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Hail Mary, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus

From Catholicism to CATHOLICISM; My Conversion Story

by Carole Asselin

Here is another story of conversion but this is from Catholic to Catholic! Conversion can also be coming to life in the Church.

I was born and raised Catholic. At that time, catechism was tought in French public schools in Montreal, so much of what I learnt was there. My family was not practicing much and only in my very young years do I remember going to church with my parents.

When I was 10, we moved to another part of the big city. The parish was huge and the church was too far to walk, so basically we didn't go. Even for Christmas Mass it was unusual for us to go.

When I was thirteen, my parents separated and I was sent to boarding school, with nuns! There I became more curious about faith and started attending daily mass but my reasons were not all that spiritual: the other girls my age had great interests in boys, smoking and TV soaps and I did not. So instead of staying by myself, I would go to mass. During my college and university years, I kind of abandoned any religious practice and went back to square one of no practice at all.

After graduation, I moved to another province. I met my husband and two years later we moved in together. I still went to church but only when invited to a wedding or funerals. Coming from a broken family, I had no intention of getting married. And my husband agreed since he, too, had pretty well abandoned his faith. Five years later we had our first child, then two more in the next two years. We were so busy and so non-practicing Catholic that we didn't even bother to get the kids baptised.

When the kids started school, catechism was taught in class, so it was taken care of. But when my oldest one was in grade 2, the system switched and catechism was taught at the parish level. When we got the registration form, I had no interest but my husband signed it. I still don't know why.

When our daughter was in grade 3, they started the planning for the kid's First Communion. They asked us to bring the baptism certificate. Oops! I had a problem! I had none. So the priest offered to have my daughter baptised before the day of the First Communion, which was scheduled for next May. So, since we would have to do the same for the next two years, we thought it would save time to have them all baptised on the same day. But even with that decision, we still were not living much of our faith (now I sincerely regret it).

After my daughter's first Communion, I decided to attend Mass every Sunday. At least I would give her a good example, I thought. That same month, I started to compose poems or simply write down personal prayers. They were often a kind of monologue but I still put them down on paper for later reference.

I wrote many of those poems but they were so personal that very few people were allowed to read them. Since I was not much of a practicing Catholic, it could look weird! At the same time I found my grandmother's rosary: my only inheritance from her. Since I had two hours of driving to and from work, I thought I could start reciting it, which I did. Now comes the action!

In July, that year, I talked to some very Catholic friends. They were following Medjugorje very closely (they went once) and one mentioned the five weapons against Satan:
the rosary,
the Eucharist,
the Bible,
fasting and
confession.
I thought : "I got two out of five. Not too bad." I was reciting the rosary and went to mass. I didn't have a Bible so I couldn't read it. Fasting? maybe sometimes. Confession? You lost me there! No way would I go to confession! No way! (I thought!)

On July 31st (that was a Friday) I started to recite my rosary coming back from work. I had a bad day since the mechanic had just told me my car would need some repairs I found to be quite expensive. I started as usual, but when I recited the very first Hail Mary, something odd happened: when I got to the very last sentence, I started to cry! I stopped reciting, took a deep breath, wondering what was happening and started again. Same thing. I started crying at the same point of the prayer.

I got to think about the news concerning my car and found it was certainly not bad enough to give me that feeling. The crying was real tears, tight throat and a deep feeling of despair. But as soon as I would stop praying, it would stop. I still wanted to recite the rosary so I started again, and it happened again. In fact, it happened on every single Hail Mary.

I had to stop for some errands along the way, so I had to interrupt the reciting but it always came back, always at the same point. I was really puzzled. I thought of the sentence when it happened "pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death." Maybe I won't make it home and get into an accident on the way.So I prayed for that too, but I made it all right. I still had no idea what happened or why. Not yet anyway. At the time, I didn't know that Mary was the one working behind the scene and that the key word was sinner.

The next week, coming home again, I was trying to find a way to explain to my daughter that she was exempted from her first confession simply because she was baptised on the same week and it had the same effect BUT confession was not a once-in-a-lifetime event. So I came up with this poem. (Editor's note: Translated from the French original)

"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned against thee."

A sin is a lack of love.
It's an emptiness, a hole,
Dug between you and God.

Asking forgiveness is simply asking God,
Who is pure and infinite Love,
To fill the hole with his Love.

This He will gladly do.
And the hole will disappear
Forever.

When I came home, I put it down on paper then typed it on the computer and made a nice layout arrangement. I had that paper on the dining room table and every now and then, I'd look at it, proud of the result. But once, I took the paper in my hand, re-read the text and my hand started shaking. It hit me! That message was for me! That's what I should understand! No way. I won't go for a confession, no way! I shoved the paper in my bag and gave it away the next day. But Mary was watching, and was very patient with me.

The next week, I was at my desk, daydreaming a bit, watching the birds fly by in the wind. Another inspiration for a poem! I wrote it down immediately. (Editor's note: Also translated from the French original)

Whatever the weather, a bird can only take off while facing the wind.
Don't turn away from obstacles because it's only while facing them,
That you'll take flight, too.

I read it again. I might be stubborn but not stupid. That was another wake up call. OK, I had to call a priest. But I didn't know any. I had heard my friends talk about one retired priest who was living not too far from my place of work. I decided to call but I didn't really want to. I took the phone and hung up several times before actually dialing, hoping he was not home. But he was.

I set an appointment to see him in half an hour (no mention of the reason). I had only one hour available in my schedule before I had to leave for a meeting out of town. I went over and started to tell him about my poems. I showed him the one about the sins and then about the birds, and a couple more in-between. I told him about that weird experience while reciting my rosary. I talked about everything BUT a confession. I was too embarassed to say anything about it.

After a good forty-five minutes of talking (and I can talk!), he looked at me straight in the eyes and said "Would you like to receive the Sacrement of Penance?" I was shocked! He knew! I started crying and answered "Yes, but I have no idea how!" So he explained something to me about the confession (I cannot remember what) and I thought I still couldn't do it, I would not have enough time, I had to leave in five minutes! He asked me to come over the next day.

On my way to the meeting, I took out my rosary and started to recite but it was impossible: there was always a mention of sin, or forgiveness, somewhere in those prayers. I burst into tears every time I even thought of those concepts. I tried over and over but still couldn't do it. That's when I came to realize that Mary was behind it all: she touched me during the Hail Mary (not only once but 50 times!), she must have whispered that explanation of a sin and forgiveness in my ear, and tapped me on the shoulder with the birds! Patient mom!

The next day, I did go to confession. It was hard, very hard. I had about thirty years to confess! I must have forgotten 80 percent, but the priest said it was OK since my confesion was sincere. There are so many things I didn't even know were sins!

Now I was facing another problem: I was cohabitating with my spouse and we were not married. On Christmas day, I asked him if he would marry me at the church (we had a civil wedding four years before). He looked at me and answered "When?" (not why but when!). We got married the next summer on July 31st, the same date Mary shook me the first time. She must have been at work again since we set the date only in late May and being the middle of the summer, I had little hope that day would be available but there was no wedding scheduled for that whole weekend in the middle of the summer!

Now I go to mass every Sunday and go regularly to confession (although I still find it hard) and I got my kids to go for INDIVIDUAL confession once or twice a year. However, I still pray that my husband will someday see whet he's missing by avoiding the Church. My daughter still comes to mass every week but my boys don't want to. I pray for them too. God doesn't force anything but Mary is often at work and she knows how to touch us, if only we let her.

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