So I’m curious about the the experiences of converts what was your life before the sacraments and how has it changed?
I was raised as a Baptist, but fell away from that in my college years. Some of the things they taught seemed wrong to me, and I found God’s rules to be no fun at all. So, I went my own way living basically as a heathen for about 25 years. In all seriousness, I was exactly like some of the worst sinners who eventually converted. I wasn’t looking for God. I wanted nothing to do with him. However, HE kept after me and eventually I wandered into the Catholic church where all those questions I had so long ago were answered to my satisfaction.
Now your question is do the sacraments make a difference? Yes they do. Due to some of my poor life choices, some things had to happen before I could convert. So, the whole process took 3 and 1/2 years. I went to mass faithfully during this time without receiving the sacraments. Although I was always blessed by a sense of peace when I went to mass, it was also painful for me because I longed to go to confession and receive our Lord in Holy Communion. God changed me a lot by that and through regular prayer. By this I mean I was able to give up much of the more blatant sin in my life. HE gives us grace in so many ways when we turn our hearts towards him. And, so I know HE helps those who can’t receive the sacraments for whatever reason. But they do make a huge difference.
The Church teaches that we are given gifts of the Holy Spirit at confirmation. I wondered about that, but looking back I can see it is absolutely true. After I was finally received into the church, I began having much more clarity about the things that our Lord was asking me to do in various situations. I really did begin to hear his voice.
My first confession was incredible and I am sure quite painful for the priest to listen to. I confessed 35 years of junk from the time of my baptism. I already knew intellectually that God had forgiven me, but still I could not forget all the terrible things I had done. But after reading a 10 page list of sins…some committed literally thousands of times…the priest said some things to me that I understood could only have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. And since that time I KNOW my sins are forgiven.
By going to frequent confession (every 1-2 weeks), I have become much more aware of the less obvious sin in my life…things I would not have thought of before as being sins…and wanted to give them up. I can see much more clearly now that pride and selfishness is still there and that I need HIS help to grow in humility and love. And I have been blessed so many times in the confessional. I know without a doubt that HE is in there with me and the priest.
And communion…there is simply nothing on this earth that compares to that. Going to mass is like being in heaven now. It is impossible to describe.
In a way, I am jealous of people who have been receiving the sacraments their whole life. I wonder could I have avoided some of my mistakes if I had been blessed to receive them since I was a small child. But, because I came to them with an adult mind and experiences, it may be easier for me to see they do make a difference.
I haven’t yet received them (apart from a baptism outside of the Church as a tween), but now that I have a Catholic understanding of sacramental forgiveness and graces, there is a distinct shape and order to my spiritual life that was not there before.
In evangelical Christianity, there was the idea of repenting of your sins, of accepting Jesus Christ as your savior, and of striving to do his will and praying for strength and forgiveness where you fall short, all of which the CC teaches, but it was never more concrete than that. Salvation and holiness remained somewhat nebulous, and there were no visible mechanisms (or, as I now call them, sacraments :p) with which to attain grace. The concept of grace was instead purely academic; I accept Jesus as my savior, and I suppose that is that. It would be an unfair stretch to say that the theology was chaotic, but the theology was underdeveloped.
With accepting the Catholic Church, grace elevated from being academic to being experiential. If you have sins of the past on your conscious, there was a visible, divinely instituted channel through which I could confess and receive my absolution. Once I was in a state of grace, there was a visible, divinely instituted channel through which I could receive the Real Presence of Christ. There is now order, peace of mind, direction, and a heightened level of absurdity that I previously did not have.
As an atheist, I was alone in a cold Universe; the night I was baptized, two years ago, the entire Cosmos and all that is within and without it, suddenly made sense. It was like an onrush of light into the depths of my heart: God is the Master of time, space, reality, and all that ever is, was, or shall be; He is in control, and He is much greater than anything I’ve ever conceived. That night, at the Easter Vigil, having received the infinite Trinity through the consumption of the Son of God in the Holy Eucharist, I recited the Te Deum in Latin with my two godparents before the Tabernacle. It is my intention to become a Religious brother, at least, and a Priest if possible. My whole life has been totally changed by the Sacraments.
Great stories! Thanks for sharing… Looking forward to more stories.