New Catholics and cradle Catholics
Anonymousasked this question on 1/10/2001:
I converted to Catholicism a few year years ago. The conversion was a very important change, and it was also difficult to achieve. Sometimes I help out in the church-- I often hear some of the other people making remarks about my not being a "cradle Catholic." I was raised as a Baptist, but I found a love of religion with Catholicism. People do not understand why I would want to change my religion in my 30's! It seems like I am defending myself to some of these people, who have what I consider to be an "intolerant" attitude of those of us who were not raised in a Catholic family. My RCIA class was 30 people, and I often wonder why some of these "cradle Catholics" aren't celebrating those of us who want to embrace the religion out of choice? Is there really a division in most congregations over converts and Catholics by birth? Or should I be looking for a new church???
The joy of the Lord be in your heart!
Your experience is very common in the Church. So, don't be scandalized. It's bound to happen. You don't change your domicile because it rains and the roof leaks, do you?
Let me explain. Those so called cradle Catholics are confronted every day with the same searching question as any believer: Do you love God and your neighbor? That's why Jesus compounded the Shema – Hear Israel: Our Lord is one God. You shall love the Lord our God with all you heart…. and your neighbor as yourself.
I'm privileged to be able to observe your same experience every year when the new communities integrate the celebrating assembly. The members of these new communities have (re-) discovered the love of God in Christ and have received the gift of faith.
There is a fresh and passionate approach. They express their new faith somewhat awkwardly. The faithful of long trajectory feel superior because the think they know better. Besides, they feel threatened. Looking at you and your way of expressing faith they are looking at their own faith as in a mirror and find it lacking. Therefore, it's natural that they try to recover their superiority through patronizing. It's a psychological reflex. This way their lukewarm religiosity feels secure and cozy. It's somewhat alike when adolescents question the lifestyle of adults. You can enter into a fruitful dialogue and that requires maturity. On the other hand, you can recur to auto defense. That way you don't have to change! Change is unsettling. Therefore, they exalt their knowledge and their experience and cover up their frailty.
A German humorist of the past characterizes this process: "What is the outcome of time and old age some people consider it a virtue". Well, he uses words that are more drastic.
This experience of yours proves that you are needed there. Sure, you would like to feel accepted and loved and cherished and embraced by all. Remember you are a threat; you are unsettling. They need to contemplate your passion, radicalism and your awkwardness. Perhaps they get envious and begin to heat up their faith. Perhaps they don't. But you are at their service even if they don't know it. You should read the biographies of the saints. There hasn't been one of them that hasn't suffered from his own community under the pretext of orthodoxy or the traditional way things are done.
You need them too. On the other hand, you need to discard a romantic vision of the Parrish or the community. Look at the first Christian communities. They have experienced conflicts between the Jewish and Greek factions, between Paul and Barnaby, between Paul and Peter. They didn't run away. You can't run away every time you are not showered with kisses. You have to learn that real love is not equal affection. Some times your love is love of the enemy even in the same community. Love is accepting the other one such as he is. That's the way God loves us.
You should think too that there are no fortuitous occurrences in life. The Lord has given you that community and those brethren in order to help you to go on converting yourself. You need them. Otherwise, the Lord wouldn't have given you that cup to drink. Bitter droughts are necessary in order to grow.
Sure, you are free to frequent an other Parrish. Nevertheless, I think it would be like running away from the cross the Lord wants you to carry.
This is very direct. But I think it's the truth. And I'm sure it's not all suffering and coldness. Furthermore, you need to go on learning. You can learn from the most antipathetic. Consider all they offer you and keep that’s what helps you to be a better Christian.
I remember one of those cradle Catholics expressing his envy. "From childhood I've been member of the Church. But I would like to feel once the passion the new members are showing." Well, in Church ambiance they call it "fervor".
Fabulous answer! No, I don't change homes when it rains-- I fix the leaks! And that's what I will continue to do at church! I am an EM, but I do not serve at every mass. There is opportunity to-- I think I have now found my strength to get my converted self out of the pew and serve my congregation! Peace, and bless you.