This morning's St Paul Pioneer Press carried the following story about one woman's journey into the Catholic Church.
Brave woman... to tell her story.
It illustrates the difference when Truth makes the 18 inch journey from the brain to the heart.
JOURNEY TO JESUS
Converting to Catholicism at Easter is one woman's next step in a spiritual trek away from a turbulent life.
BY DAVID HANNERS Pioneer PressTwinCities.com-Pioneer Press
Article Last Updated:04/07/2007 11:31:04 PM CDT
Tiffany Corrine Dow's journey to the Catholic Church has been an unsteady one filled with abuse, mental illness and three suicide attempts. The salves she tried in the past - drugs, promiscuity and anger - didn't work.
With her conversion to Catholicism this Easter weekend, she believes the road will just get longer.
"This isn't like all of a sudden I'm going to wake up on Sunday morning without problems," said Dow, 22. "It's not like I have the key and I've been healed."
Dow, of Eagan, was among catechumens Saturday night who were baptized and confirmed and took the Holy Eucharist for the first time as Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It is the culmination of a monthslong formal process, known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, for people converting to Catholicism.
As Dow searches for personal meaning, she also searches for what it means to be Catholic. She was raised a Lutheran but says she now believes Catholicism has more relevance and meaning for her, or at least for the person she would like to be.
The archdiocese said it isn't sure how many catechumens there would be. But all have gone through a five-step process for conversion that includes learning about the Scripture and the history of the church, accepting Christ as their savior and going through a number of church rituals.
For some, the conversion is a matter of accepting a new faith, but for Dow, it has meant significant change. The family of the University of Minnesota graduate said they have seen a transformation in a young woman whose anger and defiance were paired with nothing but self-destructiveness.
"We had a tough time raising her. She fought with depression and bipolar and everything else," said her mother, Tracy Grassle, of Lakeville.
But since beginning the initiation process, "she did a 180," her mother said. "It totally turned her around, and I think it was the power of the Lord that did it. Her transformation of who she was and who she is now, it's almost unbelievable."
Many in the Christian faith believe Easter to be a time of miracles, and Grassle said she believes the change in her daughter is nothing short of that.
"I do think some of it could be just learning boundaries," she said. "But it was so fast when she decided to become Catholic, these turnarounds. It was like boom! I know she's learned to be graceful and to listen and not react to what people say. Not even a year ago she'd just lose it. But now she's so in control. I think a lot of it is her faith."
Dow is waiting for graduate school to start, and until then, she is holding down a variety of jobs: substitute teacher, freelance writer, owner of a house-cleaning service. (Although, as she says, "I'd rather be known as a journalist than a housecleaner.")
Like that smorgasbord of jobs, she has tried a variety of approaches to religion. She said she has long known she was searching for something throughout her life, but she was never sure just what.
All she knew was she wasn't finding it in the churches she sampled along the way.
"I tried a few churches after I got confirmed in the Lutheran Church but fell away from those," she said. "I wasn't taught right. Or maybe I didn't understand, of my own accord, what a relationship with Jesus really was. I guess the word would be 'lukewarm' Christianity. I saw a lot of people contorting Christianity in the way that they wanted to live."
She said that feeling was particularly acute growing up in the suburbs, where she felt there was too much emphasis on wealth and status.
"I just didn't see that surrender in other denominations," she said. "When you have other gods, like wealth and prestige, you don't have room for the real God."
In converting to Catholicism from Lutheranism, Dow will find familiar and foreign elements, said Gregory Walter, an assistant professor of religion at St. Olaf College, a Lutheran institution in Northfield.
"She will have an easy time in terms of worship, in terms of liturgy. It would take some careful detecting to notice significant differences," he said. "Liturgically, Lutherans and Catholics are very close, very similar. There's only subtle differences in that way."
But there are significant differences in the way each church views itself, he said.
"Catholics have at least an official authority structure, and Lutherans do not," Walter said. "Catholics have a quite dense and wide-ranging - and ongoing - set of what I like to think of as a large attic full of things that you can draw on."
The rituals and customs in that "attic" may be what Dow finds appealing, her mother said.
"I think the discipline of the Catholic Church is what helps Tiffany," she said. "She needs discipline in everything she does. The Catholic Church is much more disciplined than my church."
Dow is asked whether the changes she's experienced might just be the result of maturation and whether there are other ways she could get discipline and order in her life.
"I was called to come here," she said of the church. "I didn't want to be a Catholic, but I couldn't get away from it. It was a feeling that when I went against it, it didn't feel right."
She said she's stopped drinking, stopped going out to clubs, "trained myself to go to bed before 5 in the morning" and now, "I do a lot of things that a lot of people find boring."
But she believes her journey toward faith is one she could make only through converting to Catholicism.
"I have discovered Jesus more closely than any other faith I've been a part of," she said. "I feel like the structure of the church is conducive to a better understanding of the role I have with Christ.
"In my heart," she said, "it feels right and it makes sense."