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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: 02/03/20 Allison Dreher

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[music]

Good evening.

Welcome to The Journey Home.

I'm Marcus Grodi,

your host for this program.

Often I'm asked,

of all our work in the Coming Home Network,

and we're working with many non-Catholic Christians

that come home to the Church,

I'm often asked, you know,

what's the biggest;

which group do they come from, the biggest group?

And invariably,

the usual suspects

are the Episcopalians and Anglicans.

They make more sense coming home;

maybe the Lutherans.

Well, truth is, yes,

number one group of folk that come back

to the Catholic Church are the Anglicans

and Episcopalians.

But the second-biggest group are the Baptists.

What are they doing coming home to the Catholic Church

or discovering the Catholic Church?

Anyway, I use that as an introduction,

because our guest tonight, Allison Dreher,

is a former Baptist.

In fact, she's a former PK.

We'll find out about that in a moment.

She's also Director of Evangelization

and Catechesis for Mater Dolorosa Parish.

And, Allison, what a great privilege...

Allison Dreher: Thank you.

...to have you on The Journey Home program.

It's an honor to be here. Thank you.

And you've got a lot of things;

I know you; besides being a PK,

and we'll talk about that in a moment,

but also you did some work,

and still do some work with the UN.

I do.

And we'll talk about that.

And then your new involvement with,

I think it's really involved with Mystagogia.

So, RCIA, PSR- Parish School of Religion.

Yeah, all of the above, youth ministry. [laughs]

Well, that's exciting. That's exciting.

Well, we'll get to that in a moment,

but first let me shut my mouth

and invite you to start us on the journey, if you will.

Sure. Sure.

So, my father is a Baptist minister.

And my first, you know, memories are of church.

But we were in Las Vegas when I was little,

and I first became a Christian at the age of five,

in Sin City.

So, and our church was First Baptist,

First Southern Baptist in Las Vegas,

right off the strip.

And I remember laying in the car

and seeing the Hilton sign, you know,

all the lights from the strip.

And just knowing, you know,

not feeling, I mean, as a little child,

you don't really know about those kinds of things,

but I heard a simple gospel message,

you know, about Jesus.

Yes, He died on the cross for your sins. Yes.

And I knew all of those things.

And then the pastor says,

'Have you ever personally accepted that?'

And at five I was like, 'Well, no.' [laughs]

And he said, 'Do you want to?'

And I was, 'Well, yeah.'

And so, it was very simple childlike faith,

you know, walk down the aisle,

took the pastor by the hand and got baptized,

you know, at five years old.

And then, always, you know,

knew that part of the Christian life was obedience

and continuing to grow.

That was always something

that was, you know, taught to me.

And so, as I grew older,

I really struggled with that initial decision,

went through teenage years; 12, 11, 13.

And really thought,

'Is there any way that I could've known

what I was doing when I was five years old?'

You know, Allison, I want to pause here

because it fascinates me when I think

about the emphasis of your Baptist Church,

they saw the importance

of a person making a decision,

a choice, intellectual, willful choice of Jesus.

Right.

And we end up having these two extremes

that in Churches like the Catholic Church

or High Anglican or High Lutheran,

we can end up leaning toward the externals,

so long as you've gone through baptism

and confirmation and catechesis,

and you go to Mass, that's fine.

And sometimes there's no emphasis on making a choice.

Right.

Where the other extreme is,

once you've made the choice, you've arrived.

You've arrived.

You have these two extremes.

Yes.

We need to come together.

The sacraments are absolutely important,

but so is the choice.

Right. Right. Yeah.

What you're saying is that choice you made,

you're wondering, well...?

Was it real?

You know, as I got older,

I was always very precocious and intellectual,

and I thought, there's just no way

that I could have known

what God was going to ask me to do.

And there was no way that that was real.

And so, when I was 12 or 13 years old,

I did it again,

and I went down and I was like,

'I'm 12, I know some things about life

and I know what God's going to ask me to do,

at least to some degree

I know the kind of life

that I'm saying yes to now.'

And so, you know,

I didn't rededicate my life

because I convinced myself

that what happened when I was five.

And you weren't rebaptized?

I was rebaptized.

Oh, you were? Okay.

Because baptism was just a sign of that decision.

It was, but for me, it was an obedience issue,

because if what happened when I was five wasn't real,

then the first act of obedience is baptism.

And I was kind of embarrassed,

because my dad was a minister,

and here I am, 12, 13 years old

and I should have made that decision a long time ago,

but I swallowed my pride.

And I said, 'The first step of a Christian is baptism.

And if this is the real one, then I need to do it.'

And so, I got rebaptized.

A funny story is that, you know, fast-forward,

when I was getting married

we needed proof of my baptism.

And so I called the original church,

First Southern,

and they couldn't find my baptismal record,

but the one that was found

was the one that was when I was 12.

And so that's the one that I have in my file

as, you know,

so I don't know, is that?

That's funny.

[laughs]

I mean, I suppose from a Catholic standpoint,

it was the first one that really mattered.

Right, but the one I have a record of.

But there's no record of it.

That's right. [laughs]

And so, so you fast-forward

through my teenage years.

That whole Lordship issue

kept coming up over and over again.

'Who is Lord and Master of your life?'

And so my dad and I had very long conversations

about, when push comes to shove,

when my will rears up and hits

against God's will, who wins?

And so, I always wanted for God to win,

because I wanted to do what He wanted me to do.

I remember being 14, 15 years old

with my concordance

studying the Greek and the Hebrew

about the will of God.

And I wanted to make these Bible studies

to teach other people.

I've always known that I was going to be a teacher.

There is this retreat center in New Mexico

called Glorieta, and it's my happy place.

And there is this beautiful prayer garden

with a stone amphitheater.

And in evangelical, the evangelical world,

women aren't allowed to be preachers.

So, I would be alone in this stone amphitheater,

and I would get behind the pulpit,

and I would preach to those rocks.

And the Scripture that says, you know,

the rocks themselves will cry out if we don't.

I was like, 'The rocks are not

going to cry out in my place.

Let me tell you about Jesus, tell you about God,

and what He's asking, and how much He loves us.'

And He can make children of Abraham with these rocks.

[laughs]

That's right. That's right.

So, I always knew

that I was supposed to teach and, you know,

be, that's something I always knew.

So by the time I got to be like a junior in high school,

I had a very serious relationship with a boy

that was not a healthy relationship.

Several things in my life, just social anxieties,

body image issues.

I was in gymnastics.

I wasn't a great gymnast, but I still competed,

and I didn't have the right body type for that.

And just, you know, just,

I think just emotional difficulties.

And I had this boyfriend,

it was not a good relationship,

and he ended up, you know, cheating on me

with some other girls.

You know, purity was a huge thing for me

and I had made a, you know, the Promise Keepers thing,

that whole purity ring thing,

I had already made that choice

to wait until marriage for intimacy.

And so, that was something that he didn't,

my boyfriend didn't want.

And so, we broke up.

Long story short, we broke up.

And it was crushing to me,

because for me it was that

I wasn't beautiful enough

to keep and to captivate somebody

for a lifetime, you know that.

And so, I took all of that emotional energy

out into my physical appearance.

And sort of started to self-destruct.

That I'm not beautiful.

I knew I was smart,

but all of these things were because I was fat,

or because I wasn't beautiful.

And some of it, the promises of God, you know,

that, "He who keeps his mind on God

will experience the peace

that passes all understanding."

I didn't have that peace.

You know, some of those key Scriptures about,

if you follow after the Lord

with all your heart and soul and mind and strength,

you know, all of these promises,

I just didn't experience that peace.

And so, I just, either God was a liar

or I was just messed up.

And I knew better than God was a liar.

[chuckles]

And so, I was just messed up.

And so, I took all of that emotional pain

and I put it and directed it at myself,

and that relationship

that I had in high school

was kind of like the final straw for me.

And so, I made a vow

that I was just going to fix

what God sort of messed up.

And I started to have an eating disorder.

And that was right before

my senior year of high school.

I was able to hide it.

You know, I lost a lot of weight.

My parents, they say looking back

that they really underreacted during that time.

They wish that they could have gone back,

that they would have

really known what was going on,

but they had no experience.

I mean, we kind of rocked along.

Our family was, you know, we were a strong family,

we knew we were loved, all of those things.

The risk factors for eating disorders,

like I didn't, I wasn't in that category really.

You know, I had my dad.

I had, you know, my mom.

I knew they loved me,

but yet, here I was.

And so, when I was in college

it got really, really bad,

and I was 89 pounds.

Really? Whoa.

Yeah, it was not a good place.

And so, I remember

in February of the spring semester,

I called my Dad.

And I was like, "Daddy, I'm dying.

I need you to come get me."

And now he knew that I wasn't in a good place,

but I don't know if you've ever been

around anybody with an addiction,

when they're not ready to be helped,

they're not going to get help.

I had to ask for the help.

And so...

I was just wondering,

boy, a couple of things hit me about this.

Because, one,

it really points to

the danger dark side of Sola Scriptura.

Yeah.

Because you can pull a verse out,

and unless you have good guidance,

there are verses there that are scary.

Yeah.

And that's what it sounds like you're saying.

You're looking at, you know,

I should have this peace, I'm not having it.

What's wrong?

"What's wrong with me?"

"What's wrong with YOU?"

And maybe it's, well,

maybe you need some spiritual direction

on those verses to help understand.

Yeah.

Martin Luther needed that, too.

I mean, he was so down on himself,

he created a new religion, if you will.

You know, so you need that spiritual direction.

But I'm also wondering is;

I don't understand eating disorders,

so I'm not going to pretend,

but when you looked at yourself in the mirror,

did you always see yourself un-beautiful?

I did. Yeah.

No matter what you saw there?

Yes, it was kind of a body dysmorphia

kind of thing.

I would literally see things

that just weren't there,

and truly believed that that's what was there.

And no matter what anybody around me would say,

I would just, 'Oh, you have to say that,

because, you know, you have to say I'm beautiful,

because you're my mom.

You'd be a bad mom if you said I was ugly.'

And so, during this time,

you know, I was a cheerleader,

and I could, I did tumbling and things,

but before I got sick,

this was right in the time

with that bad relationship,

I was doing something in front of a crowd

and a whole group of guys in the crowd

started mooing at me,

and telling me that I was a cow,

and that I was so white that I needed to tan.

And I stood there, and I just thought,

'These boys are telling me the truth

about who I am.

They have no reason to lie to me.

And here they are telling me the truth, right?'

So my friends, my family,

everybody's telling me that I'm beautiful,

but they have to, or they're bad people.

Here are these boys.

This is the truth about me,

and it changed me that night.

It was a very;

it was a very poignant moment in my life.

And I walked away from that just like,

"Okay. See? I'm right."

Wow. Our guest is Allison Dreher.

Um, I mean, what a vicious spiral downward.

What a vicious spiral downward.

And, as you said, when you have people in our life

that are in some kind of a spiral downward, how do you?

You pray for them, you love them,

but if they're, no matter what you say,

if they've got an answer

inside that says you're wrong...

Well, it's even kind of like

the cultural idea that, you know,

what I say in my truth, right?

I hear what you're saying,

but my truth says, you know, 'I know I'm right.

I know I'm right about myself.

You are wrong.'

And when I started recovery,

I read this book one time,

and I remember it dawned on me, the question was,

"Is it possible that you

might be wrong about yourself?"

And I had never considered that before.

And intellectually I had to think, you know what,

it is possible that I'm wrong.

It's not likely, [laughs] but it's possible.

And so, that was a little bitty crack in the door

that if it's possible that I'm wrong about myself,

and when I accepted that possibility,

God really used that to help in my recovery

from the eating disorder.

My favorite Scripture,

which I know I've mentioned far too many times

on The Journey Home, is Proverbs 3:5 and 6.

And it comes to mind as you're talking there.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not..."

"...onto your own understanding."

"In all your ways, point to Him

and He'll direct your path."

That's right.

That's kind of what happened to you,

but it took you being awakened

to that second line.

Yes.

It's not leaning on your own understanding.

And I knew that verse.

And I knew I wasn't supposed to do that,

but I just, I don't know,

I wouldn't believe that people in my life

that loved me.

Like, I know myself more than you know me.

And it was that idea

that if people really, really knew,

if they really knew what was in my heart,

they wouldn't love me anymore.

Were you saying that your parents

were to some extent oblivious

to what was happening in you?

I think the depth of the sadness

and the emotional pain that was there,

I think they were a little bit, not oblivious,

because my father is actually a counselor

and a very gifted counselor.

And so, he would, the spiritual direction

that you're talking about, I had all of that.

I did. We would talk about it.

He would counsel, you know, women

who were in very abusive relationships.

And I remember, and I've seen my dad cry

maybe five times in my life,

and four of them were because of something I did.

[laughter]

And I remember he was in my bedroom one night,

and it was during this relationship

with this boy that was very unhealthy,

and he said, "I counsel women

who are in these relationships

and they can't get out.

And he said, "And it terrifies me

to see the same thing in you."

And he cried.

And I was like, 'Daddy, don't cry,' you know.

And so there is just, uh, I don't...

Was this also connected with you being a PK?

You know, my dad and my parents

never put that perfection...

I mean to the point that you wouldn't be

as open to hearing him?

No, not at all.

Oh, okay.

Yeah, as far as like,

I am my own worst enemy.

My parents never put on me

this standard of perfection,

but as a PK, you do live in a fishbowl,

and I was held to a different standard

than other children.

When I was little,

I remember folding something in church

and it was making kind of a loud noise,

and one of the ministers,

he was the minister to the deaf,

and he was signing.

And I and I knew it was loud.

And I was like... [crunching sound]

And so, after church,

he kind of pushed me up against a wall

and he was like, 'You are a bad, bad.'

You know, and just said

some really terrible things

that just made me like, I was like,

'You know, I should probably get in the car,

because my parents are going to leave me at church,

because I'm a bad little girl.'

Now my dad found out about that he did that,

and he pushed him up against the wall,

and said, "I don't care

if she's running around like an Indian

about to, you know, burn down the church."

You know? He said,

"Don't ever say anything to her ever again."

And so, I was like, "Yeah!" You know, so.

This also seems to touch on

a little bit of a personality type,

because you were very sensitive.

Yes.

Another person may not have...

That's right.

...responded even to the boys making fun.

Yes.

Could have blown it off.

But you weren't going to blow it off.

No, very sensitive.

Yes, highly filled, feelings to the nth,

you know, different people

experience feelings and emotions

different levels,

and I've always been a very deep feeler.

Is that a common factor

leading to eating disorders, you think?

Well, an eating disorder is more about an addiction

than it is about, I mean, it is about emotions,

but all addictions come from the same place.

It's maladaptive ways of dealing with, you know,

emotions in life.

And so, I just picked food.

I mean I could've picked any number of things.

So, yeah.

Wow.

So, how long did this...

So, when I called my dad

and he came down to college,

I went into a treatment facility.

It was an inpatient treatment facility in Arizona,

and I stayed there for a few months.

I came home, and it was the summertime at this point,

and I moved back home with my parents.

Started college again,

and this is when I met my husband.

[chuckles]

So, I had just got back from this,

you know, and I was, you know,

at a healthier weight.

I was still very brittle,

but I met my husband,

and about six months later we started dating.

And I was kind of boy crazy,

like very boy crazy,

and every boy was a potential boyfriend for me.

And so, he was just another, you know,

very nice-looking, nice guy, paid attention to me.

So, I went out with him a few times.

But after a few weeks,

I realized it was getting kind of serious.

And I thought, 'We got to talk about God.'

[laughter]

'Where are you with all of that?'

And I found out he was Catholic and I was like,

'Oh, that's a problem.

Let's, let me introduce you to my dad

and come to my church.

Get you saved.

Get you to stop worshiping Mary.

You know, get you on the right track.'

The typical anti-Catholic myths.

Yes. Yes.

And so he did that.

But he was, you know, very gracious and he said,

"If I'm going to come to church with you,

then you should come to church with me."

And I was like, "Oh, yeah, sure, great.

I'll absolutely do that."

And I saw it as an evangelism opportunity.

[laughter]

Like, 'not only am I going to help this guy,

I can also help the priest,

and the whole Catholic Church.

And I'll just, you know, undo what Martin Luther did.'

And I had big plans, Marcus.

Had big plans for the Church!

And I came in armed with my Bible,

and I had some little pamphlet,

and all the Scriptures

about why the Church was wrong.

And the priest that we went to see,

it was on our college campus, I was 19,

and he had answers for all of my, you know.

Because you actually had a confrontation with him.

I did. Yeah, you know, we had a conversation.

And I was, you know, to me,

his theology was very sloppy.

His exegesis was even sloppier.

And I was like, but you know,

my logic from Point A to Point, you know, C.

A equals B equals C.

Therefore, A equals C.

He didn't see it like that.

And I said, you know,

'How can you be so comfortable

when I'm clearly showing you the flaws in your logic?'

And so, that got me scratching my head,

how he could be so comfortable

when so clearly I was,

you know, blowing holes in his theology.

And so, that sent us on a theological journey together.

Now, during this time, I would relapse,

and I would go back and relapse.

And so, my husband would come,

he would go to counseling with me,

and I have no idea why he stayed around, Marcus.

I'm sorry, relapse into your...

Into my eating disorder.

Yes, I was still in counseling.

You know, I would be going to school.

And then I would have a month that was good,

and then a month that was not good.

And Jacob, my husband, he would say that, you know,

he didn't really understand why he stayed either.

But what happened was that he would go to Mass,

during a particular amount, you know, a hard time,

and be kneeling there, and like, 'I'm at my end.

I can't love her.'

And he would hear, you know,

'Just stick it out.

Stick it out.

You love this woman.'

And he would come back renewed

with this new sense of purpose and desire and strength,

to walk with me through this time.

And I'm sitting there scratching my head.

And I'm like, 'Any other guy

would run screaming from my crazy.'

I mean it was crazy times.

And so, when I talk about my conversion story,

it's recovery, conversion,

and a love story like all wrapped up into one.

And when I taught school, my kids, my students,

I had taught religion and science,

but in religion class,

they wanted to hear about my story

more than they wanted to talk about,

you know, liturgy or whatever.

And so, I would find ways to weave my story

into what I was trying to teach them,

and they were riveted.

And so, for that year or so that we dated,

you know, we both really studied.

I, you know, got ahold of Scott Hahn.

Confession was so easy for me.

That was one that was not a problem,

and that's because somebody who is going

through an addictive, addiction recovery,

they work the 12 Steps, right?

And one of the steps is to admit what you have done,

out loud, to another human.

And I was like, well,

if the Holy Spirit is a part of that

and Jesus is a part of that,

and there is true spiritual cleansing and healing,

I knew the healing that came from working the Step.

And, but confession I was like, 'When can I go?'

You know, that was not a problem for me.

The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist,

not a problem for me.

Purgatory was a little bit of, you know, of an issue.

But Mary, I mean, she was just my biggest hang-up.

I could not.

I just, I'm like, 'This is idolatry.

I'm sorry.'

And so, I get, you know,

a year-and-a-half, you know,

later, I got really bad again,

and I had to leave again

and go into another treatment center.

My husband moved in;

we were still just dating,

we weren't even engaged.

My husband moved into my parents' home,

because he was working

at the Baton Rouge airport.

And so, it was easier

for him to go from my parents' house,

than from where he was from.

And I was only allowed to talk on the phone

for like 15 minutes on a Saturday

and 15 minutes on a Sunday.

And he would stay there

and live for those 30 minutes,

to be able to talk with me.

And so, you know, he stuck it out.

I was there for about six months.

I came home on a break for Thanksgiving,

and he asked me to marry him,

in front of my family.

It was like a Christmas thing.

We were all able to.

And so, he proposed in front of my whole family,

and I was shocked.

I'm like, "I'm crazy. [laughs]

Why do you want to marry me?"

And I mean I said, you know,

all these things go through your head

in just a second.

And, you know, because I knew that it,

well, I have to back up a little bit.

We got to the point where he said,

'I can't be Baptist,'

you know, he really studied.

He considered it.

He really thought;

maybe, maybe the Church is wrong.

You know, her dad is saying

some really very logical things

that makes a lot of sense,

but for him, he truly believes

that Jesus Christ founded the Church

and that Jesus will lead it

and guide it in all truth.

And he said, "I feel much more comfortable

standing before God at Judgment in saying,

'I gave you too much credit'

than to stand before God and be like,

'Well, I just thought I was right.'"

[laughter]

And so he was going to remain Catholic.

And I remember lamenting to my father.

I was like, "I can't be Catholic.

I can't!

I mean I've studied it.

There are beautiful things that I love,

that I know that I would really,

you know, grow as a Christian

or you know, but I just can't

say that I believe all that stuff."

So when he asked me to marry him,

I'm like all of these things, I'm like,

'I'm not Catholic, you are.'

I'm like what, you know.

And so, I said yes.

I was terrified; that whole,

'Once you meet the person you know,

you just know.'

I was terrified.

I didn't know. That's crazy.

And so we were talking afterwards and I said,

"Jacob, you know, how are we going to do this thing?

I mean, I can't be Catholic."

And he looked at me and he said,

"I love you with such a pure kind of love,

that this issue is going to be resolved.

I don't want you to become Catholic because of me."

And I said, "Well, I know you don't,

but you know, I just,

but in that moment when he said how much he loved me,

I believed his love

more than I believed my own fear and anxiety

about the thing.

And I trusted him.

And I said, "Okay, I believe you."

And so, my dad, you know, he said,

"You know you're going to have to become Catholic."

I was like, "I know. I know."

Your dad was accepting, supportive?

He was.

Actually, my dad and I are so close.

We have a wonderful relationship.

And he only ever said one thing to me.

We were in the kitchen,

and we have a long history

of like Baptist preachers,

and, you know, our family has been

in the United States since the late 1700s.

My great, great, great grandfather

was part of the Southern Baptist convention

in Florida.

William Peterson Ketchen is his name.

And so, we have this tradition, you know.

And so, he did say,

'I can't believe you're doing this to the family.'

And I was like, 'Ah, Daddy, that's not fair.'

And he immediately he was like,

'You know what? Babe, you're right.

And I'm so sorry.

Will you please forgive me?'

And we hugged,

and now, do we have spirited debates?

Yes. [chuckles] We do.

We have very spirited debates.

We talk about theology.

And he, when it starts to get

to where I feel uncomfortable

or, you know, like, 'Daddy, let's stop.

You know, I love you.

I'm not going anywhere.

I'm always going to be your daughter.

I don't know how you do it,'

because he could stand up and beat his chest,

and, you know, throw down the "I'm your father."

And he would be right.

But he never does that. Ever.

Well, we're going to pause here, Allison,

because we're stopping you at you have a husband

says how much he loves you.

Right?

Yeah.

But you can't become Catholic.

Even though your dad says, okay.

So, there you are.

Yep.

Okay, so we'll take a break

and we'll come back.

What happened

in the second part of the story?

And I do want to remind you,

as we take a break,

of the website, chnetwork.org,

where you can find lots of stories like Allison's.

Hers is uniquely powerful,

and we'll hear the rest in a moment.

But I do want to encourage you

to check out our website.

So we'll see you in a bit. All right.

[music]

[music]

Welcome back to The Journey Home.

I'm your host, Marcus Grodi.

And our guest is Allison Dreher.

So, we've left you

at a seemingly insurmountable barrier,

if you will,

but the positive thing

was that you were aware of your own issues, right?

Yes. Yes, very aware.

Even from the very beginning I knew,

but I just, I got the result that I wanted.

I lost weight, right?

So I continued to do it.

So what I didn't say before the break is that

when I studied Catholicism,

I actually enrolled in some RCIA classes.

So I went through one at a church in Baton Rouge,

and it just, nobody was there with me, I was alone.

You know, Jacob, my boyfriend at the time,

nobody was around, so I just stopped going.

And then I went on a second time at Christ the King,

was the Student Center at LSU.

And so, I went through that a little bit, too,

but again, it just, it just, I stopped.

And I think I relapsed during that time too

into my eating disorder.

And it was just an unhealthy, you know,

thinking process,

and I just kind of, you know,

I think there was a woman there

that took a really, really beautiful interest in me,

and we went on some retreat,

and I think I relapsed into my disordered thinking

and behavior patterns,

and she tried to save me and help me.

And again, when a person is there,

if they're not ready to be helped,

nothing you do is going to help them.

I had to be ready for that.

So, so my husband asked me to marry him.

I knew I was going to have to become Catholic.

And so, even my dad even said, you know,

"If you're going to marry Jacob,

you have to become Catholic.'

And I said, 'I know, Daddy.'

And he said, 'If you can come to terms

with that in your conscience,

then I give you my blessing,

because he's a fantastic man."

And I said, 'I know.' I know.

And so, so we got married

in my dad's church.

It was an ecumenical ceremony.

We had dispensation from the Bishop

in Baton Rouge, for matter and form,

because my dad was a pastor.

And so, we had the priest there, my dad there.

My dad walked me down the aisle.

And then took his place,

you know, next to the priest.

Which was really beautiful,

because had I already become Catholic,

we wouldn't have been able to do that.

And so, I wasn't Catholic yet,

and so that, you know,

we were able to have that kind of a ceremony.

And so, we went back to Alabama.

My husband was in the military.

He was in flight school.

And so, I went through RCIA.

Now by this point I knew enough

about Catholic theology

that I could've probably been confirmed

right then and there.

But my priest, he was like,

'You know, Allison,

I know you know all this stuff,

but I really think

you should get this community aspect of it.'

And I was kind of mad at him, but I was like, 'Okay, fine.'

So I went through the whole...

Because you were baptized, and twice!

Twice!

Second one stuck.

No, I'm kidding. [laughs]

In that sense, RCIA isn't necessary.

But the community part was.

He was looking at you and said

'I think you need to do this.'

Yeah, so I went,

and there were a couple of people

in that RCIA class with a similar background,

so I was able to explain the Catholic faith

in a way that they really understood,

because, you know, I had already struggled

with those questions.

But when they took out the rosary,

I was really mad.

I was really mad about that.

I was like, 'We are all going to get struck down

by lightning.

Don't you understand what you're doing?'

And I was angry about that.

So, fast-forward, you know, it's the night,

this is when The Runaway Bride, the movie, was popular,

and so they nicknamed me The Runaway Catechumen.

We're standing out by the Easter vigil fire.

And the priest goes,

'The Baptist church is right over there.

You want to go?'

I'm like, 'It's all locked up, Father.

Like, nobody goes on the night before Easter.

Why go?' So, you know,

so I became, I came into the Church

at the Easter Vigil.

And when the Bishop asked me,

"Do you believe everything the Church teaches?"

about a million thoughts flooded my mind,

because the answer was no.

I was only doing it out of obedience.

Out of obedience.

Out of submission to my husband,

in respect to him,

for our future children,

because I'm a lot louder

and more obnoxious about my faith than he is.

And when we had kids, they would listen to me,

and that's, that's not the right order of things,

and I didn't want that.

I didn't want to go to church in separate places.

So those were the reasons why I did it,

in obedience to really to God in the Scriptures, right,

and His plan for the marriage,

and how a marriage and a family,

you know, the husband is the head of the household,

and I wanted that.

I wanted to do it God's way

more than I wanted to do it my way.

And so, and when the bishop asked me that question,

I'm like, how do I, what do I do?

And I said the prayer,

"Lord, I believe, help my unbelief,"

for the first time in my life.

I've never said that prayer.

I've always been able to prove to you

why I was where I was.

And so, I said, 'You know, God,

if this is right,

you're going to have to show it to me,

because I just don't see it.

All of these people are telling me

that all of these things are right,

and this is the true faith,

and this is the Church that Jesus founded.

And I don't see it.'

And so, all of that in a split second

went through my head.

And so, when I said yes,

that was what was in my heart.

You didn't go [mumbles]?

I didn't.

[laughter]

I didn't.

"And do you believe

everything the Church teaches?"

'I do. Well, yeah. Yes.'

[laughter]

So I, you know, fast-forward again.

So, as far as like coming into the full realization

of where I was,

that took a very, very long time.

We started, you know, gosh,

the whole contraception issue,

a year-and-a-half after we got married,

I was scratching my head.

I needed a new prescription.

It's like, 'Babe, I think I heard along the way

somewhere that the Church says

that contraception is wrong.'

And he said, 'If you can prove to me

that the Church is wrong,

then we'll still use contraception.'

I'm like, okay, cool.

So I Googled how the pill worked,

and for me it was the abortifacient mechanism

of contraception.

And nobody had ever told me

that it changes the lining of the uterus,

so that a fertilized egg might not implant.

And for me, I mean I'd always said,

I believe life begins at conception.

I knew enough about anatomy and physiology

to know that there is a fertilized egg

for several days,

before it reaches the uterus.

And so, I think CS Lewis said that,

"Only a risk tests the reality of a belief."

And so, I sat there with this crisis of faith,

and I was like, 'Surely that pill

keeps me from ovulating every month,

because that's one way it's supposed to work.'

But there's no way to know that without having

an ultrasound every single month of my ovaries

to see if there was an egg,

and no insurance company is going to pay for that.

And so I was like, 'Well, I can't, I can't do that.

I can't, I can't.'

And so, my husband was sleeping,

because it was early in the morning.

And I woke him up and I'm like;

'Babe, we've got to repent, like right now!

Get on our face and ask God to forgive us.'

And I bought a book called,

'Taking Charge Of Your Fertility'.

I did not know that there were people

that could help me do that.

I just thought I was, because once I do,

once I find out that God

is asking me to do something, I dive off.

I mean, like, head first.

And so, I taught myself how to use NFP with this book,

and I stopped taking the pill right then.

And about three months later,

on purpose, I mean I know,

I mean I got pregnant.

It was a choice that we made,

and I knew that it was possible.

And now we have this beautiful 16-year-old son

named David, who is a joy,

you know, and has changed my life

for all the good reasons.

All my children have made my life better in every way.

And so that was one thing,

the whole contraception issue.

But by the time I had two or three kids,

I did not have any room in my brain anymore

to carve out my position theologically,

like I was just trying to keep,

you know, the dishes clean.

[laughter]

But when my second son was a year old,

being a stay-at-home mom is very difficult.

I don't know that anybody can quite prepare a woman

for what it is like to become a mother.

And that's part of my ministry

is just to help young mothers

to know that this is normal.

What you're feeling is normal.

And just talk them through that.

And so, I think for my own mental health [laughs]

I enrolled at Loyola University in New Orleans

to get my Master's degree in Religious Education.

And so, I started this Master's degree work at Loyola,

and this is where I became fascinated

with the history,

like 2,000 years of Christian thought.

I had never considered that before.

And I was like, 'That's a long time.'

And then I know that history teaches us

that hindsight is 20/20.

We can always look back and know that the answers

and the things that people did were wrong,

because we're living in, you know, the fruit of that.

And so, how could I ever, like, look back

and pass judgment on some, you know, anybody

Christian, or other, you know?

Because I'm living my reality

based on everything that they had done,

everything, good and bad.

And so, that was a new thought for me.

I read, 'The Purpose of the Church

in the Modern World,'

and I remember sitting at the library at Loyola

just in shock,

just thinking about Scriptural exegesis

and how we interpret the Scriptures.

And that all of us,

not on purpose,

but we come to the Scripture

from where we are in history,

and really is that interpretation the right one?

And I thought, well,

everybody thinks that

their interpretation is the right one,

and they truly believe

that they are being led by the Holy Spirit

and can come to two very different conclusions

about the Scriptures.

So, that was a new thought for me.

So, I finished my degree.

We went to McAllen, Texas.

My husband now works for US Customs.

And so, we moved to McAllen Texas,

and the Hispanic community,

Our Lady of Guadalupe,

is a huge part of that culture.

And so, I started to lead a women's study,

the ENDOW:

Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women.

I was trained as a facilitator in that.

And I led a group of women through that study.

I thought, you know,

I have my own issues with Catholicism,

so I can't really teach,

because I don't want to scandalize anyone.

You're not quite there yet.

Right. No, I'm not quite there yet.

But I am enough;

so I would go sometimes to the Baptist church,

and then we would go to Mass.

My oldest son remembers doing that.

He was like, 'We were exhausted on Sundays, Mama.'

[laughter]

And so, I led this group of women

through St John Paul's 'Letter to Women.'

And the way that the book was written

was to take continuous thought

that with the complementarity of men and women,

the Trinitarian image,

and all of it just brought me through

in such a way that I never really had

any kind of disagreement with it.

And then there was this chapter about Mary.

And the way that it was logically laid out,

it was just, 'Oh!

Oh!

I understand now.'

And it was like the lights all just bling!

And I was like, "Mary, oh my gosh, I am so sorry."

Because I just kind of put Her on a shelf,

didn't want to think about Her anymore.

But the whole understanding

of the purpose for masculinity,

the purpose for femininity,

you know, God's plan for woman

has everything to do with Her.

And not by any merit of Her own,

but just because of the plan of God

from all eternity.

And it just made so much sense to me.

And I thought, 'Okay, this is it.

Like, I'm a real bona fide Catholic now.'

And so, I had a Master's degree in Religious Ed.

I understood Mary.

Purgatory was like, now that Mary is there,

purgatory was not a hard one for me either.

You know, Sola Scriptura,

you know, that hadn't crumbled for me quite yet.

Sola Fide was never a part of my,

because I always knew

that it was more than just faith.

It had to be lived out.

Yeah, I was always taught that,

to trust and obey.

"There is no other way to be happy in Jesus,

but to trust and obey."

That was a child's song,

and I had always known that.

So, Sola Fide was never part of my imagination,

but Sola Scriptura certainly was.

But I had this whole desire to serve the Lord,

just that fire that when I was preaching to the rocks,

rose up within me again,

and I was like, I can do this.

And there was a position

at the Diocese of Brownsville

for the Office of Catechesis,

the Director of the Office of Catechesis.

And I'm like, that's the job!

But God was like, 'No, no, no, no.

Just wait, just wait.'

My daughter was only two.

Yeah, I was like,

'Okay, she's still kind of little.

I can't put her in daycare.

I know it's important for me to be home

with those thousand days being with my kids.'

And so I waited.

And then I met this woman.

Her name is Laura, and she said,

"Have you ever read, Humanae Vitae?"

And I was like, "No."

She said, "Have you ever heard

of the Theology of the Body?

And I said, "No."

And she said, "Well, here's Humanae Vitae. Read that."

And I, for the first time,

felt the weight of the Church's authority,

like BOOM!

You know, with the whole, like,

the whole contraception,

like every means of contraception;

condoms, anything that a couple does

to separate the procreative aspect

from the unitive aspect,

the Church says is wrong.

It was this big NO.

And I was so mad at Pope Paul VI.

I said, 'How in the world

does this celibate man

have any understanding,

any inkling of what he is telling women

that we have to do?

Like, this is crazy.'

And so, then I read Theology Of The Body.

Now it was Theology of the Body For Beginners.

And somehow, I had Kimberly Hahn's

'Life-Giving Love,' too.

And so, I read these in tandem with one another.

And Christopher West, he's so great,

but he's a guy,

and sometimes that guyness,

I was like, 'Okay, I can't.

Give me the girl.'

And so, then I had Kimberly,

and I would be reading it,

and it'd be the woman's voice.

And then, you know, women,

sometimes we can be a little much, too.

So I'm like, 'Okay, all right,

give me the guy.'

And so I did. I read it like that.

And the Church's teaching

about God's plan for marriage,

God's plan for marital love,

God's idea for masculinity, femininity,

the way they come together as a Trinitarian image,

it was like I had been putting a puzzle together

my whole life, and this final piece put in,

and I just under...

I just got it.

And I remember, it was almost like

a salvation experience for me.

I felt like Mary Magdalene

on the day of the Resurrection.

Nobody knows this.

I mean, I know that other people do,

but I felt like I was the only one,

and I wanted to shake people awake.

Be like, 'Have you read the Theology of the Body?

Do you understand that when we add in

contraception to the man/woman relationship,

it fundamentally changes

the way that we interact with each other,

especially on the most intimate,

intimate levels?'

And so, you know, we, my husband came home,

you know, he gets nervous when I read encyclicals,

because our life changes.

[laughter]

And there were some things that we were doing

that were immoral.

And so, I was like,

'We can't do these things anymore.'

And so, in my mind,

marriage was a big yes, right,

so that intimacy, physical intimacy is a no,

until you get married.

And my expectation was that, once I get married,

I will never ever, ever

have to say no to this man ever again.

The answer is yes, always.

And after reading this,

if a couple wants to avoid a pregnancy,

the answer needs to be no for a while.

And I really had a hard time with that.

I was like he waited for me for 2 1/2 years.

He should not have to wait anymore.

He shouldn't.

And here I was, well, okay,

well, that means a baby, you know,

women are only fertile

for little bit of their cycle,

but I would have to say no.

And so I struggled through those things,

but really what it was,

was God was working on my heart,

because I had two boys, and then I had my daughter.

I'm like, 'This baby-making factory is closed.

We're all done.

I have goals and desires,

and I want to career,

I want, I want, I want, I want.'

And God said, 'What if,

what if I asked you to have another baby?'

And I was like, 'Huh? Come again?

Like I have big, big plans, Lord.'

And He said, 'Well, what if that's the big plan, Allison?

What if I asked you to do that?

Could you hear that?'

And I was like, 'Well, no, because, Lord,

having a baby means home.

That means home,

and I want to preach for You

and teach for You.'

And He says, 'That's great.'

And I said, 'And people,

they say they learn

and they hear Your voice through me.'

And he's like, 'Thank you for that.

What if I asked you not to?

What if I wanted you to be silent and hidden

for the rest of your life?'

And I was like, 'Why would You give me these gifts,

if I was supposed to be silent?'

And he just was silent.

And I said, I call it my Abraham moment.

And I was like, 'Okay, Lord, this gift, this desire,

this whatever it is that you've put in me

is my Isaac.

And I'm going to put on the altar for you.

And either You're going to take it,

or You might give it back to me.

I don't know what You're going to do with that.'

And I got pregnant right away.

And so, I knew that I'm like,

'Okay, God, I'm going to be sad, in a way,

for the rest of my life,

because I have given You something

so, so precious to me.

My dream, my desire, my, you know,'

I said, 'But I know You can put me back together,

but I'm going to be a really annoying daughter

for the rest of my life.

I just need You to know that.'

[laughs]

Well, I lost that baby

at 17 weeks, my fourth child.

And right as I had miscarried,

all of my desires and dreams came true.

I got a call from the school.

I started teaching at school.

I was the science teacher,

and I was the religion teacher.

I got a call from New York City.

I was going to go to New York City,

and be in a video about Natural Family Planning.

I got a call to go to Bulgaria.

I went to Bulgaria to be a missionary

and talk about sexual ethic,

and God's plan for love and marriage

to Muslim students in the Rhodope Mountains.

I started going to the United Nations.

All of these wildest,

because New York was always part of my desire.

That people when I was in high school they would say,

'What do you want to do whenever you grow up?'

And I said, 'I don't know.

Whatever it is, it's going to be in New York City.

I'm going to be dressed very professionally,

and I'm going to be in charge of it.'

[laughter]

And I remember when I was there for the first time,

I walked up Fifth Avenue,

and I was in my business suit

and I had my UN badge,

and it dawned on me that it had come to pass.

And, and I was just, you know,

and in the middle of the all of these,

all of my wildest dreams coming true,

I had other miscarriages.

I was completely;

So my husband and I went from using NFP

with kind of a contraceptive mindset,

you know, like, 'We're going to use this

as Catholic birth control,'

to we went all the way to the other side,

like, 'We're just going to take all the babies,

you know, just bring us all the kids.'

That's kind of where we;

we were looking at 15-passenger vans,

you know, just get ahead of the game, right,

like just go ahead and dive in.

And God had other plans.

And so, I lost Jordan at 17 weeks,

and Jaden at about 16 or 15 weeks,

and then Gabrielle at about 12 weeks.

So within a period of two years,

I had three miscarriages.

And in the middle of doing all of these things,

and so when God gave it back to me

like, you know, with Isaac, He gave them the ram.

So I knew that these things were from the Lord,

because I had fully submitted everything,

and He had given them all back to me.

Now, He continually asks me for that,

and I'm like, 'This is Your thing, God,

whatever you want, it's Yours,'

because He'll keep asking.

And so, yeah.

So, that was a big;

the Theology Of The Body moving,

you know, to a different place of full,

a more full submission to the Lord.

Now this move, as Director,

is a move away from your UN work,

more to a local focus?

Yeah, so I was working for the St Augustine Foundation

for about four or five years.

And that was in New York,

and then the UN work is also in New York,

but that's for WOMB International.

I'm a certified Billings ovulation method teacher,

so I help couples who want to

plan their families naturally

using the Billings ovulation method.

And so, when I go to the UN,

I am there for WOMB International,

but then the work that I did in New York

for the St Augustine Foundation

was a 13-week online course in chastity that I wrote,

and it included charting for girls for their cycles.

My desire for that

was to lay a foundational learning for women,

so that they understood their bodies well enough

that the move from fertility awareness

to using it for family planning

would be a very natural progression,

rather than, 'Oh, by the way,

Here's this thing, now that you're married.'

I felt like it was too late.

It was just this gap that wasn't being filled.

But what happened was the foundation

started to move in a little bit of a different direction

with their funding and some of the energies.

And so that was in April of this year,

and my priest;

we got a new priest, Father Ruben;

and he asked if I would help

with the local church.

And when I saw that the foundation

was moving in a little bit of a different direction,

I was like, 'You know what?

Yes. Yes.'

And so, I stepped away from that other position

to be the Director of Catechesis

and Evangelization at our church.

I'd like to, well, there's a lot of things

I'd love to talk about,

but we have about just five minutes left.

Well, one of them is your Isaac moment,

because it reminds me of

a lot of folk that we deal with

in The Coming Home Network,

who are Protestant ministers, let's say,

and are drawn to the Catholic Church,

but they're worried about losing their ministry.

And it really comes down to that Isaac moment,

is saying, 'Is this the Church?

And are you willing to let go of everything,

with the possibility

of never even being in ministry again?'

Yeah.

Are you willing to do that?

And, but your witness is

that that the choice of accepting God's call

in the Isaac moment is worth everything.

It is, absolutely.

And I was willing to let it all go.

And when I got pregnant right away, I was like,

'Okay, Lord, this...Okay. I'm yours.'

And there was actually joy in the sorrow,

knowing that I had done what God had asked me to do.

And so, I could find peace there.

Yeah.

I was also thinking,

and you're far more trained

in the Theology of the Body than I,

but I look at the craziness of our culture

right now in sexuality issues, marriage issues.

I mean, just absolutely bizarre, in my mind,

where we've come in the last 10, 15, 20 years.

Things are being accepted,

promoted in our culture

that our parents and grandparents

had never dreamed we get there.

And I almost wonder if it's the devil's reaction

to Theology of the Body.

Maybe so.

Here's John Paul's Theology of the Body.

We would have never dreamed where we're at now,

Then here we are in spades in the other direction.

Yeah. My husband says that,

here we are, we're three to four generations

past the sexual revolution and the pill.

There's no way that we could've had

the sexual revolution without,

you know, birth control that was, that worked.

And he says that, you know,

three, four generations in,

we now have men who have never ever

had to exercise self-control in that area, ever.

The idea that our activity could lead to a child

never crosses anybody's mind.

And this is how you get a 15-year-old girl

in a pregnancy center

really believing she doesn't know how she got pregnant.

And then we get all patronistic on her, right?

'Well, you know, did you do the thing

that you have to do to have, you know?'

But what she's doing

is simply operating in what our culture

and society have told her.

'If you take this pill, and you use this device,

you won't get pregnant.

Or you won't get a sexually transmitted infection

or whatever.'

And they believe that,

because that's what we've taught them.

We got an email.

Cecilia from Michigan.

Oh gosh, that's a big question.

Umm, [sighs]

[Marcus chuckles]

'The Letter to Women,'

Sr Prudence Allen was the one

who wrote the commentary for that.

So, anybody that wants to get started,

I would really recommend that study through ENDOW

is, you know, John Paul II's 'Letter To Women,'

and then Sr Prudence Allen's exposition of that.

And as far as women's role, [sigh]

that's a cosmological kind of question, you know.

Women are the physical symbol of creation

of the Church, you know, "She, Bride, Mother."

So our role is very unique

in that we symbolize the thing that we are.

And so, that was the beauty

of the understanding of Mary,

is that I symbolize the thing that I am.

Mary is the ultimate symbol of that,

but every single woman is that same image.

And the really crazy thing is, is that

men are also a creation.

They are also called to be a part of the Church,

not that men are women;

men are always and always forever men,

but they are called to be part of that,

the body of Christ.

So I don't know if that answered her question

or not, but [laughs].

Well, in that Ephesians 5 passage,

it was so important to you to understanding Mary,

as you talked about earlier,

there's certainly there's a passage

about a wife being submissive to her husband as the head.

But the men's job is, 'Men, you love your wives,

as Christ loved the Church.'

Well, in that passage

it's making the woman and the Church, one.

Yes.

The model of the Church is the wife.

And the wife and the Church, that uniqueness.

And as we, as husbands,

look at the sacrifice of Christ for His Church,

we are to do that for the wives.

Yeah, men are supposed to reveal

and relive on earth the fatherhood of God,

and to the degree that they love like Christ,

that is where their power lies.

So, materdolorosa.net.

Yeah, that's our church website.

And then all the courses that I wrote

for The Sisterhood

of Catholic Women and Adolescents,

they're still online.

And I share them with anybody.

Yeah, so if anybody; it's free.

I'm not trying to sell a curriculum or anything.

[chuckles]

Well, thank you for everything.

Of course, yes.

For your story, and for all the work you do

in service to our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church.

Thank you.

And thank you for joining us

on this episode of 'The Journey Home'.

I do pray that Allison's journey

is an encouragement to you.

God bless you. See you next week.

[music]

The Description of 02/03/20 Allison Dreher