Amy’s StoryBy Amy Cogdell
I believe we are living in remarkable days. God is sharing his pain over division in the Church with many, both the great and the small. Already I can see fruit. Christians join together for prayer, dialogue and works of mercy in many places. Still, I believe there is a greater glory to be revealed, the glory which Jesus prayed for His last night on earth. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one. (John 17:22)
I want to share a memorable chapter in my story. It began on a remarkable day, a day still vivid in my memory.
It was 2:00 am and I was pacing my dining room floor. I had spent the entire day in a state of shock, though I could not understand why the events of the day had shaken me so. In the morning I had felt impressed to call an old college friend, my freshman roommate. I had planned to convey a simple message, but as we talked, God began opening me up and I found myself telling Margaret about some dreams I had been having. One specific dream was set in my hometown Church of Christ, only worship in the church was nothing like I remembered. In my dream women played guitars (which was forbidden in my conservative church), the pastor had long hair, and most shocking of all, he had invited a young Catholic woman to preach! In the church of my youth, women were never allowed to preach and Catholics were not even considered Christian.
Another dream I had was set in a church that felt entirely foreign. I saw men in black robes with long beards, speaking a language I did not recognize until I heard them chant “Kyrie Eleison.” While I did not understand these dreams fully, I knew they were a vision of increased unity in the worldwide Body of Christ.
After I had told Margaret my dreams, she turned the tables. “Amy,” she ventured tentatively. “I’ve been having dreams too, dreams about you. I’ve been dreaming that we are sharing the Eucharist. All these years I have been aching to ask you, why aren’t you Catholic?”
I was stunned. Margaret’s tenderness touched me deeply. Something about her words stirred an ache in my gut, a longing for something unknown. Yet part of me felt offended. After all, I was the elder sister in the faith! I had been a Christian for years before she had her conversion in college. Such thoughts had to be nipped in the bud. “Margaret,” I answered. “Your dream is beautiful. I know we are sisters in Christ, but I could never be Catholic because I don’t believe many teachings of the Catholic Church.” She apologized for saying anything, and we hung up, both shaken.
I spent the rest of the day in a fog, recalling our conversation. When my children finally went to bed, I took my Bible and read these words from Ezekiel, “Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, and I will put them with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”’ I wondered if this Old Testament promise to Israel and Judah was also God’s heart for Protestants and Catholics. I prayed for God to bind Protestants and Catholics together again, but still I felt no peace. Because I could not sleep, I paced the floor.
About 2:00 am, a sudden, overwhelming physical pain hit my chest. I fell to the floor with my hands over my heart groaning, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus!” I knew that my Lord was sharing something precious with me, an intimacy deeper than I had ever known. He was allowing me to experience His pain over division in the Church – a pain like the pain of divorce, but deeper and broader, as only Christ’s heart could bear.
Until that night I had no idea that Christian division caused our Lord such pain. I had always assumed that our differences were a small matter in God’s eyes. Though I had little hope that we Christians could come to unity on earth, I was blissfully certain that God would work everything out in heaven. Now God had called me out of complacency. I knew He wanted me to pray with Him for His followers to be one as Jesus and the Father and the Spirit were one.
I took up this call only to discover God’s interruption of my life was not finished. Quite unexpectedly, I found myself drawn to the Catholic Church just down the street in my neighborhood. It was not a matter of dissatisfaction with my own church. I loved our charismatic, evangelical church! Even so, the pull I felt towards the Catholic parish down the street was strong and mysterious.
One day, when I could resist no longer, I showed up for morning mass planning to hide in the back as an observer. As it happened, there was no place for a blonde woman in her early 30’s to hide. Daily mass was held in a small side chapel that held no more than twenty people. The average parishioner’s age was about 65. Everyone was Hispanic except for me. The mass was in Spanish, and I spoke no Spanish. Nor was I the least bit familiar with the liturgy. I didn’t know when to stand, when to kneel, how to make the gestures everyone else was making. When mass was over, I ran home and cried. Then I got up the next week and did it again, and again, and again.
After a few weeks of sporadic attendance, I thought I should meet the parish priest and explain my presence. I planned to ask if I could offer some service to the parish – rides for the elderly, meals for the sick, or some other quiet, practical help. When I left the priest’s office, I found myself on the leadership team of the parish youth group despite my protestations that I was a Protestant and probably should not be teaching young Catholics.
During the next few months, I fell in love with my new Catholic family. I met some of the kindest, most holy, most sacrificial people I had ever known. I read Catholic theology voraciously. I peppered my friend Margaret with all sorts of doctrinal questions. And I repented for the arrogance and ignorance that had shaped my attitude toward the Catholic Church.
One day as I was reflecting on some passage by a Catholic author, my husband asked, “You aren’t seriously considering becoming Catholic, are you?” Needing wisdom quickly, I prayed. It was true that my heart was drawn to the Catholic Church, but I also loved my Protestant family. More important than any personal desire was the unity of our family, and the honor I both owed and felt toward my husband. “Thomas,” I answered. “I am not seriously considering doing anything you could not bless with your whole heart.”
Several months later, hidden away in a thousand-year-old church in Switzerland, Thomas gave me his full blessing. During an afternoon of silent prayer, we both felt released to walk together as a Protestant/Catholic couple, living in the tension of a union which is true and deep and beautiful already, but incomplete. We long for the day when we can share communion again. Even more, we long for the return of our Lord who will “make all things new.” Until then, we pray with Jesus that all Christians “may be perfected in unity so that the world may know Him.”