This is a fairly sensitive post on some of the challenges in relationships that have come with my conversion to Catholicism (and probably a good share of those that have already converted). I’m sharing this in hopes that others who are in the conversion process may find some comradery, knowing that they are not alone in their circumstances. We will always continue to pray for those that persecute us, that someday the Holy Spirit may guide them into the same truths he guided us to! When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth John 16:13
It seems, at times, that bearing the label “Converting to Catholicism” invites critique from everyone who isn’t already in the Church. Much like when you’re 8 1/2 months pregnant everyone feels the need to share their birthing horror stories, to remind you that you are bigger than a 2-story house, and express their opinion on epidurals, vaccines, whether or not you’ve found out the baby’s gender, the names that you’ve picked out, etc. You don’t even need to ask for that information – it’s volunteered! Of course they all do so in love, in caring for you and your family, but if they stepped back and thought about what they said (or *gasp* put themselves in your shoes) they may, at least, rephrase what they said or choose their words more carefully.
In the same way, if you haven’t been through bearing and birthing a child, or at the very least having been heavily involved in the process (like midwife, OB nurse, etc) then what you share with that pregnant mom is only here-say or opinion. You haven’t read all of the books to educate yourself. You haven’t taken all of the classes to find out what it’s really about. You haven’t attended a bazillion doctor appointments, read online the many discussion forums, or researched to the last drop what meds you can and can’t take. You don’t actually know what it feels like to carry that baby, to experience the morning sickness, the cravings, the sleepless nights, the sheer pain, or had the doubts of whether you’ll be a good mother, if you really have the strength to do this. How about you ask a young single guy what it’s like to have a baby – see how applicable those answers are hehe!
Interestingly enough, though, everyone seems to know all about Catholicism – without learning what the Church really believes (no, we don’t worship Mary, and how about checking the Greek to learn about the many words that translate into the word “pray” in English), without reading the history of the Church, without taking time to really research. I’ve been heavily criticized for the amount of research I’ve done. Yes, Google was involved at times. Yes, I’ve read much Church doctrine (from some of the writings of the early Church fathers, to documents of the Council of Trent, to the Vatican II documents, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church). Yes, I’ve read books upon books, listened to talk upon talk. I’ve asked more questions than a classroom full of 3-year-olds of those that are in position of the Church to answer them – priest, Catholic lay missionaries, graduate of Franciscan University, RCIA director, nun, and very well catechized members of our parish. If the same research was done by the critics, well, it would be great to have a logical conversation.
At times this journey can feel incredibly lonely, especially if you were already churched and 90% of your friends were connected to that church (or a similar denomination). Many times fear gets a hold of them – if they ask you questions and learn will they, too, be called to convert? Or maybe they’ve been hurt by members of the Church before (very unfortunate, but welcome to humanity. The devil gets a hold of people from every denomination, every religion. If one person in your family commits a crime should your whole family be sent to jail? Of course not! In the same way, 1 or 10 or 20 people in the Church shouldn’t mean the entire 2000-year-world-wide Church is the same). I recently had a particularly vulnerable time after more persecution was piled on. The tears settled in time to attend Mass, and I was incredibly blessed there (as always!) in many ways. In the homily, Father spoke that we should be afraid of NOT carrying our cross! After all, Jesus says “he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” in Matthew (quoted again below). The communion hymn also touched my heart: Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life. The wilderness will lead you to your heart where I will speak. The wilderness! That’s exactly where I feel some days! But I will be joyful, knowing that in the wilderness I will hear him speak!
There’s a very fine line that we walk as converts in not creating division. Didn’t Luther do enough of that 1500 years ago? But keep in mind, Jesus himself talked about never putting relationships with others before our relationship with him:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:34-39
If you are a convert, you KNOW that Jesus called you to his Church. And he plainly tells us that if you put your love for another person before your love for him (and thus obedience to him), you are not worthy of him. That’s not something I care to test. So as much as we will try to smooth the bridge between the Church and our brothers and sisters in other denominations, to keep peace and not cause division, haters gonna keep on hatin’ sometimes. Pray for them. Pray that the Holy Spirit bless them so richly with the capital-T Truths that you end up being their sponsor when they convert!
So for the time being anyway, I consider this my cross to bear. I will continue to witness and share the Catholic faith when Holy Spirit guides me to do so. Remember that Jesus said: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” John 15:18-20 (Thank you Cristina for that passage today! My emphasis added)
Do you need some resources to help you defend the Catholic faith? Two that I’ve found incredibly helpful:
Of all of the purchases I’ve made to educate myself and others during my journey, this has to be the best $1.99!
This “Catholicism for Protestants” blog post has been handy to link others to for overview-answers on most of the common questions/concerns received.
Are you a convert to the Catholic faith? Did you experience similar trials? What resources did you find helpful to defend the faith?