Convert’s search for God reveals he was there all along

Kelly’s Conversion, Part 3: This is the final story in a series that followed catechumen Kelly Seeman as she journeyed through Lent and Holy Week before entering the Church at Easter Vigil. Click links for Part 1 and Part 2

When Kelly Seeman, 33, was baptized and confirmed Saturday night, it was as if she finally found what she’d been looking for. It was the fulfillment of a long journey where every footstep, every detour, every obstacle played a part in bringing her to her ultimate destination: the Catholic Church.

“There were so many years I didn’t even know if God existed,” she said wiping her eyes, overcome with emotion. “And now I realize he was there all along.”

On April 19 at the Easter Vigil at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Kelly received the sacraments of baptism and confirmation from Archbishop Samuel Aquila—along with 21 other catechumens and candidates—as well as received first Communion.

“(Initially) my soul was bare,” she said, relaying how she felt immediately after baptism. “When the chrism oil was put on my forehead (in confirmation); that was when I really felt complete peace.”

Kelly’s spiritual path to that peace began in the mountain town of Coal Creek Canyon, where she was raised with a “new age spiritualism.” Curious about religion and wanting to know more about God, she tried non-denominational, Protestant and Born-again Christian groups.

“I was genuinely interested in God,” she said. “But it was never a right fit.”

Kelly became familiar with the Catholic Church through her husband of five years, Ryan, who grew up attending Spirit of Christ Parish in Arvada. When going to Mass with Ryan and his family she felt “at home.” Last September, once the timing was right, she began the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at the Cathedral Basilica where she has attended twice weekly classes for the last nine months, learning the faith, preparing for the sacraments, and building community with fellow catechumens and candidates. One step of the RCIA process that was particularly meaningful to her was choosing a patron saint for confirmation.

“I thought long and hard about it,” she said, studying several saints, considering soon-to-be-canonized John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila—and in the end selecting the one she felt most closely related to her own spirituality: St. John of the Cross.

St. John of the Cross, a Spanish priest, 16th-century mystic, and major figure in the Counter Reformation, was kidnapped and beaten by members of his own order because of his work with St. Teresa of Avila to reform the Carmelite order. St. John was locked in a 6-by-10-foot cell with just one tiny window, and though in the darkness and suffering, he found happiness and beauty in God.

“God brought John his joys in that tiny cell,” Kelly said, then she shared two of his quotes that really “spoke to her.”

“Who has ever seen people persuaded to love God by harshness?” and “Where there is no love, put love—and you will find love.”

“His teachings are really insightful,” she said, and remind her that even in the darkest moments of life, she will find God.

She believes St. John’s teachings will serve as a sort of roadmap as she continues her faith journey. The saint, also a doctor of the Church, wrote many books of practical advice for spiritual growth and prayer. Kelly received “The Ascent of Mount Carmel,” by Marc Foley, O.C.D., from her RCIA sponsor, Betty Dee. The book takes reflections from St. John of the Cross and puts them in more modern language, making them easier to understand.

When considering how to best describe how she felt after Easter Vigil, she borrowed the words of her new patron, quoting Father Foley’s book.

“In the passive night of the spirit, the inflow of God intensifies; the guiding light of contemplation becomes a searing ray that ‘assails’ the soul. The soul stands utterly exposed and is overwhelmed by what it sees. Stripped of all its rationalizations and defenses.”

While it’s different for everyone, she said, that conveyed how she felt when Archbishop Aquila instructed the catechumens to “walk always as children of the light.”

As she considers what comes next, she feels confident St. John of the Cross will help guide her.

“I want to be a good Catholic and apply all I’ve learned over the last few months. I’m really excited … I’ve been working towards it a long time.” she said. “Tonight was something special, something sacred.

“It’s just about searching for something for so long,” she continued. “Then when you find it, and learn how to have a dialogue with it, you see a different path.”

Read Kelly’s Conversion, Part 1: ‘God brings us to him in different ways’
Read Kelly’s Conversion, Part 2: Convert supported in ‘real work’ of becoming Catholic

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.

Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash