Agnostic Convert

Whitney Belprez

Whitney Belprez was received into the Catholic Church in 2008 in Grand Rapids, MI. She and her husband own & operate Two Sparrows Farm & Dairy in Lowell, Michigan ( She also blogs at

I grew up in a home that was politely Protestant yet sometimes hostile towards organized religion. My younger brother and I were baptized in a interdenominational church when I was 5, and though I remember occasionally attending Sunday School, most religious endeavors and efforts had ceased by the time I was in elementary school. I always felt a curiosity toward my friends and classmates who were from families of faith, but generally didn’t feel left out – all but one of my friends came from fairly non-religious families. I entered high school externally indifferent about the existence of God, and even professed some strong agnostic beliefs, but deep down I never lost this feeling that there was something more.

Whether by Divine Providence, or just good luck, I exclusively dated Catholic guys throughout high school (interestingly enough, all of French Canadian descent). Through them, I was introduced to the world of Catholicism – it was mysterious, sensual, and completely foreign to me. The first time I ever entered a Catholic church was to attend Mass with my boyfriend and his family when I was still in high school. As his family sat and unfolded the kneelers I said, “Oh wow! Footrests!” I honestly thought the church had footrests installed and had no idea that they were used to kneel in prayer. Needless to say, his family didn’t find it very amusing!

Even when I wasn’t dating a Catholic, I still thought about the Church and somehow felt drawn there from time to time. I remember feeling something physically different about being in a Catholic church than any other church I had ever been in. I remember feeling warmth, comfort, peace, and calm wash over me as I would sit silently. I loved the way the candles flickered and gently illuminated the mesmerizing statues of Mary. It would be years before my heart was open enough to identify that physical feeling with Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist, and even longer before I recognized Mary as my mother, gently and patiently calling her child into her Son's waiting arms.

Late in high school, I went through a series of trials that included a serious medical condition complicated by the end of my parents’ 20-year marriage. At this time, I met the man whom I would eventually marry. He was, of course, a cradle Catholic and French Canadian, but something was different about his faith – and especially his family’s.

Meeting my future husband’s family proved difficult and challenging to everything I had come to believe and think. However, never had I seen people live their faith in a more authentic way. Not one of them claimed to be superior or holy in any way, but they joyfully answered the call to pick up their cross and follow Christ, even when it made them unpopular, foolish, and counter-cultural. I certainly didn’t agree with what they believed, or necessarily how they chose to live their life – but I deeply respected how authentically they attempted to live their Catholic faith. I was hooked.

Around this same period of time, I made the seemingly innocuous decision to drop my math class my final semester of my senior year of high school, instead electing to take a Comparative Religion course that one English teacher at my high school offered. I fell in love with learning about the sacred writings, traditions, and practices of the world’s great faith traditions. So much so, that I declared a Religious Studies major in college the following Fall and devoted all of my time to discovering the world of religion that I was so ignorant to as a child. I had no idea what I would do with this degree, but I had found something I loved and trusted that the money would somehow follow (which it did).

The Fall of my freshman year in college, I was wrestling with whether or not I should pursue joining the Church; at this point, I had been attending Mass on a regular basis and had come to believe the core tenets of the faith. I had prayed, read Scripture, and was discovering the Catechism of the Catholic Church but finally decided that I was perfectly comfortable attending Mass, and even marrying in the Catholic Church, but not “making it official.” This was a decision that had taken me several months to come to, though I never felt any pressure from anyone in my "Catholic cohort,” and for this I was (and am) immensely grateful. Within days of making the decision to not enter the Church I woke up one morning and knew that God was inviting me to become Catholic - I knew it like I know that I love my daughter. It was the most real, physical feeling I had on my heart and felt in my whole body – I can’t explain it any more than I knew with my entire being what God was asking of me.

After this realization, I immediately started my parish’s R.C.I.A. program. I found the process at my parish to be very prayer-filled and spiritual, but was frustrated when no one provided any real answers to my questions about the Church, many of which included the “W.O.C.A.H.” topics (as I’ve heard them called): Women’s Ordination, Contraception, Abortion, and Homosexuality. Beyond that, I had questions of heaven, hell, purgatory, salvation, grace, the Sacraments (did I really need to confess my sins to a priest?), the list went on and on. I was so thankful that I had the Catechism that at least gave me the “official” Church teaching and could point me to other resources to help me, and it was truly my desire for the Eucharist that kept pulling me all the way to the Easter Vigil. I know this is a difficult issue for many people, but, oddly enough, it never was for me. I had felt an inexplicable physical difference between Catholic churches and Protestant churches - God’s grace had finally broken into my heart and I realized that the physical reaction I was having was Christ calling to me to Him in the Eucharist. After that realization, I yearned and desired to commune with him in that physical way.

At the Easter Vigil in 2008, I was fully received into the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and I felt so blessed and joyful that God had led me home to the Catholic Church. Looking back, I was probably unprepared to be fully received into the Church that spring, but God’s wisdom and mercy are infinite, and my new faith played a key role in the development and growth of my (now) husband and I.

Becoming Catholic strengthened my relationship with my (now) husband, whose passion for the Church was ignited by my interest, and he began to rediscover his faith as an adult and take ownership of it. The summer after my reception into the Church, my boyfriend and I decided to move in together. His family was, of course, not supportive of us living together before marriage and my family thought we were young but had no moral problem with the decision. As Catholics, my husband and I knew what the Church taught about premarital sex, cohabitation, and contraception but had no understanding of the theology behind it. Though my fascination and love of the Church had grown, I still had no regard for the Church’s teachings on this matter. No one at our parish, including our priest, seemed to have any objection to our situation and lifestyle choice.

Though I would never admit it at the time, I had increasingly felt uncomfortable living together and engaging in premarital sex, though my discomfort was tempered when we became engaged just a few months after moving in together. Even though I wasn’t ready to listen, God was patiently and quietly directing us to a more moral choice - making the best of our less-than-perfect (or prayerful!) decisions.

We married a little more than a year after I become Catholic in the same church in which I was received into the Church. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful Sacrament, but once again I was disappointed with the lack of sacramental preparation we experienced - we were required to attend a one-day retreat through the Diocese, which was conversational fodder for our trip home. It was a concern when we discovered that many of the couples in our group had never discussed many of the retreat topics – finances, prayer life, family size, etc. We felt much more prepared for marriage, comparatively, yet not once did anyone even mention things like Theology of the Body or Natural Family Planning. It was quietly assumed that everyone was probably having premarital sex, contracepting, and cohabitating, and that seemed to be perfectly acceptable.

Our first year of marriage passed by generally uneventful – nothing seemed to have changed after getting married. We were living just like we did before, but we had just gotten a lot of gifts and a great big party. Around the time of our anniversary, I began feeling uncomfortable because I increasingly felt that God was asking us to stop using artificial contraception. Again, I can only describe it as this tangible, physical feeling that my entire being knew what God was asking of us (yet my will still wouldn’t obey!). I was put on the pill at 15 for irregular periods, like many young women are, and had continued to be on every brand and dose imaginable. My husband still saw no moral reason why we should stop using hormonal birth control, especially since he did not want to become pregnant until we were in a better financial position. I visited my doctor because I was experiencing excessive pain and bleeding from uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts, which he reluctantly said were probably a side effect of the prolonged hormonal contraception. This was enough to convince my husband to go off the pill.

Still, we had no idea how to practice Natural Family Planning - by God’s grace, my sister-in-law was (and is) an NFP instructor and when I quietly approached her about learning NFP she graciously, and without judgment, gave me all the resources I needed to transition to NFP. The entire year after I stopped taking the Pill was very difficult for us. It took my body a full six months to begin ovulating again, and it wasn’t until my body purged itself of all the synthetic hormones that had built up from years of taking the pill did I fully realize how damaging it had been to my entire being - body and spirit.

After we stopped contracepting, I had never felt healthier in my entire life – the cysts and fibroids had disappeared, my cycles were completely regular, and my migraines had become almost non-existent. I fell in love with the body that God created for me! As a woman, I felt that society and the medical profession had only ever told me that something was wrong with my body and that it was never good enough – finally I reveled in the fact that God had created a perfect and beautiful body that worked without always being on some prescription! My self-esteem and confidence soared – all because God was quietly and patiently leading me.

To challenge us even more, however, my husband and I felt clearly called to be more open to life in our marriage. We had only been married about 18 months at this point, and we had both finished college but my husband had been struggling to find consistent work and I was the primary breadwinner. We were living paycheck to paycheck, yet we had a lovely rental house, two working cars and always enough money for groceries. Not exactly what we wanted – but just what we needed. Yet, for several months we felt that we should be open to the possibility of a child. This was frightening, uncharted territory for both of us, and required a radical obedience to His call. Once again, I felt Christ calling me to be foolish in the eyes of the world so I could grow in holiness in the eyes of the Lord.

Using the gift of NFP, we conceived in Spring 2011. Our life immediately became more difficult and burdensome. Money was tight; our relationship was strained for many weeks, and my body was desperately trying to adjust to supporting the new life within me. God's ways are not always our own and we had so much to think and pray about. During those weeks of darkness, God truly carried us both.

However, God gave me such a gift in teaching me to embrace my femininity and my incredible ability to cooperate in His creation through bringing new life into the world. I chose to use a midwife and give birth at home, because of the confidence God gave me in my body's abilities. Our daughter, Cecilia Catherine was born on December 1, 2011 at 11:35 p.m. in our living room. Minutes after she was born, snow began gently falling outside and two of my best friends were there quietly praying a Rosary, supporting our new family. My husband had helped to catch Cecilia and we basked in the glory and perfection of our newborn daughter. She is the most beautiful gift I have ever been given and I believe with all my heart that she is not truly mine - all children are on loan to us from God and we have the responsibility of making sure they are returned to Him.

There’s a saying that reality is stranger than fiction, and I believe this is always true when we walk through our life with the Lord. In my personal journey, there are two lessons He is continually teaching me through His Church: trust and obey. Always. Because He is God and I am not. I have given up asking for what I want because I know it’s a useless endeavor with Him. Instead, I only ask for the strength to do His Will, whatever that may be. And I am so much happier for it – He offers us true happiness and true freedom if we only listen to the wisdom of His Church. Following the Way of the Cross is not easy, comfortable, or always pleasant, but the Eternal Creator always knows what is best for us - radical love, trust, and obedience to the Living God that is Love.

Whitney Belprez was received into the Catholic Church in 2008 in Grand Rapids, MI. She and her husband own & operate Two Sparrows Farm & Dairy in Lowell, Michigan ( She also blogs at

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