I suppose the proper place to begin is to share how I became a Christian because my conversion to Christ is the beginning of my conversion to Catholicism. I grew up in a family that was sporadic in church attendance (Methodist). Nevertheless, I was taught to revere God, and when I was a very little girl, my mother would take me on her lap and teach me songs about God and bits of the Bible. Mother taught me the Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father), the 23d and 100th Psalms, the Apostle’s Creed that was recited every Sunday in the Methodist Church.
When I was in high school, I began to attend the MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) at our church in Aberdeen. I began to see that the Christian faith is relevant to our lives today, not at all archaic as was being claimed in popular culture. Because my parents had neglected to have me baptized as a baby, and because I had not been interested in attending confirmation classes as a fifth grader (when such things are “required”), I spoke to the pastor and was soon baptized and confirmed into membership in the church.
After I graduated from high school in 1975, some events occurred which altered my life forever. One night, alone in my room, while I was stewing over something, I heard the voice.
“Before the beginning.”
I knew I was alone in my bedroom, but I sat up from my bed and looked around the room, anyway. The voice seemed very close.
“Before the beginning.” Well… I knew enough of the Bible to recognize “the beginning:” “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” (Gen. 1:1), and “In the beginning was the Word….” (John 1:1)
“Before the beginning – “ the Voice again – “I knew you.”
And I saw – I cannot tell you whether it was an image given to my imagination or something more physical, I can only tell you I saw – two figures in very bright light, looking down a corridor into a room – a room with dingy green walls, an antique four-poster bed, and a teenage girl crying on the bed. My room. And me in it. I was given to understand that the corridor signified Time, and that the two figures I could distinguish were Father and Son; the brightness surrounding them was to signify the Holy Spirit. One turned to the other and said, “I’ll take care of it.”
And then I saw Christ on the Cross. You must understand that at that time, my sole familiarity with the appearance of the Crucifixion was from classical art representations I had seen in books and in the museum on a school tour. Very clean, very sterile. Very polite.
But the Jesus I saw on that cross – from His chest up – was beaten to a bloody pulp. No part of His body that I could see was without the varied discolorations of bruising, from yellow to angry purple. There were cuts and scratches and deep lacerations – even places where part of His flesh gapped open in deep angry holes, skin and muscle hanging loose from His shoulders. His hair and beard were matted with blood and gore. The crown of thorns was larger than anything I had ever seen in any painting – before or since – and the inner spikes of the crown were gouged deeply into the flesh of His forehead, creating still more deep lacerations.
I was horrified. Only years later I would hear of the nature of Roman scourging, of the cat o’ nine tails with the bits of nails and metal that would catch an gash and tear a man’s flesh open from his body. Only years later I would find the verse in Isaiah 52, the chapter before the better-known “suffering servant”passage, which states that He would be “marred beyond the appearance of a man” (v. 14). But that night, I saw with my own eyes the naked reality of Christ’s Passion.
He lifted His head and looked at me, and He said, “Sweetheart, don’t you understand? If you had been the only person in all of human history who needed to be reconciled to the Father, I would have done all this… just for you.”
My concept of the generic salvation of the “world” of John 3:16 as I had previously understood it was shattered. It was my sin, my despair that had put Him on the cross, damned Him Who did no wrong to such unspeakable, obscene suffering. I began to weep, and to say out loud, “Yes Yes ” (My parents never said anything, but they must have thought I was totally nuts.) “Oh, yes ”
(to be continued)