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Atheist Converts to Catholicism

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By Marc Massery

Growing up in an historically Jewish family who had no faith, Beth Knee of Sixteen Acres, Massachusetts, never even thought to pray to God. Though her childhood was nothing short of miserable, when she reached adulthood, she managed to find a decent man to whom she got married.

"Of course, he had his own issues," Beth said. "We did not stay together after 18 years, which then led me to be very depressed, because I had nobody."

Beth was taking medication to try to treat her depression, but at one point, she was so overwhelmed with grief that she could hardly gather the energy to get off the couch. That's when God came crashing in.

"It was bizarre," she said. "One day I was sitting on the couch. I didn't even know how to pray, I was so unavailable to God. Somehow, I said a prayer, a simple, little, nothing prayer like, 'I don't know what to do, God. I've done everything I could possibly try to become a healthier person and nothing is working.'"

As soon as she finished that prayer, something incredible happened. "I stood up, and I was given this [grace]. It was very strange," she recalled.

A thought suddenly came to her. She remembered that a Catholic church called Our Lady of Fatima was within walking distance. "I went over there and sat, and I didn't even really pray. There was a statue outside of Mary and the three shepherd children, and I just started going there," she said.

Though Beth had nearly no knowledge of the Catholic faith, she started attending daily Mass. "I didn't receive Communion, but I would go to morning Mass. Talk about strange! Why would anybody do that, especially with my background?"

A local Catholic deacon recommended she go to a Catholic prayer group run by a woman who had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother.

Around this same time, Beth received a medal of St. Kateri Tekakwitha and attached it to her Rosary beads. Within a couple of weeks, she felt her depression melt away. She believes she received a miracle. "All of a sudden I had stopped my medicine — I didn't need it," she said. For years, nothing had worked, but suddenly she felt well enough to get a job and continue on with her life.

"So anyway, that happened, and that was all good and dandy. Of course, even though I was able to function now, which was profound, I still had issues," she said.

Beth started attending RCIA classes, and in 2016, during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, she was received into the Catholic faith. Around that time, she received an advertisement in her email about a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, where Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858. She knew she couldn't afford the trip, but she couldn't get the idea of going on that pilgrimage out of her head.

"I went to talk with my pastor. We were just chatting in generalities. I told him about the Lourdes trip. But I said there was no way I could ever do that because it cost twice as much as the average pilgrimage," she said.

The next day, though, she found an envelope on her seat in the pew. Her pastor had given her $500, enough money to submit a deposit for the trip. "I just couldn't believe it!" she said.

Thanks to the generosity of others in her parish, she went to Lourdes. When she arrived, all she could think about was bathing in the holy waters.

"You walk into a stone area with steps and you look forward, and I heard someone say 'Just talk to Mary.' I was standing there, and all of a sudden, I didn't think I was saying anything, but I heard myself saying things like, 'I am so sorry, Mary, for ever having offended you. Please forgive me.'"

After the bath, she felt as though she were in a cloud of euphoria. "It was an unbelievable afternoon," she said. She's been back three times to Lourdes, and plans on going back every summer as a volunteer.

"Mary told St. Bernadette, 'I do not promise you happiness in this world but in the next.' Many people think she meant that you'd only get happiness when you die. But I don't think that's true," Beth reflected. "What Mary meant was that she can't give us happiness in the secular world. But she can give us happiness in the heavenly world, which we can [participate in] even while we're on earth. Because that's what I feel now."

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