… I like to think converts are a special type of Catholic, and I’m not just saying that because I’m one. Converts intentionally seek out Catholicism and ultimately choose a faith that others are born to. Sometimes choosing Catholicism comes at a great price for the convert and much effort is required — like in my case, two years of touchy feely kumbaya RCIA and one ex-husband. Those cradles take all that for granted. They don’t know how easy they have it made.
Only my poor son is a cradle Catholic, bless his heart. He’ll never know what it’s like to long for his faith, work for it, and treasure it to the point where he’d never, not once, ever take it for granted. Because, you know, us converts never take their faith for granted.
Um, no. Have you ever read this blog?
So there I was feeling all smug because my Catholicity was something I actively sought, instead of just handed to me by accident of birth… which is a totally stupid attitude to have and fails to give credit where credit is due in the department of grace bestowing. Not to mention, totally belittles cradle Catholic’s faith as inferior to converts. Because have you read this blog?
All that smugness left me; however, when I witnessed something so perfectly Catholic that I realized just how utterly special cradles are.
A few Sundays ago I just couldn’t bring myself to go to church; taking it all for granted in that way that converts are never supposed to do. My son had to serve a vigil mass, so like it or not I went. I got as far as the parking lot. My son went in to serve and I opted to read a book in the car*, like the terrible example that I am. It was from this vantage point that I was able to glimpse a rare moment in my son’s life that I’ve never been privy to in the past.
It was the end of the mass where all the servers leave out the main doors, followed by the priest. From there they walk in a line down the sidewalk and slip into the back door that leads directly to the sacristy. Here’s what I saw… A line of robed young men carrying cross, torches, and thurible as a trail of smoke followed. It was early dusk and from behind them the stained glass windows of the church were illuminated from the inside out.
It was a scene straight out of cinema.
That’s when I realized cradle Catholics have something uniquely defining about them that converts will never posses. They have those special moments in childhood that will remain a rich part of who they, embedded in their psyche. My son will never be able to look back on his childhood and not think about his faith. He and his Catholic identity are one and the same and I’ve watched them both grow and flourish.
I started viewing my son as a young man, as opposed to a boy, when he turned eight and received his first holy Communion. It was at this time he was old enough to start altar serving, making the occasion a developmental milestone as well as a spiritual one. Soon he will be a teenager, an event marked by confirmation. Actively growing up in the Church like that is a wonderful thing and I am glad my son is a cradle. I couldn’t imagine a better childhood for a boy.
The fact of the matter is, every Catholic is called to a life of continuous conversion. Cradle and convert. And being one or the other doesn’t put you at any spiritual advantage. Being an active faithful Catholic is a matter of daily will where every time we practice our faith we “choose” Catholicism. It’s not about how we become Catholic, it’s what we do to remain Catholic.
*Missing mass is a mortal sin. If your kids see you not going to church, they sure as heck better see you in that confessional line at the soonest opportunity.