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.