Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Catholic Radio: a Conversion Story

I am a Guadalupe Radio Network convert. That statement is not that much of an oversimplification. I've listened and read lots of conversion stories and it seems that when God works in someone's life to bring them into his Church he uses so many avenues to do so. But my main avenue was Catholic radio.

So this is what happened.

The preface is that I was a Pagan, and then a Deist. I used to pray to the Goddess, but over time I began to sense emptiness there. I started praying to Almighty God, the Christian conception of God, even though I didn't really believe in the Bible and thought Christians were just stupid or brainwashed. When I prayed to God the Father I felt like there was someone on the other end of the line.

I could sense the emptiness in my life and needed answers. I thought I would be a Quaker. It would be an easy transition from Deism to Quakerism. Deists believe that God designed the universe and then stepped back to let it run on its own. God doesn't care about human affairs, he is not a personal God. I realized that wasn't true. Quakers, even liberal Quakers, believe in a single all-pervasive God who speaks in a still, small voice. Some Quakers on the conservative end believe in Scripture and Jesus. Liberal Quakers are more apt to pick and choose nuggets of wisdom between different religions or none at all. So I thought I'll just be a liberal Quaker. Easy peasy.

At some point during this time I got in the habit of listening to talk radio during the day. In my apartment I could not get any AM stations, so I would listen to NPR, 89.1 FM. Some days NPR came in really well, and other days I got mostly static. One day I was kneading bread by hand in the kitchen and my NPR suddenly landed on a Jesus station. I would have tried to re-adjust the channel, but my hands were doughy and I just kept listening to it. Eventually I realized that this was a Catholic channel, 89.7 FM.

The station challenged my assumptions.. I thought all Catholics were somewhat indifferent about their Faith, hadn't done any investigation into other possibilities, and just carried on practicing the religion they were raised in for fear of Hell. Catholic evangelization just seemed an oddity.

I heard a lady talking about a book she wrote about becoming Catholic after years of being raised as a Jehovah's Witness. That caught my curiosity because my husband was raised as a JW. She talked about how the Our Father was so important in her life. I had never heard of someone converting to be a Catholic before. I didn't know what to make of that. What I did know was that I liked hearing positive things on the radio, so I would listen often. I started off listening to mainly the counseling shows, the Popcaks and Dr. Ray. Then I would listen to whatever shows were on when I got into the car. I would take the long route when I traveled so that I could listen longer.

Mother Angelica especially had a great impact on me. She was feisty and humble. She made fun of herself. She spoke so gently at times that I couldn't help but lower my defenses and listen. I'm pretty sure I ended up listening to every episode of Mornings With Mother that the station offered.

My conversion took many steps. The progression started as far from Jesus as I could run, to inching closer and closer to him. He became irresistible. Quakerism couldn't satisfy my longing to know Christ, and soon I experimented with various Protestant churches. The problem with Protestantism I found was that I couldn't tell which pastor had the right interpretation of Scripture. In my Pagan days I was the ultimate judge between right and wrong, what was true and what was not. It occurred to me that when I interpreted Scripture myself I was stuck doing the same thing. I knew it was intellectually dishonest to ascribe to the view that something was true because I believed it. I yearned for a capital T Truth that did not rely on my own flimsy whims and selfish judgments. The fact that the Catholic Church did not change its doctrines based on wishy-washy public opinion was appealing because I knew that if I accepted that "truth" was based on the democracy of opinion then it was just as flimsy as it was when I decided it alone.

The importance of Catholic Radio for me relied on the fact that I could listen to it without becoming defensive. When I listened I may not have agreed with everything said, but I never felt like I had to wrack my brain and figure out a retort right away as I would have done if someone had said these things to my face. I could listen and consider the information, form a defense in my mind and then test my side against the other without the fear of being wrong. GRN radio hosts also furnished me with dozens of book recommendations and since I worked at a library it was an easy reach for many of them! As I learned and understood more about Catholicism I found that it had a Truth and depth that that was drawing me in. Many of the teachings were inconvenient (to say the least!), but they were true. I had to be a part of this church.

At the beginning of my GRN journey I was a pro-choice "feminist" with a toe dipped in New-Age practices and unsettled by patriarchal religion. I absorbed the Truth of the Catholic faith slowly. It was a gradual progression built on a lifetime of longing for God and a new hunger for his son, my Lord Jesus Christ. Ultimately was glad to exchange my old unhappy notions in exchange for glowing and all-encompassing Truth! I was received into the Church on Easter Vigil of 2012, and my only regret is that I didn't become Catholic sooner!

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