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April 20, 2009

All Information Highways Lead to Rome

This is the true story of a young woman who abandoned the Catholic Church of her upbringing and careened through a spiritual wilderness for years. With stops at abortion, contraception and Evangelical church-hopping, she was finally guided back home to Christ's Church and His sacraments by, of all things, the signposts on the information superhighway.

A cradle Catholic, I'd spent my early years in an Irish-American ghetto in inner-city Boston. Here, during the pious '50s, I'd developed an awed fascination with Catholic culture. I loved its mysterious milieu: the statues, votive candles and stained glass...the Latin hymns, May processions and novenas...the dimly-lit churches filled with incense during High Mass and Benediction. I eagerly read Lives of the Saints, borrowed from the public library's bookmobile. And like many little girls of that era, I dreamed of becoming a nun.

But after we moved to the suburbs when I was eight, the Catholic influence faded. My mom, who'd always inclined toward skepticism, gradually withdrew from parish involvement. By my teens, I too had become a skeptic. I stopped attending Mass and drifted into unreflecting agnosticism.

Then, in my late teens, something happened. After a disastrous semester at an "experimental" college, I was living at home, listlessly looking for a job. On weekend nights, my hippie friends and I hung out at a "coffeehouse" sponsored by the local Congregational church. Soon several friends invited me to a Bible study at the home of a local lady who'd helped organize the coffeehouse. I had nothing better to do, so I tagged along. In the weeks that followed, as we plowed through the Synoptic Gospels, I found myself powerfully attracted to Jesus.

I argued, balked, objected; but I kept coming back for more. Finally, our hostess took us for an overnight trip to a Christian coffeehouse in western Massachusetts. There, when the youth ministers asked if I was ready to receive Jesus, I surprised myself by saying yes. The next morning, on the trip back home, I felt elated, freed. I knew little about the faith I'd just embraced, but I did know I'd passed a turning point. Everything seemed fresh and new.

A few months later, when I returned to college, I discovered that some of my classmates had also "accepted Jesus." But after flirting with Pentecostalism, these friends had hankered for a richer, more liturgical tradition. Now they were attending a local "high church" Episcopal parish. Under their influence, I too journeyed from Fundamentalism to Anglicanism -- and eventually back to Catholicism. . . . (continue reading)

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