Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Catholic Company Review: My Journey to the Land of More

My Journey to the Land of More by Leona Choy

Leona Choy devoted her life to ministry in evangelical and Protestant circles. Then, at the age of 80, she surprised herself and many others by entering the Catholic Church. In this book, she shares her conversion story.

I love reading conversion stories because Kansas Dad converted. I feel like each one might give me a little more insight into his story. You'd think I could just ask him, and I do, but these kinds of books always seem to start me asking questions again. (Incidentally, the more I read and learn of the Catholic faith, the more we are conscientiously living it with our children, the happier I am we are Catholic. Someone was praying for his conversion and I should offer my thanks.)

Mrs. Choy's story is endearing. She seems like an interesting woman who truly struggled with the Catholic faith. She had no intention of converting, of course. She began her search into the Catholic faith in an effort to bring a friend who had converted back to a Protestant faith. Despite herself, the more she learned of Catholicism, the more she wanted to learn. She is very clear that she is sharing only her own story:
This book is not a theological treatise, although my journey unfolded along a biblical route. I write with love and humility and vulnerability. I invite the reader to walk with me over the struggles and discoveries of my unexpected cobblestone road. I hope and pray that some of my readers may arrive happily together with me at the same destination.
Personally, I found the metaphor of her journey on a cobblestone path the only thing I didn't enjoy about the book. I was much more interested in the descriptions of the doctrines she questioned, the books she read to answer those questions and the realizations she made along the way. I appreciated how well she explains Catholic teaching as she describes what she learned as she explored the Catholic faith. For example, regarding sola fide:
But I discovered that there is only one place in the Bible where the phrase "by faith alone" appears, and it is a negative reference. James 2:24 declares, "See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone."
I discovered further that the Catholic Church officially teaches that only by God's grace from beginning to end, completely unmerited by works, is one saved. God's grace justifies, sanctifies, and saves us.
I also appreciated how she was honest about some of the practices of the Catholic faith that are still uncomfortable for her, like a devotion to Mary. There is a difference between the beliefs that are necessary for salvation and those that may aid us in our struggles to follow Christ in our daily lives. There are also a great many mysteries of the faith, doctrines that are difficult to grasp.
I might never fully understand every facet of the Church's dogmas. In fact, I cannot; moreover, I don't need to. But I can accept those teachings in their totality by faith and without reservation because of the authority behind them, which is nothing less than the delegated authority of Jesus Himself...That isn't blind acceptance without reason on my part. I don't turn off my intellect. Rather, it is my willing assent of true faith and trust in God.
I often find myself thinking "I don't understand but I believe." It's nice to know I'm not alone.

She shared her emotional first experience with the sacrament of Reconciliation. I need to read descriptions like these more often, to remind myself of the necessity, grace and beauty of this sacrament which I often neglect:
Many times I had experienced deep repentance for my sins. I knew God forgave me according to the promises in Scripture. Nevertheless, the feeling of guilt somehow lingered. I could more easily forgive others their transgressions against me than forgive myself for having transgressed and fallen short of what pleased God. To hear with my own ears the words of absolution was overwhelming and relieving.
This book is a valuable addition to the genre of books describing personal conversion stories. When exploring the possibility of converting to the Catholic faith, it is always encouraging to read stories of others who have struggled with the same questions. Though every story is different, it is good to realize others have had similar experiences.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. I did not receive any remuneration for this review, but I did receive a free copy of the book. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on My Journey to the Land of More and be sure to check out their great selection of baptism gifts while you are there.

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