Sarah Reinhard is a Catholic wife, mom, writer, editor, marketing professional, and coffee drinker. You’re just as likely to find her hiding out back with a book as you are to discover her playing in the yard with a few farm animals (or wait — are those her kids?) She is the author of many books, the most recent of which she co-edited with Lisa Hendey: The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion: A Book of Daily Reflections. She blogs at SnoringScholar.com and writes online regularly at CatholicMom.com and Integrated Catholic Life. Reinhard holds a master’s degree in marketing and communications and has worked for many years in corporate and nonprofit organizations. She lives in central Ohio with her husband and children.
As a convert, I have a certain expectation with conversion stories. They’re not my first choice in reading material, either, because my expectation is usually met.
And then I picked up How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church (Our Sunday Visitor, 2016). Kevin Lowry’s conversion story is, first and foremost, a story.
“Here’s something I believe,” Lowry begins in the Introduction, “If Catholicism is true, then it should change us. In fact, it should change everything about us.”
In the next 150-odd pages, Lowry details just how he has been changed. You also get the distinct impression that Lowry’s not exactly perfect just yet…and he knows it. He’s converted, yes, but he’s also still converting.
And that gives me hope.
One of the biggest hurdles I’ve faced in over 15 years as a Catholic is the feeling that I’m not done. I’m here, home, in Mother Church…but oh! How far yet to go!
Lowry is, perhaps, the first fellow convert I’ve read who captures this so well. (That said, I tend to not pick up conversion stories as my first choice of reading…)
In Kicking and Screaming, Lowry takes you on his journey to the Catholic Church and then outlines each of the hurdles he faced with Catholicism. He ends on a note that I once again found so relatable: the biggest stumbling block is the self.
I am my own worst enemy.
And what is it that keeps us here, in the Catholic Church?
Lowry explores this in a way that I found very interesting, especially given my business and marketing backgrounds:
If the Church were a corporation, we would not hesitate to say that she had a “branding” problem. Her products — the sacraments — are unique, but they’ve been around for a long time, and her market has become a “mature” one (just think of all that gray hair you see at Sunday Mass). The Church doesn’t have the pizzazz or freshness to attract the young in a culture that thrives on novelty and values the newness over depth. She seems to speak of a world of faded glory, one that is slowly but inexorably vanishing, rather than a world that is coming into being.
In a way, the Church is like well-known companies such as Sears or McDonald’s that have been around seemingly forever. Everyone knows — or thinks they know — what those companies and ours (the Catholic Church) are all about. But at least in the case of the Church, they are wrong; they really don’t have a clue, and part of the reason they don’t have a clue is my fault. It may be yours, too, by the way.
I’ve heard countless stories over the years of Catholics just going through the motions — of not even trying to sing hymns, of not grasping the most basic tenets of their faith, and of not even caring about their own lack of knowledge. Many of these tales are true, or at least true enough. But who is at fault for this? Who is responsible? Aren’t I at fault when I don’t even glance at the hymnal as the organ is playing and the cantor is desperately trying to get the congregation to produce a noise that could at least pass for vocal music? Aren’t I at fault when I approach the altar to receive the body of Christ in exactly the way I approach a fast-food counter to order a hamburger and a Coke? What message do these things send to the non-Catholic, the potential but undecided convert? For that matter, what message does it send to our children?
Though it’s short, Lowry’s latest book is a treatise of sorts, one that, while detailing his own conversion, also challenges each of us to action.
Conversion is not a still point on the map: it’s an odyssey that will span our lives. Kicking and Screaming is a timely reminder, whenever you read it.
You can purchase How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church, along with many other titles, from the EWTN Religious Catalogue. Buying the book that way supports the work we do here and helps us continue in our mission. Thank you!