From Atheist to Being Madly in Love | Sr. Rose, O.P.
Born in Denver, Colorado, and moved to Minnesota at twelve years of age, Sr. Rose, O.P. was educated at home from third grade through the end of high school. She struggled with faith in her teen years and even considered herself an atheist for a time. She decided reading primary sources was the best way to determine if there indeed was a God. Her misconceptions of a mean and punishing God of the Old Testament and the sappy Jesus of the New Testament were corrected as she discovered the continuity between the Old and New Testaments and fell madly in love with God.
Sr. Rose, O.P.: I didn’t understand the mystery of suffering at that point, so I was confused about how there could be a good God and a loving God who also was causing or allowing all this evil to happen. But what I think was really a pivotal moment of God’s grace was I started reading Scripture for the first time.
I grew up on a lake, so I loved to do things on the lake with my siblings, whether swimming, boating, or kayaking. So, it’s a neat place to grow up. I was home-schooled from third grade through twelfth grade. And then that’s when I entered the convent. My mom is a convert to Catholicism, and that happened when I was about four or five years old, and so as she was being introduced to Catholicism, she brought a lot of Catholic ideas to our family. One of them was the idea of religious life, and so I was introduced to Sisters for really the first time in my life, probably around first or second grade, and I thought they were beautiful. I don’t think I thought super seriously about them because, when you’re a little kid, you want to be so many different things.
I befriended a couple of Sisters at that point and really loved them, but then again didn’t think about it until I was older. At that point, I also met Sister Mary Margaret. She was a postulant.
Sr. Joseph Andrew: Can you tell us any more about your conversion story?
Sr. Rose, O.P.: I fell away from the Faith. I was going to church because I was afraid to tell my parents, but I considered myself an atheist for a few years at the beginning of high school. I think part of it was my love of science. I didn’t see how you could have science and how it can’t prove that God exists, right. But then I also encountered suffering for a long time, and I didn’t understand the mystery of suffering at that point. So, I was confused how there could be a good and loving God who was causing or allowing all this evil to happen.
Sr. Joseph Andrew: Wow, interesting. And then how did you figure it all out?
Sr. Rose, O.P.: It was definitely a lot of ups and downs. But what I think was pivotal moment of God’s grace was I started reading Scripture for the first time because I thought this would be a really good way to figure out whether the Faith was real. It was a primary source. It was the primary test. So, I started reading Scripture and I had thought, and this is again just a misconception of my growing up. I don’t think this is my parents’ fault, I think this is my own fault, but I had thought there was this mean punishing God of the Old Testament who’s always punishing the poor people of Israel. Then there was this kind of sappy Jesus in the New Testament who was healing and forgiving everyone. And so, I had this very disconnected view of God. When I started reading the Old Testament and then started reading the New Testament and seeing the continuity between the Old and New Testament, even some of the imagery in the Old Testament, how it started playing into the New Testament, it started becoming alive to me for the first time.
My final impetus of the conversion was that I had been trying not to go through with Confirmation in high school. I finally gave in and said to God, it was like my first prayer in a long time, “Well, if you’re real, show yourself at Confirmation here.” I know you’re not supposed to make bargains with God, but He worked with my ignorance at that point. Basically, the moment I was confirmed, I just had this overwhelming sense that God is love and I just felt so intensely loved for the first time in my life, and I just had this zeal in my heart to share that love with other people. And it wasn’t even a “God is real” moment. It was just “God is love,” but through that, I knew God was real, and so I went from not being sure of the existence to God to be madly in love with God.
I want to share that love with other people. That was what I think provided the grace to be able to respond to a religious vocation. A few weeks later, after Confirmation when I still was full of this zeal, I saw pictures of our Sisters for the first time, and I was just shocked. I was like, “Oh, how can young women be doing this today?” I was very career-focused at that point and had a lot of different plans lined up and then realized that no, this is what I was supposed to be doing.