She Walked Into My Class, Soon to Become a Lifelong Friend
I met Catherine Covington years ago when she was a student in my Lyrical class. Such a dedicated, hard worker, kind and so beautiful, with her blond hair, blue eyes and flawless skin. In my 37 years of teaching, there are those special dancers whom you never forget. Catherine is one of them.
As she got older, we taught classes together. Early Saturday mornings, beginning the day with hazelnut iced coffees and hash browns for energy. Those students were many, and little! Sometimes I’d let those stinkers get away with too much rowdiness in the room. Catherine would get a firm teacher look on her face, and they’d fall in line. I’d just look sheepish. Her classroom management skills far surpassed mine. She went on to have a successful teaching career. We still keep in touch to this day. Catherine now has four beautiful children.
On a Quest
This wonderful young lady grew up in another denomination but became a Catholic at age 23. As a “cradle Catholic” myself, taking it for granted, I’ve always admired converts. It takes guts to take a big leap like this. Those who do bring such an appreciation and zeal to their faith. They value all of it as the gigantic present of a lifetime. I wondered what prompted my dear fellow teacher and friend to pursue Catholicism. So I asked her some questions.
1. When Did You First Feel an Inkling to Change Religions?
“When I walked into a Catholic Church for the first time as a non-Catholic, I saw a pamphlet about pro-life in the lobby. I didn’t realize that a church would collectively work to protect the unborn. From a young age at my old church, I never heard pro-life teachings from the pulpit. To see a church work toward protecting life across the spectrum of all ages and circumstances was new to me.
“I had always read the Bible and prayed, but I felt something missing from the denomination in which I was a member. The Catholic Church was very clear and unafraid to make direct statements about controversial things. This church felt more alive to me, because it was strong.
“Here was a place which had strict standards about specific ways of living and universal truths. To me, it was a faith being MORE.
“The Sacraments, outward signs of God’s grace, seemed like powerful help along the way. Confession –so humbling!
“I also heard about the intercession of saints. Heavenly assistance with everyday life –why not?
“I felt like my previous faith was vague and had less accountability. I researched for five years. I attended every denomination possible in my town, yet none felt like home.”
Your First Time –What an Experience!
“I had several role models who happened to be Catholic. Two of them were friends who brought me to Mass for the first time.
“It was the longest hour of my life. It felt very foreign to me. Then we got to The Our Father. –Finally something I already knew! At the end I began to robustly say, ‘For thine is the kingdom, the power…’ Oops. No one in this church says that right after the Amen. I bowed my head, feeling the redness creep onto my cheeks.
“I began to have many different conversations about theology and debating the Catholic beliefs. My respected friend said, ‘There are many teachings here. Do you accept them all? If not, you may not be ready yet.’
“At the time I wasn’t ready to embrace them all, and it took me several years before I was.”
2. Why Were You Convicted to Switch Over to Practicing Your Faith in a Different Way?
“Because I could not find that richness anywhere else I went. I couldn’t quit. It’s so COMPLETE.
“The Catholic Church is like a giant, heavy encyclopedia, as opposed to the picture book of my former church.
“I appreciated its 2,000 year history and the many courageous Christians who were martyred because of it. I was in awe of the monks who diligently hand-copied countless books full of vital tradition.
“We are connected to angels in Heaven during Mass. The chrism oil on my forehead during the sacrament of Confirmation is an eternal seal. I have learned a lot but realize there is still so much more, and I am hungry for it.
“The church has the fullness of truth. I might grapple with it, but I don’t have to find it. It’s all right there for me.
“In the ocean of conflicting messages the world sends –politicians, celebrities, flashy cars, diets and a lot of noise, Catholicism is a huge rock in the center of it all that I can cling to.”
3. Did You Have Any Doubts along the Way?
“Absolutely. There is a myth among some Christians that Catholics “worship” Mary. That’s not true. She intercedes on our behalf with God. I had to navigate this. Also the Papacy. How can a mere human being have authority all the way back from Apostle Peter, the original Rock of the church? It was a hard jump to give up what I formerly believed.
“What if I was wrong?
“Eventually I grew to trust in the Pope’s authority. Priests, Bishops and the Pope have spent years of their lives studying theology. After all, the Pope’s job is to follow the Lord and guide the millions-strong flock.
“I never wanted any of my friends to think I was making a statement that their church was wrong. I just need Mass. I need my battery plugged in so I can charge up.
“Also, many say the Catholic Church practices idolatry.– with its relics, icons and rituals. These are not idols; they are an outward manifestation of worshipping God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.”
4. Describe Your Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and the Final Ceremony, for our Readers
“I went through the training. I knew that everything I took notes on, just scratched the surface of all I would discover on this journey.
“I remained scared of this huge step in my life, but decided I would keep pursuing it. On the day of the Ceremony, my nerves began to take over. My husband, Daniel, said, ‘If you don’t do it; I’m doing it with or without you.’ Oh, Lord. Everyone else was jumping, so I held Daniel’s hand and fell in.
“Friends and a family member came to the Event. I’ll never forget their support and open-mindedness to another way of entering into God’s presence.
“My Catholic well, at that time, only had a few drops of water in it. Today it’s much more full.
“I underwent a transformation over the years, of growing exponentially in my faith. Nothing else can compete with the Catholic Church.
“It’s like if you’ve eaten crackers your entire life, and suddenly there’s a cheesecake sitting in front of you.”
The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist
“Is Jesus truly residing in the Tabernacle, or not? The answer is yes. It is REAL. My four year old, Dominic, says, ‘We are not supposed to eat people. But Jesus says you can eat him.'”
5. Do You Enjoy Raising Your Children Catholic? They Are So Knowledgeable, Being So Young. They Know More About the Saints Than I Do!
Catherine’s children are little encyclopedias. I have pictures they’ve drawn, of saints, a priest and the Communion Host, posted on my fridge. When I video chat with her kids, James, the oldest, can recite a Litany of the Saints.
“I love the culture and stability of Catholicism. The lives of the saints from all over the world are so inspiring, and we love commemorating their Feast Days.
“I thoroughly enjoy raising our kids Catholic. I am so thankful they can grow up with this gigantic gift that changed my life.
“I can’t wait for the children to experience Communion, Confession, Confirmation and Holy Orders/Matrimony. The sacraments and the saints help us and our children strive for a higher degree of holiness.
“Nothing in life matters more than this.”