This week, as we prepare for the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, we remember, as Pope Francis says, that “Each man and woman has a personal encounter with the Lord. A true and actual encounter that can radically change one’s life. The secret lies not only in being aware of it, but also in never forgetting it, so as to preserve its freshness and beauty.”
By: Anne-Marie Minnis, Staff Spotlight
“Lord, how good it is for us to be here!” (Matthew 17:4)
These words of the apostle Peter at the Transfiguration summarize a memory of a transfiguration in my own faith life, when my faith became “the pearl of great price” for which I would sell everything, instead of a lot of rules I needed to follow under penalty of a rather unpleasant eternity.
I grew up in a wonderful Catholic family, the oldest of 10 children, in New Orleans, Louisiana. I did all the “right things”, and I knew all the “Thou shalt nots,” but I didn’t grasp the WHY behind them all. I didn’t understand that God was a person (rather, three Persons), who loved me more than I could imagine and had a tremendous plan for my life. Because of my lack of true understanding and experience in my Catholic faith, the world and its ways had a powerful influence on me. Within a few years I went from being interested in sorority life and LSU football to working for the NASDAQ Stock Market and dating a guy whose father was a multi-millionaire. As much as I was loving life as a 20-something in Washington, D.C., deep down, in those [few] moments when I was quiet and honest with myself, I knew something was missing. I remember trying to convince myself (with some coworkers) that what we were doing really was making a difference; maybe our work helping small companies go public would one day lead to a cure for cancer!
Somehow, God managed to get me on a weekend retreat. My boyfriend and I were seriously considering marriage (which would have been a huge mistake) and a weekend retreat seemed a good place to go to think about that. I didn’t realize it was a silent retreat until I got there (probably a good thing), but I was already there and didn’t know anyone to talk to anyway, so I decided to just dive in.
I’m so grateful I did, because God used that weekend as a major turning point in my life. The priest spoke about salvation history, and Jesus’ life and Passion and Resurrection – all truths that resonated with what I was raised on, but this time grounded in the WHY of it all: the God who loved me and had a plan for my life.
My whole image of God, and my faith was transfigured that weekend, and I left excited to begin living as an enthusiastic follower of Christ.
Of course, conversion is never that easy, and it’s an ongoing process. My first obstacle was my boyfriend, a non-Catholic who was not as enthused as I was about my rejuvenated faith. We (thankfully) broke up, but at the time I remember telling God, “I’m giving him up for You, You’d better make up for this!”
Then, there were friends, coworkers and family members who still wanted to hang out with the “old Anne-Marie,” and it took a while (and maybe I am still trying) to figure out how to balance that.
Difficult moments have come, when I longed “for the fleshpots of Egypt,” when I could plead ignorant (culpably or not) to the teachings of my faith. There have also been beautiful moments of deeper conversion that I am so grateful for: an experience of God’s unconditional love; His forgiveness and mercy in confession; working in ministry where I was able to be God’s instrument to bring someone else to a moment of conversion; and, the incredible people I’ve met along this journey of faith (not to mention the incredible husband God has given me who is head and shoulders above the million-dollar man).
I’m so grateful to God for not letting me go, for constantly reminding me that He is the one with the words of everlasting life, and that no matter how hard life can get at times (and we all know it can get hard), it really makes no sense apart from Him.
I pray for all of us to experience many transfiguration moments in our lives: when we see God for Who He is, in all His glory, and the glory that awaits us if we live according to His laws as well as His love. May we exclaim with the apostle Peter, “Lord, how good it is for us to be here!”
Anne-Marie Minnis serves the Diocese of Arlington in the Office of Vocations.
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