LAYING THE FOUNDATION
MY CONVERSION STORY: KIMBERLY HAHN
Not only is it surprising to Scott that he would be up here sharing about the Catholic Church, it is also surprising to me that I would hear my husband present so eloquently and so beautifully his call from God to become Roman Catholic. When we dated, it was something that we disagreed on because he really didn't believe that a thoughtful Christian could be Catholic. And I saw myself as rather balanced because I didn't think we needed to trouble the Catholics. As long as they believed in Jesus, they where just fine where they were. I'm going to have a particular focus on sharing my part of the conversion story. I would really like to focus on what I would say is probably the toughest thing for Protestants, and that is the Blessed Virgin Mary. If any of you have Protestant family members or friends, or if any of you are still Protestant, probably you would say that Mary, Mary and Mary are your three toughest obstacles to being able to see the truth of the Catholic Faith. So I'd like to take this one particular thread that, in the fabric of this conversion story, was very knotted, and yet as I look back, I would say it is part of what makes one of the most beautiful patterns in this conversion.
Unlike Scott, I was raised in a very dynamic, Christ-centered evangelical family. My dad is a minister and my mom and dad love the Lord. They desired to establish a holy family when they got married, and they prayed for me from before I was born right up to today. They fed me the Word of God right along with my peas and potatoes. They bathed me in prayer as much as they gave me baths. They baptized me because they were convicted that they needed to impart their faith to me. I believed that God existed because I believed my parents, and they told me that God existed. They told me what Jesus had done. They told me I was His child, and yet I came to a point of decision that every single one of us has to make, which is, "Do I believe?" Because, it is true, they had mediated for a time, but now it was time for me to make a decision.
When I entered seventh grade, that was a time of raising questions. One particular weekend I had been involved in probably more sin that was external and I felt more guilty about it than I normally did, and so I was really ripe. I went to church and I heard the Gospel message. I realized that the sins I committed, those very sins were the sins that Jesus bore on that cross for me and that I needed forgiveness for them. I needed to say "Yes" to Jesus, to yielding my will to Him and giving my life to Him, and I wanted to. By the time they mentioned the idea of coming down to the altar, I was already flying down the stairs. I could not get up front fast enough. I said, "Yes, God, yes." And I can tell you, there were dramatic changes from that moment on. I had a love for Scripture, a love to give my witness and testimony to others, and the Lord opened many doors in junior high and high school, and many ministries. I headed off to college with a lot of great ideas of what I thought God would do in my heart and in my life. Now growing up, I understood that Mary was Jesus' mother. But in a typical Protestant home, Mary isn't mentioned much more than any other person who's been blessed. The idea of her being blessed was not really anything we saw having to do with her, but simply because Jesus came from her. I think maybe we didn't talk about Mary much because it seemed liked Catholics talked so much about her. It was a way of sort of distancing us.
Two of the models that I would say were rather typical of my Catholic friends, I would describe as this: The first one is the "football player" model. Do you ever notice how whenever they interview the players or show the players after the game, what do they say when they get a chance to be on camera? "Hi, Mom!" You wouldn't know that most of them have a father. You know, Mom is the only one who seems to get credit. And that's how it struck me sometimes, that Catholics didn't talk much about God the Father. I mean the whole image of, if you had to go to your father or mother, who would you rather go to? Or hiding behind Mommy's skirts -- that kind of thing. The other model I would describe with this little vignette. A man was painting a ceiling in a little chapel in Rome and he noticed an American woman walk in and he thought, "I'm going to have a little fun." So from way up high he said, "This is Jesus." There was no response, "This is Jesus." Still no response, so he thought he'd do it a little louder, "This is Jesus." She looked up and said, "Be quiet! I'm talking to your Mother." Now, needless to say, had I talked to a number of you, you would have given me a faithful view of Mary, but this is the way my friends came across when I talked to them and they brought up Mary. I'm going to jump ahead.
Very Early Years of Marriage
Scott mentioned the birth control issue and that was definitely a highlight of seminary. I just want to say that I believe that was a tremendous grace from God, that we were able to see the truth on that issue and at that time. I remember having a tremendous respect for a Church that was willing to take a stand that was obviously very, very unpopular. So I had respect for the Catholic Church on moral issues but no desire at all to be a part of it. My dream had been to be a minister or at the very least to be a minister's wife.
So when we headed off to Virginia where Scott was going to be a minister, we were really almost at the peak of all of the dreams that we had. All of a sudden he began teaching things that were somewhat troubling. He was into typology a lot, showing the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments. He made the comment one day that, "Someone warned me that, 'that sounds rather Catholic'," and I said, "Well, then stop it. There's a simple solution to this." Or he would come in and say: "I'm reading something that I don't know if I should read." And I said, "Then don't, just shelve it. You don't have to explore every nook and cranny." But of course he did because he's a theologian and he's curious and he wants, with total abandon, to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. That's why I married him. In that sense he is so much like my father: No matter what, follow the Lord.
When he told me that he was turning down the deanship, (of the seminary) I knew that his questions had become very serious. My hope and prayer was that I didn't have to become embroiled in it; that he would just study his way, all the way back around to sanity, to Protestantism; that I wouldn't have to go through it with him; and that I could just stay on the sideline, rooting him on and hope that would take care of it.
When we moved to Grove City, I had the opportunity to give a little talk at Christmas time and Scott said, "Why don't you talk about Mary?" I said, "Well, you want me to talk about Mary because you're reading all of this Catholic stuff." And he said, "No, admit it. Protestants don't ever talk about Mary; why don't you bring a little balance here?" So I took up the challenge, and I didn't present any Marian doctrines. I just talked about her as the model disciple, and I talked about her as this beautiful vessel of God. I was struck by the fact that even saying that much was very threatening to the women. In fact, after I was done, two women sang "What Child is This?" which is a Christmas carol, and they had been warned beforehand by one of their husbands who was a Pastor, "Don't sing the ending the normal way." It's supposed to end, "The babe the son, of Mary." And they changed it to, "The babe, the son of God," because they were so concerned that if they said the son of Mary it might imply that she really had something to do with it. On the one hand I didn't like their prejudice; I couldn't believe they did that in direct contrast to what I had just taught. But at the same time I resonated with their fears. You know, so much talk about Mary is going to detract from the glory of God; it's going to take away from the emphasis on Jesus and that is wrong. We've got to avoid that.
Scott's Conversion to Catholicism
When Scott said that he would probably become Catholic, and I plea-bargained to become Episcopalian, I knew that we were in the midst of something that was very big. I didn't know anyone that had ever converted to Catholicism. I knew a lot of people who had left, but I didn't know anyone who had chosen to go back in. I didn't know who to talk to. Scott would come out of his study and say things like, "You know, Kimberly, I think that there may be seven sacraments instead of two." Now see, I have my Master's in Theology, I had already taken my classes on Sacramentology. I knew how many sacraments there were. He would say, "Kimberly, maybe the two you understand, you don't really understand!" The questions were so troubling. By this point I was pregnant with our second child and I was very busy. I didn't want to have to restart thinking the ABC's of theology. He'd go into his study and shut the door, and I did not want him to come out.
There was one night apparently he had been reading up on the Communion of Saints and he burst into the room and he said, "Kimberly, do you know that right here and now we are surrounded by Mary and the Saints and Angels?" and I said, "Not in our bedroom!" He actually informed me one night that in his long drive back from Duquesne he had begun praying the rosary. I didn't even know he owned one. I remember where I was standing in the living room where I felt the joy of the Lord depart.
My own father had said, "Kimberly, you cannot let Scott continue studies that you are not involved in. It's not enough to say, 'Take your trip and I'll meet you when you come back.' Somewhere or another you've got to get alongside him." But I could not bring myself to do it. As Scott said, I prayed that someone would deliver me. I thought Gerry Matatics would be that person, and then it turned out that he began experiencing joy in study. He wanted to read eagerly and wanted to know what I was thinking about these things. And I didn't like it.
We realized we needed to go to a school where Scott would really hear Roman Catholicism and get an opportunity to make some judgments, so we moved to Milwaukee. We developed very different circles of friends. I was going to a Protestant church, very involved in activism, and he did some activism and was very involved at Marquette University and he grew in having Catholic friends. I was also very busy with our two little boys. Ten days before our first Easter in Milwaukee, he came downstairs from talking to Gerry and said, "Kimberly, I have to make a decision. I may join the Catholic Church in ten days." I went from thinking I wasn't going to deal with something for four years to knowing I was going to deal with it in a week and a half. I knew that it would not just commit him, but would commit our children, because we both believe that the father is the spiritual head of our home. And since I couldn't prove in any way that he had lost his faith, that meant that our children would at some point in time become Roman Catholic and that would leave me the only Protestant. I'm the one who bore those children, what did that mean? I remember going through a two week time period in which I thought, "God, I will never have another baby because I will not populate this world for Rome." I meant that and I had come to a very deep conviction against birth control. But you know what? God is so merciful and he gave me such a heart-love for babies and such a heart-love for Him, that I couldn't keep that sinful attitude and so again I yielded to the Lord in that, but with much fear and trepidation. I wrote in my journal the night Scott said that, "God, to whom do I go with this pain?" I knew that I could not go to my family. For our marriage to make it through, I needed my parents to support him as much as me. So I wrote in my journal, "Don't tell me Mary and the Saints!" I wrote, "God, do you talk to Mary? I don't think I ever will."
Turmoil After Scott's Conversion
A Bible study in our home a week after his conversion was just a small little group of college students, and I thought the least I can do is sit through a Bible study. I mean the Bible is still mine; I'm Protestant, after all. I can sit through this Bible study and maybe I can gain some insight. I had come forth to at least be a hostess. So we're sitting around in a little circle, and Scott asked one of the young men to lead in prayer. The first words out of his mouth were, "Hail Mary, full of grace...." I got up and left the room. I fell on my knees in my bedroom weeping and I said, "Oh God, I can't even go to a Bible study in my own home anymore. How can this man do this to me? One week after my husband converts, when he knows I have not converted, and yet he has to bring Mary in the midst of all of this."
I asked Scott, "Why would God do this? We married to minister in His name together and now he's tearing us apart by calling you into the Catholic Church?" Scott said, "Could it be that God loves you so much that he converted me first because he wants to draw you into the Church?" I said, "Well, how do you answer that? With love like that." Scott wanted to share. He would come downstairs and say, "Kimberly, can I just read you a paragraph?" And I would say, "Is it about Mary?" He'd say, "Yes." And I would say, "Go away. No."
He'd come home and tell me horror stories about things that had happened at Mass, ways the liturgy had been mangled. He didn't complain often, but he did complain out of the pain in his heart. I would look at that and say, "Is the Catholic Church that he thinks about, that he's read about, the same that exists today?"
I had decided never to date a Catholic, now I found I was married to one. And do you think he's a typical Catholic? It was a challenge. I'd say one of the toughest things was Mary, and it is something that has sensitized my heart to what some Protestants go through. I have seen some adult women become Christians and when they become Christians and their husbands are not, they experience some jealousy over the time and the love that their wives now have with Jesus. Have any of you experienced that or seen that? Well, I had that with Mary.
Scott and I would go head to head battling. I am not really a docile person, and we would go back and forth. It would be tense and it would be traumatic. There were many times of tears or silence or storming out of rooms, and then I would know that he was out walking the block praying his rosary. He didn't have the same kind of angry words or frustration with Mary, did he? And I knew that. I knew that she was all sweetness and kindness and love and gentleness, and he was going to come home to a wife that was anything but that. And it was very hard. Sometimes he didn't have as much time for me as he took praying the rosary.
I wanted to shake Catholics, I wanted to say, "Would you please appreciate the fact that my life has been totally destroyed? But you have at least gained someone who is really incredible." It was no big deal to many people at the university that he had converted to Catholicism.
From the moment that I knew Hannah had been conceived, the Lord gave me the phrase, "A child of reconciliation." From the moment I looked at that positive pregnancy test, after the joy of knowing I was pregnant, the next question on my heart was "How will this child be baptized?" I kid you not. I hadn't even told him I was pregnant yet, but it was on my heart. I couldn't bear to discuss the Baptism because I did not want the pain of frustration. I kept praying, and I kept praying, and I kept praying. And the Lord brought a tranquillity to my heart -- a peace, She is to be baptized Catholic. Her eventual baptism was a tremendous grace in my life that I know God prepared me for from the moment I knew she was conceived. But I knew that it would go even further than that most probably. In fact, we even teased and called her our CB, our Catholic baby. And Scott would walk the halls with her and I'd say, "What were you whispering in her ear?" And he'd say, "Well, I was whispering the rosary, but don't worry about it, she can't remember it."
I want to back up one moment. A month before Hannah was born, my father called. He was aware that there was a struggle between us over Catholicism, but he had no idea at the time how deep the struggles were. There were two times in particular, that I walked a block trying to keep myself from literally running away, from bagging the whole thing. We had gotten married agreeing we were never going to tease or joke about separation, let alone divorce. But the wall of pain was so great that I felt that I had to escape, and I knew suicide was not an option, so that thought did not cross my mind. I did ask God to give me a disease or something to kill me. I am totally serious. I begged God, "Please take me away and then you can tell me everything that is true or false so I don't have to agonize, and Scott can marry a nice little Catholic girl and get on with his life." Two times I walked that block, wanting to run, saying, "God, I cannot face this any longer." I was willing to leave Scott and our children and basically my life with God. What kept me from that, besides, I know, the prayers of my guardian angel, Mary and the Saints, was the fear of hell. Because if I left Scott and those children without any resolution, I would be leaving God. And by the mercy of God I walked back into that house and said, "I am going to stay a while longer."
Through Hannah's baptism, the Lord really touched my heart. One day my father called and he said, "Kimberly, do you pray the prayer I pray everyday: 'Lord, I will go wherever you want me to go. I will say whatever you want me to say. I will do whatever you want me to do. I will give away whatever you want me to give away'?" I said, "No, Dad, I don't pray that prayer these days." And he said, "Why not?" I said, "Dad, if I pray that prayer, that means I'm going to have to become a Roman Catholic. I will not become a Roman Catholic." And he said, "Kimberly, you know this is not a question of whether or not you are going to become Roman Catholic. This is a question of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Who are you to say to Jesus Christ where you will and won't go?" He said, "I rebuke you as a brother in Christ. You pray for the grace to pray that prayer." Kimberly's Turn Toward Catholicism
I thank God he did. It took me thirty days. I was so afraid that when I prayed that prayer I would basically be saying, "Okay, God, I will be mindless. I will be a spiritual moron and just follow him into the Catholic Church and forget everything that I hold dear, forget my deep commitments, forget theology." It doesn't make sense, but that's how I felt about it. But do you know what happened when I prayed that prayer and finally relinquished? The Lord showed me that I was the one who had built the cage, and He unlocked the door and said, "Kimberly, come on; let's explore this together." Some of you are at that place right now. Some of you are at that place where the Lord is saying, "I want you to just begin to study the Catholic faith, to take it seriously enough to give it a hearing." And you've said, "No, no, no," and the Lord is now saying, "Come on, come with me. It isn't mindless. It isn't emotionalism. Come on and explore. Let's do this pilgrimage together." My heart was truly set free with a joy to study.
Now don't get me wrong; I am not saying that the next four years (or three years, really) of struggling was easy. There were times of a lot of pain, a lot of discouragement, a lot of frustration, but there was joy in the midst of it, and the study was rich. From Hannah's baptism I wanted to study baptism, and then from there I studied justification, and from there I studied the sacraments. I really came to a deep conviction about transubstantiation. We even went on a family vacation with all my brothers and sisters. I was just bursting inside to say it, so in my little fifteen minutes to summarize my life in the last year I said, "Well, I have studied transubstantiation and I now believe it." I said, "If any of you want to talk to me about it, I'd love to talk to you about it but I won't take time now." Oddly, no one asked any questions. But I could understand; I could relate.
Back in Joliet, we had a man named Mark Miravalle who came and visited as a professor giving a lecture. Scott said, "He's going to talk on Mary, and I thought you'd like to come to the lecture." I wasn't sure that I wanted to, but I thought it would be helpful to hear someone else. I want to share just a few of those thoughts because it really was a turning point for me. The first thing he pointed out is that Catholics don't believe she is a goddess. She's just a creature, but a creature who was specially made. It was the only time that a son made the mother first. What a beautiful thought. In the Magnificat where Mary says, "I rejoice in God my Savior?" I used to think, "That proves she sinned because otherwise how could she say she had a Savior." But the point is, when she was saved, she was saved from conception on. She was saved completely. One of my friends when he stood up to give a testimony in high school said, "God saved me from drugs, alcohol and wild sex." I thought, I know this guy; he didn't do this stuff. It does make a pretty interesting entry into his telling his testimony." He said, "God saved me from all of that stuff before I got into that stuff." Well, that's what He did with Mary. He saved her before she got into any of that stuff.
She wasn't called Queen of Heaven because she was married to God and equal to God. She was Queen of Heaven because she's Queen Mother of Heaven and if Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords and she's really his mother, then she is the Queen Mother, just like Bathsheba was the queen mother honored by Solomon. And Mary never wants you to just stop and focus on her, but Mary's whole mission is to bear Jesus to us.
So I began to have a new question. Maybe some of you need to ask this question, "Lord, how do you see Mary?" I was kind of combating Scott. This is how you see Mary and this is how the Catholic Church sees Mary, but I began to say, "God, how do you see Mary?" And he spoke different phrases, "Beloved daughter, she's my beautiful vessel; she's the one who bore My Son." In seminary we used the technical term, theotokos which means God-bearer or even Mother of God. Now I have to admit that when we heard that in seminary, I kind of bristled. That doesn't sound right. Mother of God sounds like she made God. You know that's not right. But my Protestant seminary professor assured all of us it was a very important title because if she only mothered Jesus in his humanity, then Jesus wasn't fully God. But if Jesus, in one person, was fully God and fully man, then we can honestly say that she is the Mother of God, not the creator of God but the Mother of God. And there's no need to be offended by that.
One day I was having kind of a rough day at home with the children and Gerry Matatics called. He was always concerned to find out if he could scratch where I was itching, to help me along with this process. He said, "What about Mary? You know you're having kind of a tough day, what about Mary? Can you just see her as that perfect mother, as that compassionate person you can go to and get consolation from?" I said, "Gerry, look, first of all, I'm not sure that even if I talk to her that she would hear me. But look at the situation. You're telling me that Mary never sinned. Part of my problem today is that I'm dealing with me. She never sinned. Then to top that off, how many kids did she have? One, and perfect, one perfect child. Just imagine around the dinner table, something goes wrong. Everyone looks, it's St. Joseph; he's the one that blew it." I said, "Personally, I can relate a lot more to St. Joseph." But I really didn't feel I could ask St. Joseph for prayer because I didn't feel it was right yet to ask saints to pray for you.
In January of 1989, we suffered a very traumatic tubular pregnancy miscarriage. I entered the hospital and I had a full Caesarean. So I had to deal with the surgery of a Caesarean along with the pain of miscarriage. It was the first miscarriage we had ever had, and I felt so empty. I felt so gutted. Because we had three small children at home, Scott could only stay for brief periods of time with me and then he needed to go home. I cannot describe to you how lonely that time felt. And to make matters worse, they stuck me in the maternity ward. I could hear babies cry and know I wasn't going to hear mine.
The next to the last day I was there, a priest stopped in, of all people, and I said, "Yes?" He said, "Is your baby going with you?" I said, "No, Father, my baby died." He hadn't stopped to look at the chart. Now anyone could have made that mistake; it was unfortunate at the time that it was a priest who misread that; it was very, very painful.
But do you know what happened? God in His mercy brought scripture to my mind. I couldn't even roll over on my own, so I couldn't pick up a Bible, but He brought the scripture to my mind. Hebrews 11 is called the "Great Faith" chapter, where it goes through heroes and heroines of the faith who have done incredible things for God at great sacrifice. Chapter 12 begins, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses...." Who are the witnesses? All those people in chapter 11. "Let us run the race set before us, setting aside every sin that so easily besets us, running the race with our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith."
What did that mean? I was lying here, feeling totally alone, but was I alone? I wasn't. This whole doctrine of the community of the communion of saints really made sense for the first time. There were saints, brothers and sisters older than me, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, surrounding me and they were there. Some of them had had miscarriages, some of them had lost children at an older age, some of them had gone through deep periods of loneliness much worse than what I had right then, and what were they doing? Were they just observing? "Oh what a shame; she feels so lonely." They were praying for me. They were trying to love me; they wanted me to know they cared for me. I realized I was not alone, and I realized what a blessing the whole doctrine of the Communion of Saints is.
James 5 says, "The prayers of a righteous man avail much." And we believe that on earth. So I can grab Scott, and say, "Scott, something is going to happen today. I have a doctor's appointment. Pray for me." How much more someone who is perfected in heaven and we ask for their prayers. I think the whole imagery of being surrounded by witnesses is like the Olympic stadium and every single one of them is a medalist. And you're running a race that they've all medaled in. They know how tough it is and they have all experienced the victory, the crown. They're cheering you on in the midst of your pain -- your children who have left the Church, your husband who didn't stick around, your wife who was faithless, your daughter who just miscarried. They are here now today, surrounding us.
There was much pain because of our spiritual separation. By the way, any of you who are contemplating marriage of a Protestant/Catholic nature, I would urge you, out of wisdom, don't do it. It is so painful. He could not share what was so precious to him about the Catholic Faith. And he no longer shared what I found precious in the Protestant faith when there where differences. And what we held in common, we held in common. But it was difficult. It was very difficult.
In the midst of that and the physical pain of the miscarriage, our daughter became very sick. Now she was only a year and a half old and so it wasn't easy to explain to her the hospital situation, the fact that she had to have an I.V. in her arm. On the fifth day in the hospital, in the morning, she spiked a very high fever. It was 105.2. The nurses came in and flipped on the lights and they woke me up and said, "You have to help us." I could tell there was an emergency feel to the room. I'm thankful I'm not a nurse. I didn't know how serious it was. What they did was they got towels, very, very cold, with cold water, and they put them on her hot little body. As soon as her body would heat those towels up, they would put another one on. It was imperative that we get her temperature down. In the midst of that, she was lying here, a year and a half old, what could I explain to her? She had one arm tied down with the I.V. and with the other one reaching with all her might up to me, screaming, "Mommy! Mommy!" I was her protectress. I was the one who was supposed to help her, and yet, I was the one helping to cause the pain. In the midst of that, I heard the Lord speak to my heart and say, "Do you see what a good parent you are? That you are loving her, and you are causing the pain to heal her? Do you see what a loving Father I have been? That I have loved you enough to cause the pain to draw you to Myself?" And as I cried standing there, it was much more over the realization that Scott was right, that this was the very love of God at work, even more than the sensitivity of my daughter not being able to understand. God had broken through.
That following Fall I signed up for the RCIA class and in the class I asked the question, "Isn't it idolatrous to have all of these statues and paintings and pictures, you know, people bowing down and worshipping them?" The priest so lovingly said, "Kimberly, do you have a family photo wall? You know, you got your parents, your husband, your children?" I said, "Oh, yeah, sure." And he said, "Isn't that rather idolatrous?" "Well, no." He said, "What's the difference?" And I said, "Well, they just represent people I love." And he said, "Right. These represent our Blessed Mother. These represent our older brothers and sisters who have gone before us, and we love them." He said further, "If you look in the Old Testament," (because my concern was with the Ten Commandments -- the one which says 'Don't make a graven image:')" He said, "Remember that not only did the Lord say that, but when he commanded them to make the tabernacle, what did he say that had to go over the Ark of the Covenant?" "Well," I said, "The two angels, the two Cherubs." He said, "Is that a graven image?" Apparently not. Okay, that helped.
Then it helped to talk to Catholics, and I realized that they grew every year in their understanding of the faith. I had this feeling that I had to answer every question, and I had to have everything solved before I could commit myself to the Lord in the Catholic Church. It helped to know that people were growing in their Catholic faith.
I also signed up that year to help in my son's CCD class. I wanted to know what those Catholics were going to teach my son. So I made the time commitment and I came alongside and listened. They started out by teaching them three prayers: the Our Father, the Glory Be and the Hail Mary. Now when it came to the Hail Mary, I didn't participate. I sat back and listened, but I did learn it. When we got up to First Confession, I was helping out with the class. There was a little girl who was a troublemaker. I wasn't certain if First Confession was a sacrament, but if it was, I was very glad she was there for it. When she went to see the priest, she came back and her eyes were just filled with tears. I said, "What's wrong?" She said, "He said to say the Hail Mary." I said, "Well, say it." And she said, "I don't remember." I thought, Oh, no; now I've got a moral dilemma. Then I looked at her with those eyes brimming with tears and I said, "Repeat after me, 'Hail, Mary....'" We'd gone through the whole thing and then she looked up to me and she said, "Two times." But I didn't pray, yet, the Hail Mary on my own.
We had Ash Wednesday and I still wasn't certain that I was joining the Church that year. Scott had gone out to Long Beach to do a conference on apologetics, and I dropped off our children so I could go out to Steubenville to look for housing. It was Ash Wednesday and I was talking to the Lord, as I often do and I said, "Lord, what do you want me to give up for Lent this year?" We'd give up dessert or chocolate, you know those things that are unfortunately great sacrifices. I didn't expect much of an answer, and He said, "Why don't you give up?" "What? Give up what?" He said, "Why don't you give up you? Why don't you give me you, in a more costly way, in a deeper way, more challenging way?" I knew that was a call not only into the Church, but maybe to become the only Roman Catholic in my Protestant family. I would lose the friends that I had hung on to in the hopes that through me, they would get to Scott. That would disappear, once I became Catholic. I knew it was the Lord and I said, "Yes God, I will." My heart was set free. I spent four hours worshipping Him and singing and praying.
Accepts Mary's Role In Her Life
I got up to Scott's parents' home and I said, "Well, I'm going to become Catholic this Easter." My mother-in-law said, "You said it wouldn't be this year." I thought, "I remember saying those words before." I said, "I'm sorry the timetable got moved up, but I know it's now." Scott called me and he wanted to know about the housing situation. He was really careful how he said it. He said, "There are people out here who want to know where you are." By now he was real sensitive to the Holy Spirit and who He was and he said, "Now, no pressure, no pressure." I said, "Well, I'm going to become Catholic this Easter. Scott, are you still there?" There was so much joy, even across thousands of miles, knowing that God was actually going to give us a chance to be a Catholic family, which Scott had not really given himself a chance to hope for very much. And now that was going to be restored.
Do you know what I read in Revelation 12? I never read this until shortly before becoming Catholic: That Mary is the Mother of "those who keep the Commandments of God and who bear testimony to Jesus." I realized that's me! Mary's my Mother. Scott said, "Kimberly, you might want to pray the rosary. You might want to think about this a couple of weeks before joining." I said, "Honey, I'm becoming Catholic. Let's not push it," (in my docile, sweet, Christian way!) He said, "Okay, okay, no problem."
Scott went down to EWTN to tape a program. Bill Steltmeyer came up to him and said, "The Holy Spirit told me that I should send my rosary to your wife." Scott said, "I don't know if I'd do that." And Bill said, "I'll tell you something: the Holy Father himself gave it to me. I never thought I would part with it, but the Holy Spirit told me to send it, so I'm going to send it." So Scott prepared me before hand with a little book called The Scriptural Rosary which really did help a lot to have Scripture for me. Now I can't tell you, I held that thing, and held it and held it and I thought, You know, there are Catholics who would kill for a rosary like this. Dare I not use it? But on the other hand, what if I offend God? I'm not kidding you, I whispered it. I whispered one decade. No lightning bolt came and I did feel at peace, but I didn't tell Scott. The next day I prayed one more decade, but I still couldn't admit it to Scott. The third night when I prayed a decade, I thought, "Okay, it is time to really humble myself and go tell Scott, and thank him for the ways in which he has gone before me." So I went into his study in the midst of a lot of tears from both of us. I just said, "Thank you, that you let God call you in so much loneliness, apart from me, into the Catholic Church, so that I could have an opportunity to see the beauty of the Church, to be drawn in."
I'll share a couple of insights that I had that night. The whole idea, and I just had my family say it again to me recently, the whole idea of heaven, for so many Protestants, is that you just go and stare at Jesus. Jesus is the only one who is important in heaven and you just look at Jesus. It doesn't matter even if your relatives are there. That seems so contrary to the Word to me, if you look in Revelations. What is it described as? The marriage feast of the Lamb. Did you ever go to a wedding where the groom said, "Here I am. Look at me?" What does a groom say? "Come, meet my bride. Let me introduce you to my mother." How about even more if you're a relative? How about even more if you're a brother or a sister? He wants you to meet your Mother, your brothers and sisters.
There is the whole question of whether this detracts from the glory of God. Let me put this to you: If you have a child and someone comes up to you and says, "Your son Michael is so special. He's a good leader and such a holy little child." Would you ever say, "Hey, let's give credit where credit is due"? No way, because you would know that you were being honored by those thoughts being shared about your son. I was concerned about whether or not the Hail Mary was just being repetitious until I read a little book by a nun and she said, "Now, don't think that you're such a big hotshot adult. You're a little child and how many times does a child come up to you and say, 'Mommy, I love you?'" It can happen ten times in an hour. My daughter would say, "Mommy, I love you, I just love you, I love you." I never looked at her and said, "Honey, that's just vain repetition." What we're doing in the rosary is saying, "Mommy, I love you, pray for me. Mommy, I love you, pray for me. Mommy, I love you, pray for me." And isn't it appropriate for us to do?
I'm going to summarize my conclusion in three brief thoughts. I know you've sat a long time, but if you just hang in there I really want to share these thoughts with you. The first one is that I believe Jesus called me into the Church in part to help me become a beloved disciple. You know that from the Cross, in His agony,Jesus didn't just take care of a detail he forgot, "Oh, yeah, what about Mary? Oh gosh, John will you take care of her, please?" But St. John records in his gospel, "...to the Beloved disciple He said, 'This is your Mother.'" We are called to take the Blessed Mother into our home. Mary is the mother who conquers; she is the warrior maiden. My name "Kimberly" means "warrior maiden." Now when I grew up I had a lot of friends, and we were all into looking up what our names meant. So one girl would look up "Ann," and it means "grace." Someone would look up something else, and it's all of these sweet things, and I would look it up and its Gaelic for "warrior maiden." That didn't seem so beautiful. But you know what? Mary is a warrior maiden with her heel on Satan. I am really grateful for that picture. We are her children. Do you know you are a gift to the Blessed Mother and you are also a gift to the Lord definitely, but you're also a gift to Mary. And she is also a gift to us. She's God's masterpiece. Have you ever gone to a museum and you have an artist display all of his work, and his favorite, most beautiful masterpiece was hanging on the wall? Which would be most pleasing to him: to go and gaze at that masterpiece and realize his work or would he be standing over in the corner, just stomping his feet and saying, "Hey, pay attention to me; I'm the one who made it"? See, when we give honor to our Blessed Mother, we are honoring the Lord. We are because, what is she? She is the one He made. She is the one He empowered to live a life that was worthy of being called Blessed Virgin Mary. She is totally dependent upon Him; she only did His will. It is by grace that she lived; it is by grace that we live.
We'll close with this vignette. This summer, many times I have asked the Lord, "Would you give me an opportunity to know Mary? I mean, I know about her, like I know the President of the United States. Okay, if I see a picture, I say, "Oh that's Mary." If I see a picture of him, I know it's President Bush. But he doesn't know me; he doesn't care about me. And I would like to sense that, if it is possible." I don't think that's necessary. The Church teaches it's true, and you should believe just because the Church teaches it. But I did ask the Lord for something special.
This summer he gave me something special. He reminded me of the time after some conflict with my parents where I didn't feel very close to them. I got to see a couple hold their firstborn child and if any of you have ever had a child, how do you look at that child? You gaze in adoration; you just look at every little feature, and you just bask in the love you have for that child. When I saw that look, God let me remember, honestly remember, how my parents held me and I felt that gaze. (In the midst of Mass one morning I felt Mary's motherly gaze as well. And I sensed her say, I have always loved you as your mother, not just since you became Catholic, but as long as you have belonged to my Son.) But remember, Mary never stops and says, "Just gaze at me." She's always saying, "Do whatever Jesus tells you to do." And remember, she was not begging Jesus to come down off that cross, was she? If Jesus would have started coming down, she would have said, "Now you get right back up there." Everyone of us right now has crosses we are bearing. It's a gift from God because, to deny ourselves, and to take up our cross daily, and to follow Him, is the call of every Christian. But you know, one of the gifts is that Mary accompanies us as we carry that cross. For those of you that are not Catholic at this point, please let me encourage you to believe, Mary is your mother. Recognize the Angels and the Saints that surround you, that encourage you. These are treasures that belong to every single Christian, every Christian. I thank God that in His mercy and grace he has called Scott, and now me and our children into the fullness of the faith in the Catholic Church, and I pray that by His mercy he will lead many, many more to the fullness of the treasures of the Church. God bless you.
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