The Less Than Glamorous Side of Catholic Converts

In 2014, The Pew Religious Landscape Survey, a survey of the United States, found that only 2% of Americans born evangelical, or protestant, convert to Catholicism. From that number, it’s safe to say American converts are scarce in ratio to cradle Catholics. Converts are unique to the Church. It’s often asserted that converts make the best Catholics because they are knowledgeable about their faith, chose it for themselves, and are deeply passionate for it. A famous convert that often comes to people’s minds is Scott Hahn, professor at Franciscan University, Catholic writer, and speaker. As a Catholic Convert myself, even though we’re seen as special and unique in the life of Church, there are still struggles that arise with our conversion from a protestant to Catholic, and much of these struggles are not something we talk about. Today, in this blog post, I want to give you a look at what goes on behind the intellectual mind that converts to Catholic faith. I want to show you the less glamorous side of being a Catholic convert.

To begin, per my experience as a convert, being unadulterated Catholic is not as easy as going through RCIA and accepting all the dogmas of the Catholic faith. I am constantly having to throw out background knowledge that I attained through the cultural milieu with my protestant peers, the knowledge I gained from famous speakers like Francis Chan, and Church learning functions. Basically, one has to hunt and locate even simple ideas that are not aligned with the Catholic faith. It’s a process of conversion that is likely to take years. Most of the time, without guidance from my Godparents, I do not recognize small concepts I have that are fundamentalist, or Baptist in nature. For example, I accepted the idea, through my own independent learning as protestant, that if a dating relationship led to you to sin then it was not a relationship that was ordained by God to happen. You were, in fact, in the relationship of your own will and not God’s will, because God’s will would not lead to sin. This idea is not Catholic, and is not accepted by Catholics, it flies in the face of logic and reality. The reality is, God can bring two people together, but just like with everything there is temptation. The aspect of temptation itself was lacking in the “Godly dating” understanding I learned as a protestant. Temptation is a part of life and it’s too simplistic to state that God did not bring a couple together just because there is temptation, or because they mistakenly fell into temptation. Now keep in mind this is only once simple concept that I have shown you as an example for what I am asserting. Now, these ideas, that are not found in the truth of Catholicism, are hard to locate, and can only be done bit by bit. (Unless you find a Catholic book that starts from the very basic of ideas and works its way up to build to the entirety of the true Catholic intellectual mind. However, that is a resource I have not been able to find yet.)  This is likely the first you’re hearing of this phenomenon within Catholic converts, and the trouble doesn’t stop there either.

Besides having no clue about cultural aspects and celebrations of Catholicism, like the May crowning of Mary, converts grapple with the simple logic that was once a part of their faith life as a protestant. Being that I pursued the study of theology in college, as an evangelical we had this saying “God will provide,” in regards to the uncertain future of graduating college with theology degree. The phrase meant that God would provide you with a ministry right out of college. This is also a bit of knowledge that I had to learn was not a statement of truth. Here I am searching for jobs, a year after my college graduation date, and I’m contemplating giving up on my dreams of working in a career field that involves Jesus and christianity. Life is not simple. In the examples, I have provided for you thus far of the struggles of the convert, one can see that the statements are unrealistic. The statements lack the messy dimension of life. They are black and white statements, and life is not totally colored in black and white. Life is messy, and things of faith are not as simple as fundamentalists make them out to be. This bring me to point of this paragraph, The simplicity, the black and white perspective, are things the convert has to unlearn. This likely happens naturally as one matures with age, but being that I’m only 23 years old, I’ve had to focus on this aspect tremendously. The black and white glasses that are typically found in fundamentalism leaves no room for mercy. It’s very hard to understand mercy when one wears spectacles with lenses that are only black and white. This thinking, at its core, lacks an understanding of other people, and understanding is the first step, in my experience, to the virtue of mercy. This particular problem leads into the next struggle that I have only begun to understand.

In relation to what I mentioned above, there is a significant problem that can form within the convert. I, from being a convert, have slight scruples. I suggest googling “Catholic scruples,” if you don’t know what I am referring to as I don’t have the time to explain the idea. Basically, with scruples, and some bad experiences in helping in Catholic education, I have found that with the realization of numerous minor things I once believed false, you can, and I have, come to this sense of questioning if you even know God at all. This is where I am at the moment. Not all of my protestant background knowledge of God can transition over to the truth found in Catholicism. This final point I bring up is truly the spear head of this blog post. Basically, you can lose this sense of who God is. You aren’t quite sure which depictions of Jesus growing up with are accurate. Let me ask you this, if you picture Jesus improperly is it really Jesus you are following? It’s surely possible to make a Jesus in your mind that is not actually Jesus. This is the side I want my readers to think about. The disruption that can be created within the convert of how they picture God. It may not have been a struggle for some, like Scott Hahn, but it is a tangible struggle nonetheless. It is a struggle that I am facing now. This loss of clarity is most troublesome, and is an obstacle in my relationship with God. This problem is truly the pinnacle of hardship in being a convert to Catholic faith.

If you are a convert like my myself, you are not the only one facing these challenges. I am right here with you. You’re not alone. Being a convert is not all fun and games like many people think it is. To be frank, in some ways I envy cradle Catholics because they can trust the knowledge they have of God, and have an image of God that is not influenced by evangelical ideas. They picture God as a what a Catholic is supposed to. This picture they have of God, it is something I have to try recreate, and even then it may not be exactly perfect. Well, to conclude this blog post, this is just only a brief look at the secret struggles that occur within convert Catholics.

If any Catholics have book recommendations, containing citations and documentation, on the character of Jesus, or God, I would appreciate it if you commented below with the title and Author. It would be extremely helpful for me, and for other like me! thank you so much, and thankyou for reading this ramble of mine.

Afternote by Author:

If you say that my image of God should not have changed than you don’t see how correct teaching helps correct right relationship, just how correct information creations good relationships with others. If you thought Susie was always mad and yelling at her friends, would that not make you less likely to have a friendship with her? The same is true with God, but in more subtle matters than the obvious deterrent in the example with Susie. Correct teaching, understanding, and image of God are important to the faith life, and to one’s relationship with God.

How to Love Your Enemy

Jesus calls us to love our enemies. This calling is not an easy thing to do at all. Though, this is something I am getting better at.

Now, before I begin, I want to say this is not a sure-fire way to learn to love your enemies. It may work for some people and for some it may not work. It may depend on the person’s disposition.

The way I have gotten a little better at loving my enemies is by praying for them and trying to understand why they did what they did. Loving is much easier when you forgive, and forgiveness is much easier to give once you have understanding. In understanding, you realize things aren’t black and white, and there is the shade of gray.

Now, forgiveness doesn’t have to be the first step. However, If you can simply pray for the person’s well-being and growth in the faith; you are likely going to develop good will for people. The practice may be very uncomfortable. From this uncomfortableness, you’ll grow and mature into it so that it becomes second nature to you to pray for people who have hurt you and hold malice for you. It is praying for them and wishing them well in my prayers that I have seemed to have formed the habit of loving my enemies. It helped me see beyond the black and white. And it helped me see beyond how what their actions affected me, and, also, how they might be just very confused or be in a bad situation themselves.

An essential point I want to mention is that this love is more of an act of will than emotion. It is something you will for. You may still hurt inside, but through your will you can want good for them and want what’s best for them.

It may take a while though. I may not hold malice for a girl at my university that slandered me and my reputation, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid of her or wasn’t trying to avoid her. Though, my therapist told me I am not allowed to be around her physically or emotionally for my mental health.

Loving your enemies is definitely a process and something we have to work on. It’s definitely not something you’ll just wake up and have one day. You have to make a choice to start doing it and trying your best at it. You have to choose to love your enemy and from this choice you will grow more into that virtue with practice!

I want to wish all my followers a Happy good Friday and easter! I hope you have a great Holy Week!

Who I Was and Who I Am

On this late night many things are on my mind. Things involving my past and the person I am today. Looking back at just two years ago, the change of my understanding of love is astounding to me. My aptitude to give love and love people despite the hurt they inflict on me is something I didn’t have before. The loving and sweet person, some of you know today, back then was a slightly different person two years ago. There are many things different about me today as compared to two years ago, but most of it boils down to truly learning what Love is. It’s incredible how I can still love the girl who spread rumors about me and would even likely take her back and be friends again if she would talk to me and try and reconcile with me. This is not something that just happened overnight this willingness to love someone like that. They say suffering teaches us lessons we have yet to learn and helps in our sanctification. And there is truth to that statement.

There is a quote by Mother Theresa which basically states love hurts. Loving someone is not easy, especially since we are called to love like God. This means loving when they hate you or are angry at you for stupid reasons. It means loving them and caring about them even when they ridicule you or make fun of you. God reconciles all people if they have a true heart and are guilty for what they have done. Love is painful because despite someone hurting you, you don’t harden your heart. Your heart is still open to love them. It’s still warm, and not ice cold to them. You haven’t turned away from them completely and still have hope in your heart for them.

They also say forgiving is hard, and I will be first to vouch for that statement. The more I reflected on forgiveness this semester and what makes, at times, some things easier to forgive than others, I found was if I had an understanding of why someone did what they did. Understanding in my perspective became key to forgiveness, because in the end everyone is just trying their best and most of the time trying to do what they think is right. I can’t say I have met a person who didn’t have a piece of goodness in them. I would even contend Adolf Hitler still had a shred of goodness in him after all the terrible things he did. There is some goodness in everyone and when you understand they are not doing the things they are doing, most of the time, because they are bad or evil then it makes it easier to forgive. You have this understanding of how a deed transpired and how the options were not black and white. Basically to restate my key point, forgiveness seems to be tied to understanding and understanding helps one forgive another.

I have found the person I am today tends to cherish the good in people and, sometimes to a fault, try and look for that good in a person and give the person the benefit of the doubt. Only more study of my faith and more guidance from God will tell me if I am on the right track in following Jesus and his steps. One thing I am learning at present is the reality of who I am is not contingent on others thoughts or words. I am what I am, and someone’s skewed perspective of me does not change who I am or what is true. What false things people think about me doesn’t matter. What people say or think doesn’t mean it’s who I actually am. This is especially true if the person is not my friend. Wounds and reproves from a friend can be trusted. And from my experience with rumors, I have learned to get to know a person and know the real them, before listening or giving heed to things being said about them.

To wrap this up, the only thing I can say for sure is there is more growing to come and I pray God gives me great patience on my journey to be what I am called to be.