But the fact is, conversion stories are not my favorite books to read. I mostly avoid them.
Mind you, I enjoy conversation. I can’t help asking people how they came to the Church or Christianity or Ohio (all of which seem to end up being a story worth hearing).
I remain baffled, though, by how sexy it is to other people that I’m a convert, that I was a big fat sinner (and still am, as it happens), and that I had a special middle finger just for God, and here I am as a Catholic writer-persona-hack.
I mean, I can weave it into a tale. I can make you laugh. But there’s nothing really special about me, not really. Or, nothing any more special than your conversion story.
Because that’s the thing: we all have a conversion story. Every one of us.
At some point, you choose your faith. You decide. (Or you choose not to, and that’s a decision too.)
Let me introduce you to a suited convert who lives right here in Ohio (don’t hold it against him): Kevin Lowry is about 10 feet tall, originally from Canada, and has been in more trouble than you could make me believe if I hadn’t heard him tell it himself. I find it hard to believe he has adult children, but I guess that’s proof that I’m getting older myself. 🙂
Kevin’s new book, How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church, is a riot to read. But it’s also important, because conversion is ongoing. It’s not a panel of fluorescents that’s turned on. There’s always the replacement of the bulbs, the maintenance on the ballasts, and the dust that gets in around the electrical outlets (along with the fact that I take my metaphors a litttttttle too far).
Kevin was kind enough to drop by and share some thoughts about how he ended up Catholic after not really being interested in more than just the beer he could get at the university… Enjoy! ~ Sarah
From Dismissive to Catholic…How’d THAT Happen?
When I was a kid, my dad was a Presbyterian minister. We lived in a manse (a house for the minister and his family) right next to the church. Despite my struggles living up to the expectations of a “preacher’s kid,” I remember the tolerance and caring of many good people in our local congregation.
My best friend was a preacher’s kid too. His dad was the minister at the local United Church of Canada. I went there a couple times, and remember many good people in that church as well.
In eighth grade, I went to a new school. It was Pentecostal. Some of the kids were from the large Pentecostal church that sponsored the school, but there was also a large contingent of Baptists. Good people.
Later in high school, my struggles having turned into full-scale adolescent rebellion, I was sent to a boarding school. A Quaker boarding school, as it happened. While you might expect this to cause at least a minor case of spiritual whiplash, I managed to escape any serious deleterious effects through equal parts of aloofness, ignorance, and narcissism. There were good people there, though. Mere tolerance of my behavior as a teenager probably constituted heroic virtue.
Next stop? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? I went to a small Catholic college. Being from Canada, I recall gleefully rubbing my hands together, imagining the possibility of going to school in a different country, many hours away from mom and dad, in a place where class attendance was optional and beer was darn near free.
I wonder now whether my dad was gleefully rubbing his hands together, imagining the possibility of me going to a school in a different country, many hours away from my parents. Dad insists that wasn’t the case… but I digress.
As it turned out, despite the moderate culture shock associated with leaving my homeland, and Tiber hopping – at least to visit – the experience wasn’t all bad. There were a lot of good people at the small Catholic college too.
Good people everywhere. Good, sincere people. But one thing didn’t compute. All these good people had radically different beliefs.
At the time, the only denomination I felt safe dismissing in its entirety was Catholicism. This sentiment was reinforced when the good people at the small Catholic college kicked me out after a mere three semesters – apparently my notion of classes being optional wasn’t entirely true.
So how do I now find myself not only Catholic, but gratefully, enthusiastically, and committedly so? With eight kids, and a rosary in my car that I use for prayer rather than decoration? Let me tell you, it took a long time. A looooong time.
Short answer: merciful Catholics let me re-enroll in the college a couple years later. Dad spent a year there as a visiting Professor. I met a beautiful American girl. We read Humanae Vitae. Dad visited the Vatican and met Pope John Paul II. The beautiful American girl said yes. A guy named Scott Hahn gave me a rosary. I prayed it. I finally took a look at the Church through new eyes, and was astonished at what I found. I said yes.
If you’re interested in a more thorough version of the story, along with a discussion about several of the stumbling blocks I had to overcome along the journey, take a look at my new book, How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming Into the Catholic Church. I hope you read it, and pass it along to the good people in your life who view the Church through a skeptical lens. I did too, for a long time – but now that I’m Catholic, I’ve never felt more at home.
Kevin Lowry is the author of How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming Into the Catholic Church and Faith at Work: Finding Purpose Beyond the Paycheck. His website is gratefulconvert.com.