Catholic by Choice: Why I Embraced the Faith, Joined the Church, and Embarked on the Adventure of a Lifetime by Richard Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read this for the Patheos book club after they approached me because they needed more bloggers to participate.
Originally I thought, "another conversion story ... I've read so many, do I need to read another?" I forgot, of course, that every conversion story is the same, a love story. And every conversion story is unique because each of us is uniquely different. As it turns out, this was a very engaging reading experience, to the point where I read it in 24 hours.
I really enjoyed reading Richard Cole's very honest account of his internal struggles after it became clear that God was tapping him on the shoulder to invite him to a closer relationship, through the Catholic Church. I appreciated the way he'd tell sitting down at the kitchen table to ask honest questions about things troubling him and then would relate Jesus' answer. Usually direct, often surprising ... and that all rang very true to me.
I also appreciated Cole's honest accounting of dealing with his wife about faith. Interestingly she was in the process of moving away from Catholicism to new age spiritualism. This troubled Cole and led to several conversations which showed two people trying to move into greater relationship with God through very different paths. It seemed especially relevant to our times when so many people are moving away from the faith (or lack thereof) in which they were raised and find themselves adapting to "mixed marriages."
I would be curious to hear the author's wife's reasons for giving her husband that three-day gift certificate to a retreat at a monastery, which is what kicked off his conversion process. Since she herself was in the process of moving away from Catholicism it was a generous and interesting gift but those reasons aren't given in the book.
Cole was a lot more directed in his conversion that I was in mine. I'd just go along, something would happen to get my attention and I'd respond and then go off in whatever new direction seemed indicated, happy and oblivious until the next attention-getting bop on the head from God. Cole worked on his as if it were a Divine Assignment he'd be graded on, with a lot of worry and attention and introspection that would have worn me out.
Not that my own enthusiasm and gung-ho attitude probably didn't get wearing for my own family, it is just that I didn't work it like a program with boxes to check off a list. I might not have been thrilled about the idea of RCIA classes, but I just figured if that was what God wanted, then that's what I'd do. No wonder my spiritual progress during that time was a surprise to me, a welcome one to be sure but still not something I'd expected or worked to get.
And that's what makes each conversion story both different and the same, in some sense. This one is definitely worth reading. Ultimately it focused me on thinking about Jesus' own interactions in my own life, in a different way than I'd been doing lately. And that's a good thing. For me anyway.
NOTE ABOUT THE INTRODUCTION:
For some reason the introduction has a lot of details about how the author's life and family have turned out after his conversion. This was rather off-putting and left me in a distinct mood of not being interested in reading the actual book. Obviously, this was overcome with the first chapter, but there's no reason to put yourself through that. Skip the intro and read it after the rest of the book.
REVIEW COPY PROVIDED FREE
The review copy was provided by the Patheos Book Club. Publishers pay for Patheos to feature their books. My review is my own based solely on the book's merits.