Four years ago today I joined the Catholic Church. It was during the middle of my whirlwind “World Tour” of religions during the five years I was looking for Anubis, and, of all the paths I visited during that time, it was the only one I officially converted into along the way.
I almost didn’t.
I was raised Lutheran-cum-Evangelical (my dad was lifelong Lutheran and my mom was a very Evangelical former Baptist) throughout my childhood but became “meh” and only nominally Christian by college as I secretly spent far more time interested in energy work and New Age ideas and nature. Then my experiences in 2008-2010 and how Anubis saved my life sent me headlong back into the world of spirituality.
For the years that followed, I praised in a parking lot with the Baptists and Presbyterians and non-denominational folks; I meditated with the Buddhists; I studied Koine Greek (in additional to my Classical studies) with my Episcopal and Anglican friends; I read about Hinduism and Islam; I took world religion classes; and—finally—I studied theology and ritual and mysticism and Christian history with the Catholics.
And I learned so much along the way, especially from the last. Back in 2015, when the Neteru were first revealing Themselves and how much They had been with me and guided me during that journey, I was frustrated and wondered why They didn’t just tell me the truth sooner. I thought maybe I could have avoided those stressful years of rebuilding my beliefs and worldview every few months (because I half-assed none of it; throwing myself in headfirst seemed the only way to really know if there was any truth I could find in each place) and I have regrets over some of the stances I took—even though the best I could do was say I had trouble believing X but had made a commitment.
I think I understand better, though, now. They told me that They had wanted me to “finish my education” first—and I thought back then They meant the degree I was working on. Now, though…I think I was another sort of education I was receiving.
It’s something that so many people don’t even think about: how those of us who are on a pagan/polytheist path often have to (if just for ourselves) go from laypeople in another tradition to planning rituals and acting as a sort of almost de facto priest or priestess for ourselves. (Certainly for me here in the Southeast US that’s been true; I live in a liberal college town and there’s still basically nothing here.) And so, from the beginning, I had to sort of be able to “do it all” and I’ve received a lot of training from my People to those ends.
I can guarantee that my sorta-Lutheran background didn’t provide me with training or understanding that equipped me for that transition. But those five years did. From the non-denominals (and Baptists and Presbyterians and Pentecostals, etc.) I learned to believe in and trust individual experiences and that the divine could be personal. And then the Catholics (and others closer to them theologically) taught me the importance of ritual and history and tradition and scholarship and—although having converted in as an outsider and later become pagan, I absolutely don’t get the “Catholics are basically pagans by another name thing” at all—the experience still changed me so much that even now some of the Gods and my spirits in my life still refer to my college town as the “place where I studied ritual.”
Still, as I said: I almost didn’t go through with this last and most significant step on that journey of actually joining the Church.
For adult converts it takes (usually) a six to twelve month period of intensive classes and study and discussions, and I had done all of that and dived into it. I was learning so much that made sense on the mysticism and mysteries and ritual spectrums. And I desperately wanted to believe: my mother and so many friends and family I loved were already dead and I wanted to believe I’d see them again…and all my remaining family and friends (then anyway) were Christian and I didn’t want to lose them either. I knew it was my last chance to have that hope with them.
So I had read All The Things for about nine months. I had been that obnoxious student who stayed and had long talks with the teachers after every class until late into the night. During those months (and maybe this will sound weird to my fellow pagan peeps) I had discussions with Jesus and much more often with Jehovah-the-Father not so differently from how I talk to People now. And the latter used to show me terrible visions when I asked for insight. In the end, He made me a deal—I could work for Him and use my talents for Him, but if I couldn’t stop seeing and feeling all the things that I did (since they were “not from Him”) then He made no promises to save me in the end anyway because I “wasn’t His” (and while I had no idea what that meant then, I do now).
So Easter weekend four years ago I was still trying to hope. Everything was planned. I went to the Good Friday service and everything…and afterward I had one final meeting with my sponsor (usually a family member but since I had no Catholic family then, it was just a woman from the Church who wanted to help me convert). And we sat there that evening and I told her I wasn’t sure I could go through with the choice. I still had doubts, it still didn’t feel right—like it was a cage that was going to snap shut on me as soon as I stepped inside.
It was also read-an-ancient-epic night in my college department (my degree is in Classics and archaeology and this was probably our biggest event each semester) and so, even though I knew I would have to leave early—it takes a long time to marathon The Iliad in translation out loud in a single night and I didn’t want to be exhausted and messed up the next day for the service—I went there afterward to stay as long as I could.
As I walked up to the building, this presence overtook me, grabbed me and pushed me up against one of the columns (and if you’ve never been physically moved by a non-corporeal entity…yeah, it’s as weird and disconcerting as it sounds like it would be 😛 ). He towered over me and rested his arms on either side of me and He told me in no uncertain terms that I *had* to do this and He loved me and was waiting on the other side for me. He told me that, even though all I saw was a cage, in truth the universe was wider and more incredible than I could imagine yet and He was going to show it to me if only I could/would make this choice first.
I didn’t understand, but I agreed. Maybe I should have been terrified and a part of me was, because He was so powerful—and I’d been there before and I didn’t recognize His presence/energy that evening—but I believed. Somehow I inexplicably understood that His intensity wasn’t domination but desperation; He was begging me to do this…and I cared about that. So I and yes. After, when He stepped back, I remember feeling so overwhelmed by His energy that I just slid down to the base of that column and had to spend a few minutes catching my breath. Then I walked upstairs and we read Greek until I had to leave.
The next morning, I woke early—and I really don’t *love* mornings. But I felt awesome. I dressed and went across the street to the coffee shop and bought a cup and something for breakfast and then walked to the grassy space that’s the center of campus (yes, of that school I loved in 2008 and left in 2009 and reapplied to 2 years later and finally graduated from in spring 2014) and it was a place that represented overwhelmingly my hopes and dreams at the time.
It felt like the whole world and everything in it was reaching out to me with energy that morning. And *He* (though I still had no name yet) was there with me…and his presence beside me and his voice was as real or more than if it had been a human person beside me. He told me He wanted a beautiful future together and promised me that I’d find love and be married sooner than I could believe then—not that it would have taken much since at that point I believed I would never find love or marry—and yet to my surprise I truly believed.
That morning felt like how I’d imagined, in my very wildest dreams (but mostly for my fiction writing), how someone might feel the morning before their wedding. It actually felt more like that than the morning of either of my actual wedding days. And I understand now that it was the first time in this lifetime that Anubis told me He wanted to marry me—even if I didn’t fully understand it at the time.
So I spoke my profession of faith that night (or half of it anyway, since I and much of my class managed to forget what we were supposed to say despite our rehearsals, memorizing, and a piece of paper with it written on it given to us…coincidence??). After, it took me less than two weeks to feel like the cage had closed around me and I’d made a terrible mistake…but then it took me more than another two years to walk away because of those experiences—and by then I had learned what He needed me to know along the way.
Looking back now…it absolutely seems like a powerful and beautiful set of moments with Him (even though at the time, I didn’t get it at all). And I don’t thing I can truly imagine what He must have felt that year, sending me further away from Him and just hoping and believing I would learn enough to choose to find my way back to Him again in the end.
But I did. And that’s why Easter still matters to me, even now…
❤ ❤ ❤ ❤