Former Jew and Evangelical Christian
How does a Jewish person of faith convert to Catholicism? To judge by Rosalind Moss’s eighteen-year journey into the Church, the answer is . . . very slowly. Raised in Brooklyn, in a conservative Jewish home with one older brother and one younger sister, Moss never even considered that she would ever be anything other than Jewish. “It’s what I was. We were God’s people. That was my identity,” says Moss.
“We waited for the Messiah to come,” adds Moss, “but He never did.” As a teenager, her brother David became an atheist; Rosalind became agnostic. “I figured that there was a God, but how could you know? I longed for meaning and purpose and to know why mankind was on the earth, but didn’t think that you could find God, or that merely knowing He existed could make a difference.”
“When I was thirty-two years old, I heard about Christ for the first time,” recalls Moss. “David brought me an article that said there were Jewish people who believed that Christ was the Messiah. I asked my brother, ‘You mean to tell me that the Messiah was already here? That He was the only hope the world ever had, and yet the Jewish people didn’t know this? That He came and left and there has been no impact, no change, no peace? That’s just insanity.’”
Not long after, Moss moved to California and met some of what she considered “neurotic” Jews who did in fact believe this. “They led me to the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world,” Moss said. “They showed me the Old Testament and pointed to John 1:29, which drove a knife through my heart. There I sat, shattered to think that this was true . . . that God, whose name we had written as G – d, had entered history and become a man to bring us home. It was an unbelievable thing.”
Moss immediately jumped into a nearby evangelical Protestant church and enrolled in every Bible study and outreach she could find. Her first Bible study was taught by an ex-Catholic who had been taught by a former priest. “So, right off, I knew that Catholicism was a cult and a false religious system. I spent the next eighteen years trying to save others from what I thought was the work of Satan,” recalls Moss.
“My brother’s search for truth led him first to a Baptist church. But it made no sense to him that God would have left us in so much confusion as thousands of denominations, and so he went seeking the Church God had intended. Two years later, David became a Catholic.
“In the summer of 1990, after having been a Catholic for eleven years, he gave me a copy of This Rock magazine. Inside was an advertisement for a four-tape series by a Presbyterian minister who had become Catholic — Scott Hahn. I had never heard of such a thing, and so I ordered the tapes.”
Just a week away from serving in a ministerial position at the Evangelical Church in Orange, California, Moss listened to the Hahn tapes. “I remember Scott’s words well. He said that for anyone who ‘would look into the claims of Catholicism would come a holy shock and a glorious amazement.’
“Here I knew that the Church was the work of Satan, and yet listening to that tape a ‘holy shock’ went through me. I knew, before God, that I had to look into the claims of the Catholic Church or I would be turning from God. Thus began my four-year agonizing journey toward the Church.”
The journey, Moss admits, was a difficult one. Right from the start, she decided to put the issue of Mary on a shelf and deal with her later, if she ever got that far. Instead, she first dealt with the sacramental nature of the Church.
“I had one hundred percent bought into the Calvinist thinking of total depravity. I believed that creation was absolutely corrupt, and that therefore God would not use things to bring about grace. It just didn’t make sense to me why God would use fallen creation.
“Yet in Scripture Christ uses mud and spit to heal the blind man. I wondered why He did that. He certainly didn’t have to. This led me to wonder why He changed the water into wine, when He could have just gone poof and made the change.
“Furthermore, I questioned the Incar-nation. Why would God have taken on flesh? I came to understand that creation is fallen, but not totally depraved, and that God can and does take creation and us and restore us to the dignity that He intended.”
Another issue Moss had a hard time understanding was the Eucharist. “I could not understand how, if we already had Christ, we could get Him. Did we get Him on Sunday and then lose Him during the week?”
One of Ross’ spiritual directors, Monsignor James O’Connor, helped answer her question. “He told me that ‘in a marriage relationship the husband and wife love each other and have each other all the time. Yet sometimes they are not very aware of that love. However, in the intimacy of the marital union it is the beloved giving to his loved, just as Christ, the Bridegroom, gives to His Church, the Bride, in the Eucharist, a total act of self-giving love that is unique to that time.’
“For me, that was extraordinarily beautiful. Monsignor O’Connor’s explanation of the Eucharist and the nature of the Mass as the once-for-all sacrifice of Calvary helped me into the Church.”
Moss’ final hurdle was understanding the sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ. “I could not understand how we could offer our lives with Christ,” she recalls. “It seemed as if we were saying that Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t sufficient.
“What enabled that truth to get through to me was thinking of a mother who is in the kitchen baking a chocolate cake. She has all that she needs. She needs nothing.
“Then her daughter comes into the kitchen and asks, ‘Mommy, can I help you?’ and so the mother lets the daughter help. The mother doesn’t need her addition, but it is still a true addition.
“My sins put Christ to death on the cross. However, now that I’ve come to love Him, if I could go back and be at the foot of the cross, even though I once cried ‘Crucify him!’ wouldn’t I now crawl up on the cross and give myself with Him? Wouldn’t I want to do that?
“Calvary, through two thousand years, is brought to us. We are at the foot of the cross and we can give ourselves with Him, in Him and through Him. That is the Mass.”
In the end, having dealt with every Marian doctrine and coming to understand the communion of saints, Moss started praying through Mary. Five weeks later, at the Easter vigil, 1995, she took Mary’s Jewish name, Miriam, as her confirmation name and entered the Church. Life has never been the same.
“Evangelical friends ask me what I have now that I was missing as an Evangelical. I tell them that I have not more than Christ, but I have the whole Christ. I have all that God has given us in giving us His Church.”
Of her conversion, Moss states, “I looked at every Protestant work I could find against Catholicism. In the end, looking into two thousand years of Church history, I learned that the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s comment was truly the case: ‘There’s not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they mistakenly think the Catholic Church teaches.’
“My heart was taken halfway to heaven. I never believed that there could be such a design.”
Moss admits that her conversion has given her a far better understanding of what it means to be Jewish. “The most Jewish thing a person can do is to become Catholic. When I was trying to save my brother from becoming Catholic, I went to Christmas Mass with him. Afterwards, I told him, ‘That’s a synagogue, but with Christ!’”
She draws comparisons between the Passover and the Lord’s Supper. “Passover was celebrated to point to Israel’s temporal deliverance from bondage to Egypt. The final Passover, the Last Supper, points to our eternal deliverance from bondage to sin. Both events required the participants to eat of the lamb.”
Moss now spends the majority of her time on the road, speaking to parishes, conventions and conferences as a staff apologist with San Diego-based Catholic Answers. In addition, she writes for This Rock and Be magazine, is a frequent guest on Catholic Answers’ live radio program, and co-hosted a sixteen-part EWTN series with convert Kristine Franklin, titled Household of Faith. Moss was awarded a 1999 Envoy Award for Best New Evangelist.
She’s not alone in her ministry efforts. Her brother David now leads the Association of Hebrew Catholics, a community that helps Catholics of Jewish origin to realize that they need not abandon their heritage in becoming Catholic.
“My wish, from the moment I gave my life to Christ twenty-three years ago, was to find a megaphone and a ladder tall enough to get to the moon so that I could tell the world that there is a Savior. Now I want to spend the rest of my life telling Catholics what they have.”