Testimony Tuesdays: Ryan Womack

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I cannot remember a time when I did not have faith. That is, I cannot remember a moment when I believed God did not exist. And I really don’t know if this is common or not, only that it is my experience. Blessed John Henry Newman—my Confirmation saint—says somewhere that he believes God exists like he believes that he—Newman—exists. I like this. Growing up in a Southern Baptist church in Oklahoma, I was very much in the buckle of the Bible Belt, and conversations about issues in family, school, politics always had the backdrop of Christianity, even if it was an outright rejection of this faith. What this upbringing taught me is the presence of God, of the reality of God and our duty towards Him. At the very least, the question of God’s reality was forced upon my imagination at a very young age and by people who believed in one and acted like it. What remained to be seen—and still has—is what God is like, how God has shown Himself to us, or has God shown Himself to us?

I had in a particular sense a conversion experience like many—at a youth camp before my eighth grade, after which I was baptized (albeit for the third time, but that’s another story…). That mark never left me, and my friends and leaders in my Baptist churches, and a Presbyterian church later on, showed me Christ in their teaching and actions.

I am currently a PhD student studying religion and literature, but I went to college so I could be a foreign missionary. The people I’d known to be most fully consecrated to God’s will were these people, and my church emphasized the need to evangelize the world. And this is true, for all desires are for the heart of Christ. But I had a different kind of conversion in undergrad, this time to literature. It was sort of like St. Augustine’s “tolle lege”, but I started grabbing for Tolstoy, Flannery O’Connor, Shakespeare, and C.S. Lewis. I found that consecrating my time to art and the written word was a way not only of answering—if ever in part—questions about who I am, but also a way of loving God with my mind. Beyond this, I have found it another kind of witness, of God as he has shown Himself to people across time, space, cultures, beliefs.

Much of this exploration, through books, church, and conversation lead me to begin praying the Divine Hours with some professors of mine at Oklahoma Baptist University. This, for reasons I cannot explain, lead me across the street to St. Gregory’s Catholic University, where they had an active abbey along with the university. These brothers—monks, we still call them—were the first Catholics I knew outside of those I read of, and I had never known anyone so committed to Christ in every way—in money, time, and marriage to the sacraments. This relationship grew into a time of exploring the Church, almost exclusively in books and Protestant worship, that lead to my confirmation in the Catholic Church in Easter of 2012.

My life in the Church has been in most every way wonderful, though also with its difficulties. These difficulties come with responsibility of knowing Christ more fully, and therefore knowing the reality of rejecting Christ; and so often we do this—I do this—but a more unimaginable glory is found in His forgiveness when we seek it. I have found a lot of ways of describing what it’s like to be in the Church, and right now I like to think of it as a house with many rooms of all shapes and décor. Better yet a house within city, with many more and beautiful houses. Better yet, we find out, that it is only a person, and the person is Christ, somehow in every part of all this and in all of us. Baylor has been an excellent place to continue discovering this, and my friends are impossibly good examples in fulfilling the faith. Anyways, I’m out of space here, but feel free to come talk anytime. Grace and peace!

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