Can I do Catholic-lite?

When I looked into becoming a Catholic, I thought that I could do Catholic-lite. I wanted to take the parts which were most similar to the Protestant tradition, such as the Gospel teachings, and leave out the uncomfortable extras such as saints and devotion to Mary. It was a bit like choosing a diet version of a cheese spread which claims to have half the fat, and expecting it to have all the taste and goodness of the full fat version.
In the last few months, it’s become increasingly clear that Catholic-lite isn’t an option, as I’ve been gently nudged towards the things I find most challenging.
A few months ago, I was browsing a Catholic blog on the internet and was astounded to find out that the Rosary contains a series of meditations on the Gospel. That might seem obvious to people brought up Catholic, but I didn’t really know anything about the Rosary apart from a vague idea that it had something to do with ‘praying to Mary’.
The same still voice which had planted the desire to become Catholic now made the suggestion that I should learn to pray the Rosary. By this time, I knew better than to argue with this voice, even though this idea was very challenging for someone brought up in a very reformed tradition. I tried to compromise. Acquiring Rosary beads was just a step to far, they were just too Catholic a symbol, but I would learn to pray the Rosary.
I began meditating on one mystery a day, praying while I was walking the dog, or at night when I couldn’t sleep. I used my fingers to count off the prayers. I was surprised, and even slightly embarrassed, to realise that I found this method of prayer comforting, and not in the least repetitive or boring. As a Protestant, I hadn’t given much thought to Mary’s role in the Gospel story. Because I was saying the Hail Mary, it seemed natural to imagine some of the Gospel scenes from her point of view, and I gained new insights. I also realised that I have sometimes viewed Christ as a vague divine figure who floated around first century Palestine with his feet hardly touching the ground. Praying the Rosary has helped me to consider Christ’s humanity as well as his divinity.
Although I began to see all these benefits, I still resisted getting the Rosary beads. However, they came to me without me even trying. My husband was away on a work trip and the night before he came back, I woke up in the night with a very strong image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. It was so vivid that when I got up in the morning, I looked up the passage in John 10 about Jesus as the Good Shepherd. That evening, as my husband unpacked his bags, he tossed me a plastic case with a brightly coloured picture of Pope Francis on the top. Inside were Rosary beads and on the crucifix was a tiny image of Christ carrying a lamb with a flock of sheep behind him.
I laughed, with joy because I realised that I was finally ready for these beads, with humour because my husband had probably deliberately given me the most Catholic-looking symbol he could find, and with thankfulness for the image of the good shepherd which seemed to be God’s way of saying that it was okay for me to pray the Rosary, even if I had been brought up Protestant.

5 thoughts on “Can I do Catholic-lite?

  1. blmaluso May 3, 2017 / 7:17 pm

    What a wonderful and amazing story! The Holy Spirit opens our hearts to Mary and the Rosary, and then Mary, Our Blessed Mother, leads us closer and closer to Jesus. May God continue to bless you, and lead you on your journey to Him, through His Church:-)
    Bernadette

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  2. canach May 4, 2017 / 11:08 am

    Thank you. When I look back, it was a strange, intense period. Shortly after, I unexpectedly received a book on praying the Rosary (runners up prize in a competition!) See https://scotinprogress.com/2015/02/10/saints/ It helps to remember these things when I get bogged down by doubts and wonder if I am on the right track. Canach

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  3. Marc October 20, 2020 / 5:56 am

    Hello Canach,

    My name is Marc. Like yourself, I am also form Scotland and I happened upon your blog yesterday and have read many of your entries. You articulate yourself very well.

    I, myself, have experienced somewhat of an existential crisis – like yourself – over the past 3/4 years and now feel as though God is calling me to Him.

    I have a question (or three) for you: why do you suppose you are reluctant to commit fully to Romanism? Do you think it is only because of your deep Calvinist roots or perhaps something else? Maybe, a matter of conscience surrounding some of Roman Catholic dogma?

    Kind regards,

    Marc

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  4. canach November 1, 2020 / 10:03 pm

    Hello Marc – thanks for getting in touch. I don’t know how much of my blog you read, but I did become Catholic. However, as you rightly point out, I couldn’t commit myself to becoming Catholic until I had gone into Catholic teaching and understood it and felt that I could accept it, or at least trust the church on it. This is a difficult process and different for everyone. In my case, I wasn’t really Calvinist any more as I had been agnostic for many years, but because of my Presbyterian background, I was very suspicious of Catholic teaching. For me, it was a heart and head thing. I began going to Mass with my husband and can remember the day and the moment when I knew I was being asked to become Catholic (described in https://scotinprogress.com/2016/06/12/that-dreaded-word-conversion/). Up until then, I would have thought this the most unlikely thing in the world.
    My heart knew where I wanted to be, but my head wasn’t there yet. I told no-one for 6 months and then I went to the priest and asked about instruction. I did a lot of reading as well and gradually became convinced on one point and then another. Some were easier than others. The devotion to Mary was the most difficult, but I decided to trust the church on that (https://scotinprogress.com/2015/06/05/the-battle-of-the-christmas-cards/). Once I had squared my conscience with the doctrine, I then had to make a leap of faith and be received into the church. I haven’t regretted it.
    Do you know the Coming Home Network? They have lots of resources. I wrote my conversion story for them (it is quite long https://scotinprogress.com/2018/10/22/a-story/) Books I found useful were ‘Catholicism’ by Robert Barron, ‘Evangelical is not enough’ by Thomas Howard (as well as ‘On Being Catholic’ which was written later). Also ‘Seven Storey Mountain’ by Thomas Merton, which I found beautiful and have read and re-read parts of it. There were many more, but these are the ones which I found useful. Everyone’s path or story is different. Please get in touch again through the comments if you want to. I don’t check this so often as I have been taking a break from blogging but I will try to look. If you want a modern conversion story, I recommend ‘Night’s Bright Darkness’ by Sally Read, Best wishes, Canach

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