‘the constant daily exposure to God, to people who lived their faith openly, worked inside me until it all fell into place.’By
Dana Laviano is author of the “Reversion Story” blog (“This is my account of returning to the Church, receiving the Rite of Initiation for Christian Adults, and trying to become the woman God wants me to be.”). I became aware of her and her blog when the bishops’ conference sent out an e-mail last week about some of the Easter welcomes in our Church. The e-mail explained:
Dana Laviano is a baptized Catholic who was raised unchurched. After four years as a secretary at the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, Laviano decided she wanted to go through the RCIA process. She has been chronicling her conversion journey and experiences on a blog (http://reversionstory.blogspot.com/) and is one of 319 catechumens and candidates in the diocese.
And so I asked Dana to talk introduce her story to more, perhaps extending that invitation with her witness:
Lopez: How has reverting change your life?
Laviano: Reverting changed my life from the deepest inside all the way out. I was a seeker for many years, starting with Judaism (I was a nanny at a summer camp) and then on into Wicca/paganism, and back into Christianity. I always maintained an inner spirituality — praying at night, reading a great deal of spiritual works, keeping a rosary, but I never ventured into community participation. My husband at the time was not supportive of my pursuing religion and I had no one else in my life as an example/mentor. Once my marriage ended in 2007 I needed to go back to work and the first job that came along was with the Catholic Church. I figured it was God giving me a nudge but I still put up a good liberal-secularist fight! I decided to read everything I could get my hands on (that’s my normal m.o.) and as I did I was happily shocked to find that I agreed with the stuff I was reading. More importantly, the constant daily exposure to God, to people who lived their faith openly, worked inside me until it all fell into place. One day, a friend was reading Genesis out loud to me and it was like everything inside of me shifted into alignment. I understood finally how it all happened and where I fell in the order of things. And my heart just opened — I can’t think of a better way to say it, however trite it might sound — and it’s been all love for God ever since. Now my life is rooted in this love — it colors and directs all that I do. Where before I was always sensitive to living in a certain way (without television, for example, and in tune with Nature), now all of that made sense in the light of God and his love for us. And the most wonderful aspect of my reversion is the peace it has imparted to my soul: I live my faith loud and proud and easily! My friends don’t get it but they see the change in me and they respect it. I teach my children at home as their Dad is opposed to them being baptized and they are taking to it like ducks to water. They are just as spiritually hungry as I have always been. And I am so fortunate to be able to earn my living within my faith. Working for the Church provides an automatic center to my life. I pray I never have to wade back into the corporate/secular world!
Lopez: Why did you start the blog site?
Laviano: I started my blog because my boss asked me to! We were looking to highlight people on different paths of formation and so I was the one on the RCIA path. I’ve had blogs in the past and my boss knew my writing and my personality so he figured it would be an interesting experiment.
Lopez: How do you balance sharing your joy with not being overbearing with friends and family?
Laviano: I share my joy by being a peaceful, compassionate, open living witness. The transformation in me in terms of my outward personality has been pronounced enough to garner the notice and respect of my friends and family. I don’t swear like I used to. I show far more consideration and empathy. I live my faith and receive the sacraments regularly. I follow through in instructing my children. All of these examples my friends and family cannot help but see and in that way, my whole life becomes a witness to Christ. I also remember something very important: I was once one of them. I wince to recall how stridently I opposed people of faith only a few years back (even while pursuing God in secret). If I could be found by God and given his grace, then any of my friends and family can too. That prevents me from feeling like we are opposed. I also remember that we are all made in God’s image — every single one of us — and Jesus said the most important thing to do was love. I try to do that without getting hung up on labels and categories. Just make connections based on shared humanity.
Lopez: Can you forgive the rest of us for being such bad witnesses?
Laviano: Can I forgive the rest of you for being such bad witnesses?! Nonsense! We are all sinners. We are all frail and imperfect. God loves and wants us all. I’m not here to judge anyone else and, although I fall into that habit far too often, I am learning that the best part of being Catholic is we are Christ’s own church and he founded it with sinners who were redeemed. So there is hope for everyone! I am truly grateful to be in a position to make my voice for God heard but there are so many people I know personally, living ordinary lives of joyful witness to God, who put me to shame easy.
So often, people outside the Church zero in on their problems with the Church’s position on social/political issues and it is tempting to go toe-to-toe with them and take the Apologetics stance. But honestly, I think a better witness is to say to them that once you truly accept Christ and begin receiving the sacraments and living your faith, that stuff tends to sort itself out. You either come to accept the Church’s teachings or you find you can live with them. OR you keep struggling to live with them — that’s okay too! Every week we see headlines about “Cafeteria Catholics” which the mainstream media likes to use as proof that even the faithful think the Church is wrong or out of touch and should therefore be disregarded. But they are missing the point: the wonderful thing about “cafeteria Catholics” is the very fact that they continue to identify as Catholics. It IS the one true Church, founded by Christ, and there is nowhere else to receive his real presence or absolution. And yes, Jesus and the Church’s teachings can be very hard to follow and live up to. It’s a constant challenge. But the point is, you still go to Mass. You still pray for understanding. You still receive the sacraments. And when you stumble, you ask for forgiveness. We are all, in one way or another, “cafeteria Catholics.” We are all imperfect sinners who want to keep trying, keep coming home to Christ because we know the Catholic Church is where you find him!