Enfolded Into ‘The Grand Narrative of Redemption’
How one recent convert found her way to the Church.
Speaking with Margot Payne about faith makes for a compelling conversation.
She is well-read — everything from Les Misérables and The Divine Comedy to N.T. Wright, C.S. Lewis to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Scott Hahn and Pope St. John Paul II and other Anglo-Catholic authors far and wide. She is well-versed in sacred music — everything from Gregorian chant to Handel’s Messiah Oratorio to the time-honored great and orthodox hymns of the Church.
And she enjoys talking about why she is Catholic.
“Catholic theology goes beyond merely the individual ‘I believe’ to the communal ‘We believe.’ The orthodox, Trinitarian, credal Catholic doctrine has been hammered out by the early Church councils. I am enfolded into that 2,000-year-old ancient and historic faith — I am enfolded into the Grand Narrative of Redemption.”
Margot, who entered the Church last fall, recalled in a recent interview with the Register about how, from an early age, “I loved the hymns, creeds and prayers of the liturgy. It had a profound effect on my young life. Later, as a teen, I traveled to a ‘far country’ and tried to abandon my early faith. However, the beauty of the liturgy drew me back.”
In fact, two decades before she became Catholic, Margot wrote of how, through Anglicanism, she had entered “a portal to the Creeds, Prayers, and Hymns of Ancient and Historic Christian Faith.”
Living the Gospel
Her journey, accompanied by her husband, Stephen, led her from ecumenical Protestantism to contemporary evangelicalism, “where we received excellent discipleship training and learned how to believe and live as Christians.” The next stop, in their journey, was to Anglicanism, “where we learned how to think as Christians and we learned how to integrate faith and reason.”
She referred to this time in the Anglican Church as a “vibrant period of growth,” explaining how the ancient/historical understanding of Christian doctrine was beautifully married to sacramental theology in the liturgy.
“For 20 years, the priests at our Anglican Church taught us Anglo-Catholic theology: They taught us how to integrate orthodoxy and orthopraxis.”
Reception Into the Church
While they lived in Tallahassee, Florida, their two adult children (a son and daughter) and their spouses had become Catholic. Their daughter is author Haley Stewart, who was recently named managing editor of Word on Fire Spark.
“Out of respect for our children,” Margot recalled, “we visited three RCIA* courses. We wanted to learn.”
(* RCIA is now called OCIA, the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults.)
After dropping out of two RCIA courses because they were not orthodox, they attended and completed a third course, which was orthodox and excellent. “However, we were not yet ready to become Catholic,” Margot recalled. “We loved our Anglican church. We were very involved. It was a strong, vibrant, orthodox church.”
When she read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, she “thought it was excellent but it was not news because I had been taught orthodox Anglo-Catholic doctrine for 20 years.”
“In the liturgy, the Eucharist is where heaven and earth meet,” she stated, reflecting on her unshakeable belief in “the Living and Real Presence of Christ.”
However, when they moved to the Volunteer State, there was no Anglican church nearby — so they decided to consider the local Catholic parish (which their son and daughter-in-law attended) and signed up for and completed yet another Christian Initiation of Adults course, which, Margot reported, “was orthodox and excellent.”
Afterward, she said, “We were finally ready.”
They were received into the Catholic Church in October 2021. Their son, Garrett, and daughter-in-law, Diana, were their sponsors. Margot chose doctor of the Church St. Hildegard as her confirmation saint.
Advice for Converts
As a new convert, she offered encouragement for people journeying toward Rome.
For parents of adult children who have become Catholic, she advised: “Be open; be receptive; be teachable; read books; respect your adult children; ask good questions; keep the conversation going — you might discover your objections are not actually what the Catholic Church teaches but instead that you have prejudices based upon a misunderstanding of the Church doctrine.”
She explained that she raised her children to think as Christians, respected their faith journeys, and she wanted to learn more about Catholicism. Parents of converts may incorrectly interpret this from their adult children: “The religious upbringing you gave us was not ‘good enough.’” However, parents of adult converts should instead interpret, “What you gave us carried us this far, and we’re ready for the next step.”
To Catholic children of non-Catholic parents, she recommended: “Be very patient with your parents; honor and serve them; be humble; thank them for imparting Christianity to you. Don’t belittle or denigrate their beliefs; give them time and space to consider. Pray; don’t badger.”
These approaches may culminate in the beginning of a journey similar to the one that Margot traveled — a journey that ultimately led her to a home in the Catholic Church.
- catholic converts