My conversion story

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尼古拉前执事
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My conversion story

Postby 尼古拉前执事 » Tue 5 November 2002 3:23 pm

At another forum, Serge and I were asked our conversion stories and I posted an abreviated version of my journey from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to a ROCOR catechumen. I repost it here for those of you that may not go to this other forum. I'd also love to hear conversion stories of those that have joined ROCOR froma nother entity.

At some point in my journey I started to see the errors of the Latin Catholic Church and was glas that I was UGCC because of it, but then you start to realize, why do I want to be in communion with them?

But that is not why I made the leap.

In reading the councils, in reading the Fathers, in reading dogma in relation to these, I found Orthodoxy to be the truth.

But I didn't make the leap immediately.

I have a daughter, one that is very commited to her Faith and one that is in parochial school. I work for an order of the Latin Church and was a board member at my UGCC church. So making the move would be difficult. PLUS, I wanted to sit on it, and make sure I could not be talked out of my decision. I went to people and asked questions, seeing if they could explain the Catholic dogma that went against tradition, but they could not.

Then one night as a prayed, I felt a voice. Who's voice I do not know. As I was praying for guidance on if I should just become Orthodox, the voice said, "If you do this, you will destroy your daughter's Faith!"

Obviously I was scared. But I discerned the voice, my idea of how to convert and what I knew to be true. So little by little over months I started to explain the Orthodox Church and how it was the Mother Church of the UGCC, and how things were different. I didn't tell her that I was leaning towards Orthodoxy at all. I was leaving what I said up to her to put together.

I started feeling like a hypocrite when I attended the Liturgy at my UGCC church.

Still I waited and eventually started visiting a local Orthodox Church.

I also started explaining more things I had learned to my daughter. I was not going to rip her Catholic Faith from her, although as traditional as we were, it really only required tweaks at her age. Over time she too started to realize that Orthodoxy had things right where Catholicism had things wrong.

And last Sunday, she said what finally set my heart at ease. She said that she felt more a part of this church than any other she had ever attended and she has a feeling of this being right that she just cannot explain. My soul rejoiced.

So thats the abbreviated version of my journey from the UGCC to becoming a catechumen in ROCOR. I hope it is of some help to you. God Bless!

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Seraphim Reeves
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My journey: As Brief as I Could Make It

Postby Seraphim Reeves » Tue 5 November 2002 5:16 pm

Real Name: Classified ;)
Age: 24
Location: Southern Ontario, Canada
Religious Affiliation: Orthodox Christianity
Hobbies: Reading, primarily (religion, both Orthodox and comparative religious studies, and philosophy; occassionally draw, but not as often as I should) ...and of course, these message forums.

"My Story" (at least in regard to religion): I was from a family that was not religious during my childhood. Both of my parents were baptized as Roman Catholics, however they did not take either me or my younger brother to church as children (nor were either of us baptized as infants.) I would not say that my parents were "anti-religion", nor did they harbour any bitterness (at least that I have ever known of) towards the RCC - they simply did not participate (nor were they married in the RCC).

However, for reasons known only to God, I took an interest in religion/spirituality in my late teens. In part it had to do with a gut feeling that something was missing in my life; part of it had to do with a growing hunger to understand "why" - whether it be for why I existed, or indeed why anything existed at all. Though I had gone through an angry period of supposed "atheism", this wore off fast as I began to ask these questions.

After flirting for a bit with evangelical Christianity, I took an interest in more "catholic" forms of Christianity, in particular Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism. After a lot of reading, my first instinct was in fact to find an Orthodox Church. Unfortunatly, being in my late teens (with no means of self transportation), and with no Orthodox Church in the city (save a "Macedonian Orthodox" Church, which was not only schismatic, but also so "ethnic" that there would have been no way for me to have any kind of Christian life there), I began to put my energies more into Catholicism (which is far more accessable here.) Looking back, I realized I had "settled", perhaps at the time not realizing how profoundly different the two paths were. However I will also say that with time, I became (to varying degrees) convinced of RC claims.

Catholicism appealed to my intellectual curiosity; as I began to read more apologetical materials, and dabbled in Thomism, I discovered a great deal of "intellectual elegance" in RC thought. The mighty syllogism was a beautiful thing to my mind.

With time however, I began to see that what I had "joined up to", was not in fact what I had been converted to. Before ever approaching an RC priest about conversion, I had read lots of "pre-Vatican II" books - whether they be on theology, or the lives of RC saints, or traditional RC devotions (traditional prayers, rosary, etc.) What I found however in the local parish (which I would soon find was actually quite conservative compared to most of the RC churches in this country) was something quite different from this "old time religion." I was ignorant of the Vatican II revolution going in - where was any of the Latin I had heard about (I mean, there was supposed to be at least some still, right?), or the beautiful chants I had heard on CD's, or the black robes that the television and movies even today still associate with RC clergy?

With time, I realized that what I had joined up to was at best, high church protestantism. I saw a great deal done, in the name of Vatican II and updating, which flatly contradicted not only the letter, but the very ethos/spirit of what had brought me into the Roman Catholic church.

As I became disillusioned, I once again entertained thoughts of converting to Orthodox Christianity. However, I talked myself out of this. By this time, both my younger brother and our mutual friend (who is like a brother to us both) had become Roman Catholics as well. I think we were all on a similar search. They were aware of my anxieties, and to some degree were sympathetic (at least at the time.)

Eventually, I thought I found my salvation; several years ago, just as Easter Sunday approached, I saw a small ad. in a Toronto paper (Toronto is about a 1.25 hour drive from here, usually less in mild traffic). The ad was for the Easter Mass at a chapel ran by the Society of St.Pius X (SSPX). I had remembered vaguely hearing about this group, and the ad. said the Mass was the "traditional latin Mass." The Sunday previous to this I attended a Ukranian Catholic Church (hoping to find something better than the modernist Novus Ordo Mass), and was pleased with what I saw (though I now realize the serve was severely truncated). Unfortunatly, the Ukranian priest there knew very little english, and the only parishoners there were all old folks (nice people to be sure, but the chapel had nothing to offer really, spiritually speaking.) Thus, any kind of spiritual life there, apart from attending the Divine Liturgy itself, would have been unlikely.

But when I arrived at the SSPX chapel (accompanied by my brother, Steven, and for the first time, my father), I was awed. The chapel was tiny (imagine a very small country chapel, and that's about the size of the church they were using; they had bought it from some Protestants and converted it for traditional Catholic usage), but beautiful compared to the monstrosities I was used to - there were statues of taste and sobriety all about the place, a traditional Roman high altar (that was actually used!), no goofy/protestant "altar table" in the way, no tacky felt-fabric "religious art", etc. It was like I had went back in time, and found the church that I had wanted to convert to. When the Mass started, and the choir started singing the "Vidi Aquam" (where the priest sprinkles the congregation with holy water; outside of the Easter Season it's normally the "Asperges Me" - the significance of this ancient latin prayer is the prophetic image found in the Old Testament of water flowing out of the side of the temple, cleansing us from our sins - a type of Christ), I began to cry. To this day, I have fond memories of this experience.

In short time, both of my parents began attending this church (taking me and my brother, and our friend Steven), and had their marriage blessed by the priest there. I even seriously considered becoming a priest, and went away for a little to a school in the states to consider this decision.

We were all firm RC traditionalists. With time, I realized we were very much on the "outside" however. The RCC treats it's traditionalists like lepers, and while willing to pray with pagans and even Muslims, even making their salvation sound like a thing already accomplished, will loudly announce how their traditionalists are "schismatic" and that some of their sacraments (like marriage and confession) are "invalid."

The SSPX holds to the official position that it recognizes the validity of John Paul II (unlike the smaller, and more severe RC traditionalist groups which say he is an "anti-Pope", and that the "chair of Peter" is in fact currently vacant - these groups are called "sedevecantists", meaning in Latin, "the chair is empty"), but that they must disobey him because he abuses his authority and is on a path towards apostasy. To an Orthodox Christian (and to myself now, and this is in large part which led me out of the RC traditionalist movement), this is an incomprehensible position; you're either in communion with someone, or you're not.

One thing that my attachment to the RC traditionalists taught me, is to respect the integrity of ideas. That is to say, truth is truth; truth is not the truth because the majority agrees with it, or because "officialdom" consents to it, but because it is objectively true. There is a reality, which imposes itself upon us whether we like it or not. In a subjectivist age, this was a good medicine for my young mind.

But with time I began to see the strain of my position. The truth was, that as it stood, I deep down really didn't think John Paul II and I (or any of my co-religionists) were on the "same page." I also began to question if the problem was really what the traditionalists said it was. Was it simply having rotten Popes in recent times that was the problem, or the very notion that one can infallibly rely on the Papacy in the way that Catholicism had come to teach one could. Indeed, what good was the "charism of infallibility", if a Pope could indeed apostacize (as the traditionalists were all inclined to think)? It seemed in the end, that what infallibility amounted to, for the traditionalists, was "when the Pope is right, he is infallible." Well, duh - I could say that of anyone!

This began a period of wavering and doubt, which I was able to put aside for a while, but in the last year or so came back (and explains my current path.) As I "dug deeper", I realized that just as "truths" were all linked together ("all truth is one" as my brother once said), I was seeing that the errors of Catholicism were all linked together. It was not simply isolated ecclessiological errors that I was unconvering, but a deviated form of piety (though there still remained much in the traditionalist movement which was of itself, perfectly sound, and obviously a remnant of a past "Roman Orthodox" age) and spirituality.

However, the real change was not simply one of discovering error, but came in the form of appreciating in a positive way that which is unique to Orthodox Christianity. I began to seriously read about Orthodox Saints, and saw how their piety and mentality was the same as that of the Church Fathers and the Apostles; however I could not honestly say this of many RC saints, and the various "private revelations" which are common in Catholicism. There was a warmth in the Orthodox Saints that was unique - not to mention the consolation of knowing that while God can be very severe, in the end there is an unquestionable, and complete love to be found; where as in the back of my mind I had always been a bit cynical (now I can admit this) about the Christian claim that "God is love" (since much of western soteriology, whether RC or Protestant actually denies this when you get right down to it), in Orthodox literature I became convinced of it. For someone who never really believed this, this was an incredible consolation - that God loves someone like me (despite all of the evil I've done) and is knocking at the door of my heart, is a humbling and joyful thought that still evokes tears.

I fell in love with the sayings of St.Seraphim of Sarov (who I know is a favourite of many converts; perhaps because he is so accessible, and so incredibly humble and kind in demeanor - truly a Saint for modern man, and in particular those possessed of a false understanding of what Christianity basically is), St.Isaac the Syrian (who taught me about the love of God, and how it is true what St.Paul says, that "He loved us first"), and the lives of modern holy men, like St.John (Maximovitch), Bl.Justin of Serbia, and the well known modern confessor, Fr.Seraphim (Rose.)

Thus, besides seeing in a doctrinal/academic sense where the "truth" was (and where it wasn't), I began to acquire a deep longing for the authentic, lived/experience of true Christianity - Orthodox (correct) Christianity.

Thus for me, Orthodox Christianity has been part of the equation since the beginning of my spiritual journey. In a way it is like the cat that kept coming back the next day. As much as I tried to rationalized, it kept haunting me.

Right now, I'm in the process of conversion. For now it's a difficult situation, since I still live in a city where there is no Orthodox Church of any sort. The situation is all the more difficult, since I have long been convinced (and remain so) of the correctness of the position of the Synod (ROCOR), and the nearest ROCOR parish is even further away. Thus, it's been slow going, and hopefully in the near future I will be able to find work in London (Ontario - where the nearest ROCOR parish is) so I can regularly attend services and be properly received. This is besides the other problems I have right now (engaged to be married, problems with my family over both religion and other matters, and in particular that brother and good friend who are now both seminarians with the Society of St.Pius X). Thus, any prayers on my behalf (or my family's behalf) would be well appreciated.

Seraphim

Justin Kissel

Postby Justin Kissel » Wed 6 November 2002 1:06 am

I was originally baptized a Catholic, though I was raised in mostly non-religious homes. One of my step fathers was nominally Protestant, and some family on my Father's side were faithful Catholics, but overall I had little contact with theology/religion/God/etc. God and religion wasn't ridiculed, per se, but there was definately a "don't get too involved" vibe in the houses I lived. Religion was ok as long as you didn't talk about it. This continued until after I graduated from high school, at which time I started watching a Protestant Fundamentalist, Bob Enyart, on television. I was looking for direction in life, I suppose, and he gave me a direction to go.

At about the same time I started attending a Wesleyan Holiness Church (Church of God, out of Anderson IN). I went up to the front of the Church one Sunday (in the Autumn of 1997) and "got saved". All I really did, though, was make a commitment to study theology, the Bible, etc. There was essentially no seeking of God at that point, but only a seeking of knowledge. A couple years later I started attending the denominational college as a Bible Studies student. Life in the "real world" (ie. outside the bubble I'd constructed) came as quite a shock to me, and the shock was compounded by all the things I was learning through private studying. By the spring of 2000 I had come to the point where I knew I couldn't remain Protestant.

At the time, there seemed like only two real alternatives, Catholicism and that "other side" of Christianity. As I didn't really consider Catholicism a viable option (because misunderstandings on my part) I started with the other side, and read the Marcus Borgs, Elaine Pagels, Hans Kungs, etc. I soon realised, though, the impossibility of holding to that kind of "Let your human reason guide you and believe what you want" Christianity. At that point I started looking into anything and everything else that claimed to be Christianity, though that quickly came to a dead end as well.

The problem during this time was that 1. I believed that Jesus had founded a Church, but 2. I didn't think Catholicism was that Church. Early on, in my utter ignorance, I thought Catholicism was the only real "ancient Church" (I never really bought into the anabaptist type historical claims). As I was grasping at straws though, and looking at anything that called itself Christian, I found out that there were actually quite a lot of groups that claimed to be part of the ancient Church. I started looking into some of these groups, including the Orthodox Church.

About that time a Priest in the OCA told me that I was approaching things all wrong, and he was totally right. I had been essentially comparing the beliefs of Churches to my own beliefs, and was trying to figure out which Church most closely matched my beliefs. I knew that I might have to change some beliefs, but there were a lot of things that I simply wasn't ready to believe, things I wasn't comfortable with. I wasn't praying at all during this time, and I wasn't doing anything remotely ascetical. I took a few months off after this to re-evaluate my approach, and finally started to get my act together.

At that point, I started following G.K. Chesterton's idea about a "truth telling thing" as I looked for the Church. I had already affirmed for a while that Jesus had founded a Church, and by this point I had even come to believe that it had to still be around, so only worried about identifying that Church, at which point I could embrace what it taught, trusting it to be a truth telling thing. For about ten months I looked into Catholicism and Orthodoxy, reading the Fathers, texts about the Councils, spiritual literature, polemical material, etc. Eventually I came down on the side of Orthodoxy, and asked an Antiochian Priest if I could become a catechumen, which he allowed.

I continued studying and reading concerning both Catholicism and Orthodoxy during my catechumenate. On Dec. 22 or last year I was chrismated (and had confession and communion) and became Orthodox. I spent a few months settling down after that into the Orthodox life, but eventually starting questioning, again, certain things done in certain jurisdictions. At the same time, I was looking to relocate to an area closer to my fiancee where we would live after we got married. This turned out to be a golden opportunity to re-evaluate some of the jurisdictions that I couldn't participate in before. In doing this re-evaluation, however, I not only felt drawn towards the more traditionalist jurisdictions, but I felt myself moving further away from the Antiochians.

As I studied a bit more I found ROCOR to be the best choice when I left the Antiochians. This is where I am right now: heading towards ROCOR, though I'm taking thing slowly. As Saint Gregory the Theologian said, "well-reasoned hesitation [is better] than inconsiderate haste" (Oration 2, 72) I feel very blessed (and am hopeful about) the fact that there are three ROCOR Churches in the area that I am moving to, and I'll find out once I start attending whether I will make the move or not.

Justin

PS. Praying :)

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尼古拉前执事
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Great stories, gang!

Postby 尼古拉前执事 » Wed 21 May 2003 11:26 pm

Thanks for sharing the stories. Any other converts wish to share their stories?

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Mary Kissel
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Postby Mary Kissel » Thu 22 May 2003 11:01 pm

You can read my conversion story by clicking on the banner below this post...it's on the main page of my home page. :)

MaryCecilia

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Joe Zollars
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Postby Joe Zollars » Fri 23 May 2003 3:42 am

Seraphim and MaryCecilia:

Glad to know I'm not the only Latin Masser who is converting.

Joe Zollars

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Postby Justin2 » Fri 23 May 2003 5:50 pm

When I was a kid, I went to various protestant churches from time to time, but generally only as an excuse to get out of the house. At one point, my mother was actually making my brothers and I go on this school bus that took us to a baptist church, just to get us out of the house for half a day. I never really understood, nor did I enjoy it all that much.
As I grew older, my interest in God began to diminish, and although I would attend services just about every weekend with a friend's family, again, I didn't find anything of interest in it, but likened it more to a sleep-inducing two-hour bible study (the Gospel according to so and so). By the time my high-school career was over, I was on my way to atheism.
Between the ages of nineteen and twenty-three, I had become a pseudo-nihilist, and a defnite atheist, even to the point of finding religiously-minded people to "convert" to my philosophy. A great deal of this attitude of mine came from backlash to protestant theology, and as I would find in the end, western theology in general.
Still, I was never a completely closed off individual, and small things began to chip away at my ideals. The more I considered chaos and order, and the more I considered the beauty in creation, along with the way the world was, and the way we, humanity, treated our world and our fellow man, the more nihilism and chaos became an inadequate basis for my enviornment.
So, I began searching. I had been through enough protestant denominations to know that something was dreadfully lacking there, and so I started with the Roman church, knowing very little about Eastern Orthodoxy. I never made it to a service, but I listened to radio shows and read books, as well as looked online. The more I read into it, the more the Latin church seemed to be turning into another protestant denomination, and I also had qualms about Papal Infallibility and other dogmas that the RCs had developed only recently.
Oddly enough, I was also studying Russian (a process I'm still working on...some day I'll learn it, heheh), and in many pictures I would see an "onion-church" which provoked my curiosity. So I decided to look up an Orthodox Church, and I found one, about fifteen minutes away from my house. There were classes offered to inquirers, and plenty of books to read as well, which helped a lot. I ended up bringing my girlfriend with me, and within months, we were baptized on a Saturday and married on a Sunday. Thank God!


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