The Conversion Survival Guide
Welcome to the Conversion Survival Guide, a new category at the Practical Catholic. This is my project at developing some guidance, and really a handbook for conversion. I understand that my experiences are not comprehensive, you might feel I’m wrong. Talk to me, tell me what’s up. Anyways, let’s get to it.
I Have Some Rules that shape my Conversion Survival Guide. I feel that these might help you along too. I want to offer these things I have gleaned from the experiences I have had recently.
The first rule of the Conversion Survival Guide is:
Don’t talk about conversion.
The Second rule of Conversion is:
Don’t talk about conversion.
1) Shut up.
Look, I have one piece of advice. Sit down. Shut up. Be ready to learn. You are not the Catholic Church, you are not the Magisterium. You have a long road of unlearning ahead. I have a long road of unlearning ahead of me. I don’t mean don’t talk about conversion at all. But don’t throw it around carelessly. This is already a difficult process and letting the wrong friends or persons know about your conversion can bring a heavy burden to your doorstep. Besides, until you’ve developed the sensibility to not pick fights or take ignorance as personally as you might, you’re likely to do more damage than good.
Protestant pastoring has taught me to use feelings and intuitions rather than sources. I have to unlearn seeing myself as an authority and learn to take upon myself the light yoke of the Church and of Christ. I have to learn to read the documents that shape my faith, and I am held accountable to them. However, not only this. I need to learn to let the entire life of the Church transform me. I need her theology and her practice of the faith.
It feels like blessed relief to not have to make things up. As a protestant pastor I felt the burden to kinda “wing it” where as a Catholic, I don’t have to do that. It’s nice. But even now, it’s not just a head thing, it’s a heart thing. I have to even more actively take upon myself to learn humility, and service to the entire body of Christ.
2) Do NOT become a convert-apologist.
Seriously, shut up. Stop trying to convert everyone. They are not your flock, they’re his. They’re your friends, but they’re the Lord’s sheep. They are your spouse, but you can take your time, and be patient. Trust God to help you meekly express your faith with patience. Do your homework, but do not go about trying to reform all the protestants in your life and make them see the light you have found. Be Patient, do not lord your new faith over others.
If you want to express the validity of your faith, shut up, be patient, and suffer. You think I’m kidding. I’m not. Endure it, and in doing so people will see what kind of God you’re really serving. You will be accused of apostasy, of being “religious,” of causing scandal and of being misguided, fallen and stupid. People will not want to “talk” they will want to unload their presuppositions on you, and this will try to make you defensive.
My suggestion is to be silent, offer little to no argument. If it is a lost cause, let it be. Do not answer the source of your frustration with venomous retort, because in doing so you debase your faith. If you have nothing nice to say, go to mass. For the love of God, shut the (insert choice word here) up.
The only defense the Church needs is humble Catholics embracing their task to worship and celebrate the victory of God through their actions. This will not happen in a moment as much as in a practice of lifelong growth in humility.
As a former pastor, the temptation is to bring as many with you as possible, but the best way to do this is a humble procession ever towards Christ and His Church, not a rampaging papist-imperial march on Potluck Baptist Fellowship and brother so-and-so or deacon-JohnCalvinFan.
Let the Lord work through your determination to humility and patience, instead of leaving him a mess of spiritual fallout and poisonous representation to clean up after you. Don’t be a tornado, be a breeze, blow through refreshing others and not leaving a swathe of destruction in your wake. I understand that this is not always possible, some of us have the St. Paul anointing, and cause riots with even our most innocent actions towards devotion to the Truth. However, in the best of your ability, be at peace with others, and refresh them with the odor of Christ that flows from your wounds. Let them perceive him in the piercings upon your soul just as Thomas did with Christ.
3) Dedicate time to being silent and learning.
Take a year, and refuse to argue.
Take it upon yourself to build a foundation instead of defending a loosely gathered village of ideas. If you are looking for a fight you’ll find it, but your Catholic identity will not coagulate into a firm foundation that is as moral and spiritual as it is rational and theological.
The best theological argument for being Catholic is humility, active penance, and a charitable spirit when engaging your protestant brothers and sisters. Take a year and build a good apologetic basis, but as a defense, not an offense.
Apologetics is a spiritual and moral process as much as a logical and rational process. You cannot carry out true apologetics without humility. Drop the arguing, drop the theological talks with people who will anger you. Take up good works, that people may glorify the One who has called you into Communion.
Shut up, and let God humble you, so that when the ichor has left your heart you may be gracious and offer pearls, not to swine, but to those who will heed your words.
Not casting pearls before swine is as much about knowing who and what swine are as it is about letting the pearl develop in you through pain, and in secret. Once you have acquired this great treasure, you will recognize its value and treasure it, rather than throwing it about.
Trust me, and sit down, shut up. Or else you will regret it later. After your year is up, if you need more time, take it. It’s not a problem to need time to develop virtue, it is a problem to forego virtue and attempt to still speak the Truth. Take time and finish your conversion. Dedicate yourself to it fully. Don’t forget that there is time. There is always time to talk later. Make sure that you have become Catholic, and are not just breaking away from a former faith. Don’t define yourself by your enemies. Choose yourself for something, and in doing so, you will have made headway into the meaning of the faith. Choose a personal cause, a person, an act of penance and service, choose a healthy and helpful relationship. Dedicate yourself to it.
That’s how you survive conversion, maybe it’s not as difficult as you’ve made it.
Feedback is always welcome, even if you disagree, or want to crucify me on your front lawn. Have a nice day.