God’s Sacred Invitations
by Simone Robinson
I was born in Austria and like (almost) every Austrian was baptized into the Catholic Church in my first month of life. I attended a Catholic elementary school. The nun who taught me in Gr. 2 had the biggest impact on my childhood faith: it was easy to love and trust God around her. My parents identified with the Catholic Church but were not in love with God. The last spiritual impact in my childhood was when I attended Confirmation classes. I remember finding it very interesting to learn about God.
Sadly, shortly after this the excitement of my teenage years and the lack of support in any way in the Catholic faith saw me drift away. I found myself years later as a so-called “atheist,” even. My god became science and the spiritual urges I had I fed with esoteric adventures, like trips to astrologists and psychics. The more I opened myself to the “dark side,” the more I noticed that I started to spiral down; so much, indeed, that I found myself in a deep crisis during the end phase of writing my Master’s thesis in psychology. I could not explain with all my psychological knowledge what was going on in me. I valued psychology (and still do) but I also realized that there is a part in me where psychology does not reach; a part in me that is longing for something more, something bigger than me.
One day I attended an evangelical church service (mainly out of curiosity), but by no means to really believe in God. In this church service, I got a glimpse of what was missing in my life. Could it be God? I prayed an earnest prayer, that I would like to meet the God that people there seemed to love so much. It just shows how much God seems to wait for us to come back, and to knock at his door – or shall I say, at his Father’s heart? On my way home from that church service, God revealed to me in an instant, while I was driving on an Austrian Autobahn, that he is truly the Living God, and he is a God who sees me and cares for me. From that moment on, everything changed in my life. I literally came home a new person. I started to read the Bible with new zeal and joy which startled everyone around me. I attended a small home church, where people prayed together and talked about the Bible. I was on fire and madly in love with this God who loved me so much.
Meanwhile, 15 years later I married a Canadian evangelical pastor (I would need at least three more pages to describe that wild journey: how we met and how God brought us together), and with a lovely daughter, I realized that my faith had become stale. My joy in God had faded. The pain of church leadership while at the side of my husband (we had to face so many difficult situations), several moves, my husband’s cancer, unemployment, these all made life heavy, and for the first time it seemed that my God was not big enough anymore to lift me out of the heaviness. It was around that time, when we had just found some ground under our feet again, that Peter shared with me that he sensed God might invite him to serve within the Catholic Church. Waves of panic hit me. Everything in me screamed “NO, you cannot do this. How will Peter ever find a job again? What about our relationships with our whole, extremely devoted, evangelical family and friends?” All I could see was loneliness and poverty in the future. When the first shock settled, I offered to discern with Peter if this was truly God’s calling. I was quite convinced that God would not ask us to take such a radical step.
Our discernment process started with prayer on evenings together and meetings with two different spiritual directors (both from the Catholic Church). In March 2015, we got tickets to a Catholic conference in Toronto. Reluctantly I agreed to go. When we arrived I noticed how alone I felt among these thousands of people. I was not one of them. I could not get excited by the tons of rosaries that were sold there, nor did I understand why there were so many men dressed up with hats and swords. In the early afternoon, there was a procession planned. I had no idea what that was. I felt very confused as people started to show so much reverence to the procession that went through the big conference hall. I found myself an empty chair and sat down, trying not to be in the way when the procession with the monstrance went by. I was not prepared for what happened next. At the moment the priest came by with the monstrance, I could almost physically feel Jesus’ presence. It came so powerfully, that I simply started to sob, because His holiness and His love overwhelmed me. I heard Jesus saying just two words: “Follow Me”; and in my sobbing, I said “YES, my Lord.” I knew God had spoken and had given me the answer my heart was longing for. First, He made it clear that I would find Him in the Catholic Church and not only that, but also that he himself was inviting me into that journey. What was there to fear? Can there be any place safer than where God himself leads?
From that day on I REALLY started to learn about the Catholic faith. I listened to every Light House CD I could get my hands on, and Peter and I watched many DVDs about Catholic teaching. One night we sensed that, it was time to give our official “Yes” to God in prayer. We still had no idea how Peter would ever be employed again. We also feared that our daughter might not like this change in her life, since it meant taking her out of her old church and youth group. But, we knew that the boat never sinks when Jesus is in it (even when he seems to sleep). After a time of surrender in our living room, we shared with our daughter that Peter would resign from his job as an Anglican priest. Well, what shall I say? Our daughter was delighted about our journey! God had prepared her heart in the Catholic school she had attended the previous three years, and to our absolute surprise Peter was offered a job as pastoral assistant at St. Patrick Church just two weeks later. We entered officially into the Catholic church 27th of August 2015, and I love every day of my new journey. I am falling in love with God on a whole new level. The beauty of the Catholic faith and God’s holiness and the reverence for it, have not only shaped me profoundly but also spill over into my ministry as a spiritual director, where I love to meet with people from all denominations who are searching for God in times of confusion, dryness or emotional pain. I cannot be thankful enough to my God for his sacred invitations in my life, and for the courage (and desperation) he offered to me following these invitations.