I was raised a Baptist. As a child, I lived two doors from St Clare’s Catholic Church which I truly believed was the ante-room to hell.
What happened was that, as an undergraduate, I went through a major conversion. I was looking for places to pray during the day. Protestant churches were closed, Catholic churches were open, though I didn’t know why. One day, I crossed the threshold of a church called the Blessed Sacrament.
I know it sounds incredible but I didn’t know what the Blessed Sacrament was, and if you had explained it to me I wouldn’t have believed you anyway. That just wasn’t a possibility in my world. But I crossed the threshold and felt the Real Presence and that is why I became a Catholic.
That was my entry point. I still had a lot of anti-Catholic stuff in my head but God had established a bridge of trust. It was probably the only way He could have got my attention.
I started praying in Catholic churches because, even though I was going to Protestant churches and they were very lovely, I would say, ‘Yes, but that thing isn’t here’; the Presence isn’t here.
So I would just go back and pray in Catholic churches. My friends would say, ‘If you don’t stop doing that you are going to become Catholic.’ I thought ‘That is the stupidest thing, no way.’
In fact, I used to get upset when Catholics messed up my personal prayer places with their Masses.
I would wander around the church. I tend to walk when I pray. Very slowly some of my childhood prejudices began to melt away. I started to grasp some basic Catholic beliefs. I realised that the statues were not idols. I read some of the pamphlets in the vestibule and learned that Catholics believed they were saints and that saints were outstanding Catholics who could pray for you.
One day I was praying and I stopped in front of a statue of a young woman. The label read St Catherine of Siena. Of course, I had never heard of her, but from the statue I could tell she was a young woman. So on the spur of the moment I said, ‘Kate, you were a young woman. You get it. They – those Catholics – they say I can ask you to pray for me.
“If it’s OK, could you pray for me that I can figure out what God wants me to do because I would really like to know?”
Now, I didn’t sign up for RCIA the next day but I had done something very, very important – I had declared myself open just to the possibility of change – and God always answers that prayer, sometimes in dramatic ways.
As recorded and edited by Simon Caldwell. Sherry Weddell is the co-founder and executive director of the Catherine of Sienna Institute and the author of Forming Intentional Disciples
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