A Conversion: Part 2

Prior to Confirmation, Mac often found himself on the edge of tears. Conversion was a difficult ordeal because it involved giving up so much that was precious with him: His beloved vocation as an Episcopal priest.

Welcome to Part 22 of a weekly series on the formation journey of Josh, a first-year novice at the Marian House of Studies in Washington, D.C. Watch for a new post every Friday.

Novices David, Joseph, and I were gathered in the upstairs novice classroom with Fr. Jim when he told us the big news. “Mac is entering the Catholic Church on Monday.” 

We all exploded into cheers. 

Mac’s confirmation was scheduled for next week, and Mac hadn’t told any of us. It flew completely under the radar.

God’s gift
A week later, I was sitting in my pew at Dominican House across the street from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. when a Dominican priest poured the holy oil over Mac’s head. It overflowed over his head.

Prior to Confirmation, he often found himself on the edge of tears. Conversion was a difficult ordeal because it involved giving up so much that was precious with him: His beloved vocation as an Episcopal priest. 

Mac had a gift for preaching and was greatly affirmed and consoled doing what he loved. Sometimes, searching his soul, he asked himself, “Am I throwing away a gift God gave me?” 

Yet in the end, following Christ was more important than everything he valued. 

Church unity
He told me, “The unity of the Church was the most pressing intellectual question that ultimately led me to become Catholic.

“A major theme is that because of the incarnation of Christ, the world is actually different, and the ascended Lord sent the Holy Spirit to the apostles to actually change them and make a new reality present in the world. That new reality is the one, visible Body of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, and which makes God present to us in as concrete a way as he was present to the apostles in the Incarnate Lord.

“Every part of Catholic theology bears this out. The Eucharist is really Jesus, already present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in his full personal Presence to us, His material, fleshly Presence to us.” 

Mac added, “The Church has a concrete realization in the present, as well, a concrete community in the world that is recognizable by its faith, its sacraments and its pastors – the bishops in unity with the Pope. It is a concrete, visible sign and manifestation that the Holy Spirit is actually in the world now and can actually change us, deify us, which is the whole point, to be drawn into intimate communion with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Beauty and light
A few days before his confirmation, Mac was reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, and he found himself reading about how Frodo was blindfolded by the elves before being brought into the woodland of Lothlorien. When the elves took his blindfold off, Frodo found himself surrounded by immense beauty and light, and by trees described as “ever ancient, ever new.”

Mac said everything around Frodo was as fresh as though he was the first person seeing it and as old as though it had been there from the beginning. 

This reminds Mac of St. Augustine’s prayer to God, “Beauty so ancient and so new.” Mac said, “That’s what the anointing of the Holy Spirit is about, making us new creatures but the newness is a return to the original state, God’s original intention for us, so the new and the old coincide in the Spirit.”

Mac encountered this when he received the oil of Confirmation on his head and the Holy Spirit filled him through the Sacrament. 

I asked him afterward if the Sacrament affected him emotionally. He said, “That’s a good question,” and added that he felt it did. He’d been feeling a lot of distress before he received the sacraments, but after receiving Confession, Confirmation, and Eucharist, he felt “much more stable” emotionally. 

He talked about how amazing it was receiving the Eucharist, “God in my mouth.” He repeated, “That’s just incredible: God, in the flesh, in my mouth.” 

No ambiguity now
Before, in High Church Anglicanism, he said they always wanted to believe the Eucharist was God, the Real Presence, but there was some ambiguity. In Catholicism, there was no ambiguity. He found it incredible to know for sure that he was receiving God in his mouth. 

Mac is currently discerning a possible calling to the religious vocation and priesthood in the Catholic Church. He is living with us Marians as he discerns. 

Mac says, “The Catholic person is truly universal, ‘interested in everything and afraid of nothing,’ to quote Adrian Walker. That is the great draw of Catholicism, to have that great expansiveness of vision and to be able to explore the world from your rootedness in Christ and bring it all back to Christ, like the Gentile kings bringing their treasures back to Zion.”

This is what Mac has done, bringing the treasures of his Episcopal heritage to Christ in the New Jerusalem, His Bride, the Catholic Church.

This has been a great blessing to all of us privileged to witness his journey. 

Next entry: "A baby calls us out."
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