My Conversion Testimony

12-02-2018What's Your Story?Clorinda D'Agnolo

I consider myself a re-vert, a cradle Catholic, as well as a convert. I know that sounds crazy, but I can explain.

My father was Catholic and my mother a new convert to Catholicism. I was baptized in ‘62 and received all of the sacraments. I grew up under a much misguided understanding of Vatican II. My parents were deeply influenced by the progressive spirit of the Counsel. Consequently, that misguided spirit colored my perception of Catholicism. By high school I was questioning the faith and this questioning was met with no answers or, as I now know, incorrect answers. My questioning continued as I went to college, met my first husband and had my daughter. I expected my marriage to work because I was taught and believed that marriage was forever. Unfortunately, that firm belief alone was not enough to make it work, especially when faith had not informed my selection process of a life-time mate. The relationship proved destructive before the vows were even finished and it lasted two painful years. The failure of my marriage was brutally devastating to my sense of self. I thought that if this was the best influence Catholicism could have in my life, then it wasn’t for me. This experience sealed my belief that the Church was void of the sacred and was a closed community, in which there was no place for someone like me, someone divorced. For me, this was the finish of any Catholic faith.

From that time forward, I was on a search — a search for God, a search for the sacred in life. I deeply believed in God. He was evident to me in all of the beauty of the created world. I had no doubts about His existence and omniscience but didn’t know how to follow Him in the day to day. My time in the Catholic Church had left me bereft of any tools for getting nearer to God and I wanted those tools. I started attending other Christian churches, but they held less depth for me than the Catholic Church I’d left. Shortly after my divorce I returned to college to complete my education and was very influenced by the prevalent thought in academia of the time, that Western Culture and its Christianity were to blame for the ills of the world. This belief dovetailed with my discouragement in the Catholic Church as well as a sense of being ‘uninvited’ by the church. At this time, I felt not only divorced from my marriage partner, the one person and place where the greatest safety and intimacy should have existed, but also felt ostracized by the faith community, another place where safety and acceptance should have been the norm. This experience created fertile ground for the self-empowerment and personal growth gospels of the New Age Movement to take hold. Once I exhausted western religions, I went east. I read everything I could get my hands on, from the Egyptian Book of the Dead to the I-Ching, Zoroastrianism, Gnosticisim, Shirley Maclain’s Guide to Inner Transformation, the Bhagavad Gita, and the plight of the Dalai Lama and Buddhism, to name a few. I believed that if I could travel to Tibet and become a Buddhist monk, then I could experience God. As you might guess, that didn’t happen, and my search for God became more disheartening as I aged. With my years spent in the New Age culture, I became more militantly opposed to Christianity and most things organized or institutionalized. I believed that I, and nothing else, was the ultimate determination of my own peace and happiness. Unknown to me at the time, I was becoming indoctrinated into many occult practices. In retrospect, I realize how protected I was at that time by my baptism and all of the sacraments I’d been so graced to receive. And of course, I was protected as well by the Lord’s great mercy!

After years of searching, I determined that the best I could do was Theosophy, a new age synthesis of all that is considered good from many religious beliefs. This didn’t satisfy me at any deep level and I plowed through self-empowerment books at a voracious rate. My God hole was getting larger not smaller, in spite of all of my efforts to fill it.

With a failed marriage, several lack luster relationships, being disowned by my father (for one of those relationships) and having lost my mother to cancer, I entered my forties, isolated from family and yet to experience any real fulfillment in my spiritual life. Then I met a lovely, Godly man (thanks to his prayers to Our Blessed Mother, but that’s another story). Although he hadn’t left the faith, he believed that divorce in itself meant that he could no longer receive the Eucharist or participate in the life of the Church. He had a strong moral faith and prayer life, but a lack of Catechesis and secular misinformation kept him away from the sacraments. Nonetheless, He lived his life of devotion to Mary and the Saints with such quiet eloquence and firm conviction that I became curious how such a good and intelligent man could have, what I thought were, such archaic beliefs. Yet these beliefs fueled his every word and deed. I wanted to understand, so I started reading and researching about the Saints, Incorruptibles, Eucharistic miracles, Marian apparitions and mystics. What I found was such a rich and deep world, one that was also intelligent and grounded in facts and truth. I kept reading, praying, and searching with fervor and angst. It seems the Lord heard me.

One day after several hours of reading a book by a Catholic mystic on the Life of Christ, I was left incredulous. I asked the Lord out loud, “Where are you! How does someone in this modern world become a disciple? God, God! How do I get beyond this glass ceiling?” God heard my cries and much like Saint Paul, I was knocked off of my proverbial horse and blinded. In my secular, anti-Catholic, New Age, prochoice beliefs, God showed me the truth. He shared that the truth of God that I was looking for was in the Bible and it was as the Catholic Church presents it. That’s the best I can describe what God said in my soul that day. At that moment, without knowing or understanding the faith, I accepted Catholic doctrine in its totality. My brain could not object. The God I’d been searching for in vain, made a covenant with me, to teach me all I needed to know. I have never turned back or doubted since that day. He gave me extraordinary grace to accept all of the doctrine, and even obedience, something I had previously struggled with. What followed was God’s great Mercy and Love as He sent to me all of the people and situations that I would need in order to bring my frail humanity along in my conversion.

As often happens in relationship with God, to those whom much is given, much is expected. In the next few years, I would lose that lovely man, so instrumental in my conversion and salvation, to a fast moving and aggressive cancer. I would hold his hand and accompany him through several brutal weeks of invasive procedures and useless treatments, before his body finally gave out. I’d lose my job, my home and all of my material resources. I’d lose my relationship with my only child and grandchild to a destructive situation. I’d have to rebuild my entire life. With the help of devout friends sent by God, through whose actions I began to learn humility and acceptance of God’s Will, I then began to allow the Lord to move in every broad stroke and small detail of my life. My life started to become His.

So you see, I’m a cradle Catholic, a re-vert to the faith, but in truth, a true convert. I can learn and grow only by the God-given grace of humility and obedience, without which I start to stumble or doubt. Both of these graces have been essential in my conversion to a true follower of Christ Jesus. My conversion was nearly 10 years ago. Given another 100 years I would still not be able to discover all the richness and depth of this phenomenal gift God has given me in the Catholic Faith.

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