Idolizing Converts

I decided to write this post because there are certain experiences that come with being a convert to the Catholic Faith that other Catholics probably don’t understand.

While I was in the process of coming into the Church in 2009 I didn’t give much thought to the idea that there was anything particularly special about converting outside of the fact that I was submitting to the truth. In fact it wasn’t until near the end of that summer that it struck me that some people in the Church really admire and love converts. I was invited to a picnic at the Newman Center a few weeks before school started and when Tim introduced me to one of the girls (who is now a sister) as a convert, she suddenly shrieked with excitement “you’re a convert!?” with a mouth full of potato chips, which I quickly donned on the front of my shirt. In that moment I knew that there was something special about being a convert.

Over the next year or so, people loved talking to me and wanting to hear my conversion story. I felt like I was put on a pedestal. I have to imagine a lot of converts, at least college aged converts involved in a college aged parish experience that. I think that people have this perception that because we converted from something else to Catholicism that we are super holy or more abundantly graced or more theologically intelligent or more firmly grounded in the Faith because it was something that we chose.

But we aren’t. Being a convert isn’t like that at all. In fact, I would say that it is the exact opposite.

Probably the most devastating realization to a convert, or at least to me, are the moments that come after the high of conversion wears off. With all of the excitement of converting, and all of the new things that one learns and the new people that they meet and the attention that they receive and the awesome gift of receiving the Eucharist, a great amount of motivation, joy, and energy is generated. That energy can create a long-term high that sustains one’s interest and devotion for quite awhile, but it doesn’t last forever. When we fall from that high, especially if it was unexpected, the results can be devastating. It results in doubts and frustrations and if we aren’t ready to seek the Lord in a real and honest way, we suffer. We expect the energetic route in which our Faith began, but we can’t rely on that, we must learn to live with the glowing embers of the fire to heat our Faith where there were once flames reaching to the stars.

I think that there is also a certain quality in converts that propels them towards change and dissatisfaction. Becoming Catholic is a huge upheaval, a turning away from something different. For some it is a one time thing, they convert because they honestly and truly believe, but for others it is a habit, a fad. Changing beliefs and ideologies is as natural to them as changing clothes. So when their zeal dies down it causes moments of doubting whether the right decision was actually made, or it causes them to seek a new and exciting philosophy or social cause.

Whatever faithful cradle Catholics think we are, we converts are NOT invincible. Some of us stay, some of us almost get lost, and some of us actually do get themselves lost for good. I came very close this summer. I was in the almost get lost category. I came with in an inch of totally losing my Faith in Jesus Christ and exchanging it for some form paganism. Another convert I know completely reverted to atheism. We aren’t perfect. Being a convert isn’t some kind of boost of grace. In many ways it is more challenging than for a cradle Catholic for us to stay in the Church.

I write this for anyone who idolizes converts as superheroes or something, or just coos or fawns over ever convert that walks through the door so that you can maybe chill out of a bit and realize that there isn’t anything special about being a convert.

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10 thoughts on “Idolizing Converts

  1. Thanks for this post, Norm. I have been guilty of idolizing converts in the past, however I believe the virtue of temperance can really help with this.
    We are all called to share enjoy though, and it’s like the scripture passage of the woman rejoicing at the finding of her coin or the shepherd who finds is one washing up. There is more rejoicing over one lost soul returning, but we must not lose sight of the fact that we are to love Christ.

  2. Your image of the fire is a great one. I’ve been inclined to be a bit fascinated with converts as well, thanks for giving us the other side. We’re all so frail – we all depend on God for the slightest flame of faith and love and perseverance.

  3. Hi Norm! If being fascinated by the journey of others who find the Catholic Church is the crime, I’m guilty. However, please know that I have a similar fascination with reverts and anytime I hear the journey of a soul that is choosing the way of Christ. Honestly. I just love stories. I think stories drive us, and that life is one big story, so I can’t help but be drawn to these stories. But I’ve also heard from enough converts who have talked about the high wearing off, and I have known of some who couldn’t sustain it, including the more high profile cases (Anne Rice). I know that it’s a journey not for the faint of heart and that it would be much easier to fall back to the world. In fact, I’ve had little slips myself. So I feel like I have a healthy perspective. I’m glad you’ve put this out there just to clarify and help people put it in perspective. God bless you in your continued journey. I’m so glad you found your way back around. God needs you, and me, and all of us. Blessings….

    • Thanks. I found this post and looks like the author beat me to a great idea. I had actually planned on writing a similar thing as a follow up to my own post, but now mabe I don’t need to 🙂 The author is TOTALLY right, that there is a huge danger and a sense of undue hero idolizing that can occur with how some treat converts. I thought this author did very good at explaining the it.

  4. Wow, you write incredibly beautifully. And I appreciate the perspective, it is an important thing to keep in mind, that no conversion is final and salvation is indeed a process. Continual conversion, deepening our understanding and participation in the Faith, is vital for living a fulfilling Catholic life. I need to be converted practically every morning when the slothful side of me wants to just stay in bed and not face the world. The world can do without Sarah just for today, right God? Then my kids come jump on me in my bed haha. Any who, loved your post. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Spot on Norm.

    One of the things which shipwrecks holiness is pride. This threat is made greater by the fawning adoration of the Catholic multitudes. The greatest danger to true conversion (whether from a Convert or the more ordinary call to conversion we all should be entering into) is that we become enamored with our own growth.

    As Catholics we should be careful to mix our encouragement and joy in the Convert with temperance and watchfulness.

  6. I was rather suprised reading this. Mainly because I don’t think I’ve ever had that much attention thrown my way regarding conversion. (2 years ago. ☺) Conversion and conversion stories are important. They affirm the church and call cradle Catholics to affirm their sacramental promises. The zeal of a convert can reignite the passion of others. (Someday I’ll tell you about the Cradle Catholic who did not understand the real presence. ) I discovered not too long ago that conversion is not a panacea to sin or trouble. That is when the experience of C.C’s saved my life. They had been living /walking with Jesus much longer than me. They had perspective and understood those struggles.

    • I think the attention I received may have been magnified because I was in college at the time.

      I also didn’t mean to downplay conversion stories or my own story. Only to point out that we aren’t more special or more holy, that we share in the same struggles and are susceptible to sin, temptation, and apostasy as any other Catholic.

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