Search This Blog

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Aqua's Conversion Story (Part 2): The Joy of Children!

Read Part 1 of Aqua's conversion story here. 

How did our new Catholic Faith *CHANGE* anything for us, physically, specifically in our actions and behaviors? I have picked one obvious and lasting example. Everyone *should* have their own examples to tell, because everyone *should* be changed after conversion to the religion of Heaven itself in meaningful, practical ways here on earth.
For me, it was Life issues.

The essence of marriage is children, and up until now my Protestant faith led me to see children in very practical terms - what makes the most sense for *me*. Controlling life for my benefit and in accord with my will was therefor the key to how I viewed Life. Until now. Traditional Catholicism quickly showed me the error of my past ways.

There our family sat amidst the congregation, all of whom we deeply admired, many of whom we loved, our Protestant-style precisely planned-out (tiny little) family of three, evenly spaced, all so efficient, perfect, common- sensical. But ... as we look around at all these Catholic families, their families are large and within those families, as we get to know them, it's a ... *society* ... These large family units function so well, the older taking care of the younger, the younger looking up to the older, the parents largely just sitting back and letting the kids use their common sense to work things out amongst themselves. Go over to their houses, and it's not neat, tidy, orderly ... but what it is, is raucous, fun, energetic, deeply Catholic, filled with spiritual and physical energy with all that young Catholic life.

I had "large family envy".

I knew the logic of Protestant "family planning" was opposed to the logic of Catholic "openness to life", which was one of those treasures from the Sacred Deposit of Faith which was not open for debate - it just was, in all its glory: *life is a gift, not a plan*. And the fruits of my whole life, including now, proved I was on the wrong side - I chose the personal plan over the Divine gift. Oops!

This was not some side-topic. THIS WAS CORE. To be a married Catholic meant, centrally, to be open to life and receive it as the most precious of all treasures *so that* we could raise God's gifts of life to be with Him in heaven forever. *THAT*, not vacations, not fancy houses and cars, not date nights and fine dining with my beloved wife - but rather CHILDREN - were the primary point of marriage - the reason why God led me to my wife, (miraculously, a gift who fell out of heaven, but that's another story) so many years ago before I ever became Catholic. Why did I became Catholic? To glorify God and enjoy Him in heaven forever with all those for whom I am responsible. What God, through His Church tells me to do, I must do ... I WANT to do.

So ...

My wife and I were not able to conceive more children - we knew this by now. Our acute awareness of time, time, years of time, wasted on selfish pursuits - we knew this by now also. And we knew that we still had plenty of time to make amends.

And slowly, the plan began to germinate: we can't have kids, but we can make amends for past sins by adoption; we must make amends, actually - it is not optional for us, in conscience. God gave us time to correct our sins and prove our love for Him - use that time and spend our treasure (time and money) so that our outer life is in alignment with our inner belief. We say what we believe. Prove it. Prove it until it hurts. You say you are willing to "pick up your Cross and follow Him"? Prove it. Pick up an actual Cross and actually follow Him on the road of chosen suffering.

You say you are too old to start a young family? You say your retirement will be affected financially? You say you might not have the health to endure? You say you are not mentally equipped to deal with "special needs"?

"Can't, can't, can't" - actually means "scared, intimidated and selfish".

Instead? "Spend everything you have until your final days to prove your love for God by amending your life of childless luxury by simply imitating those large, happy Catholic families traveling in the full size vans who are shining examples of the Catholic Faith *IN PRACTICE* - not theory, real live children as evidence of that which you *say* governs your soul".

And so - we began adopting children. First one. He had a learning disability - the sacrifices began. A child with special needs and likely trauma. I won't bore you with details, but there has been so many permutations of trials over years. We have found out so much about each other and about our faith because of this child - we have been tried in the furnace of suffering. But as we continued on over the years with him, the Cross of voluntary suffering made us see in real, practical ways that we truly were in the steps of Our Savior who suffered for us, in order to change us. That suffering was not to be avoided, but embraced. That suffering facilitated spiritual advance. The changes over the years in this, our first Asian adopted child, slowly, ever so slowly, revealed the purpose of our Christian lives: saving souls that were lost, including our own - we were all being changed, thanks to the Sacraments, thanks, especially to Confession and wise, orthodox Catholic Priests who held our spiritual hands.

Then, we considered another beautiful child, but ... why just one ... wouldn't it be nice to bring two children home at once so they won't be lonely? Ok. Two it is - sister and brother. Minor disability in one, slightly larger disability in the other - different than before, slices of life outside Aqua’s "The Plan".

And then, another, a Down Syndrome baby? Hmmm ... As a young Protestant, before I ever married in fact, I used to fear having a child with Down Syndrome. I say it with shame that I used to pray that my future child would not be born with Down Syndrome. So very practical, my thinking. So economically and personally better it is *for me* not to have to deal with Down Syndrome and all obvious future implications.

So, my wife asks me a very loaded question - "what about adopting *this specific baby girl* who happens to have Down Syndrome"? Ooof! I watched the little video clip of her from her orphanage I don't know how many times - over and over and over I watched this child with Down playing on a mat, with her care-givers, she's playing this and that, personality (which has never changed, btw) oozing from every fiber of her person, and I just couldn't get past those sweet, simple, guileless eyes. And then, I also remembered those in my Catholic experience who had children with Down Syndrome. It was not abnormal to see families with children with Down Syndrome within my circle of Catholic friends - I knew about these children in my new Catholic life. And I, as an act of will, reaffirmed my Catholic Faith - "you say you are a Catholic, but only want perfect life? You can't take this additional step, because it is too unpredictable, too scary, too ... "un-planned "? THAT is not acceptable ... Give yourself to this child".

And so the decision was decisively made for her one night - I said it out loud, "You are my daughter". Then, soon after, wifey asks about another girl with Down Syndrome. "Couldn't we have two, to go through life together, perhaps even after we have passed away?" That was a thought even more difficult to accept. "Nope, nope, nope". I was a firm "no" on *two* children with Down Syndrome. Wifey accepted that, but said only on one condition: "go to Church (after hours) and pray before Mary, ask her for guidance and I (my wife) will accept whatever you then say". I had my "out". "Great! I accept your terms"! All I had to do was pray, return and say no. So I went to Mary, prayed directly in front of her statue, looked into her eyes, and prayed in earnest for guidance. And it was, at some point, as if I heard the actual words "I will never fail to bless you when you choose life". I still remember the moment - it was like a presence, a most pleasant presence, and it brought a literal smile to my face and I just sat there staring at her ... smiling and shaking my head ... I'm going to adopt another! And so, now we have two precious girls with Down Syndrome. They are the lights of my life. They are, as my wife intuited, bonded as tightly in friendship as you can imagine. It is as if they can read the other's mind - inseparable. They are the sweetest and funniest and most satisfying children I have ever known. And I will always connect them (as a pair) to that message to me from Our Blessed Mother. How can I possibly imagine life without my two precious little girls with Down Syndrome? Can't. Thank God He saved me from my selfishness.

The last child was the only child we adopted that was originally and solely my idea. My wife works in the adoption community, special needs specialty, and we heard about this child within the "community". She was helping to place him - a broken adoption. I overheard the phone conversation as my wife attempted to find a new family for this poor, anonymous, faceless, soon to be abandoned child. And for whatever reason, as I heard the one-sided phone conversation about him I spontaneously, without even thinking blurted out, "let's bring him home ... let's do it now". And now the little fellow is our caboose. And I suppose that was my final test. I accept Life on God's terms, not my own. I give up *my* plan , and submit to the holy will of my Sovereign King, Jesus Christ my Lord.

And so, here I am now retired from work and getting older - far too old from a cold calculating perspective to have any children much less these six special needs kids. But as my date with eternal judgement fast approaches, my joy in these children easily and long ago replaces the practical calculations of what I could have done without them. So many vacations, never taken. So many fancy dinners never eaten and drinks never enjoyed. So many fancy cars I will never own or drive. So little financial security that I will now never enjoy. But I wake up in the morning, rev up my engine with me wife over a cup of coffee and the little fellers start appearing out of the woodwork and all day long the chaos and joys, and the uncanny order of a large self-sustaining family unit surround me until, late at night (such as now) they are in bed and I can reflect on this life I've chosen in which I can give of my unmerited store of God-given treasures back to God and enjoy the greatest of all gifts: Life ... just life for its own sake; beautiful life; lives that could have been suffering "over there" without God, now right here with me, sharing God's gifts - unmerited gifts from God passed along straight through me to them.

And that is the journey of life that began in the tiny little chapel of Assisi, resting in the bosom of the beautiful Basilica of Assisi, when I saw Catholics worshipping God in a most beautiful and serene way - multi-nationalities united in one Faith, one Lord, one liturgical response (they all knew what to do together - all I could do was stand in the back of the chapel with my hands in my pockets, an outsider yearning to be an insider).

We worship as one, I now know, around the world and across time, through the millennia into eternity - one, unified Body before Holy God in the Tabernacle, in Holy Eucharist, Who, one day, we will see gloriously Face to face. We live in the world as one, I now know, in the same way that we worship as one. No more making stuff up to fit my times and my circumstances and my personal preferences - "my" truth.

TRUTH transcends me. God is God, I am not - *thanks be to God*! The Truth is transcendent and infinite. For my purposes in this world, it is as vast as an ocean, I will never reach its limits. It is solicitously defined by Holy Mother Church and the answers are the same for me, now, as they have always been for all the Christians who have ever lived across the ages and ever will live until the end of time. I can take a little sip from that ocean of Truth, or a large drought, but the water of Truth, Life, is transcendent to me. To the extent I choose to drink, it will change me and lead me to happiness. I hi-lite here, in this little essay, this testimony, that is so personal to me and to mine, one small facet of Catholic Truth that is meaningful to me - Life. The Truths that I have found with the Roman Catholic Church, and all Truths that anyone will ever find within Her, can be defined by their continuity with the Constant Magisterium and fidelity to the Sacred Deposit of Faith which does not change, nor can it - because She is already perfect. Rest easy, no matter how turbulent life ever becomes, how trying, rest easy because all the troubles fade away in the presence of Almighty God, whose living Body is among us and in Whom we are its living members.

My advice to those "on the peripheries", who are troubled by the chaos of voices and opinions in this modern and modernist age of apostasy and sin: Choose the Catholic Faith of Ages, the Apostolic Faith that is the narrow unchanging path that leads to God. Choose Sacred Tradition; reject innovation; follow God who is the same God of the OT, as He is in the NT. Listen to the still, small voice that is within you that always corresponds precisely with the unchanging Truth of the Roman Catholic Magisterium. His infinite Love is gratuitous, unbounded - He created Life because He IS Love and as such wants to share Himself with His immortal creations, those made in His image and likeness. He wants you, specifically you, to choose Him in the ways that cost you the most; will change you the most; are the most difficult to accept. In return ... you will posess infinite happiness in eternity forever. The Beatific Vision - THAT is what we were made for. Choose life! Always! It is very, very good. And it is the one choice that will echo forever in eternity.


  1. Aqua should start "Gifted Parenthood". What a concept!

    As we approach "Mom and Dad Day" (halfway between!), Which happens to fall on Memorial Day,
    right after Pentecost this year, let's consider what the whole idea of church tithing was... Not just to support priests but to support the inevitable widows of martyrs, that standing for truth might not be scared away by threat of persecution.

    Similarly, we should pull together to support the families who have sacrificially adopted God's children, as witness to those tempted to abort.

    Thank you for your testimony Aqua!

  2. Beautiful and inspiring. Thank you.

  3. God bless and Mary keep you and your family Aqua

  4. Interesting and valuable testimony. But is incomplete because it only teases us about his wife's associated conversion. "[A] man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh." Gen 2:24
    I would like to hear her perspective. Clearly, she is an essential part of the their combined story.

    1. fRed,
      An excellent suggestion - “what’s her perspective?”.

      In a nutshell, it is contained in the Proverb about how iron sharpens iron in a friend (Prov 27:17).

      The process of our initial conversion to become Catholics was mutual, but led by me (part 1).

      The fulfillment of our Catholic conversion in practice, to become adoptive parents, was also mutual but led by her (part 2).

      The story here, as you might imagine, is much abbreviated and simplified - but in reference to your valid point about my wife’s role in this joint marital family outcome it is summarized by one word: cooperation - overall cooperation in the context of normal conflicts and disagreements in the span of decades … cooperation is how the overall path of our conversion and subsequent sanctification (which is ongoing) was determined.

      As “iron sharpens iron” implies - our marriage is not a painless process, but the conflict of personal and marital change within the context of cooperation is most necessary, one against the other, to achieve the desired result in the end. Both of us have been changed in ways unexpected by the other.

      This is why it is so essential to not be unequally yoked in marriage - the “iron on iron” process might be instead iron on clay and conflict might then be not within the context of cooperation but opposition; not sharpening, but destruction.

      She is active in other ways - commenting like this is not for her. My interpretation of things will have to do.

  5. fRed - I checked in with my wife this morning about your comment, and she (surprisingly to me) was interested in writing up her own perspective on the topic.

    She said she would focus more on the part 2, than the part 1.

    She’s busy through the weekend, but perhaps by next week she’ll have something to say. I’d be interested to read that myself! 🤔


  6. And I would be very interested in posting it as "the rest of the story."