Written by Sherry
Monday, 24 March 2008 07:39
Here's an inspiring Easter tale of faith reborn that puts a face on those Pew statistics. From the Charlotte, North Carolina Observer
Mike Ray, a proud atheist for 35 years, entered the Catholic Church this weekend with 73 others (Wow - great stuff is going on in Charlotte!)
As the article puts it:
Ray's story mirrors the changing American religious landscape in at least two ways: He's a switcher and a seeker.A recent survey found that nearly half of U.S. adults have left the religion they grew up in for another faith -- or no faith at all.
Ray did both.
When he decided after decades as a nonbeliever to return to church, he didn't choose the homegrown Pentecostal denominations -- Church of God, Assemblies of God -- his mother exposed him to as a child.
Instead, he found a new, midlife home in Catholicism, with its ancient sacraments and liturgy.
But to hear Ray tell it, he was first drawn to the Roman church not so much by its incense and rituals -- "smells and bells" -- than by its long tradition of contemplative prayer.
He craved spirituality, not necessarily institutional religion.
As a baby boomer, Ray belongs to "a generation of seekers," says Sean McCloud, professor of religious studies at UNC Charlotte. "Something has been going on since (they came of age) in the 1970s. ... The spiritual quest has become personal and individual."
Ray's path to becoming a Catholic was paved with books about silent, listening prayer by modern monks such as Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating.
At St. Matthew -- the biggest church in the Carolinas, with 26,000 members -- some people convert to Catholicism because they've married a "cradle Catholic," someone baptized into the faith as a baby.
"But the majority of (the converts) have been on a search," says Monsignor John McSweeney, who pastors the megachurch in the Ballantyne area, where Ray also lives.
Before being admitted to the seven-month-long program that leads to the official welcoming at the Easter Vigil, every conversion candidate has to be interviewed by McSweeney or one of the other priests.
The monsignor talked to Ray.
"A searcher," McSweeney says. "He made no bones about being an atheist (before). Then he realized he might not have all the answers. This thing called mystery and the presence of God hit him right in the eye."
Any encouraging conversion stories from your corner of the Kingdom this Easter?