You can read Part I of Hafsa's conversion story here.
When I got into college, I was dumb, and rebellious and I fell away from
religion completely. I went to parties and stayed out late and did really
stupid things. I felt as if for the first time in my life, I had been accepted
and my friends became the family I had never had. Being accepted meant drinking,
and clubbing, for me. For the first time in my life, I had a social life, I had
friends and no one was going to make me feel guilty for living my life. To me
that was more important than having a relationship with God. I pulled myself
farther away from God, my relationship had been severed and I didn't care. I
only knew that I never wanted this artificial good feeling to end. The farther
away I got from Him, the more depressed I got. The only thing that numbed it
for the tiniest second was alcohol and pot. I would wake up the next morning
and be furious with myself and think of course I need God, but then my cell
phone would ring and I'd be at it again...off to another party. I began to
question religion and God, because I thought, if God existed then where was he
when my grammy died (my best friend), or when I was cowering in a closet
praying that my brother wouldn't be in one of his violent moods and come to
find me? I would sometimes get into long conversations/arguments about how
stupid and unrealistic the idea of organized religion was with anyone that
would listen. It was no longer anger projected at God, it was the supposed
exclusivity of organized religion and the rules. Looking back I needed that
family and those rules. And then the worst happened, my own mother betrayed me
when she joined a Baptist church and came back into her Christian life. I grew
even angrier and while not outright denying God, I just stopped thinking about
him and stopped caring about right and wrong.
At 19 I met Marc, my future husband and he had the same ideology as I did.
He was so much more intellectual with his arguments on the fallacy of religion.
I began to engross myself in the ideologies of Nietszche, but he was too crazy
even for me. Eventually I became a relativist and an agnostic. I began to think
about religion and God again, but not in the true sense, I only thought about
those things in order to further expound upon my reasons for thinking them
outrageous, and I questioned hardcore.
The turning point came when I had been poking around in Marc's backpack
trying to find a pencil and found C.S. Lewis's "Mere Christianity"
and I got so angry at him, I threw the book across the room. My exact words
were, "if you think we're raising our children to believe that organized religion
garbage, you can forget it. My children will not be raised to believe
lies." Eventually he calmed me down, and convinced me to read some of it
and I fell in love with C.S. Lewis. Fell absolutely in love with his story.
C.S. Lewis had fallen away from God and became an atheist until his friend
J.R.R. Tolkien (a Catholic) brought him back to God and truth. Marc's
intellectual arguments also changed from "what is truth?" to
"there may not be truth without God." Over time that turned
into "there is no suitable truth without the Church" Before that came
we decided to try out the Protestant church and attended services every Sunday,
but the complaints came. It didn't feel like enough to either of us, we weren't
satisfied and we hungered for more truth, more absolute than what we had been
given. I think my husband felt this way before I did, but we came into it
together each of us pulling the other along when we would hit a roadblock and want
to turn back the way we'd come. It is why I feel that God made him especially
So we began to explore the local Catholic parishes around our city. Luckily
my husband's stepfather was Catholic and so my husband was enrolled in a
Catholic school from 6th grade to 8th grade, so he had a general understanding
and knowledge of the mass. The first church we tried was a very beautiful
church, but the people left something to be desired. It was a horrible first
experience as there was a grandmother who sat behind us with her grandson who
obviously didn't want to be there. He was making disgusting comments about
everyone, including the priest. Looking back, it was almost as if the devil
were in my ear discouraging me from continuing on this path. It almost worked.
I told my husband I never wanted to go back, that the priest was cold and so
were the parishioners. He convinced me to try one more parish, the same parish
where he and his sister had attended school. It was still awkward, I actually
brought my Bible! But for some reason, it felt more comfortable being there.
Through this parish, we discovered RCIA and met some wonderful men and women
who helped us on our faith journey. I had my first discussion with a kindly
sister of Mercy. Her name was Sr. Juliana and she gave me my first rosary and
introduced me to the most popular and well known devotion of Catholics. I
remember coming home after a stressful day working at the Protestant preschool
and sitting on my bed, praying the rosary.
During the months of RCIA, I found myself becoming increasingly
uncomfortable with working at the Protestant preschool. One day I showed up to
work early and met my co-teacher in our classroom. I shut the door and said,
"I have to tell you something...I'm becoming Catholic." She widened
her eyes but to my surprise she wasn't horrified. She asked me a ton of
questions, can you guess what the first one was? She asked me if I was going to
stop taking birth control! The funny thing is, when Marc and I first began
discussing Catholicism back in August, we had already come to the decision that
I would stop taking the pill, but that is a whole other fertility/faith story.
After my coming out of the Catholic closet, things were okay but awkward. I had
an interesting conversation with the director of the preschool one day as she
was showing me how to make homemade playdough. The conversation began with her
telling me that she used to be Catholic and that it was one day when she
attended her first Billy Graham concert, that she was truly saved. I was so
uncomfortable by that conversation that I called her on it that day. I told her
I felt like she was implying because of my decision to convert to Catholicism,
that I was not saved. She apologized but didn't really retract what she had
said. Needless to say my career as a Protestant preschool teacher didn't last.
By sheer coincidence, I was offered a job as a preschool lead teacher for the
same Catholic school my husband had attended!
Through the RCIA process, we had ups and downs. Our faith was truly tested
in many ways. One of them was the fact that since we were not married in the
Church and neither of us had been baptized, our marriage was considered
invalid. We essentially had to wait until we became Catholic to be intimate.
This was a very difficult year as we were ready to start a family and we almost
quit RCIA over it. We eventually knew there was nowhere else for us to go and
so we continued on.
On Easter of 2008, we were baptized, and confirmed into the Catholic Church,
the following Monday, our marriage was blessed with a full mass. Together for
the third time in our lives, we received the holy Eucharist. The first time at
the vigil mass, then on Sunday being the pious Catholics we are, we decided to
attend Easter Sunday (our hearts were newly made and on fire!), and again on
our Catholic wedding day. Together we kneeled before the priest and accepted
the bonds of marriage.
I love my conversion story because it is also a story of
how I found myself. I had always been searching and seeking something. Isn't
that always how we are led? Because there's an emptiness. I truly felt like
there were so many incidences that were slowly leading me to Christ. Every Good
Friday we watch "The Passion of the Christ" and every Good Friday, my
heart remembers that night. The vigil, wearing a white robe, smelling the
Chrism oil, hearing the choir sing the Litany of Saints. I get goosebumps. I am
one of those crazy people that looks forward to the 40 days of Lent, because I
know what it brings. Our souls have the chance to be reunited with our Lord, to
remember all that He went through for us. All throughout the year I am drawn in
so many different directions, I am drawn away from God. I am so thankful I'm
here. I'm so thankful to have the Church in our lives.
I feel that Catholicism has made me feel whole, it has completed my quest
for truth. It is so much more to me after having gone to the Tridentine Mass
these last few days and seeing the reverence and the traditions that started it
all. I want that for my children, I want them to see us genuflecting before we
sit in our pew, and making the sign of the cross, I want them to hear the Latin
and feel the power of consuming the body of Christ. I don't want them to wait
23 years until they find truth, I want them to live it their whole lives.
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