Why People With a Colorful Past Evangelize


st augustineI’m not wildly enthusiastic about showing my children pictures of me between 16 years old and 26, a full decade when I was the walking epitome of what not to be when you are young, single, and clueless about your Catholic faith. I didn’t exactly punk-out Duran Duran style in the eighties but I did dress like a Spice girl in the nineties and walk around with a head that would never have fit inside the mouth of Jaws.

That’s not to negate all the fun times I had with fabulous friends who, I’ll surmise, are going over my current Facebook page or blog and having a good laugh over who I’ve become after my reversion experience.  Either that, or they’re still wondering if this is the same person they went to school with and partied beside at night. Then, once they come-to after passing out from shock, they’re grumbling at my profile pic, “This bump is all your fault, you phony!” (Sorry, Dudes. My bad.) Finally, when they’ve calmed down, they meet up for a cup of coffee, mention my name and shake their heads while musing, “She always was one beer short of a six pack to begin with, anyway… ”

A St. Augustine type of lifestyle is a common past among many in my generation who have surprisingly emerged to be the most vocal evangelizers  of the Catholic faith.  Former atheists, drug addicts, workaholic corporate honchos, feminists, party animals, hard-core rock musicians, abortion facility directors, new-age artists, and occultists are making internet waves as a significant portion of the lay voice and membership for the universal Catholic Church. By the sheer grace of God, all those colorful lives are now a living, spectacular testimony of the transforming power of Christ’s love.

It amazes me no end how the people whom we once judged impossible to preach to or convert end up the very ones who work tirelessly for the Church.  This is because after having lived an existence without the love of the Eucharistic Christ and the guidance of the Church, converts are excited to share what they know: the radical, galactic difference of a new life with Catholicism. It isn’t perfect, neither is it free from suffering, but it is a life of inner peace.  This missing “peace” which they chased after in their former lives (be it in the form of drugs, sex, power, money, career, fame, self) is found nowhere else, but in a full life of faith, service and true love.  A favorite quote of St. Augustine is a perennial favorite because it is true:  “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O Lord.”

Juxtaposed with my joy  at finally being able to rest in the Lord is the grief I feel when I see baptized Catholics who’ve “fallen away,”  “lapsed” or grown lukewarm in our religion. I understand them, remembering that I too searched and treaded the highways and byways of the broad world’s path for meaning until Christ enfolded me back into the narrow gate of His Church. The most painful conflict of a cradle Catholic is shaking off what we’ve been taught was right and trying to reconcile it with what the world perceives and rams down our throat as “better”.   The most exhilarating moment is discovering that it is irreconcilable because what we’ve been taught will always be right and there is infinitely more about our faith to learn and love.  The mercy of Jesus in the confessional waits with open arms and we want our brothers and sisters to come home.

We outspoken cradle Catholic reverts and converts alike, stand in glaring contrast to those we love from our past.  No longer belonging there because we are allied side by side with other reformed but struggling sinners and unlikely witnesses, who now fit snugly into the diverse Catholic Church. We evangelize, despite persecution, ridicule, fear and rejection (and possible lawsuits for inducing concussions) because we know that people like our former selves in our past lives are reading what we share and we never know just who is ready for change. For grace.


About Author

practicing Catholic, non-practicing lawyer, homeschooler, novelist, blogger and thanks to Catholic Lane, now a writer.

  • Micha_Elyi

    A lot of money was wasted on those years and years of party schools.

  • Mary Nicewarner

    Fantastic article, Anabelle, and one I could relate to very much!

  • Sue Elvis

    Anabelle, great post! I can relate to all you say. I never thought I’d be where I am today. Thanks be to God I am no longer the person I was. I am ever hopeful others will find their way to God too. If He could call me, why not anyone? Yes, it’s hard exposing our former selves to our children but I think it does so much good sharing with other adults, especially those who are searching.. Thank you for your article!

  • MT McClanahan

    Speaking from experience, I would recommend against sharing too much information with your children before they are old enough not to take it as permission to go out and do something crazy!

    If it’s not too heavy, I would be interested in your thoughts on the Catholic idea of conversion (you spoke about reversion) compared to the protestant’s being “saved”. My catholic friends were not familiar with the later.

    • MT, strictly speaking conversion is when someone who isn’t from the Catholic Church joins the Church. Reversion is a term coined by some baptized Catholics for those of us who maybe left or disagreed with the Church teachings but had a change of heart/conversion along the way and returned to the fullness of the Church teachings. These are not official Catechism terms, just mine because there are some Catholics who also refer to their enlightenment/spiritual awakening as a “conversion experience.” As for being “saved”, I don’t know what that is technically. Hope I didn’t confuse you.

      • MT McClanahan

        I don’t know why this is so fascinating to me, or amazing maybe, that the
        Catholics I talk to aren’t familiar with the term “saved”. I guess it’s like
        your last on “spiritual poverty” that if we aren’t in it, why would we be
        familiar with it? Sociology/psychology in general is quite fascinating.

        Maybe it’s more colloquial, southern perhaps–coming from “saved by the grace of God”–kind of thing. But it sounds like it’s synonymous with your “enlightenment/spiritual awakening”, which in essence is what it is, or maybe a recognition of the sinful nature and need for reconciliation would be better.

        Have you ever documented your experience with spiritual awakening? Or have you written about what it is, from a Catholic perspective of course?

  • Monica

    Excellent! This could have been me you were talking about! It is amazing how things come full circle sometimes which lights a fire within us because we’ve been there done that.

  • Deacon Robert P. Barnard

    I resemble that remark!