After the release of our special feature on Catholic identity last December, many readers expressed an interest in telling their own stories about why they entered, left, or stayed in the church. We’re pleased to publish the third set of replies here. Catch up on the first piece here, and the second here.
I am Catholic simply because God wanted me to become so. Attracted to the church from early childhood, I instead became an atheist as a young adult. But inspired by a Catholic friend, I asked God—if He was really there—to make me believe in Him. He did just that, coming to me while I was riding home on a city bus, reading a book about St. John of the Cross by Thomas Merton. I still have the book, but I have never been able to identify the exact sentence that began my transformation. I know only that in that moment, the grace of God descended upon me. I knew Him, knew He was there, and realized that I possessed (without knowing it) what I had been searching for my entire life.
Some years later, I realized that what had happened to me that day was “the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” I was totally changed for life. I started RCIA instruction the following week, and soon began to long to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, begging the priest to move up the date of my reception into the church. The Eucharist has been the center of my devotional life ever since.
I perceived a vocation to religious life, but because of my relatively advanced age at my conversion (I was thirty-four), I rushed into it, entering an order without sufficient discernment. Finally recognizing that it was not the place God wanted me to be, I left a few months before final vows, at age forty-three.
I felt that I had no choice but to return to my career as an academic librarian. Still, leaving the convent was very traumatic. I interpreted my departure from religious life as God rejecting me, and I was very bitter and angry toward Him for years. Gradually, I drifted away from the Church.
After retirement, I realized that I was no longer angry, and that I wanted to go back. During a lengthy Confession at a local parish, I explained to the priest where I had been for the past two decades. He casually remarked that he thought I had made a mistake in not discerning religious life again. I said it would have been impossible because of my age. But over the next few months, I realized he was right: all my professional success suddenly meant absolutely nothing to me, because I knew that I had not done what God wanted me to do. Only now, it was too late!
One night, praying through tears, I said to God: “Lord, I am going to ask You for something impossible: if there is any way I can still live a consecrated life, even now, show me, and I will do whatever You want.”
Two days later, as I knelt during the Consecration during Mass, I looked down at the seat of the pew directly in front of me. There was a piece of paper with “Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, KS” written at the top of the page. I was stunned. I knew I needed to remember the name.
Later that night, I emailed the vocation director. I learned that the sisters have no age limit. I went to visit, and immediately felt at home. I could see that their charism had always been mine.
Clearly, God sent me to them. As incredible as it seems, at seventy-one, I am now a canonical Novice, preparing to make vows next October.
Carol Goodson, Novice
Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, KS