A Love Story and a Conversion Story
This posting is a response to the following comment
”Hi, just wondering if you would be willing to post a story about how you and your wife met, the obstacles you two faced, and so on... is she a cradle Catholic?”
My wife and I first met on my very first day in Korea on August 29, 1997. I had been sent by the State University of New York in Buffalo to help establish some joint programs with the University of Ulsan. My wife, Hyunae, was working as a secretary in that university’s Language Education Center. We had in common that we had both been Spanish majors.
It was not until about eight months later, on a staff excursion to a mountain that we had a chance to spend any real time talking to each other. After that, we started dating and about a year later I proposed. She never really gave me an answer (Korean can be an ambiguous language), but about nine months later, on March 1st, 2000, I was introduced to her family. Any hesitation her parents might have had vanished, and I was accepted as a future son-in-law.
On June 10th of that year, we had our wedding photos taken (done well before the wedding day in Asia). On June 11th, my wife was baptized at the Anglican church I was attending (I was formally still a member of the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, but that denomination did not exist in Korea). On June 12th, we had a civil marriage at the US Embassy and the local Jong-ro Ward office in Seoul. While already married in the eyes of the state, it was not until August 9th, 2000 that we were married in the eyes of God with our parents and siblings present at a small ceremony at a Lutheran Church in Orland, California.
After a honeymoon in Zihuatenejo and Mexico City, we moved to Pohang, where I had started a new job. We started attending an Anglican church in that city. It had a very, very small congregation (five or six people any given Sunday), and was thus very, very personal. Some conflicts developed, as we were not the fervent believers nor tithers that the rest of the congregation were.
The day after Easter, 2002, a week before we were to be confirmed in the Anglican Church, we decided to find another “church home.” The “deal-breaking” issue was a petty one on my part; I believed the new priest of our congregation made some disparaging remarks about my lack of tithing. Out of my wounded pride came the best development in our life: our conversion to Catholicism.
In Korea, there were not many choices for churches. I ruled out the Presbyterians because in Korea their style is more akin to that of Pentecostals. From my Lutheran upbringing I had learned the value of the Liturgy: that was what led me to the Anglican Church in the first place. At the time I believed in Branch Theology and the Via Media
of Anglicanism and basically considered myself an Anglo-Catholic.
My wife suggested that we become Catholics. Her sister had become Catholic by marriage and like most Koreans, my wife had a very positive opinion of the Catholic Church (very different from the predominant anti-Catholic sentiment that still exists in America). I preferred Eastern Orthodoxy, but the nearest parish was about two hours away.
So, we started attending a local Catholic parish and I ordered many books from amazon.com. The two books that really convinced me were The Spirit of Catholcism by Karl Adam
and An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine by John Henry Cardinal Newman
. On Novemeber 30th, 2002, we were received into the Catholic Church and are due to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation on June 6th of this year.
The only obstacles we face now are those caused by our own egos and by our prideful attachments to our cultures. Both sides of our family and the majority of people in both of our countries have been accepting of our international and intercultural marriage. The birth of baby Joy Anastasia on June 17, 2003 cemented our sacramental bond even more.
It is the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist and the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary that has allowed Hyunae and I to practice the Christian Faith as Catholics with a fervency that we never dreamed possible as Protestants. The exciting thing is that we still have such a long way to go in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.