I love conversion stories. Can you share a little bit of yours?
Both my parents are fallen-away Catholics and I grew up in the Bible Belt in North Carolina. Growing up, religion was never portrayed in a positive light — it was either this aggressive “you’re-going-to-hell” mentality from the people in our community or it was my parents saying, “You don’t need it.” So I thought, “OK. I don’t need it.”
When did you realize you needed it?
We ponder those big questions — where are we from, what are we doing here, where are we going. I started seeking those answers on my own and I wound up very much into New Age, dream interpretation, chakras, yoga, all that stuff. But, eventually I realized that the New Age stuff just didn’t adequately explain the problem of suffering and evil. When I met my husband, I adopted his atheism, because he’s a very smart man and I figured he must know more than I do. But he started having questions, and suddenly I noticed him reading Plato and Aristotle, and eventually St. Thomas Aquinas — and from there he was asking if I’ll go to church. I said no for a year and a half.
Did motherhood change your spiritual life at all?
I had gone beyond atheism all the way to, very happily, nihilism, but when I gave birth to our first child and the love that I experienced for him was more than anything I’d ever experienced before, I was so hopeful at that point that maybe there was something more. It was heartbreaking to me to think that all this love and time and effort I was pouring into my child would be nothing in 100 years. I was starting to become hopeful that there was something else.
You didn’t initially have a great impression of the Catholic Church — how did that change?
I thought the smells and bells and pomp and circumstance were all just fluff. But when I watched the “Catholicism” series, Bishop Barron did such a wonderful job explaining transubstantiation. I finally understood — of course you would have the music and the bells and the incense, that totally makes sense if the Real Presence of Christ is there every Mass. We went to a daily Mass at the church my husband had been to and if I hadn’t already been on my knees during the transubstantiation, now understanding what was happening, I probably would have fallen to them anyway. It was pretty formative.
You wrote a book about how to talk to kids about God – what is the hardest question you get from your kids about God or religion, and how do you handle it?
Kids are natural philosophers and theologians, and they ask really awesome questions. The ones that are the deepest to go into are any question around things like, why did God create bad people, or why do bad guys exist? It gets into those problems about suffering and evil and free will. These are multiple conversations. But if there is a question that comes up that I just really don’t know how to answer — I always say, “That’s a really good question. I don’t know the answer; let’s look it up.”
If you had to pick two or three of your podcast episodes that were really fun or informative for you to produce, which would you pick?
Any of the ones that I’ve talked to well-seasoned mothers. Three that come to mind — there was an episode on spiritual warfare and protecting the family, with Kathleen Beckman. And then Clare Dwyer, who is a writer at spiritualdirection.com; she was on the show in the spring on how to embrace Catholic saints in everyday life. I also had Moira, who runs ModernCatholicMom.com, on the show, and she came on over the summer and talked about teaching kids Theology of the Body.
What do you hope God says to you when you get to Heaven?
I hope he says, “I called and you listened.”