I walked into my RICA class in 2001 with two big chips on my shoulder. I respected the Catholic Church, sort of. I went to Mass with my Catholic husband and begrudgingly promised to baptize my future children in the Catholic faith. However, I was only attending RICA for "educational purposes"-- to understand what my kids would one day be learning in Sunday School.
I knew that I was going to remain a Protestant myself for two reasons:
a)I wasn't going to get sucked into this "worshiping Mary nonsense", &
b) I wasn't going to "kowtow" to no Pope.
Well, you can guess how long a future Carmelite held out on the "I will honor Jesus ONLY issue", but on the eve of Pope John Paul II Beatification, I wanted to share a personal conversion story.
In the Fall of 2001, Jon and I had the habit of watching double features in the Independent Movie theater of Rochester, New York. One weekend they advertised the movie "Witness to Hope."
I came out of that film transformed.
I couldn't speak to my husband.
I couldn't believe that there was a person who suffered so much. The early loss of his Mother, the death of his father, the Natzis, the Communists, everything. And this man kept his Faith. He became a priest. He served his flock. He ministered in the woods to the young, to the newlyweds, to the exhausted parents of his parish. Then, he got unexpectedly tapped on his shoulder to become Pope.
Pope John Paul II was a man who held onto his Christian Faith despite all the odds.
I suddenly decided "It would be an honor to serve under this man."
I came back to my RICA class. Same seat. Same teacher. Same Classmates. But I had a different heart.
When I heard about the Pope's authority, my heart didn't well up with rebellous pride anymore.
"I'm not saying that I'll automatically agree with everything any future Pope will say," I said as I explained my conversion to Catholicism to my dumbstruck Protestant friends. "But this current Pope is different. He's very holy."
I love you Pope John Paul the great! Thank you for pulling me back into the fold. Your personal holiness helped me look past my inherited prejudices and fall in love with the glory of the seat of St. Peter.
(P.S. Did you know Pope John Paul II was a Secular Carmelite? He even did his thesis on St. John of the Cross.)