Easter will soon be upon us. It’s fitting that the Church uses that liturgical time of the year to welcome in her new converts. As we prepare to herald the resurrection of Our Lord, we also prepare to celebrate the spiritual resurrection of converts into their newfound Catholic faith.
Converts are an interesting group. They’re sometimes even the source of envy among “cradle Catholics” (Catholics baptized as babies).
Like infants investigating the world around them for the first time, they embark on this exciting journey to discover all the richness the Catholic Church and her traditions have to offer. Every convert has a conversion story and can relate the direct workings of God in their lives that pulled them into the Church. We can see how the miraculous left its indelible mark on their souls.
Just as religious are called by God to their vocation, we witness that same calling in Catholic converts.
Some converts may even have harrowing tales of being forced to leave behind friends, family and even jobs and the life they’ve always known to convert to Catholicism. In countries where there’s religious persecution, converting to Catholicism can even be a death sentence.
Just recently prominent YouTube personality Lizzie Estella Reezay announced her own conversion to the Church and expressed how hard it was to make the announcement because her Protestant friends and family would feel betrayed.
It’s these dramatic trials and tribulations, these long journeys of truth and soul-searching, that make converts the subject of so much romanticizing by cradle Catholics.
Kayla Sanmiguel of the “Blessed Is She” blog writes:
I coveted the innate attention to detail and appreciation for the finer points of the Catholic faith that I saw in converts, things I had either long forgotten or took for granted. I wanted to discover it all for myself for the first time, a possibility that just wasn’t available to me.
But here’s the thing: Cradle Catholics may feel like they’ve been left out of the self-discovery phase of the faith, but that simply isn’t true. The Catholic Church is so rich in tradition, and so intellectually prolific, that you could spend your whole life studying sacred Scripture and the writings of the saints and still not scratch the surface of her knowledge.
There’s a religious charism that models a life of prayer and service for just about any personality type and hundreds of ways we can live our faith. One could even argue that there isn’t enough lifetime to fully discover, absorb and appreciate all the Catholic Church has to offer. Every day is a potential conversion.
But this excitement of discovery has to be actively sought and willed. Being a convert doesn’t mean you aren’t immune to periods of lukewarmness or spiritual dryness. Eventually, that “convert high” wears off.
If I envy anything at all about converts, it’s the ease of their zeal. Once there was a time in my life, in the years immediately following my own conversion, when that fire for Catholicism came effortlessly. Now I have to work a lot harder at stoking those flames. This constant effort just doesn’t come as naturally to me as it would if I were a cradle Catholic.
My son, on the other hand, is a cradle Catholic. It’s all he has ever known. In him I get to experience what I missed from my own non-Catholic upbringing.
You see, cradle Catholics, you have this ease about you, this naturalness to your faith that converts could just as easily be envious of.
As a child I never conversed with the saints and the Blessed Mother or looked to their lives as examples. I didn’t have the childhood cultural experiences that unite most cradle Catholics. There are often times when I feel like an outsider looking in, or like I’ve been invited to dinner as a guest but not as family.
Cradle or convert, it’s so easy for us to romanticize what we don’t fully know and even easier to take what we have for granted. That’s why we need each other, like a body needs two lungs.
Converts ignite our joy for the Church and “Cradles” help us incorporate that enthusiasm fruitfully into everyday life.
It doesn’t matter how you came to know Christ, whether by choice or birth. We all go through a conversion process and periods of highs and lows. There will be times in everyone’s life when the walk with Christ will feel like he’s intimately near and times when it will feel like he’s impossibly far away.
That’s why Lent is the perfect time for all Catholics to contemplate their conversions. It’s during this time, the season of conversion, that we seek repentance from sin and turn our hearts and minds back to good.
Pope Francis has said that Lent is a strong time of growing closer to God, a “journey of penance, prayer and conversion,” which prepares us “for the Church’s annual celebration of the saving mysteries of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.”
In this way, we are all called to be willful converts.