Posts in this series, "The End of My Rope";
I have had a few people ask about how I ended up a Catholic, and some express mild astonishment that I was ever anything else. My conversion (if it could be called that) seems prosaic enough to me, but one thing I've noticed is that I invariably find other converts' stories engaging and helpful, as they often come from perspectives and backgrounds completely different from my own. It may be that all our stories - everyone's life stories - would really seem pretty colorful to anyone but ourselves.
I seem to be in a mode for appreciating the things closest to me - things I often overlook - and it strikes me that this may be due to the fact that I'm in the middle of reading G.K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man. In it, he tries to help us all see not just our own lives, but the life and history of all mankind - and the Son of Man (the hinge pin of that history) especially - with fresh eyes. Men have a remarkable capacity to become weary with anything, to the point that we find life (as opposed to inanimate matter) dull, mankind a bore, and even our faith in the Creator of the Cosmos at times mundane and common. Chesterton demonstrates why all that is bunk, and that we are only jaded and dull because we are fallen. As he put it in Orthodoxy,"...we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.".
Organic life, as far as we know, might not extend past our own planet, and may have been balanced on the edge of a knife for millions of years.
But this all brings me back to the story of how I became a Catholic, having been at one time convinced that, of all the superstitions of men, Catholicism was worst because it made pretense at being True Christianity. The title of this series (The End of My Rope) may make it sound as if I had come to some crushing crisis or unbearable turmoil in my life, but that isn't the case. The rope comes in because I used to work in a museum.
Okay, let me 'splain... in this museum where I worked there was a memorial exhibit dedicated to an instructor who had taught rappelling (the art of sliding down ropes over the faces of cliffs or high buildings or other scary places). He had died in a rappelling accident, and I always wondered how it happened. I never did find out, but always imagined that perhaps his rope wasn't secured at the top as it should have been. Maybe he had grown complacent. Anyhow, I once used this to illustrate to a CCD class why it is important to learn your faith and to understand why you believe it. We need to be as certain as we can that our rope is secure and is tied to something solid.
It occurred to me at some point in my youth that the rope of my own personal faith, the ideas and assumptions on which the meaning of my whole life hung, seemed to disappear above me into a mist, or curved out of sight over the rock that towered in front of me. I really had no idea where these ideas had come from, or why I should believe they were true, or even what I should be doing with them if they were true. I also didn't know where I could go to find answers to these questions. Reading my Bible, at the time, was like scanning Egyptian hieroglyphs... I couldn't make head or tail of it.
I suppose the best place to start would be with my childhood and Baptist upbringing, and that's where I'll pick up in Part Two.