting a cultural battle for our children’s souls right now. But when we are pregnant, we are also fighting a battle because the devil does not want us to have more children. So when I’m pregnant, I’m fighting a spiritual battle because I’m bringing souls into the world, that, had I not converted to the church in 2013, I wouldn’t have had. Immortal souls that will outlive this world and hopefully be there with our Lord forever would not be here if I hadn’t converted to the Church.
Did you have trouble with accepting any aspects of the faith?
Christina: I had some trouble with Our Lady right before I entered the Church because I was kind of a Bible thumper so I wanted to know where in scripture Mary was and she wasn’t in it enough for my satisfaction. I wanted more. “Why do you believe in the Immaculate Conception,” “why do you believe in this.” As a Protestant you just go by the Bible alone, but you’re missing so much of the truth when you’re just doing that – and the history. I’ve learned in my Catholic faith, just like classical education for my children, I want to go to the root. Not so-and-so’s theories or so-and-so’s theories. With the Church, if we go straight back to the roots then you understand the “why.” And if you understand the “why,” then the rules don’t matter so much.
I actually looked into the Church when I was 22. I was searching for something and my girlfriend and I would go party Saturday night and then she would get up and go to Mass in the morning. She was a very liberal Catholic. When I entered the Church, she told me I needed to now become a Democrat because all Catholics are Democrats, so I needed to give up my Republican ways. But I did some RCIA in college. The problem with it was they could not answer my basic questions of the Bible and so I stopped going. I went for three or four weeks and I had a list of questions each time from the reading and they couldn’t answer my questions. I probably would have a totally different story if I had gone to a solid Catholic church at 22.
One thing is I miss praise and worship. Our pastor had a family adoration hour with praise and worship music, we prayed a decade of the Rosary, there were some readings, confessions, once a month. For me, that merged my Catholic faith and my Protestant faith. It blended the two together in a way in my heart. It was the one part that I missed, but I could sit there in adoration and even now if I go to adoration I’ll quietly sing a song on my own. But I think there’s appropriate times for it. Because we were at Mass a couple weeks ago and it was outside and the Protestant church down the street was playing praise and worship during Communion and my husband was like, “Were you happy with the praise and worship music?” And I was like, “No, I want to pray.” There’s a time for praise and worship music and it’s not right after you are receiving our Lord.
People want to put Catholics all in a box where we’re all one way and we are very rules oriented. I was raised very legalistic and very rules oriented and very works oriented, and it’s so not that. But if you don’t understand the “why” behind them, then you don’t get it.
California Catholic Daily writer Mary Rose is interviewing young Catholic converts as part of our Inquiring Minds series. If you are a young convert to the Catholic Church and would like to share your story, please contact us.