I grew up in the beautiful mountains of Colorado with loving parents. We were not religious at all; in fact, our family had an anti-Christian attitude. I believed in an impersonal God and had a deep devotion to angels, though I am not sure where those beliefs originated. My parents worked hard to provide for my brother and me, and they instilled in us a strong sense of right and wrong. We were a tight-knit family.
Wicca, a Family Affair
When I was 11 years old, my brother and I were playing in our yard. We stumbled upon a stone circle we had never noticed before; the stones and the circle were clearly placed by human hands, in a pattern that pointed to their ritualistic purpose. Thinking satanists must have snuck into our yard and built this thing, we proceeded to destroy it by kicking as many of the heavy stones out of place as we could. (Why satanists? I wonder to this day why we would have thought that.) Afterwards, we ran to the house to tell our mother what a great thing we had done.
I still remember the look on my mother’s face when we told her about the circle, and her odd response was not lost on me. She didn’t seem surprised when we told her about the circle, nor did she say anything when we told her we destroyed it.
Later that evening, both our parents talked to us about it. My father’s eyes had a magnetic sparkle to them as he asked, “What if I were to tell you that witches and wizards were real?” My brother and I glanced at each other and rolled our eyes. We didn’t believe it. My father continued to explain, in a very excited manner that completely drew me in, how witches and wizards were real, they could perform magic, and he and our mother were Wiccans. The stone circle had been built by them.
I had many questions. By the end of our talk, I wanted to be Wiccan, too. My brother seemed indifferent. We apologized for ruining the circle and tried to replace the stones, though my parents told us not to worry about fixing it. My parents bought me a book on Wicca, and that book became my bible. It taught that the devil doesn’t exist. The basic morality of Wicca is that, whatever you send out into the universe, you get back times three. I was taught to do no harm, or it would result in bad things for me.
There was a section in this book that warned Christians would try to convert me. As a family, we mocked Christians both at home and anonymously in online chat rooms. We would go into a Christian chat room and say blasphemous things to try to get a reaction out of the other people in the room.
In those days, my mother also introduced me to Tarot cards, and we frequented a New Age store with bumper stickers on the wall. One sticker there caught my attention. It said: “Too Many Christians, Not Enough Lions.” I asked my mom what it meant, and she told me about the persecution of early Christians and how they were thrown into pits with hungry lions. I bought the sticker and hung it on my bedroom wall. I dabbled in spells, and I believed they worked at times, but at other times, they didn’t.
I had other experiences with Wicca that unsettled me and thus kept me from delving deeper into the occult. One was with a Ouija board that my parents had bought. I won’t go into the details of that experience, but I was totally freaked out and refused to do it anymore.
A Suffocating Fog
One day, my mother came to me with an exercise that would enable us to visit a different plane of existence that we could explore. I was excited to try it. My mother warned me that once I was done, I must “come back through the door” before opening my eyes, otherwise a part of me could be left behind. We tried repeatedly, but every time we closed our eyes, nothing happened. Finally, about 30 minutes later, I closed my eyes and envisioned myself going through the door. Suddenly, I was in a different place. I was in a void surrounded by what I can only describe as a red and black, billowing fog. I couldn’t see through it, but I could walk through it, so I started walking forward. As I walked, the strange fog began to close in on me and harden around me. I felt like I was suffocating. I tried to go back, but the fog was like giant red and black boulders, closing around me, and I couldn’t move.
Terrified, I tried not to open my eyes, thinking of my mother’s warning, but my eyes flew open, and I lurched forward in a panic. My mother was leaning over me, panicked. She said I had started breathing heavily and flailing in the chair. I told her of my experience and explained how impossible it was to move in any direction, and I decided not to do any more of that exercise. (Thinking back on it now, I believe my Guardian Angel was protecting me by preventing me from moving through the fog.)
I continued with Wicca throughout my high school years, practicing it but not growing in it. I had Christian friends who seemed to ignore my faith, and other friends converted to Wicca because of me. One friend started to become interested in Wicca, but when her Catholic father found out, he forbade us from hanging out. That was my first encounter with Catholicism, and it made me think that all Catholics were closed-minded and mean.
A Crack in the Wiccan Wall
I was also friends with some children whose family was Mormon. One day, they asked me to accompany them to church on Sunday. I was curious, so my parents let me go. Prior to the service, I was not told anything about it. I wasn’t told to do or not do anything. During the service, when the time for communion came, I saw the little crackers and tiny cups of water that were being passed out on trays. Instinctively, I knew I shouldn’t take the bread or the water. Once the tray got to me, I passed it and received some puzzled looks. In my mind, I felt it would be wrong to receive communion since I did not believe in it; I didn’t even know what it meant. But communion seemed important enough that I was not to take it without understanding it.
After high school, I attended the University of Colorado. I tried a jiu-jitsu class and instantly fell in love with it. I quickly made multiple friends, and my faith took a back seat in my life. My friends were like-minded, had no faith, and held anti-Christian views as well. We got along great, and it wasn’t long before we all joked that jiu-jitsu was our religion.
After two years of college and jiu-jitsu, I started to feel restless. There was an unsettling feeling inside of me, something nagging and growing that I could not deny or ignore. It was a hole, and I realized very quickly that this was a God-sized hole. I knew this because I had everything that I thought I needed to feel fulfilled, although the things that other people sometimes used to fill their voids, such as drugs, sex, or alcohol, were not things that I had ever partaken of, and I was not about to start them. I needed to find God, desperately so.
But where was He? I had done some research into Eastern spirituality, and I knew He was not to be found there. I was absolutely convinced that He was not to be found in Christianity, and who- ever Jesus was, he had nothing to do with God. This left me with the unsatisfactory answer that my only option was to go back to what I knew. So, I dusted off my teen witch book and started reading. It was so abstract and imprecise in the way it described God that I couldn’t believe its take on faith. Scanning the pages I had once studied endlessly, I realized that it stirred nothing within me. I was 21 years old now, and I no longer had the same adolescent concerns. I also now found my parents’ books incredibly dull. The one thing I decided was that, if I were to find God, I was not going to be superficial with Him. He had to be the most important thing in my life, and I intended to live in that manner.
Not long after discovering my need for God, I noticed a handsome guy at work, Dane. Dane also happened to live in my apartment complex. We began talking, and after he asked me out, the topic of religion came up. I found out he was Catholic, and I was appalled. Just my luck, I thought. Not only was he Christian, but he had to be Catholic! When Dane asked me what I was, I proudly proclaimed that I was Wiccan, but internally, I gagged. Even I didn’t believe what I said. But I had to be all in, and this was what I knew, so I tried to be confident in my words. To my surprise, Dane didn’t end the date or our friendship. He seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. That was the first moment my heart softened a tiny bit.
As time went by, we hung out more and started dating. One night, the topic of religion came up again. Instead of telling him about Wicca, I started voicing all the things I had been contemplating about who I thought God might be. I talked about how I thought He would not be an impersonal God, but a personal one, one who cares about us and knows us. I talked about our souls and our journey on earth and what it might mean when we die. For every idea I shared, Dane would say, “That’s what the Catholic Church teaches.” I was floored. After about the sixth time that he said this, I figured I ought to investigate this Catholic Church. I pulled up a Wikipedia page on Catholicism and barely got past the first paragraph. It was like reading a different language.
Our relationship soon became serious, so we decided to fly to Arizona so I could meet his family. I knew his parents were Catholic, and Dane had told them I was Wiccan. I was very nervous. But once we got there, I saw a beauty in his family that I knew came from their faith. We didn’t discuss religion at all while I was there, but I witnessed a joy and a peace that I had not seen before. More and more, my heart kept softening.
Sometime after we returned to Colorado, Dane’s mom suggested he take me to Mass. I agreed, and to make sure the experience would be all it could be, Dane decided to take me to the cathedral in downtown Colorado Springs. I had no idea what to expect, but he told me to just follow along — stand when he stood, kneel when he knelt, sit when he sat.
Dane also told me it was imperative that I not take the Eucharist. Perplexed and feeling a little defiant, I asked why I could not receive the Eucharist. He told me it was because I wasn’t Catholic and didn’t believe what the Catholic Church taught. Considering that had been my thought process at the Mormon service, it seemed a reasonable explanation. When we arrived, the ushers smiled at me with such warmth. I hadn’t expected such a genuine, joyful greeting. When we got into the Church, we sat near the front so it would be easier to follow along.
The most significant moment in that Mass, for me, was the sign of peace. When the priest said, “Let us offer each other the sign of peace,” I quizzically looked at Dane. He sheepishly smiled at me and said, “Peace be with you,” giving me a big hug. I watched him turn to those around him and shake their hands and offer them peace, so I did the same. Those around me were already turned toward me, and one by one they smiled and of- fered me peace. Me – the girl who had mocked them and their God her entire life. Me – who had blasphemed, cursed, and treated them with such callous disregard. Me!
I knew they didn’t know any of this, but I was distinctly aware, in that moment, that Jesus knew everything. For the first time in my life, I felt my soul completely bare and exposed to Him, and He and I were both looking at it. We could see it, all the rot and ugliness and selfishness, and there was nowhere to hide. I felt ashamed, and I didn’t understand how I had made it into His house without Him striking me down. Though I felt an unbearable shame coming from inside of me, I also felt the most tender love and mercy coming from outside of me, enveloping me despite all my faults. At that very moment, I knew I had found God; I had found what I needed to fill that hole! I was home.
I don’t remember the rest of that Mass. I remember being very quiet on the ride home, trying to process what had happened to me. I knew I wanted to be Catholic, but I didn’t tell Dane that right then. We continued going to Mass sporadically, and when we were 24, we got married. Dane wanted a Catholic wedding, and I was all in. I happily signed the papers that I would raise our future children in the Faith, even though I was not yet Cath- olic. I tried to attend RCIA, but without a sponsor, who needed to be a practicing Catholic, I never made it past the first session.
Four years after our wedding, I became pregnant with our son, and we moved to Arizona so Dane could join the fam- ily business. Once there, my father-in-law talked to me about RCIA. I had excuses for why I shouldn’t do it, including giving birth right in the middle of it. RCIA would be too much on my plate as a first-time mom who didn’t know what to expect with a new baby. He shot down my excuses and told me to just try. Annoyed, I reluctantly agreed.
Richness of RCIA
RCIA was such a game changer for me. Both of my in-laws sponsored me while I learned about and discerned the Catholic Faith. When my son was born, there was no way I was going to stop going, and my father-in-law was right, it was easy to bring my baby with me. Those classes were rich in content.
I had subscribed somewhat to moral relativism and was taught by my family that Church teachings were nothing more than forced beliefs. But I could still see that truth had to be objective if truth were to exist at all. One of the topics covered in RCIA that helped me to see this clearly was that of social justice. The secular world was jamming social justice down my throat and telling me how I needed to think about social issues. RCIA taught me it was the Catholic Church that invented social justice, and it provided a lens to look through social issues while still upholding human dignity. I began to see how the Catholic Church was a lighthouse that would constantly point to the truth if we would only follow it. It made sense that a loving God would provide this wonderful gift to guide us throughout our lives.
I also marveled at the richness and beauty of the traditions in the Catholic Church. I cherished my family traditions, but I didn’t see the importance of a culture of traditions. Learning about the rich, 2000-year history and traditions of the Catholic Church, their meaning and purpose of bringing us back to God, made me yearn to be a part of Jesus’ family, His Church. I also yearned to pass these traditions on to my children, to help form part of the foundation that would help them to lead holy lives.
Learning about the sacraments was beautiful. The sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist, are the tangible ways God can touch us and heal us, just like Jesus did when he walked the Earth, though he uses his priests to stand in persona Christi. Before RCIA, confession intimidated me, and I felt as though confessing sins was a violation of our privacy and dignity. However, the weight that was lifted after my first Reconciliation, and each one since, was immense and yielded a deep sense of peace that filled me. I am so grateful for this sacrament.
The fact that God wants to be with me and nourish my body just as much as my soul, giving me his real Body and Blood in the form of humble bread, is a gift that leaves me speechless. RCIA allowed me to receive this amazing gift for the first time, and my astonishment over it has grown ever since. My response must be gratitude to the God who loves me so much. He wants to walk with me throughout my week by being my food, just like the manna that nourished the Israelites in the desert.
In April of 2015, my infant son and I were both baptized at the Easter Vigil, and while I struggle to remember my son’s cry when he was born, I remember his cry at his baptism. It was so beautiful. Afterward, I felt so light that I thought if I just looked up to heaven, I might fly up there!
New Age Nightmare
While I no longer subscribed to New Age, I didn’t think critically about it even then. After all, I had never considered myself or my family evil. It wasn’t until later, right around the time of my entrance into the Catholic Church, that I questioned New Age thinking. I was talking with a family member about the pilot who deliberately crashed a plane into the French Alps, killing all 144 passengers on board. We were deeply saddened and disturbed, but then my loved one said, “But really, all of those people chose to die like that, so we shouldn’t be so sad for them.” That was a New Age mindset. I was in complete shock and fired back questions like, “If our souls really choose our fate before we’re born, doesn’t that make us robots? What if we want to change our mind? What about the babies who were carried on the plane and couldn’t get off? Why was everyone terrified then? Wouldn’t they have been calm, accepting their chosen fate? And if our souls can choose to die like this, doesn’t that mean we relegate another soul to committing an evil act?”
There were no satisfactory answers to my questions. The conversation left me very disturbed, and I began to re-think the implications of New Age ideology. I suspected that the New Age was another tool for Satan to separate us from the one true God. It was the forbidden fruit, but in different packaging. After reading Randall Baer’s Inside the New Age Nightmare, my suspicions were confirmed, and I changed my mind about the New Age. It wasn’t benign, but dangerous, just as the Bible and the Catholic Church taught. I purged my house of all my New Age paraphernalia: books, jewelry, crystals, and cards all went into the trash. I had to throw away some things, like a pentagram necklace and ring I had worn, many times because they kept coming back.
A New Witness
Since coming into the Catholic Church, my hunger to learn about my faith has been insatiable. Luckily, there is no shortage of resources to learn about Catholicism, so I am always reading and learning. I love my faith; I love the Catholic Church, and I love Jesus. I am a better mother, wife, friend, daughter, and person because of Him. While my family was not enthusiastic about my conversion, especially one person who begged me not to become Catholic, I have a great relationship with them and we have very interesting discussions about faith, which I cherish. I pray for my family daily, as many of them are still entrenched in the New Age. I pray that my witness and God’s grace may help to soften their hearts, and hopefully, one day, they will allow Jesus to open a door to bring them home, too.