I was born and raised Catholic: Catholic schools, church every week, the whole nine yards. There was one Lent where I became a daily communicant and began to wonder if I had a vocation to the priesthood. Nearly four years ago, though, I picked up Bp. Kallistos Ware's "The Orthodox Church" and began to question the whole narrative of Church history. I read a few other books about Orthodoxy and got deeply into Russian novels, but at the time, I was living in a city where the only Orthodox church was a Greek one. I went once to liturgy and didn't get it. Though I felt like there was more doctrinal truth in Orthodoxy than Catholicism, I went back to being Catholic because of my love of the liturgy (note: not the best reasoning, I know).
About a year and a half later, I moved to Seattle and right away went to the ROCOR cathedral in town. I majored in Russian (B.A.) and Slavic Studies (M.A.), but even still, Slavonic threw me for a loop and again I drew back from Orthodoxy. What followed was a year of deep hedonism where I wasn't even going to mass for the first time in my life.
Just over a year ago, I picked up Fr. Thomas Merton's "Seven Storey Mountain" at a used book sale and read it in one afternoon. Slowly I crept back to the sacraments. I started going to mass every week again and took up regular confession. This summer, I took a Jesuit as a spiritual director. Yet still, I felt Orthodoxy gnawing at me; in one of my early meetings with the Jesuit, I surprised even myself by blurting out a question about the filioque. But more importantly, I've been a fan of the blogger Rod Dreher for a long time. There was something about the human and honest way Rod wrote about the tragedy of the goings-on with +Jonah this summer that made me want to look into the OCA for the first time. I'd read briefly about the OCA back when I first read Fr. Alexander Schmemann, but I didn't know much beyond that. This research helped me realize I could be Orthodox in my own language. I started devouring Fr. Tom Hopko's archive on Ancient Faith Radio and getting excited about things. I ordered a heap of books from Amazon and then, for the first time, I went to St. Spiridon Cathedral here in Seattle. I was terribly nervous, but as the liturgy progressed, I felt like I belonged. I loved it. I went home and wrote the priest to explain my situation right away and soon after began attending inquirer's classes.
I go back and forth between Seattle and Vancouver a lot, so I've been worshiping at St. Spiridon for a while now and just began attending St. John of Shanghai mission in Vancouver on the weekends I am there. Meanwhile, at home, I am reading the Bible for the first time in my life and also working through the stack of Orthodox books I have on my shelf now. For most of my life, I've been a religious person, but there has never been a moment, not even when I was thinking about the Catholic priesthood, where I felt as excited and in love with Christianity as I do now and have ever since I started going to St. Spiridon.
So, a few questions:
1. At what point do I become a catechumen? Is this something I request or will my priest offer me the opportunity when he feels I am ready?
2. Should I look at other Orthodox churches around town to make sure this is absolutely the best fit? The community at St. Spiridon is fantastic, but there is another OCA mission not so far away, plus three Greek churches and a Serbian one that seem to use a lot of English as well. Would there be anything wrong if I came into the church at St. Spiridon and then decided to switch to another congregation later?
3. What should I do about my Jesuit spiritual director? I canceled our next appointment, but I am worried about telling him I want to convert to Orthodoxy. He is a very old, frail man, something like 85. I wouldn't want him to feel like it was his fault that I left.
Thanks for your help, everyone! I've already learned a lot just from reading the forum. Your prayers and assistance are most welcome as I move forward.