The Superiority of the Convert Catholic…

… 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.

About Katrina Fernandez

Mackerel Snapping Papist

  • Awkpearl

    Cradle Catholics must go through a very similar process in order to remain Catholic as adults. I can tell you the exact moment in college when I decided that I would remain Catholic and it would be because I chose it, and not because it was expected of me. Everyone who is born Catholic needs to get to a point where their faith is theirs, where they realize that there is a lot that they will have to give up or forego in order to remain Catholic.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      “Everyone who is born Catholic needs to get to a point where their faith is theirs…”

      Absolutely, and wonderfully put.

  • http://rosarynovice.stblogs.com/ Augustine

    I think that you captured the differences between a life imbued in Catholicism and another donned with Catholicism. While both converge to the same point, union with Christ in His Church, they do have different traits.

    For instance, as a cradle Catholic, I’m often puzzled at questions about my family Christmas traditions. I can only answer that we do what Catholics do: the tree, the manger scene, the calendar, the wreath. I think that it’s probably a Protestant thing to try to reinvent traditions or Christmas, while the Church has given them to us, Catholics. It’s a wholly different take on life and its rhythms and challenges.

    Unfortunately, cradle Protestants who convert usually take years, if not decades, to sound and smell like Catholics. Some go through this process of finding their new ways around joyfully, others, laboriously. But one thing that converts have and is truly inspiring to us, cradle Catholics, is their zeal for the faith that is expressed in their embrace of the One True Faith that, yes, we often take for granted.

    The Church gets richer and richer every Easter Vigil. Thank you, converts, for helping me to be a better Catholic.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      “…cradle Protestants who convert usually take years, if not decades, to sound and smell like Catholics.”

      Not just cradle prots. I was raised cradle nothing. Even after 7 years I still find myself a bit awkward with traditions that don’t come as naturally to me as they do cradles. Thankfully my son won’t have that problem… at least till he gets older and gets all rebellious.

      • michicatholic

        Hopefully, they never “sound & smell” completely like Catholics. Most Catholics are not committed Christians. I say this as a convert and as a Catholic. This is what the NEW EVANGELIZATION is all about: Converting all those cradle Catholics into Catholic Christians.

        • Awkpearl

          *Ahem*

          Comment withheld.

        • JohnE_o

          You know, there are times when I think about looking into Catholicism – mostly because my wife was raised Catholic and I like Pope Francis – but then I see folks like michicatholic and how fervently and intensely he writes and I realize that it just isn’t in my nature to be religiously zealous.

          I’d probably be a Cafeteria Catholic with tendencies towards Hopeful Universalism, which I understand is considered to be a Bad Thing in some circles.

          So since I’m not likely to be a ‘committed Christian’ in the sense michicatholic is using the term, maybe it would be better just to be a hopeful agnostic who can honestly pray ‘God, if there is a God, please save my soul, if I have a soul’ rather than try to become something I’m not.

          • Awkpearl

            JohnE_o, do it anyways! Once you truly become Catholic, you will learn to look upon michicatholic with a similar joy our Dear Lord felt when He looked upon His torturers.

          • Käthe

            John, please give it a look anyways. If for no other reason than to maintain the catholicity of the church so it doesn’t become too weighed down with sourpuss zealots. I’m an aloof and acerbic type, deeply culturally Lutheran. If I can find a place in the Catholic Church, you can too. Also, read Hans Urs von Balthasar. Pope Benedict deeply admires his work. He argues for a sort of hopeful universalism.

            Ignore the haters, we are all sinners who fall short, etc.

          • MarcAlcan

            maybe it would be better just to be a hopeful agnostic who can honestly pray ‘God, if there is a God, please save my soul, if I have a soul’ rather than try to become something I’m not.

            You mean, please God save my soul without any effort on my part because I happened to be displeased with some people. And heaven forbid that You God should demand my submission. Just save me. I demand you.

        • MarcAlcan

          You are quite right there as much as your comments may gall some cradle Catholics.
          The unfortunate fact is that it is true.
          I belong to a deeply religious family and love my faith very much but I have never been so into it till I read Scott Hahn. The Catholic nuns and priests I knew did not seem to care much about evangelization and some were quite dangerous to talk to (I would go as far as to say heretical) in matters of faith. Even now as I do my own bit to evangelize, it seems that most of the materials I use come from converts or reverts.
          Praise God for the converts and reverts and for faithful Catholics.

          However, I take issue with the “Hopefully, they never “sound & smell” completely like Catholics.
          If they smell and sound like St Therese, John Paul II, St Teresa, Mother Teresa, St Ignatius, St Anthony, etc, etc, then that would be a tremendous blessing. What would be a troublesome thing is if they sound and smell like the Cafeteria Catholics, who, when you come to think about it are not really Catholics but Protestants.

      • FW Ken

        After 27 years, I still struggle with that part of me that’s still converting. Cradle Catholics, even those not particularly devout, have something in their bones, as it were, that lets them go through life with that Catholic sound and smell.

        • michicatholic

          Human beings are all proud of their heritage in some way or another, and that’s as true for people who aren’t descendants of Catholic immigrants as for those who are. Everyone has a “sound and smell,” like it or not. But all that is just anthropology.
          The point is that the data shows that all this heritage stuff really has rather little to do with whether a person is actually Christian in adulthood or not.

          • FW Ken

            Obviously you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. Which is fine. I want addressing you anyway.

  • frdlongenecker

    Bewdiful. thanks.

  • michelangelo3

    “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.”

    That’s quite right. Having been alienated from the Church as a teen by sexual abuse at the hands of a priest, in college I thoroughly explored secular and religious alternatives to Catholicism as a double-major in philosophy and religion. At age 23, I returned to the Church duly dissatisfied with the alternatives.

    Since then, that decision has cost me a great deal. I would have been much better off, temporally speaking, had I become Protestant, Anglican, or even Orthodox. But that leathery thing known as my conscience won’t let me. God loves me too much to let my life be easy.

    • michicatholic

      That’s a start. But the real decision is this: Do you choose to follow Christ? The Church is not what you worship, Christ is.

      • michelangelo3

        False dichotomy. Since the Church is the Body of Christ, I cannot worship the Christ there is, as distinct from the Christ I’d prefer, without the Church.

        • michicatholic

          But you can worship the Church and forget Christ, and many do.

          • michelangelo3

            True, but far more *think* they can have Christ without the Church.

          • michicatholic

            Not true. There are many of both persuasions, and I see them all the time.

          • bob

            You can have Christ w/o the Church.

          • FW Ken

            Not without some church. Otherwise, the “Christ” you have is likely to be nothing but a reflection of yourself. I’ve seen it many times.

          • michicatholic

            But that’s not the same as the Church with no Christ, is it? That happens ALL THE TIME. It’s the default setting among some Catholics.

    • Quittin’ time at Tara!

      Bless you. Dum spiro spero.

  • Romulus

    “Soon he will be a teenager, an event marked by confirmation.”

    That the way it usually works out — but for the record, that is not what Confirmation is for. Confirmation is NOT a sacrament of spiritual maturity. It is a sacrament of initiation and probably should be given before First Holy Communion.

    • AMoniqueOcampo

      Problem: That’s not how it happened to the Apostles biblically. It was Baptism followed by the Last Supper (Holy Communion) and then the Pentecost (Confirmation).

      It’s not a sacrament that focuses on spiritual maturity, but again, linking back to Pentecost, Confirmation happened to the apostles at the time when people from all over the world were in Jersualem as part of a major feast. The Pentecost stirred the apostle’s desire to spread the word of God to all the travelers and eventually it led the apostles all over the world.

      I am so envious of young adults who receive Confirmation during their high school years (I received mine in 7th grade) because teenagers need to know what being Catholic means beyond the basics. There’s only so much a child can understand, but it’s through Confirmation (and the stuff they do leading to receiving the sacrament) that teens can learn how to apply their faith to their lives.

      • michicatholic

        And that’s why most of them never come to Church again til someone dies or grandma insists they get married in Church.

  • AMoniqueOcampo

    Funny thing is that I seriously admire converts BECAUSE of all the stuff you said. Converts are so amazing at apologetics whereas cradle-Catholic-me is still learning so much about how to approach the topic.

    I’ll be praying for you. The good news is that Advent has penitential services.

  • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com/ priest’s wife

    I have different problems/sins- but I don’t understand faithful practicing Catholics not being to ‘handle’ going into Sunday Mass (of course illness or icy roads don’t count)- I think Calah and Elizabeth Esther have alluded to this as well- what is going on when you feel this way and stay in the parking lot?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      Long story. Human failings. etc, etc.

    • Quittin’ time at Tara!

      Parish liberal idiots. Putrid liturgy. Maudlin music. Effeminate priests. Gulag architecture. Heretical homilies. Memories of abuse. Liturgical dance. Inclusive language. Politicized prayers of the faithful. Crap art that makes Baby Jesus cry…

      For some souls, the parking lot is a freaking spa in comparison. Getting out of the car is like being thrown to lions.

      The cradle Catholic lays exclusive claim to one heroism: he knows his Mother went crazy in his infancy, but he still visits her and tries to pull her off the streetcorner when she slaps on her fishnet tights and starts winking at strangers. All these long years… Snap out of it, darling. Please. While I still have some vague baby-memory of when you weren’t bonkers.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

        My parish is wonderful… beautiful liturgy, stunning choir, statues, stain glass, and incense oh my. The priest is manly and devout. No EMHC, no dancing girls and whirling dervishes. Nope. When I said “human failings” I was referring to my own.

        • Quittin’ time at Tara!

          Then you are very fortunate. I am recalling a lovely time when my parish priest held a newly baptized baby girl over his head Lion King Style and made us all pray for her to have the opportunity to be a priest.

          Hey ahhhhh! Hey ahhhh!

  • Renee I. Petranovich

    I became an adult and realised that the RCC was not for me. Not hostile towards the RCC because I love Pope Francis. Just chose a different path for myself.

  • OpenlyCatholic

    Make sure you keep him there. I’m a revert, and a lot of that is due to my poor catechesis and my parents’ indifference (and even hostility, because of a longstanding grudge my mother held against a priest) to me going to Mass after confirmation. Took me years to realize what I’d lost and to come back. But at least I learned the Faith properly as an adult, so I understand it and can explain it to others.

  • Christopher Lake

    Kat, here you go again, with another great blog post! :-) On a completely serious note (and I *was* completely serious about that!), it is because of writing like this, which is evidence of the heart for holiness that you have, that I fully expect there to be, one day, a canonization process for Blessed Katrina Fernandez to become St. Katrina Fernandez! I am completely serious about that too! God bless you, and thank you, from a Catholic convert and revert! (My first time around in the Church was a long and distressing story… but by God’s grace, I returned almost fifteen years later, and I intend to live and die as a Catholic, happily!)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      St. Kat? God help us all. I’m no one’s example of exemplary living.

      • Christopher Lake

        Neither am I, Kat, but we’re all in process. As long as we seek to be faithful to Christ and the Church, there is hope for us to become Saints. “Even” you and me.

  • Awkpearl

    Upon rereading your wonderful post, I thought I would address your actual message. :-)

    As a cradle Catholic, I have often complained about what was lacking in my 12 years of Catholic eduation. I graduated from high school without even being able to answer the simple question “Why did God make you?” I thought I had a lot to complain about (see Quittin’ Time’s post).

    I was voicing my complaints about where I was to a convert friend of mine, and he pulled me up short by saying that he would give everything he had to have been brougth up in the Catholic Church – with all the failings, silliness, and experimentations of the past 50 years. To grow up in a culture surrounded by all that being Catholic means – growing up in an environment where certain things are expected – in short, to have the small Catholic moments that Kat, you are talking about here, would be worth any amount of suffering to him.

    I had never thought of what it would be like to grow up in a seculer or Protestant environment, and I have continued to give thanks ever since for the graces I have received, flawed though I may still think they were.

    Thank you, Kat, for reminding me of this again!

  • Rhetor

    Thank you. There are convert Catholic bloggers (not you, of course) who routinely belittle cradle Catholics, as though we didn’t choose our Catholicism over easier and more fashionable beliefs or non-beliefs, as though seeing childhood friends fall away from the faith didn’t exert a special sort of pressure on us, as though we did not identify ourselves, not only by belief but by birth, with the Church and so suffer in an especially personal way from the failings of Catholics in the hierarchy and the pews. I’ve often wondered if consistency would require at least one convert blogger to refuse to raise his children in the faith, lest they become cradle Catholics.


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