My Last Day with Catholicism. Our Last Day with Project Conversion.

The first time I stepped into a Catholic church was November 30th of this year. It was the feast day of St. Andrew, and I was told that he was the first called of the disciples of Jesus. During the homily, it was said that Jesus cherished the friendship of Andrew.

Auspicious? Perhaps, but either way, I hope both Jesus and the Church see me now as a friend instead of the enemy I once was.

In many ways, Catholicism was the perfect month with which to end Project Conversion. That isn’t to say that Catholicism is a better faith than the rest, but only that the best features of a Project Conversion month shined through. Here are a few of those sought after elements:

  • Local faith membership
  • Local and enthusiastic Mentor
  • A deep faith tradition
  • Wealth of literature
  • Multiple events
  • Various off-site locations
  • Acceptance and welcome of Project Conversion
  • Desire for on-going relationship
  • Various modes of spiritual expression

Each month this year demonstrated at least one or more of these features, however I seemed to have lucked out because my experience with Catholicism contained all of these. Their presence made for a deeply personal and rich learning experience, even if it was exhausting at times with all that was going on.

The mountain of books this month. This doesn't include the CD's and videos.

This photo represents a single snow flake at the tip of the iceberg of literature, scholarship, and discourse produced throughout the 2,000 years of Catholic history. If you ever meet a Catholic who doesn’t know their faith deeply and intimately…it’s their own fault. I just love the fact that I could spend lifetimes swimming through the ocean of thought and development within the Church.

Helping clean church grounds. There are many ways to serve.

 

On the other hand, all the books in the world cannot fully articulate the clarity of experience. My “adventures” with Mentor Jason helped clarify many theological issues I struggled with, such as the role of Mary, the religious orders (monks, nuns, etc.), and the Eucharist. These trips helped me understand more deeply a lot of what Project Conversion is about. You see, Catholics like to speak of moments of conversion. This doesn’t mean that they switch faiths, but that their minds are changed, developed, and nurtured into a whole new plane of understanding. That’s Project Conversion. It’s a conversion of one’s mind and heart via the deeply transformative power of experience.

Crucifix over the altar.

Catholicism is very strange…yet familiar. I recognized a lot of the terms, practices, and symbols from my experience years ago with Protestant Christianity, but there was so much more with the Catholic side of the coin. In a way, I suppose, it was like catching up with a long lost friend. I had a base with this faith, but so much had happened along the way.

Inside St. Peter's Basilica

The sheer volume of artistic expression within Catholicism is mind-blowing. A patron of the arts in the highest order, the Church itself commissioned many of artistic geniuses we hold in such high esteem today. Much of a church’s architecture, no matter how small or large the building, seems to proclaim the gospel of Christ. Just as the Holy Spirit is said to transform the essence of the bread and wine of the Eucharist, that very same Spirit seems to transform the churches themselves into bold proclamations of the gospel.

I know that many of you take issue with the Church for much of the controversy and abuses of its past (and some may consider its present). I understand that it may mean little to you that the Church has apologized for many of these past offenses and reiterates the fact that while Christ set up the Church, it is operated by humans. As with any month, I have done my absolute best in trying to open doors to new light regarding Catholicism in order to help mend wounds and foster a spirit of brotherhood and companionship across the spiritual divide.

In other words, I’m not trying to convince you to like the Church, but only to reach out to it and other faiths you may disagree with theologically and at least try and produce a better future together.

When I woke up this morning, Heather asked me “Remember how you felt this time last year? How do you feel now that it’s about to end?”

It’s a good question. When I started Project Conversion, I never knew it would turn out like this. I thought a few local folks would find out and it would be an interesting local story. On the contrary, no local papers or news agencies were interested…

But the rest of the world was.

I’ve spoken with people all over the globe. I’ve become life-long friends with people I might have never otherwise met. These people–YOU–have changed me forever. You are my Congregation, a family I can no longer see myself living without. And I thank you for that.

This time last year, I was nervous, anxious, wondering what the hell I just got myself into. I wasn’t sure how things would turn out. I didn’t know it would be this hard, cost so much. It seems like today should be a relief, a reason to breath easy because tomorrow it will all be over.

How do I feel now, a year later?

I’m even more anxious, more excited, more nervous, and wondering what the hell I just got myself into. Because I’ve got miles to go before I sleep…miles to go, before I sleep.

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  • http://www.jlealopez.blogspot.com J. Lea Lopez

    Andrew, I feel privileged and amazed to have been able to peek into your life this past year and follow your journey with PC. I’ve definitely learned a few things, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the new year has in store for you!

    • abowen

      Lopez,

      Thank you for being a part of this! I look forward to working with you soon

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Ryan H

    It has been a fascinating, enlightening, and incredible journey. Thanks for letting us ride in the passenger seat!

    • abowen

      Ryan,

      My pleasure. Thanks for coming along!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Austin Faux

    Andrew It’s been a learning process for us all. You’ve been a good teacher, sharing your experiences, and been respectful to the many faiths you’ve covered. It will be interesting now coming here to check out your newest blog, it’s become a habit. We will miss you too.

    There is a good Book of Mormon scripture I think that sums up your experience, and inter-faith well.

    Ether 4:11-12
    11. But he that believeth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shall know and bear record. For because of my Spirit he shall know that these things are true; for it persuadeth men to do good.
    12. And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. I am the same that leadeth men to all good; he that will not believe my words will not believe me-that I am; and he that will not believe me will not believe the Father who sent me. For behold, I am the Father, I am the light, and the life, and the truth of the world.

    Good job,

    Austin-

    • abowen

      Austin,

      You and your family have been wonderful members of this journey. Thank you for being a part of this and I can’t wait to link up later this year!

  • http://amongmiracles.wordpress.com Erik

    Andrew,
    Here at the end, let me also say “thank *you*” for sharing this fascinating journey with us. I for one hope you will continue the discussion in some form in the future, it has been a pleasure and a privilege to take even a part of this walk with you.

    Happy New Year, and all the best to you and your family in 2012!

    • abowen

      Erik,

      Thanks! Yes, the conversation continues. Happy New Year to you and yours!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment illy

    So this is the end, or is it? A new begining, but on a more personal level. I wonder now, are you inclined to practise any of these faiths on a daily basis or some mixture of them or stay at your previous faith?

    Anyway, thank you for this wonderful insight! It was very interesting and made me read about some faiths I wouldn’t have imagined wanting to learn more about. :) Thank you again (and thanks to your wife for being patient, understanding and enduring)!

    • abowen

      Illy,

      Time will tell what happens next, however I cannot imagine letting go of some of the amazing practices and perspectives I’ve gained. Thanks for following along!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Linda Geer

    I started reading this Jan.1, 2011. I don’t even remember how I found out about it. I read every post, some gave me a better understanding of other faiths. Those that really seemed anti GOD I read biut didn’t care for.
    I thank you for the opportunity.
    Peace be with you and all the followers.

    • abowen

      Linda,

      Thank you so much for being a part of this from beginning to end!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment B Irwin

    Thanks for sharing your path. It helped re-affirm for me the Baha’i teachings that all the religions are one, while reading and respecting the views of the community that grew up around your exploration.

    I, too, hope you continue to share your spiritual journey. But I suspect it’s time for you to reinforce that marital platform it’s all built on and know you’ve got some thanking to do – both on the wife level and on the Creator level. You’ve been given a fantastic family. Time to make sure their needs are being met as well.

    Two wings of a bird, right? Keep that partnership thing on an even keel.
    <>

    • abowen

      B Irwin,

      I’m happy to be of service. And you are so right about reinforcing the home. We need a little time to breathe ; )

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jamicam

    Congratulations, Andrew, on completing this year-long journey. You treated each religious tradition with respect and articulated your experiences thoughtfully along with way. It’s been a true pleasure!

    • abowen

      Jamicam,

      Thank you! I certainly did my best. I only wish I could have done more.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Rita

    Thank you.
    I wish you and your family all manner of blessings in the coming year… as you all have blessed us in this one.

    • abowen

      Rita,

      Thank you for joining me on this journey! Blessings to you as well.

  • http://b.rox.com/ Editor B

    At a loss for words. Frankly I’m getting a little choked up. Thanks, and I’m looking forward to what comes next. Whatever that may be.

    • abowen

      Editor B,

      Ah B, don’t you cry because then I’ll start crying and then nothing will get done! You’ve been phenomenal, my friend. Thank you so much man. We’ll be in touch.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Nick

    What an amazing ride…thank you for taking us along. Happy New Year!