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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Original Convert

The Christmas lights are dusted off. We haven't hung them yet. We had a bit of a set back with Sister Mary Fiacre. She wasn't doing so hot last week and she suddenly wasn't able to stand on her feet at all. We were quite concerned because her ability to stay on her feet for a few seconds is how we are able to manage taking care of her.  Her doctor thought it was due to poor circulation, which might have meant curtains for her (as my mother would say).  But it turned out to be tendinitis and we're all back to normal.  Since we don't have to light the lights until midnight on Christmas Eve/Day, it doesn't much matter that they're not in place.

Sister St. Aloysius is pouring over her cookie recipes and I finally have time for a visit with you all here.

How is Advent going for everyone?  While you mull that over, here's a question from a reader that has been sitting in the queue for some time.

I have a question of sorts. I was raised Church of Christ and my parents are very strong believers. All my friends, except for a couple are Protestant as well and like my parents do not hold the Catholic Church in high regard. This being said, I have been considering RCIA classes lately have felt a very strong pull in my heart to the Catholic Church. I have been to a few RCIA classes and a few masses and I am considering converting but afraid of how my friends and family will take this. I am old enough to make this decision myself, but you know how loved ones can be. Do you have any advice and or possibly a saint that I can call on for intercedence?

Please include the prayer to the saint as I am not Catholic yet.

That's not really a question of sorts. That's a full on question. Of course I have a superb saint for you! And a wonderful prayer!

To some extent you've answered your question yourself. You are old enough to make this decision yourself and you've already made it. The issue is, how difficult is it going to be for you?  It sounds like it's not going to be fun.  So let's turn to our saint for conversion, the original convert, the first and most famous convert of all time, the one, the only, St. Paul.

I'm hoping you know the story of St. Paul, given that the original Protestant movement was based on his letters and writings in the New Testament.  Good old Martin Luther was a huge fan of St. Paul's line of thought and rather beat Paul's words into submission to back up his thesis.

We've all been arguing about it ever since.

The happy news for you is, the whole answer to your question is right in the very thing you asked!  A prayer to said saint.  Here goes!
Prayer to St. Paul 

Patron of Evangelists

O glorious St. Paul, after persecuting the Church you became by God's grace its most zealous Apostle. To carry the knowledge of Jesus, our Divine Savior, to the uttermost parts of the earth

You joyfully endured prison, scourgings, stonings, and shipwreck, as well as all manner of persecutions culminating in the shedding of the last drop of your blood for our Lord Jesus Christ.

Obtain for us the grace to labor strenuously to bring the faith to others and to accept any trials and tribulations that may come our way. Help us to be inspired by your Epistles and to partake of your indomitable love for Jesus, so that after we have finished our course we may join you in praising Him in heaven for all eternity. Amen.

So, as I said, I hope you know the story of St. Paul, a persecutor of Jesus, a man who was holding the coats of the people throwing rocks at the very first martyr, St. Stephen, so their pitching arms would not be hampered, who was knocked from his horse by Jesus who asked "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

That got his attention. He wandered around blind for a bit, changed his name to Paul and went to work.

The part you may not know, since Protestants don't pay much attention to saints and how they inspire us to have heroic virtue in our lives, is that it wasn't all balloons and giggles for Paul once he made that decision. He was chased and imprisoned (more than once in a no frills 1AD prison), scourged and shipwrecked. I'm sure his family had a few choice words for him, too. Seder that year was probably a bit icy.

So if anyone can guide you through some stony faced family encounters, it will be Paul.  And in the prayer, note the words "joyfully endured".  Try that on for size. 

I'll go a step further for you and suggest that you start a novena.  Do you know about those? Basically what you're going to do is say this prayer for nine consecutive days. We like the number nine.  Three is the most wonderful number because it's so balanced, three Person in the Holy Trinity.  Nine is three, three times.  I guess because we are less than perfect, we have to add  more threes.

Don't let it worry you. Just say you're prayer for nine days straight and don't give me any guff about forgetting a day.  Or when each day you do it.  You and St. Paul will make a great team.


Anonymous said...

I was also raised in the Church of Christ and am now Catholic. It's not as bad as it seems like it could be. When we left the coc, we had a sermon preached about us being wolves in sheep's clothing, (because we left openly - go figure), some friends completely dropped us and turn their heads if they see us in Target, etc. But the friends I've made since then are real friends. You have everything to gain, however painful leaving the coc is.

Also, there is a support board for coc to Catholic converts. Google it - it should pop right up.

Anonymous said...

There you go, making up stuff again, Sister! St. Luke does not actually say that Saint Paul was knocked off a horse while on route to Damascus. He is often depicted that way in art, but it is just as likely (perhaps more likely) that Saul (as he was known at the time) was walking. That's not as important as all that - just one of those things that everyone assumes is true, when there is actually no biblical basis. I guess there were plenty of 1st century Sister Mary Martha types making up stuff back then, and it's been handed down as truth ever since. As it is Advent, we could also mention that we have no idea how many Magi visited the newborn King - but we do know there were three gifts. For all we know, there were nine - three for each gift (again, following SMM's faulty logic!) The REAL reason we pray for nine days DOES have a biblical origin. That's how many days our Lady waited prayed with the Apostles in the Upper Room, in obedience to our Lord's command. On the 10th day, the Holy Spirit decended upon them, in tongues as of fire. This would be a good time to re-read the Book of the Acts of the Apostles - an most exciting book! Why wait until the Easter season?
Just my two cents!
Catholic School Teacher

Anonymous said...

Peace to you, Catholic School Teacher. Your words seem to bear a spirit of anger and self-righteousness. If reading this blog reads you to angry thoughts and words, perhaps it would be good practice to simply turn away.

We pray you find peace.

Anonymous said...

To the convert-to-be, courage! I too feared family pressures when I was received into the Church. So much so that I didn't tell anyone what I was doing until quite late in the process. The "backlash", if you will, was not nearly as fierce as I expected. I pray for you that you also will find less resistance and more support than you fear. And here's the wonderful kicker ... 7 years later, my sister became Catholic, and 2 years after that, our mother. Yay! So you never know ... :-)

Anonymous said...

I second Anon said to Anon Catholic School Teacher. I don't remember Sister saying everything she writes is "Gospel".

We also pray you find peace.

Good job Sister.

Anonymous said...

Hello Sister!

I am in desperate need of advice. I've very recently converted to Catholicism after spending the majority of my 18 years of life as an agnostic. I've enrolled in RCIA classes and have been assigned an absolutely amazing sponsor, who is truly a friend and spiritual guide to me. My problem is that certain church teachings don't seem to sit well with my conscience. I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior whole-heartedly, believe in the virgin birth, the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, etc. However, one of the main aspects of Catholic dogma that I find very difficult to agree with is the rejection of love between two homosexuals as legitimate. I understand the reasoning behind the teaching, and respect it, but I find it incredibly hard to adopt it as my own. After all, two of my very best friends in this world are homosexual, and I've been with them through every step of their incredibly painful struggle to accept themselves for who they are.

Sister, I don't wish to lie to my sponsor or any other church member during my process of becoming a Catholic. If/when I am honest, will I be denied confirmation by my sponsor? I deeply love this religion, and don't want to disrespect it in any way.

I would appreciate your help so much!

Catherine said...

To the original asker of the original question (and to anyone else who is considering conversion to Catholicism):
As a cradle Catholic, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to make this decision. I can say that when I, late in my teenage years, began to practice my faith more seriously and really live like a Catholic for the first time, my family's reaction was less than positive. I also lost several close friends.

But it's so worth it! And the Catholic Church will be overjoyed to have you. My prayers for you as you continue to pray over this decision.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous and second: I should have included a smiley face. I thought the exclamation points would suffice to convey a light tone.

Sister said in several earlier posts that she makes up stuff. I was just chiding along. My apologies for coming across as angry. There is nothing in her post to upset anyone! What if St. Paul had been riding a camel? We won't go ripping through the Louvre to make sure there are no heretical paintings. :) Again, tongue in cheek.

SMM is a big girl. She can take care of herself. Life is tough - nuns are tougher, right Sister? (*wink!)

Anonymous said...

Anon - sorry I mistook your humor, for anger. Just re-read and my apologies for my tacky retort. And you are also right SMM is a big girl and can take care of herself.
I also agree that there is noting in her post to upset anyone, but have see a lot of the "She is not a real nun" stuff lately and my "Mother Bear" took over.
This site is just great, I feel better and I think I act better when I read it. I will try to keep the humor and not snap too fast.
Anon second.

Claire said...

Dear Sister Mary Martha,
I am a cradle Catholic now in my third year of college. My friends are very supportive of my beliefs, though very few are also Catholic. I get a lot of questions that I can't often answer to my satisfaction. Today was no exception.
How do I explain the Assumption of Mary and the Immaculate Conception to my non-Catholic friends? I feel like a poor example of the faith when I can't answer their questions.


Anonymous said...

Sister Mary Martha I am thinking of asking for a new position within my company. Is there a Saint that I can pray to that can help me find the courage to do this? In addition, be able to have all the right words to show why I am the best fit for the position.

Tracy said...

Dear SMM,

Glad that you are back with us and that Sister Mary Fiacre is back on her feet;) One of my favorite Lutheran ecumenical writers has posted a paper on why Lutherans should pay more attention to Saints (I am not kidding!). I thought your readers might enjoy it.

The short version: http://www.hereiwalk.org/2010/09/27/some-thoughts-on-saints/

The long version: http://www.lutheranforum.org/categories/archive/spring-2009/LF2009-1_02-09_Wilson-Saints_for_Sinners.pdf

Anonymous said...

@anon second: No worries! Apology accepted :) I, too, will try to be on my very best behaviour!

Anonymous said...

I would like to say thank you for all your posts, efforts and time you have put into this blog. Since I've become a reader, I have been closer to Christ by just reading your blog and have had some time to reflect on my faith. For whatever's its worth, this has helped me get through some of the darkest periods and I truly thank you. God bless you!


Arkanabar T'verrick Ilarsadin said...

to the convert from agnosticism: you may find the experiences of Jennifer Fulwiler helpful, as she also struggled with this as she converted from atheism: What will I tell my gay friends?

Sarah said...

to the converting (formerly) agnostic, I wish i had wise advice and I look forward to hearing Sister's response but just want to make sure you know that you're not alone. As a cradle Catholic and recently turned Sister I too feel the pain and the frustration of belonging to a Church where the 'official' line sits uncomfortably.

On a different but related note, Sister Mary Martha, I wonder if you have anything to say about the primacy of conscience?

Nan said...

Catholic school teacher, you sound a bit sola scriptura to me; Catholics follow scripture (divinely inspired writing) and Tradition. Just because something doesn't appear in scripture doesn't mean it isn't true.

Anonymous would-be convert. You must be honest with your sponsor. You must also be honest with yourself and with God. To be in Communion with Rome means to accept all church teaching, not just that which is easy.

The church doesn't reject love, it rejects sins that cry to Heaven and says that same sex attraction is inherently disordered. Sex is reserved for those who are married, who must be open to children. Homosexual sex does not lead to children and, in fact, leads to disease. While I understand that you love your friends, friendship can't be more important than salvation.

Remember that Jesus called upon his Apostles to walk away from their former lives with no notice to those they loved. We are all called to be Apostles and one of the difficult parts is to wrest ourselves away from relationships that won't help us get to heaven.

I'm not a convert but was only confirmed recently; as I grow closer to Christ, I long to spend more time in his father's house, so am less likely to accept invitations to happy hour. The friendships that disappeared most quickly were those with people whose lives were furthest from Christ. They were the easiest ones to dispense with as I suddenly have nothing in common with those people.

Spend time at Adoration. It helps.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm. 'Dispensing' with people who don't measure up to your moral code? Ohkaaaay.... good thing our Jesus didn't appear to do this, eh? Or did I miss something? :-S

Anonymous said...

Ciao! just my two lire worth (ok I know they jumped into the euro, but I remember the lire with greath fondness, all the gadzillions of 'em!) So: 'sex is reserved for those... who are open to children'; 'homosexual sex leads to disease'... My Lordy lord. Are you saying that post-menopausal married women shouldn't have sex with their spouses? Should older couples not have sex? What are you saying?!!! Re the disease, (oh you homophobes really do like to muddy your facts) - dahlink, all if not most of STIs (sexually transmitted infections to you) are transmitted man to woman; if you want to avoid disease you would advise all your ladies to become lesbian. Least likely to get cervical cancer, least likely to pass on anything whodsoever. So. Yes, sex should of course be 'open to life'; but if you are reducing life to biological procreation, then I am sorry for you. Sad, sad, sad. Sad for you, sad for all the people you judge and dismiss. Count me in with the publicans on this one, major. Ttfn. Love you. Stay open to life!!!!

Anita said...

Yes, I know this is ages late. Yes, I am archive browsing.


Protestant reader, here out of curiosity and because a Catholic friend linked to you.

Perhaps I am an exception (?), but having been in two denominations so far I've heard a great deal from both of them about Paul's journeys not having been as "balloons and giggles." We may not emphasize saints' inspiring us towards heroic virtue, but we do believe that whatever God puts in the Bible, He puts there for a reason and we should jolly well learn from it. :)

Also, I hope the potential-new-convert's family took it well. As many theological disagreements as Catholics and Protestants have, she was doing her best to follow God--the same God both of us worship--and they should be able to respect that.