As I scan the book titles in the Catholic aisle of my local Christian bookstore, it is hard not to notice the plethora of conversion stories being told. What I do not see are the accounts from the person who grew up Catholic and drifted in and out (mostly out) of practicing their faith until something changed in them or for them. They had a turn around a GREAT awakening in their soul as to who the Triune God really was - not distant, not mean but loving, truly loving, merciful, trustworthy and faithful - just to name a few of the infinite God's characteristics.
These stories are sometimes referred to a re-conversion or reversions, and while I am awed and fascinated by conversion stories be it former atheist, agnostic or baptist minister, I have find myself drawn to stories of how faithful people are set on fire for the faith or even how those cradle Catholics keep from drifting away. Those stories of lukewarm set ablaze by God's intimate touch in one's life - often when they were least expecting it or even more surprised that THEY needed it!
This is my story. A small town suburban girl with divorced parents, low self-esteem, and moderate means - that attended 9 years of Catechism, went to Mass for most of the school year while in what we called CCD, and then usually just Christmas and Easter after that - and I have no recollection of ever being in Mass with my Father. There were no bibles in my home until 8th grade catechism class when I received this red covered nearly see-through paper thin paged New American Bible as part of Confirmation prep. Praying as a family took place only during really scary thunderstorms and occasionally before bed. God was scary, death was petrifying and Hell was real - until I hit my teen years, then I was convinced hell was our time on earth, I would never have an abortion but who was I to dictate what a person does with their body, and actually participating in religious activities like Church was for old people who were closer to death than I and needed to have that safety net in place IN CASE that hell place I once believed existed after death really was real.
Then one day I was invited to a retreat - and that reawakened in my heart that God was real and that I didn't want to wait to know Him but was looking to be better acquainted now but how? I struggled to figure that out - once again falling in and out of practice of my faith until another more significant invitation was presented to me. A Christmas gift of The Purpose Driven Life along with an invitation to start a bible study at a new friend's home would change the course of my life forever. There I would be introduced to scripture - and the working of the Holy Spirit in my life. The noise in my head once negative soliloquies with myself morphed into hope filled dialogues with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (as well as the Blessed Mother,some new Saintly friends and my Guardian Angel). That invitation lead to so many more - each initiated by Christ but acted through either another person or a particular situation. In hindsight I can see how each invitation was instrumental in bringing me to a deeper faith, helping to grow and shape my understanding of God and heavenly things, as well as support me to remain a faithful person.
Over 10 years later, invitation still plays a significant role in my living out in the everyday my Catholic faith. I see as my relationship with Jesus grows those invitations that once were extended to me, I now extend to others. While no longer involved in the initial bible study/book club group - I offer one weekly in my home. St. Paul teaches those things we have been comforted in, God will use to comfort others in similar situations this has been true in my life with retreats to teach about the peace of forgiveness, embrace JOY and learning cling to the hope that comes from trusting in God. Invited by God to answer yes to the mission He had for me - allowed me the incredible blessing of being an adoptive mom, Catholic radio host and writer, as well as to meet the most amazing people sharing this journey to heaven who teach me so much about God's love, mercy and faithfulness.
I long to shake my Catholic family tree and awaken hardened or deaden hearts to the beauty, hope and fullness that comes with living a sacramental, scriptural and prayer filled Christian life. Those three things make up my Grace Trifecta - and without one of the pieces of that faith puzzle I would be incomplete. Invitation brought Eucharistic Adoration, Reconciliation and a great appreciation of the Mass into my life; each transforming who I was to who I am - and even further to who I WANT to be. It is this sacramental piece that fills my heart with the greatest desire to tell my Catholic story of faith. It is the gift of grace in the sacraments that I understood the least, and that I now see I benefit the most. It is this element of the Catholic faith that some how missed in all those years of considering myself Catholic -- but really I wasn't and my heart ached for something that was there all along.
This is the story, I desire to share ... and this is the story I pray it is God's will for me to tell.
All Rights Reserved 2016, Allison Gingras
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What about you? What's Your Story?