A Story That Started with a Pick up Line: Annie Vaeth's Conversion Story
Annie’s conversion story is a part of our five-part Holy Week series: Conversion Stories & Encouragement for New Converts. Learn more about the series here!
Name: Annie Vaeth
State of Residence: California
Religious Background: Baptist/non-denominational
Year you entered the Catholic Church: 2006
Her Conversion Story
In the summer of 2004 I toured Europe. The Catholic churches, art, and beauty called to my artistic soul. I had no idea that boarding a train to Rome would start my headlong fall into the Catholic Church. But it wasn’t Rome that pushed me there.
I met a guy. A sandy haired, enthusiastic, charismatic guy. The first thing he asked me was “are you Catholic?” That’s a pretty lousy pick up line, but it still worked.
After the 10 hour train ride we parted ways and I kept asking God why I couldn’t get him out of my mind. I wasn’t looking for love, I was only 18. I had a strong prayer life and an intimate relationship with Jesus. Yet I felt a push to pursue the romance.
I wasn’t anti-Catholic. I considered them Christians too. I thought of it as just another branch of Christianity. I loved Jesus, and Joe did too. We started dialoguing about our faiths, seeing if we would hit an impasse.
With every question and conversation the Catholic Church came out ahead. I still had a few doctrinal questions but the beauty, ritual, and art of the Catholic Church was quickly claiming my heart. I was falling in love.
I was simultaneously discerning my relationship with Joe and my relationship to the Catholic Church. I was terrified of accidentally confusing love of Joe with love for the Catholic Church.
I was honest enough to realize that my main hang ups about the Church were based on my upbringing. The Eucharist was my biggest stumbling block. The majority of doctrine made logical sense to me but I could never convert if I did not truly believe in the Eucharist.
I had a cultural bias against the True Presence and I didn’t know how to get past it.
Amidst my struggle with understanding the Eucharist, Joe and I got engaged and started I RCIA. All of my reading, prayer, and discernment had led me to believe that the Catholic Church was where I needed to be. I still felt uneasy about the Eucharist. It was so foreign to me. My baptist upbringing had taught me that it was idolatry and that was a hard belief to shake. I loved Jesus too much to risk bowing to a piece of bread.
In a leap of faith, I was married in the Catholic Church before Easter in 2006. I felt strongly that I was going to be Catholic. I was ready to follow the Church’s teaching on sexuality, raising children and everything else. Everything except the Eucharist.
It was several weeks before Easter and I was struggling with the question of the Eucharist. My head took the Bread of Life discourse in John 6 literally but my heart was afraid to take the plunge.
There was a Eucharistic procession that day in the church. I knelt in the very back of the room, off to one side. As I knelt down I told Jesus “I’m not kneeling to bread. I am kneeling to You. If that’s you, please show me.” It was a desperate and honest plea from the depths of my spirit.
As the priest came to the end of the aisle he should have turned and continued on his path, but he stepped toward me and stopped. He blessed me with the monstrance.
In that moment I felt Jesus kiss my forehead and I was swept away by the power of the Real Presence. In that moment I was forever His and forever Catholic.
The experience still brings tears to my eyes as I write this, 13 years later. It was a glimpse of heaven. A magnificent gift of which I am utterly unworthy.
I was confirmed a few weeks later, embracing Catholicism, and Jesus, with my whole heart, mind, and soul.
Annie’s Words of Encouragement for New Catholic Converts
My encouragement to you, the new convert, is to go slow. It’s called practicing for a reason. It takes time to assimilate into the culture after you convert.
My advice is to practice the sacraments often without worrying about if you are doing them right.
Don’t let fear of doing a thing badly keep you from doing the thing at all. The sacraments change you even when you don’t feel it coming. The grace received in living the Catholic faith works on your soul even when you hardly hear Mass because of the children, or when you fall asleep trying to pray the rosary, and Mass still feeds your heart even when it’s hard to stomach the music.
When in doubt, go to confession. Learn to pray again and don’t judge your new prayer life against your old religious culture. When your prayers and devotions flounder, give yourself a break and just rest in the basic sacraments.
Go to Confession. Go to Mass. Receive Communion. Repeat.
Converting to Catholicism is just the first step into a lifetime of learning how to be fully alive in Christ. How to abound yet more in love. How to truly practice love. Converting is a choice to follow God with your whole self. Mind, body, and soul. It’s going to get messy.
About the Convert: Annie Vaeth
Annie Vaeth is a wife, mother, and artist. She lives with her husband and three children in Southern California where they homeschool, except on ski days. A convert of 13 years, Annie now devotes her artistic skill to illustrating Marian titles and other über Catholic subjects.