Monday, 1 June 2015

A Reversion Story, Part 2 : And then Our Lady stepped in

I have procrastinated a lot before writing this post. For some reason, (not altogether flattering to me), the first slightly angry and reproachful post wrote itself, but the second, grateful one got stuck.

Here I am though, Lord, tackling the more important one. Sorry it took me so long.

So. Back to where we were. I moved to England, age 21. 

It was a scary, lonely time, but a necessary one. My life in Paris had become associated with failure and unhappiness, and I wanted a do-over, which is what I got.
Nothing quite like suddenly becoming a foreigner to start again from scratch.

In retrospect, there were many signs on my way, especially as for the first two years, I ended up sharing a house with devout Christians (and they are rather thin on the ground in England), one Anglican, the second Catholic. They would offer to take me to church, encourage me, but I wasn't ready. Stubborn girl that I am, it had to seem to come from within for me to listen.

What got to me in the end was foreignness. 
In France, religion is something deeply private, and people rarely talk openly about it. I remember meeting my own cousin and his wife on the metro (I think they were headed to a vigil as Saint John Paul II was dying) and feeling like it was an infringement on my privacy when they offered to take me along. (Pascal and Armelle, I'm sorry I was such a brat!)
In England, on the other hand, I found the subject was openly discussed, and I would be called to account as a cultural Catholic. Now, of course, I could have simply denied the Church, saying I didn't believe, or disagreed, but it felt like a betrayal. So I suddenly found myself in the strange position of defending teachings I knew very little about.

Questions such as: why do you have to pay to see your own pope? (answer: do we?!)

Still, I wasn't going back to church. A few things edged me closer, my grandfather's passing in particular. And yet, I hovered over the edge. I declared myself a Catholic again, but did nothing about it.

And then, I met Simon.

*** Word of warning, an instance of intense soppiness is about to occur, you may scroll down to the less uncomfortable bits ***

What I found then, was that being in love leads to getting a grasp of Love, doesn't it? It certainly did for me. Love just felt otherworldly, and it was a very tangible proof that, of course, God is, and God is Love.

Unrelated cricket pic, to diminish the awkwardness.

*** End of soppiness. I am sorry. ***

So that was the first definite step. And Simon was quite keen to hear my views on religion, as he had been searching for some years by then (Simon's paternal grandparents were staunch Methodists, but the rest of his family are at various stages ranging from indifference to open hostility). He had many questions, I had few answers. However, I did not fully grasp how few answers I had. I was still a Pick&Choose at heart, ignoring the difficult parts, ignoring Our Lady, ignoring the Real Presence, ignoring the active steps one should take beyond mere intellectual conviction.

As Simon and I were planning to move in together (see what I mean about picking and choosing?) we struggled to find an affordable flat for quite a while. Until one night, Simon called me. He had found a really big flat (by European standards), well below our budget, in exactly the right area and in perfect repair. Too good to be true, but absolutely true.

BIG flat.

Directly opposite the flat, was this.

Jennifer Fulwiler has a line about shouting at God, challenging him to answer, then putting your fingers in your ears saying "I can't hear you." Basically, that.

I found it deeply amusing at the time, but that was it.

Then we went on holiday, touring Europe for a month (and spending quite a while at my grandmother's when we ran out of money. Life was tough in those days.)

Tough life.

Whilst I was traveling, one of my childhood friends was in hospital. It seemed benign enough at first , but after a month it was revealed to be a very advanced case of endocarditis. Which led to an emergency transplant, which went very wrong. 
As my friend hovered between life and death, Our Lady stepped in. For the first time in my life I found myself desperately and continuously repeating the words to the Hail Mary, a deep childhood memory spontaneously resurfacing.
And She was there.
She was there when the doctors managed to stabilize my friend's condition.
She was there when she was approved for a full heart transplant.
She was there as we anxiously waited for a suitable donor.
She was there for every trip back to France, holding my hand, as I visited my friend buried under all the tubes.

And when I went back to church for the first time, finally crossing the road, She was there. She welcomed me back into the presence of her Son.

We started going to church most Sundays. In May, Simon proposed. Then he joined RCIA, and I joined Pinterest.

I was planning on only two parts, but it looks like there will be three. Ah well... Chatters gonna chat and all that.


  1. Dear Isabelle,
    having had my "expat" experience at the age of seven (Croatia to Germany), it was very diffrent from yours, and still I see the similarity in having always a second point of view.
    I am enjoying your writing very much! Also very interested in your con/reversion story.... :-)

    1. Indeed! How long did you stay in Germany? Are you still there?
      And thank you very much for your kind words. :-)

  2. The rest of my life, and this may be (is) longer than you are old ;-)