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Author Topic: How long did you study, investigate and pray?  (Read 3710 times) Average Rating: 0
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Carole
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« on: April 11, 2007, 11:31:04 AM »

For those who have converted or definitively decided to convert:

How long did it take you (and I know it differs for everyone) to decide that being Orthodox was the right thing to do?

I have posted here a few times (way back in November of 2006), but I'll give you a brief refresher on me.  My name is Carole, I'm a 37 year-old wife of 12 years to my husband Tom and mom of 11 years to my wonderful daughter Bree.  I was raised in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, left Christianity and was an avowed atheist for a decade.  Returned to Protestant Christianity in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  Felt that it was not the "right place" and started doing some research.  I was drawn to, through my research, the Catholic Church and the Orthodox.  But living in an area where the only Orthodox parishes were very heavily ethnically Greek I believed you had to be Greek to be Orthodox so in my ignorance I did not research Orthodox theology and praxis.  My husband, daughter and I converted to the Catholic Church in the Latin Rite in 2003, after about three years of study.  Two years ago we were introduced to the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church.  We found the iconography, the Divine Liturgy and the Easter practices of fasting and abstinence to be very spiritually enriching.  So we started trying to learn about life as an Eastern Catholic.  All of the books that were suggested to us were Orthodox books.  Which started us (mainly my husband the history buff) on a quest to learn more about the schism between the two Churches and on a quest to learn more about the theology and practices of the Orthodox Churches.

So now we've been fence sitting for 2 years.  Drawn to Orthodoxy but afraid to move forward for fear of appearing to be "jumping ship" or "liturgy hopping" or worse of being converts who "couldn't stick."  I believe the truth is that if we had known about Eastern Orthodoxy and if we had realized that you don't have to be Greek to be Orthodox we very likely would not ever have entered the Catholic Church.

Of course having done so we now feel a certain hesitance to leave.  Not because of a definitive belief in the "rightness" of the doctrines and dogmas that separate East from West - but because when we were Confirmed we made a vow.  A promise.  We swore to adhere to the teachings of the Church.

Unlike many others in or prior Eastern Catholic parish (we have since moved 630 miles away from that parish) we were not there to "escape" or as a "refugee" from the Novus Ordo liturgy.  We just felt an instant affinity for the Divine Liturgy of the East that we never really felt in the Latin Rite.  The more we learn about Orthodoxy the less comfortable we become in the Catholic Church.

There were certain dogmas and doctrines that we were uncomfortable with when joining the Catholic Church and now after reading the history of those dogmas and doctrines, after reading the theological differences and what those dogmas and doctrines mean from the Orthodox perspective we understand why they left us feeling uncomfortable then.

So we're going on two years of reading, praying, studying ... and waffling back and forth.  Sometimes we're sure that leaving communion with the Catholic Church and seeking to become Orthodox is the right thing to do.  Then we "panic" and sit where we are.  Almost like 1/2 step forward and 1 step back.

We feel that the time to make an actual decision is upon us.  We moved from Florida, where we had access to two Eastern Catholic parishes and a relative abundance of Roman Catholic parishes and Orthodox parishes alike to northern Alabama where even Roman Catholic parishes are fairly scarce and Eastern Catholic parishes are very scarce.  There is, however, one very small Greek Orthodox parish in a city near us and an hour or so south is the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Birmingham.  Since the Roman Catholic parishes hold little "appeal" (I hate to use that word because it sounds like I'm making a decision based on what I like or what I "feel") and there are few Eastern Catholic options we need to make a decision.  This Lent was the driest and most spiritually draining Lent I've ever experienced - It's almost like being in suspended animation while we try to find the path.

I suppose, what I am asking is this.  Is our reluctance to move forward unusual?  Or is it typical to take so much time to make a decision?  Are we the only people who have hemmed and hawed like this?  Or are there others?
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« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2007, 11:48:08 AM »

Carole...

Quote
and an hour or so south is the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Birmingham.

I'll PM you my contact info....that's my parish!  Smiley

Quote
Is our reluctance to move forward unusual?  Or is it typical to take so much time to make a decision?  Are we the only people who have hemmed and hawed like this?  Or are there others?

It took me close to 5 years to definately decide the Orthodox is where I should be, and even then it took some time to get the nerve up to start discussing conversion. I understand your reticence---been there, done that, got the icon.  Wink
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« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2007, 11:51:25 AM »

Carole...

I'll PM you my contact info....that's my parish!  Smiley

It took me close to 5 years to definately decide the Orthodox is where I should be, and even then it took some time to get the nerve up to start discussing conversion. I understand your reticence---been there, done that, got the icon.  Wink

Thank you Father! I had no idea that you were "that" Father Christopher.   Grin  I've been reading the website and seeing your name for several months now.  Ever since we moved to Alabama, in fact. 

I couldn't help but laugh at your closing.  Thank you for my laugh for the day!
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« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2007, 11:59:34 AM »

It took me 10 years of study and prayer to darken the door of an Orthodox church - after I already knew that I had to be Orthodox. I suppose it is never too late.
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« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2007, 12:09:35 PM »

My wife and I had a long search of 14 years before we got to the point of entering the Orthodox Church.  We were catechumen for about 6 months before we were  brought into full membership in the Orthodox Church.  We too started out in the closest Orthodox Church to us---it was a Greek Church, and it was our entry that had some impact on English starting to be used instead of all Greek, following that many  non -Greek converts began to arrive.  As we have moved around from city to city, we have had the blessing of worshipping in other Orthodox traditions and have been in an Antiochian parish (the current parish closests to us) an hours drive from our home for the last 8 years.

Good luck in your quest and remember that distance is just an opportunity to pray, read, and discuss the faith enroute.

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« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2007, 12:10:14 PM »

Carole,

I always thought this was a very wise statement from CS Lewis in his Mere Christianity:

I hope no reader will suppose that "mere" Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions --- as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else.

It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall, I have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think preferable. It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do get into the room you will find that the long wait has done some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and paneling.

In plain language, the question should never be: "Do I like that kind of service?" but "Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?"

When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. This is one of the rules common to the whole house.

----------

Indeed, truth should be the ultimate arbiter of where you go.

In my view, that is fully found in Catholicism, and had I no choice but to attend the most poorly done Novus Ordo imaginable, had I to suffer under an execrable bishop like Cardinal Mahony, I would remain because it is the truth (blessedly, I have been spared these things).

May God guide you in your discernment.
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« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2007, 12:30:00 PM »

Thank you, everyone.  Your replies are very helpful.  It seems, at times, as though I have been seeking for a very long time.  Perhaps all of my adult life.  It's nice to know that I'm not alone in going slowly.

Unfortunately, I am limited in expressing why we feel drawn to more fully explore Orthodoxy by the boundaries of language.  I realize that what I write sounds very self-centered.  What I think and what I feel or worse yet what I prefer.  The reality is that when I was received into the Catholic Church I assented to certain teachings that I did not then (or now) believe in fully.  I took the Catholic Church's word that the teachings were true and correct.  But upon researching those claims I am realizing that I do not believe that they are true and correct.

Yes, the Divine Liturgy of the East fulfills me in a way that even the most astounding Latin Liturgy (be it the traditional Latin Mass or the Novus Ordo Mass) do not.  Yes, the iconography touches me and stirs in my soul a desire for piety.  And the Eastern traditions (to the limited extent that I am aware of them though the Eastern Catholic Church) enrich my spiritual life.  And while all of these external things are important, they are not the driving force.

I believe that what drives me is the certain knowledge that if I had known then what I know now (and I'm no where near an expert or as well read as I should or could be on this topic) I would not have assented to believe and accept all of the teachings of the Catholic Church.

I have access to what is probably the most beautiful and reverent Novus Ordo Mass I have ever experienced - the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, AL.  The conventual Mass of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration at the Our Lady of Angels Monastery.  Mother Angelica's (EWTN) order.  And as beautiful and reverent as it is ... I am simply not sure that it is where I belong.  I feel a hypocrite every time I attend Mass and hear the homilies because I hear things that I know I don't believe to be true (or at the least dogma that I don't believe to be necessary).

Of course wanting to be certain that we are doing things for the right reasons and not simply the external trappings is why we haven't move significantly in the past 2 years.

But I think you all for your thoughts and lubeltri for your though provoking post!

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« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2007, 01:53:14 PM »

Nothing wrong with waiting, if you have a good reason to. "Well thought out caution is better than inconsiderate haste," as Gregory the Theologian said (which is sort of pointing out the obvious, but it's good to hear as a reminder sometimes). You don't want to make a leap and then regret it later. As far as conversion speed, I spent maybe a year or year and a half before becoming Orthodox. At the time I had stopped attending Protestant Churches, so I was sort of itching to find some place again. Four years after converting to Orthodoxy I left it. So... nothing wrong with exploring before you make the leap, you might save yourself a lot of trouble later if you find out that it wasn't quite what you thought.
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« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2007, 10:16:30 AM »

FrChris , we can send PMs? How do we do that please? Also, how do I receive them? May I please ask which Orthodox Church you are connected with and who your bishop is also please? Thank you.

All , in short I've spent two years as a sort-of unwitting catechumen.
Honestly I would have prefered to join an Orthodox Church other than our local one for numerous reasons but after spending quite some time and money I realised that the Lord had repeatedly blocked my efforts of getting very far beyond the door of another Orthodox Church and I had even run into some of questionable canonical status to further frustrate my efforts. I don't just mean that I looked around the area either. I took flights to other states and wrote to clergy overseas trying to find another Orthodox Church I would be able to join and I couldn't find one!
Hence I realised that if God wasn't going to let me into another Orthodox Church then I sure better agree to join the local one or I haven't a hope of salvation. As I have long realised that I don't know how long I have to live, I have always been swift in following something in matters of faith when convinced of it yet nevertheless the local Church is pleased that I've finally agreed to be baptised after such prolonged involvement with them and having seen at least 50 baptisms.
Prior to about two years ago, I grew up across the road from a Greek family but didn't know them much. A cousin once removed married a Greek too. In high school a Copt was in my class a while and one teacher was a Copt. In general I have long been aware of the Orthodox Church although knew little about it until recently having been steered into JTChick's Baptist fold before adopting Sabbath-keeping views based on the Scripture alone views which I actually took seriously. Ironically, this indirectly led me into contact with an Orthodox bookstore owner who took an interest in the fact that I attended a congregation with such an obscure name which was on the other side of the city (the SDBs). He then invited me to meet an Orthodox priest about two and a half years ago due to my apparent open-mindedness. The priest and deacon both came along with another family which the store owner had invited to his house. A while later regular studies commenced and were on and off for some time due to how far apart everyone was and other issues.
Some converted within a few weeks of the studies commencing but I'm apparantly a little slow. Must tell them about your 5, 10, 14 years stories! They think 2 and a 1/2 is long!  Cheesy Cool
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« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2007, 02:23:56 PM »

Hi Carole,

In my case, it was about 11.5 years. I began to attend a small Ukrainian Orthodox mission parish in Seattle back in 1995, but somehow everybody there, including the priest, assumed that I was a baptized Orthodox Christian while I had actually NOT been baptized in infancy at all (my parents were ordinary non-religious loyal Soviet citizens). I thought about "coming out of the closet" and asking the priest to baptize me, but never did it... Then, I moved to a small university town in Mississippi, where there was not a trace of anything Orthodox, and began to do Protestant church-"shopping," thinking, quite naively, that it's a good thing to be "ecumenical." A sense of spiritual void, however, continued to increase until October 2006, when I left a local "liberal," "progressive," "contemporary" Presbyterian (PC-USA) congregation with a feeling of complete disappointment. Miraculously, in January of this year I learned that now, we have a tiny Orthodox parish in our town, and so my wife and I are there.

Good to "see" you on this forum,

George
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« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2007, 10:42:35 AM »

Personally, it was rather abrupt but orderly for me. For several months in 2004 I was attending a Pentacostal church and in the meantime had read the Didache, the Epistles of St Ignatius, samples of Sts Irenaeus and Justin the martyr. Sola scriptura personally led me to catholic ways of beholding the Theotokos (John 19:27) and praying for the living departed, our God of Abraham etc of the living not the dead (Matthew 23:32). Ok, so the scriptures had affirmed some "Romish" theology and the early fathers some holy traditions (like when to fast). I would just incorporate these into my "charismastic" worship (but I am not charismatic). In late August 2004 my baptism would be at a Sunday church picnic and I had my first charismatic experience that very sunday the Holy Spirit seemed to shout in my thought, "No you don't!!!" Instead I drove to attend Orthros (Matins) at the very Orthodox church my grandfather had left 60 years earlier. Matins is sparsely attended so I was almost a sole observer and I was not hearing Christian rock with lyrics displayed on a projector. No, this worship of chanted Psalms and hymns of prayers rising in incense is just a mere and yet awesome display of an archetype of heavenly worship to the Holy Trinity. Then came the Divine Liturgy...........On Holy Saturday 2005 I was baptised and chrismated to the Church of Jesus Christ.
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« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2007, 01:12:53 AM »

It was thirteen months from my first inquiry to my first Liturgy. Another month before I started my catechumenate.

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« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2007, 01:40:47 AM »

10 year ago I began researching deeper into the "Churches of Tradition" (RCC, EO, OO) as they said at my Roman Catholic Elementary School.  3 years later, I started to study theology and Early Church history more.  1 year after that I was at a crossroad between traditionalist Latin-Rite Roman Catholicism and the Eastern-Rite; though I was fascinated by Eastern history and agreed much more with Orthodox doctrine and theology, my Italian roots still gripped to Rome Tongue.  1 year after that I exclusively went to an Eastern-Rite Church.  I continued to read, study, and pray and 5 years later, I am a catechumen at a Serbian Orthodox Church.  What can I say, slow and steady.   Wink

I wish I still had all that time to read and study though.  Tongue  The joys of school, work and conversion at the same time.
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« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2007, 02:41:54 AM »

I initially encountered and became interested in Orthodoxy whilst working in Romania (Protestant charity, but doing aid work rather than looking for converts as such). That was in 1995. I started out pretty enthusiastic and by '96 I was convinced I wanted to convert and even got in touch with a priest close to my university. I then went through a long period of yo-yoing, where sometimes I was convinced Orthodoxy was right and other times that it was not. Eventually, after a period of distance from all things Christian, I returned to Romania for a time, met up with an old friend (now my wife) and our blossoming relationship caused me to reexamine my faith (that was about 2000). I finally started my catechumenate in 2001, shortly before getting married and was eventually Chrismated in 2002, a few months before the birth of our first child (that, and my wife, was the reason  I eventually stopped prevaricating). All in all, that comes to about 6 or 7 years, doesn't it? Still a little time to go before my time since Chrismation is longer than the time leading up to it, then.

James
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« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2007, 07:11:06 AM »

Just thought it might be nice to let everybody know that after about two and a half years of heavy investigation, this sinner was baptised and chrismated by His Eminence Metropolitan Bakhomios of the Pentapolis, Lybia and western Egyptian regions (can't say the Coptic name but that's where the diocese is) last saturday.

H.E. is visiting His Grace Bishop Daniel of Sydney, New South Wales, Queensland, the Northern Teritory, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Kingdom of Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Vanuatu and affiliated regions and was at the Four Living Creatures Mission here in south-east Queensland for the morning and a little after lunch also.

Please continue to pray for me and thank you to those who helped arranged for my name on these forums to match my Christian baptismal name.
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« Reply #15 on: May 26, 2007, 07:04:17 AM »

Thank you, everyone.  Your replies are very helpful.  It seems, at times, as though I have been seeking for a very long time.  Perhaps all of my adult life.  It's nice to know that I'm not alone in going slowly.


Likewise is true for me.  I have been investigating Orthodoxy for about 3 years now.  I've made some false starts too, but I kept being drawn back to the Roman Catholic Church. Maybe I just wasn't ready to make the jump. I'm still discerning.  Please pray for me.   
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« Reply #16 on: May 26, 2007, 09:50:27 AM »


Likewise is true for me.  I have been investigating Orthodoxy for about 3 years now.  I've made some false starts too, but I kept being drawn back to the Roman Catholic Church. Maybe I just wasn't ready to make the jump. I'm still discerning.  Please pray for me.   

took me something like three and a half years to decide, and two more years until I was able to be baptized.
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« Reply #17 on: May 27, 2007, 01:10:53 AM »


Likewise is true for me.  I have been investigating Orthodoxy for about 3 years now.  I've made some false starts too, but I kept being drawn back to the Roman Catholic Church. Maybe I just wasn't ready to make the jump. I'm still discerning.  Please pray for me.   

10-11 years for me.  The last time I made a rash decision I became Latin Rite Catholic.  I don't want to rush into anything again.  Besides, I have come to discover that my personality type is to ponder and scrutinize and fret over big decisions.  You ought to see the struggle I go through in buying a bike or a wrist watch, for example.  It would make you pull your hair out.  Thankfully, at 42, I still have a full head of it.

Decisions.  Decisions.
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« Reply #18 on: June 06, 2007, 10:08:42 PM »

My journey is still ongoing but is at ten years and counting. Not all that time has been actively seeking Orthodoxy, only the first year and the last year and a half. I still waiver occasionally and have put off joining because of it. I've done a significant conversion before, and am willing to only make one more; I don't wanna be a church hopper.
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« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2007, 04:57:32 PM »

I believe my journey started as early as middle school, in a decidely protestant k-12 school rife with hypocrisy and false doctrine. I didn't have the skills or understanding then to have approached ORthodoxy, but the beginning of the end had already started.  I could not find another protestant denom with MORE truth, at least that is how I saw it, so I stuck with what I had biding my time.  It wasn't the best, but I was still a minor with limited options.  My father was ordained, law enforcement, and Jerry's personal body guard.  Not too many options then!  Wink
Up until about 5 years ago I had never heard of ORthodoxy at all.  Didn't even hit me when I saw Big Fat Greek Wedding.  We drove past our only parish, a Greek one, for over 25 years!  I believe I had to go through all those years of falsehoods for some reason, and then had to wait until my much more comfortable husband became fed up as well.  I am extremely thankful that God saw fit to bring us both to Orthodoxy simultaneously, though unbeknownst to one another at first. 
We only had that Greek parish here, and at first Fr. was quite gruff with dh.  I think they see many LU students that are disallusioned with the baptist doctrine, but don't stay long visiting Orthodoxy either.  Once they realized we were quite serious, we were made catechumens very quickly.  I think we had a good basic knowledge of our own faith, and Fr. filled in the errors where he needed.  Slowly and gently, but it still felt like having a carpet ripped out from under you.  We even went through times of anger towards those that had taught us so poorly, and guilt for buying into it, frustration for feeling so incapable of meeting the bar as protestants... quite a roller coaster of emotion.
We are only catechumens for about 6 mo, and then had to have our marriage blessed by the church.  We then had to baptize 5 of our children all at once, have them christmated, and recieved into the church.  Once it started happening, it happened in full Dolby surround sound!

When you made your commitment to the Roman church, was it not truly to God himself?  The fact that you had to come through the RC church first on your way home was just the path God intended for you.  I don't think you guys need to feel guilt, remorse, or even embarassment.  We went through baptist, "baptecostal," Calvary chapel and even church of the living room a couple of times before we found the truth. It's not church hopping to seek with everything you have in you. It's only when we let go of our programming that the light was revealed.  You guys are so blessed to have found the truth, though I know it's not easy to find a parish here in the southeast.  Take it slow and relax.  You're almost home!

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« Reply #20 on: June 12, 2007, 05:48:31 PM »

Thank you, Rebecca!  I so enjoy reading your posts.  You have a since but humourous and entertaining way of communicating your ideas that I find very enjoyable. 

I suppose our sense of embarrassment stems from the popular "5 year-life-span/burnout rate" statement that you hear in regard to converts.  If I hear one more person intimate that this is "convert burnout" and that we're "running" from something I may just scream at them.

The thing that strikes both my husband and I very forcefully as we learn more and more about Orthodoxy is learning that we held uninformed beliefs that were in line with Orthodox teaching before becoming Catholic.  It becomes more and more clear to us all of the time that if we had known then what we know now and had compared Catholicism and Orthodoxy from the beginning we may never have been faced with this issue.

Too many Catholics assume that we are seeking to become Orthodox because we are "disillusioned with" or "angry at" the Roman Catholic Church, that we are "running away from" problems in the Church.  They assure us that once we see that Orthodoxy "has problems, too" we will return to the fold.  It is becoming increasing difficult to explain to them that we're not running from anything - we're just following the path that God has laid out for us.

Fortunately we only need please God and not our fellow man.
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Carole
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« Reply #21 on: June 12, 2007, 08:37:04 PM »

Depends on how you're counting. Really, my investigation began as a search for original Christianity back when I was a Protestant. From that point, it was about five years until my baptism as an Orthodox Christian (re-baptism, but Bishop +JOB (OCA-D. of the Midwest) requires it for converts). If you count from when I heard of Orthodoxy until I decided it was the only religion for me, it was five days. In truth, however, I think my investigation has been my entire life. I'm not yet finished discovering the beauty of the Bride of Christ.
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"It is remarkable that what we call the world...in what professes to be true...will allow in one man no blemishes, and in another no virtue."--Charles Dickens
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« Reply #22 on: June 13, 2007, 12:03:55 AM »

I studied, investigated and prayed for years. It was only when I had sort of a conversion experience, when I finally gave up that 5% that I was holding back for so long, that I was led to where I was led. Of course, I was baptized Catholic to two lapsed parents (they got "married" in a Lutheran church because my father was already married before). My father left when I was 3, got "baptized" in a Pentecostal church, and became a hardcore John McArthur-type Reformed Evangelical. I grew up going to Baptist churches every other weekend when he had me and my siblings for visitation. I grew up going to quite a few cousins' First Communions and Confirmations, as well as wedding and funeral masses, but otherwise I had little exposure to Catholicism.

An encounter with novels by the author John Bellairs at the age of 9 led me to love reading and history (his novels are full of historical references), and one book of his in particular led me to become fixated on all things Byzantine (the characters travel in time to Constantinople in April 1453). I devoured every book about the Byzantines, bought John Romer's 1997 four-part documentary Byzantium, drew maps of Constantinople for fun, and spent much time daydreaming about that civilization. I knew more about historical Orthodoxy than Catholicism growing up (my interest in the medieval West was mainly focused on the "boy" stuff of knights and battles and castles, a perspective which has since thankfully broadened).

I never expected to become a Catholic, a church whose institutions and traditions I found numbingly confusing and arcane, and whose teachings, my father drummed into me, seemed like pagan idolatry (strangely, I gave Orthodoxy a pass on many of the same teachings). But I had to go where I was led. Of course, I continue to have a very soft spot in my heart for the Orthodox Church and the heritage of Eastern Christianity. And my fascination with all things Byzantine lives on.
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