May 20, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – “I was an atheist for as long as I could remember” recalled Brigitte Bedard, a young-looking 41-year-old journalist and stay at home mother of six with cropped tousled brown hair and stylish thick-framed glasses. She was addressing a crowd of 200 participants at the Quebec Life Coalition pro-life conference on May 15 in Quebec City.
While Bedard is less well known than the conference’s keynote speaker – Cardinal Marc Ouellet – whose staunchly pro-life statements made later that afternoon were seized on by the anti-life Quebec media, she might be the speaker who most touched hearts that Saturday afternoon.
Ms. Bedard grew up at a time when Quebec society was undergoing what historians call the “Quiet Revolution,” a period of time from the early-sixties to the mid seventies when Quebec society shed its Christian heritage and adopted secular values. “I was born in 1968 — talk about bad luck” she joked.
Bedard had a typical childhood in a non-religious household, and went to the notoriously leftist Université du Québec à Montréal, where she studied literature, eventually graduating with an MA. “I filled my mind with all the radical feminist literature — I drank it all up” she said.
She began a series of heterosexual relationships, which all ended badly. “Prodded along by what I was reading, I began thinking that since all my heterosexual relationships were failures, that I might be a lesbian.” And in fact she dove into the lesbian lifestyle, and admitted that she revelled in it for quite some time. “It was actually a very good time, in a way, being with a big gang of girls, tearing up the town, chain-smoking like there was no tomorrow. I was also very sexually active.”
Despite the fun and the excitement of the lifestyle, she felt broken, she recalls. “I was a mental wreck. I just felt that I was spinning out of control, that I was keeping appearances but I was miserable inside.” Things came to a head when, inexplicably, she broke into tears one night at 3 am and began shouting in her empty apartment in a trendy district of Montreal, imploring God to “take her away.” “Here I was, a militant feminist lesbian atheist lying on my apartment floor crying my head off imploring God. I wasn’t in my right mind, but I was desperate for help.”
She began seeking help, meandering in and out of countless 12-step type programs, in the hopes of finding some kind of solution for her anxiety and “messed-up life.” To make matters worse, she had just quit smoking: “I was suddenly forced to face life in the raw, without any protection or buffer.”
At wit’s end, she recounted how someone she knew talked about visiting “the monks” at the famous Saint-Benoît Abbey in Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, Quebec. The idea, as bizarre as it seemed to her, intrigued her, and she went, but not without reservations. “I went to the monastery armed with all the contempt and hatred for the patriarchal Church that I had stored up from years of radical feminist studies. For radical feminists the Church is basically enemy #1.”
She entered the convent and was assigned a room and a monk with whom she could converse twice a day. “For three days in a row, two hours a day, I badgered, screamed at, practically foamed at the mouth in the face of this monk, dredging up basically every insult, cliché, dirty thing that I could think of, or invent about Christianity. I was so mad, so hurt and angry, and I was dishing it all out to this monk, who never said a word the whole time, but instead just looked at me, nodding his head.”
Then, at the end of those three days, something happened that changed her life forever. “It was the third day, the sixth hour of screaming. We were about to wrap up yet again. I was basically done screaming, there was a pause, and then the monk looked up and said to me “you have no idea, absolutely no idea how much God loves you; He made you out of nothing, he knows you, you have no idea how much he loves you, His daughter. So don’t feel ashamed, let it all go. Give it up, give it all up, give your life up to Him … He loves you so much.”
Those simple words at that crucial time “absolutely floored her” she recalled. From that moment on, her life had utterly changed. “I am His daughter, there are no two ways about it, and I can’t explain it.” She admits she is at pains to explain exactly what it was that caused her conversion: “I just say that God floored me, staggered me; I didn’t convert myself, he brought me to Him.”
She now works as an independent journalist and happily married stay-at-home mother of six. Life for her now is not all peaches and cream, however. “When I need quiet, there’s nothing I can do except for one thing: get up at 4 am. Which I do, pretty often, just to get some peace.” Remarking on the differences between her life now and in her lesbian days, she quipped: “Living with a man is definitely a pain, but living with a woman all the time was a living hell.”
Brigitte Bedard, who writes for the Nouvel Informateur Catholique, was one of four conference participants (plus keynote speaker Cardinal Marc Ouellet) at the annual Quebec Life Coalition conference at Quebec City on May 15. Video recordings of the talks (in original French, or dubbed in English) are available through Quebec Life Coalition.