- Convert’s Surprise: Part I: Overview
- Convert’s Surprise: Part II: Schism
- Convert’s Surprise: Part III: Peace before the Scandal!
I am delighted to introduce my very close friend, Rhonda Jones, and her testimony to the Cleansing Fire readers. Rhonda is a convert to Catholicism from Judaism. In a five-part series she will describe three significant events post-conversion which would surely have shaken the foundations of many people’s faith, convert or not.
Converts can have an even more painful experience than “Cradle Catholics” when events seem to strike at the very core of their trust, because in so many cases they have distanced themselves from the support network of prior friends (and even family) by making the choice to embrace Christ and Catholicism.
In posting Rhonda’s testimony, I am shutting off the comments out of hospitality to a guest writer, but if you have a message you would like to get to Rhonda, please send it to me, at Diane@CleansingFire.org (or you can click on the staff link) and I will forward it as appropriate.
It was in the late 1990s when Jesus spoke to me through the Gospel story about Zacchaeus. I listened to the speaker and I listened to Christ. For this Jewish woman, nothing was the same again. I was in my late-40s and a decade into my new marriage, to which my Catholic husband Larry and I each had brought a son and a daughter. Our youngest child was still in high school. I had never given any previous thought to becoming Catholic. Then I heard Zacchaeus’ story and I was changed.
Was it easy to suddenly become Christian? Yes and No! The truth about Jesus became absolutely clear to me in a moment’s time. That was the easy part. But with my two children being raised Jewish (Larry and his children were Catholic) and with my being the first in our extended family to convert, it was also painful. My Jewish-Jewish first marriage was annulled. Larry’s first wife was Catholic and died leaving two young children.
In a flash, I KNEW Jesus was the Messiah. There were no ifs, ands, or buts. No confusion. Just clarity. My life as a Jew had been transformed forever! Yet, Jesus teaches that following Him isn’t easy. In one sense, that was certainly true. On the other hand, having opened my heart to Him, I would never choose any other path! What had been suddenly revealed to me about Him ( i.e. Truth) has never left me for a moment. I was shown the Truth, and the Truth has never changed. Moreover, He has never betrayed me. I have learned that my life should remain Christ-centered. No other shepherd is Christ! So Larry and I have lived a process of trying to attach ourselves to Christ and put our trust only in Him.
I hadn’t expected to encounter schism, scandal, cult of personality, and confusion about established dogma. These have been tough challenges! What I had sought was Jesus: His Word and His Teachings. Unexpectedly and painfully, I found some other things among some leaders in the Church.
These experiences have sensitized us to certain traits in some shepherds. Our antennae go up when we encounter one whose sinfulness causes great harm to souls. We are wary about priests who tend to draw more attention to their ways than to Christ’s Way. Disobedience and lying shows up in neon lights. And we are especially sensitive to priests who ignore, change or water down Christ’s teachings. In a way it was like having our roof fixed. We have been “trained” like patrol dogs to notice certain scents to which others seem oblivious.
My disappointment in some priests has reminded me of a lesson I learned upon starting graduate work for clinical psychology. I quickly realized that not all psychologists (i.e. the faculty members) were warm, compassionate human beings. So it is no surprise that not all priests and prelates are what I expected or had hoped for. But God works good out of all suffering and pain, and He provided special blessings to us from these unpleasant experiences. Thankfully, Larry and I have never despaired over the True Church. My very holy, recently-deceased, Redemptorist Spiritual Director, Father Paul Miller, always taught me “to be aware but never to worry!”
I will present in chronological order three situations since my conversion that have caused not only great scandal in the Church but pain to us personally as well. It is our own story and not a declaration of others’ experiences or views. But we feel that ours is worth telling, as it offers real examples of how situations and decisions of religious authorities affect real people.
Before that, however, I wish to turn to the help the Holy Spirit offers us at difficult or confusing moments. I have learned to turn to Him for understanding and guidance, such as in reading Scripture and in wanting to grow in holiness. Likewise, the Holy Spirit brings clarity and direction at times of confusion and hurt. Here is one of the best-known prayers to the Holy Spirit:
“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.”
I present this because I have prayed it for years and only now, in preparing this presentation, have the words come alive to me! We are asking the Holy Spirit to instruct us in Truth (i.e. Christ Himself). And since Truth is not always easy to accept or naturally intuitive, I have come to understand from the prayer that the Holy Spirit provides us the gift of consolation for accepting and living by Truth. Through this process we help the Holy Spirit (and thus God) to “Renew the Face of the Earth,” in love! This a living example of the contemporary term, “New Evangelization!”
Not only is this prayer powerful, but it is clear. Clarity is vital. Recall when Jesus met Nathaniel (aka Bartholomew). Jesus said, “There is no duplicity in him.” Clear. Similarly clear is the “Prayer to the Holy Spirit.” There is no confusion. There are no exceptions. And this writer will never again call upon the Holy Spirit without remembering that Truth is being sought. Then Truth is given by the Holy Spirit along with any needed consolation. Through this dynamic relationship we not only assist in building the Kingdom of Christ and saving souls, but we also grow in holiness.
Three Painful Challenges During My Walk With Christ
In the next three segments I will share the story of how we personally experienced the schism at the church we attended in Rochester, NY; the public fall of the founder of a movement in the Catholic Church; and the unresolved confusion over Pope Francis’ position on a key aspect of dogma. I will describe how these have affected us and other members of the laity (and, in some cases, priests) we know. I will look for commonalities and offer perspectives and conclusions.
Next Entry: Convert’s Surprise: Part II: Schism