Many are perhaps unaware that since 2003 or thereabouts I began an honest, open minded and thorough investigation of the Roman Catholic Church. I have long been “orthodox” –perhaps more so than my membership in the Episcopal Church allowed me to be, and I became a kind of renegade contemplative/mystic/eremitic in 1993 or so. Eventually one does emerge from the cave and seek out some fellowship and it can be difficult to find guidance and understanding, since the contemplative life is so deeply personal and you appear to be mad as a hatter to most people.
I had actually “left” the Episcopal Church (not officially, but I could no longer call myself Episcopalian) in 2001. Points of Doctrine that I could not reconcile myself to (In all honesty I found some to be pure heresy), nor abide just deepened my decision to remain in solitude as a “non official hermetic” or pseudo-anchoress. I always felt sort of unmoored, however. My spirituality needed religion. The dove only flies with two wings.
Being fully orthodox, I knew that there was no real “backwards turning” way for me, and that in truth, I must eventually fully investigate why I was NOT Catholic. So as I did once before when I first read the Bible, I wiped all the junk from my brain and delved deep into the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I began in much the same way–taking all my arguments against and letting The Bible, the Church and God answer what was Truth. That is after-all the heart of religion. The search for truth.
One by one all my arguments against slipped away, until one day I looked up and said aloud: I am Catholic. Of course this did not happen overnight, and it had many interesting and beautiful and life changing moments which are much too lengthy to go into at this adjunct.
After 10 or so years of saying the rosary (it is said, quite rightly that if you begin with the Rosary you will eventually become Catholic), a few more years of going to Mass and doing many other “very Capital C Catholic” devotions and exercises, I was finally ready to TALK to a Catholic about converting. This was a couple years ago.
I was surprised at how hard it is to get a Catholic to talk to you. Shocked really, considering the horror stories I had been told during my childhood days in my deep south evangelical bible thumping hell and brimstone churches of how Catholics wanted to convert everyone. I failed to see how this would happen if they were so shy to speak to anyone about their faith. I began writing letters, making phone calls, trying to just SPEAK to a priest, which I eventually found to be completely futile, so I lowered my expectations to just any-old-catholic-will-do. Again, I came up with…..nothing.
So, in frustration, I wrote the Pope. I read online that he answers all his mail. And it does have to be REAL MAIL. Ink. On paper. Stamped. You know….snail mail. The pope does not have email. So, I wrote the pope. Now I know he has a staff of people (the “contact the pope” info told me so) that answer most of his mail, and that given the millions (yes millions) of letters he gets each month, that it would be some time before I heard from him, if at all, but I was ready to accept whatever came back, and I was patient. Heck, I had spent years getting to this point, so what was a few more months to me? I kind of expected a “form” letter in reply, to be honest. A “thank you for your interest in the Pope, here is a Holy card blessed by His Holiness, so on and so forth”….So I waited a few months. Nothing. So, I wrote again. And waited. Nothing. Third time is a charm! And I waited.
Now there are other things involved here, things only a Catholic would understand. Various signal graces, signs, etc. that I cannot fully explain in any real cohesive way to most people, but I knew eventually I would get an answer. I appeased myself that I was knocking….the door would be answered eventually. I was the persistent widow. (Luke 18: 1-8).
So a couple weeks ago I am sitting on my couch, reading and a car drives up (ok, almost careens, this nun was kind of a reckless driver) into my driveway. A nun emerges and begins to trot up to my door. “Well….this is certainly a sign from God..” I say to myself. I mean it is not every day a nun comes up to your door, certainly not in suburb Okie-America. She rang the bell, and I answered. (She also had a sweet little hispanic girl with her–I learned later she is a novice of sorts)
“Hello, The Archbishop sent me.” the nun said. (She was very lively and young and energetic, I loved her the moment I saw her.)
“Oh?” I replied, and invited them both in. I knew. I knew and my joy was almost too much to contain.
“Yes, the Pope called the Archbishop, and the Archbishop sent me to talk with you.”
My heart screamed out: “THE POPE ANSWERED MY LETTER!!!”
The next couple hours are a blur and yet crystal clear, we laughed, we cried we prayed, the three of us there in my home. Many pieces of a giant puzzle came falling into place and I kept saying over and over “What a gift. What a gift.”
Only God fits pieces together like that. And despite some recent trials with illness, I know exactly where I am going. I see the picture more clearly. I am truly blessed. The Pope answered my letter in the only way it could be answered. He sent me a nun.