Because of the Ripples

My daughter Marian was received into the Catholic Church at Saturday’s Easter Vigil. I have been incommunicado since we left for Chapel Hill, NC, early Friday, and this is why. At times like these, words fail. I snapped three quick pictures of the confirmation rite and the camera failed too: only one picture came close to coming out. In the shot below, Marian is the blond woman directly behind Msgr. John Wall, pastor of the Newman Center at UNC.

I’ve learned that there are times when even a blogger should shut up and thank God. I will say this: The miracle of the weekend was not that Marian is now a Catholic, although that is a beautiful story in itself, which my daughter can tell you when she’s good and ready. The miracle of the weekend is not even that Marian’s father did not cry. I didn’t, and I am usually a basket case at such times.

The miracle of the weekend lies in a story involving another family member, a story I will not tell you either. But I will tell you the lesson it leaves me with.

Our conversions—and we are always converting—are not just for ourselves. When I was received into the Church two years ago this Easter, with my own father present, I had no intention of cajoling either of my daughters into following my example. Nor did I.

Please note that I am not saying that Marian “followed my example.” Katie, her mother, made the very good point that if Marian had gone to her first college choice in Philadelphia or her second in Washington DC—instead of winning a full merit scholarship and following it to UNC and the Bible Belt—none of this might have happened. Marian’s many, mostly Protestant friends at her sorority and elsewhere were probably more influential in her decision to take religion seriously than was her father.

Still, two years after my becoming a Catholic, my daughter is now a Catholic. A little ripple has gathered force. And Marian’s conversion has already had a powerful influence on someone very close to her, which again is a story for someone else to tell. Ripples can become waves.

Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

  • Anonymous

    Lovely post, Webster! May the ripples continue to flow until they reach all the shores.- Angel

  • Webster Bull

    Thanks, Angel. It occurred to me this morning looking at the picture at the top of this post that a ripple is started by a drop from above, certainly not by us. If I try to make a ripple, I just make a mess!

  • El Bolillo Tejano

    What a beautiful post! ++++++++++++++++++++I have recently told people that Secular colleges in the South are better breeding grounds for the faith than private colleges of the North, and Catholic Colleges in the North. Just look at Texas A&M.; There are more vocations out of Texas A&M; to the priesthood and religious life than any other school in the country. Go figure, your daughter being influenced by protestants in the South to take her faith seriously… Amazing story!

  • Webster Bull

    Thanks EBT, Yes, it was a major cultural adjustment for Marian going to UNC. She became the beloved but "weird" Northern liberal, but she wears her weirdness with style! What a blessing that she received a scholarship "out of the blue" from UNC, when she wasn't even thinking of giving it a second look.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12442813565745123497 MUJERLATINA

    Fantastic Webster. Congratulations Marian! I have been praying for your daughter and your family for months. This is a wonderful day. May God continue to lead your family together in faith. Pax Christi.

  • Webster Bull

    Thanks, Doc. Thanks for the prayers!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03679435933685771007 R.C.

    Certainly Protestants, the separated brethren to whom the Holy Spirit also generously gives grace despite their (usually innocent and uninformed) separation, can be mediators of grace for Catholics.From "UNITATIS REDINTEGRATIO":"The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles [to full ecclesiastical communion]. But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ.The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation.It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church." (emphasis mine)Of course, I feel particularly strongly about this, for it was the love of Scripture and the belief in the objective historical factuality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ which my Southern Baptist pastors and Sunday School teachers passed on to me in my childhood, which ultimately served as vehicles of grace prompting me to seek the fullness of truth in the Catholic church.(Sometimes I think the more orthodox and energized evangelical churches represent nearly the best antechamber to The Church to be found in the modern world.)

  • Webster Bull

    Very good point, R.C., and clearly an implication of my daughter's experience. I'm sure she was positively influenced by devout Evangelical friends, but I also know that she had experienced "something special" coming to Catholic Mass with Katie and me. Which of course is only Dad's quick summary of what for my daughter may have been a far more complex process of discernment. We haven't talked about it in great depth. After all, she's 22 and I'm Dad!

  • Grace

    @ El Tejano: interesting about Texas A & M.I'm taking notes since in about a year our child will be choosing college/university. I wonder what is going on at T A & M?@ RC: I think you are onto something. I can't imagine how I would ever have gone from non-Christian, completely unchurched, straight to being Catholic. Nothing would have made any sense to me. I had to start with evangelical groups.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    Grace: Do look into University of Dallas, particularly if you live in that part of the country. I hadn't heard of it until a few years ago, when I met some recent grads who impressed me with their education AND with their education in the faith.

  • Grace

    Thanks, Allison. I think it might be on my list, but it's a really small university, isn't it? I can't remember now, but there was a reason it wasn't suitable for this particular kid– who is not Catholic because he was already a teen when I converted, and would probably not want to go to a small Catholic school. Which is why stories like Webster's give me hope and pleasure.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05527657294925014026 Michelle

    I helped create ripples once, though unaware. I was very close with my sister-in-law Rachel. She was aware that I was studying Catholicism, though I didn't talk about it much. Turns out that HER sister, Julia, was ALSO studying it at the same time, though Rachel was completely unaware. My having interests kind of prepared Rachel for Julia's conversion (who was received into the church last October). A couple of weeks ago, Rachel told my Dad about Julia (who is someone my Dad respects). I also haven't talked with my parents this part of my life. However, now Julia has caused a small ripple in MY family, at least towards the idea of a strong (protestant) Christian becoming Catholic. :)Those ripples are really awesome, because we KNOW they are God working and orchestrating in a way we never imagined!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08213346310727245693 Lacey

    Ohh this gave me goosebumps. I came into the Church Sunday morning, and I am still marveling at it all. Thank you for the post.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    @Grace: Yes it is small and Catholic. Sounds like not the right fit for your child.@Michelle; How close are you now to your due date?@Lacey: Congratulations!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05527657294925014026 Michelle

    I am 38 weeks, basically due any day :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12442813565745123497 MUJERLATINA

    @ Grace: I loved my experience at Duke University which has a large and active Newman Center. The photo above of Monsignor (then Father)John Wall reminds me of the days many years ago when he served us Dukies through spiritual retreats in Kinston, North Carolina! You really can't go wrong with Duke or UNC-Chapel Hill for a young person thirsting to grow in the Catholic faith. Good luck to you.

  • corinne

    Wow! How wonderful, Webster, for you and your family!!!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12664749182684536419 Emkay

    A quick story:After graduation, my college roommate lived with her boyfriend for more than four years. They attended my big, Catholic wedding together and brought my husband and me a lovely wedding gift. I later wrote them a thank-you note. My former roomie soon after wrote back to me, saying that she and her boyfriend had broken up in the car on the way home from the wedding reception. She had insisted that she wanted what I now had: a marriage; he had said, "We don't need a piece of paper." She later married someone else – as a Catholic revert. Silly me – I thought the only thing I was doing was getting married.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08801584133028591211 Laura R.

    Webster, what wonderful news — thanks so much for including us! I'm sharing the joy especially, having also been confirmed and received into the Church at Easter Vigil. What a blessed night!I also have had the definite sense that my conversion is not only for my own benefit, which makes perfect sense the more I reflect on it.Alleluia, He is Risen!

  • Mary P.

    Congratulations, Webster! Isn't it amazing how the Good Lord uses us in ways we never anticipate? I'm still praying for everyone here at YIMC, although I've been awfully busy lately, and had some trouble keeping up!

  • James

    Congratulations to your daughter Marian and both you and Katie. I like the ripples concept very much. My son's best friends' Mom was initiated also this past weekend in our own parish. One of four. Here's hoping and praying that all these ripples will build to a tidal wave!

  • Webster Bull

    Thanks to all, especially to my pal James. I have some stories to tell you, friend. Let's get together soon.

  • El Bolillo Tejano

    @ Allision: University of Dallas is a fine school. Perhaps best part about it is the Philosophy department, however Great Art History and World History classes from the western perspective. Many of the great professors, June Welch, and Lyle Novensky have moved on. The most famous UD professor was the legendary "M.E. Bradford "who was recognized for his historical love of the heritage of the Old South. When he died, the "conservative" world mourned.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mel_BradfordThis is not a true Texas school, with 80 or so percent coming from out of state. I believe it is considered "intellectually" Catholic. Some truth to that, but fun to be had, I have been told. Recently, I visited LSU's Campus and the University of Texas at Austin. Both have Neumann Centers FRONT and CENTER at the main location of Campus. The Faith is alive at the Secular schools.After hearing about Webster's Daughter, very pleased to see it is alive at UNC! The more and more I see of the young generation of Catholics in College right now, the more hope I have for our world.

  • Grace

    @Laura R: That reminds me of this quote from the end of The Hobbit, and is suitable for the entire thread. =DGandalf the Grey: Surely you don't disbelieve the prophecies because you helped bring them about? You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?

  • Grace

    @ Mujerlatina: Thanks for the info about Duke.He would probably like the beautiful campus, among other attractions. And that's part of the Bible Belt, isn't it? Which is okay with me because of what has been said above. We have connections with the SouthWEST, but– still. Maybe.

  • Wendy C.

    Blessings upon you and your daughter! The ripples effect can be quite unpredictable and unexpected. One of my best friends who was my roommate when I joined the Church is now in inquiry and will be moving soon into RCIA. No agenda ever on my part – she was a happy Protestant as was I before I converted. She came in 2009 to the Easter Vigil with me because she didn't have a church to go to for Easter and has been attending Mass with my husband and I ever since. All on her own she started researching,asking lots of questions, praying the rosary, watching EWTN and suddenly she was in inquiry. It is a thrill to share my faith experience with her and I am excited to see who the next ripple may wash over!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08801584133028591211 Laura R.

    @Grace: Thank you! That's indeed wonderfully appropriate –

  • Webster Bull

    @Wendy C., These stories, collected, would make an inspiring book. Thanks.


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