I shouldn’t really have been there. I had accepted an invitation I should have refused. How could I promise to guide him in the Faith? The only Faith I knew about was the Catholic Faith and my nephew was about to be baptised in a Protestant church. It took four Protestant Godchildren before I realised that really I shouldn’t have accepted the honour of becoming Godmother to my nephews and nieces. I am a very slow learner.

When I finally came to understand the situation clearly, I consulted God: perhaps my four Protestant Godchildren could become Catholics? Then I’d have no problem whatsoever promising to guide them in the Faith. But before my Godchildren could become Catholics, my sister Vicky would have to convert. And that did not seem very likely. But the unexpected does happen and I’d like to share a miraculous story.
It all started at Vicky’s fourth child’s baptism. Her church had changed a lot since I’d first visited it for her eldest child’s baptism about 7 years earlier. The chairs were no longer in rows but had been rearranged in circles; the priest had turned into a priestess; the traditional prayers had disappeared in favour of spontaneous offerings from the congregation; “Holy Communion” had given way to a prayer service so as not to exclude those who were not eligible to receive “Our Lord”; the old traditional hymns had been replaced with more upbeat happy tunes that beckoned hands to clap and feet to stamp in time. As I was told, the service had become friendlier, more inclusive, more involving for the parishioners. But it felt very alien to a traditional Catholic like me. And it was beginning to occur to me that I didn’t really belong, that I shouldn’t have agreed to become Godmother to yet another Protestant child.
On returning home, I phoned my sister to thank her for her hospitality while I was visiting her the weekend of the baptism. Vicky must have been tired. She needed an ear to pour all her troubles into. “I don’t know why I go to church,” she lamented. “As soon as we get inside the church, the baby starts to fuss and I have to take him outside. I never feel part of the service.”
I could relate to this situation completely. How many hours had I spend outside, listening to the sounds of Mass come wafting through the doorway? What could I say to help Vicky? And then I must have been divinely inspired for I found myself saying, “Even when I go to Mass and spend most of the time outside the church with the baby, I still treasure those few moments of prayer in front of the tabernacle. To come to the church and to be in the presence of Our Lord even for a few minutes makes it all worthwhile.” There was silence at the other end of the phone line. I am sure Vicky didn’t understand what I was talking about.
I continued, “Is there a tabernacle in your church? I noticed a sanctuary lamp on the wall but I didn’t see a tabernacle. Was I just looking in the wrong place?”
Vicky wasn’t sure what a tabernacle was and so she wasn’t aware if her church had one. But I’d made her curious and she promised to find out more.
The next time we spoke, Vicky told me the church didn’t have a tabernacle which didn’t surprise me. She wanted to know more about the tabernacle in our own Catholic church. So I explained that Jesus is present physically, Body and Blood, soul and divinity within the tabernacle. He waits there for us to come and visit. I explained about transubstantiation, how Jesus comes down from Heaven at the word of the priest and how we receive Him during Holy Communion. This was too much for Vicky. The concept of the Real Presence was too fantastical for her to accept. But her thoughts kept returning to this: Were we Catholics deceived? Did we believe in a fairy tale? Or was there a chance Jesus really could be present physically within our tabernacles?
Soon Vicky wanted to know more. How did I know the Real Presence is true? What evidence is there for it? Could I convince her? I did a lot of praying about the situation. Then I asked my friend Helen for help. We searched her bookshelves for anything that might help Vicky. For weeks, books and letters flew between Vicky’s mailbox and mine. Every few days I’d receive another letter from Vicky containing her musings and her questions. And every few days I’d sit at the kitchen table and laboriously handwrite what I hoped would be convincing answers. I asked the Holy Spirit to guide my pen.
At one point I can remember writing something along the lines of: “Be careful. Searching for the truth about the Real Presence might lead you to investigate other truths. What if you decide to accept them? Once accepted, you will have to live by them. That will mean great changes in your life. Are you prepared for that? Do you want to continue the search for answers?” Vicky didn’t have a choice. She’d gone too far. She had to know. And anyway, I suppose she thought she’d never be convinced that Jesus is really present on our altars and in our tabernacles. Maybe she thought it was quite safe to continue her investigation because the whole thing seemed too foreign for her to ever accept.
And it did indeed look like I’d never convince Vicky. I had presented her with every argument and evidence I could about the Real Presence. We discussed Chapter 6 of St John’s gospel, I’d sent her every book on Helen’s shelf that referred to the Real Presence. I’d answered all her questions to the best of my ability. I had got to the end of my argument. I knew I had no more to offer. I knew they’d be no more letters. “I can’t explain it any more clearly, Vicky.  I have no doubt whatsoever that Jesus is here with us. I believe with all my heart and all my soul. Maybe it’s a mystery but I just believe.”
I didn’t hear from Vicky for a while. I wished I could do more but I knew I couldn’t. I wanted my sister to believe so she could pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament, so she could receive the gift of the Holy Eucharist, so we could share the same Faith. But only the Holy Spirit can convert. My part was over. Then one evening, just as I was getting ready for bed, the phone rang. An unsteady voice whispered down the line: “I believe!”
Vicky believed but I could hardly believe she believed! It seemed like a miracle, a huge unexpected gift. I found it hard to take in Vicky’s words. And then all of a sudden a thought struck me: How was I going to explain that although the Real Presence is a reality, Jesus is only found in the tabernacles of the Catholic Church? But Vicky was one step ahead of me. She’d already realised this. She knew that she’d have to accept the whole truth of the Catholic Church. She believed in the Real Presence, the Real Presence is found only in the Catholic Church so she had to accept everything. She wouldn’t be able to pick and choose.
It is not an easy decision to convert. Vicky lost many of her friends who just didn’t understand. Maybe they felt betrayed. She lost her place in society and had to start all over again building new connections and new support networks. But although she’d lost so much, she’d found an unexpected Treasure. She’d found Jesus.
At the Easter Vigil 12 years ago, I laid my hand on Vicky’s shoulder as she was confirmed in the Catholic Church. And some weeks later, my four Protestant Godchildren became my four Catholic Godchildren. Maybe God understood and accepted my error. Once again I am so grateful to God for fixing up yet another of my many mistakes.
I think about all the truths of the Catholic Church. How could I possibly explain them all clearly and convincingly to anyone outside the Church? But I didn’t need to convince Vicky of everything. All we had to talk about was the Real Presence. She came to realise that Jesus was waiting there in the Church for her; she knew He was waiting to give Himself to her; He wanted to give her the grace to overcome sin and remove the barriers between them ; He wanted to give her His love; He wanted them to be one.  Vicky couldn’t resist Our Lord. Nothing else mattered. She had to come home to the Catholic Church.
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  1. A great way of showing how God works through our efforts. Grace perfects nature and builds on it.

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  2. Sue

    What a beautiful story:) {{}}

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  3. Wonderful news Sue! I'm curious about her husband though. Did he convert as well?

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  4. Thank you everyone for stopping by and making a comment.

    No, Vicky's husband didn't convert though he supported her decision.

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  5. I love this real life story...wow I love moments times like this to treasure.

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  6. It seems a bit unbelievable to be true, doesn't it Leanne? But God works miracles, and it is good to remember such moments when we are struggling along without achieving any visible results.

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  7. I met your sister about 6 years ago!!! It was at a catholic Homeschooling seminar she and a friend ran. What a beautiful story. I really enjoy reading these stories. It gives me hope that members of my family may be lead to a deeper conversion if I acn be brave enough to share a little more with them, and to pray more for their conversion. I'm having a great evening reading through your blog. Thanks!

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  8. I am so glad you visited my blog, Tricia and have shared some of my stories. Thank you!

    I remember my sister being part of a homeschooling seminar a few years ago. Vicky has never been to a camp but I forgot she knows some of the families north of Sydney because of that seminar. I shall have to tell her you remember her!

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