This will be our first cuppa together in 2020. The night is dark and windy, Miss Lucy Dawg is snoozing by the fire, music is playing softly in the background. Tea’s ready. Have a seat while I fill our cups.
We’ve talked about conversion before and I mentioned that I gave up my New Age ways, and I think I mentioned astrology. I gave it up, not because it doesn’t work (that’s a topic for a whole other blog post), but because Holy Mother Church said to. But I didn’t give it up right away. Now this is not a post about astrology or my past obsession with it, but about the fact that becoming Catholic changes us. It must change us, the deep down us, and that takes time. Took me a few years to give up astrology and my other New Age ways, though I was certainly moving toward that from reception into the Church onward.
I gave up my New Age ways…but not right away.
A brief recap: Began exploring the Church in 1994 (late that year, I think) as a New Ager and Buddhist; began working as a volunteer and later full-time in a Catholic (diocesan) bookstore; fall of 1995 sought instruction from a priest; then was received by that same priest into the Church at the Easter Vigil, 1996. Been studying ever since I first began. But I didn’t give up the New Age fully until 2008, a few months before I began my first Catholic blog. (I had tried to blog about Catholicism before then but never got very far with it. God is good.)
People talk about grace and conversion and, yes, becoming Catholic takes grace, certainly. But we forget about time. For most of us conversion takes time, too. A lifetime.
Even so I didn’t get my first Catholic blog off the ground until around 2009. It just never felt right untl then. Why? At least partly, I think, because it takes time to become Catholic. It has to seep into your bones. It’s more than knowing what books say. It’s more than reciting answers or even prayers, though those things are important and they play a part in your becoming Catholic, but they’re not “becoming Catholic.” Becoming Catholic is as much what you don’t do anymore, what and how you don’t think anymore, as it is what you do now, what and how you think now.
It takes time to become Catholic. It’s not just a matter of taking instruction and then being received into the Church. It’s taking time to let the Church seep into our bones, and I’m talking about, not minutes, weeks, or months, but years.
I knew a lot of things and I knew I needed to give up some things. But I didn’t want to, you see, and I finally had to decide that I wanted to, that I HAD to give them up or I would have to live as a hypocrite. The tension became so strong that I had to decide or be torn apart. I decided for the Lord and tossed a whole lotta stuff into a dumpster in another town, and walked away from the New Age, Buddhism, and a political party that was becoming more and more entrenched in the culture of death. And that has made a big difference in my life. It was grace that made it possible to let go. That grace was a long time coming but the effect of it was like a bolt of lightning. Which is NOT to say that I had no more to study and learn. Far from it.
I do not now consider and have never considered myself to be a know-it-all (real or imagined) when it comes to the Catholic Faith. Or anything else, for that matter. Nope, not at all, not for one minute. The more I study and learn and know, the more I realize how much I need to study, learn, and know. And when it comes to Catholicism, study isn’t enough, but I don’t mean only studying books, reading them, taking a few notes here and there. I mean, studying, thinking, reflecting, meditating, praying. Letting the ideas stew in and around and through your heart and mind and soul until they become part of you.
And I don’t mean studying or reflecting and all of that for a few minutes, or a day or a week, a month, or even a year, or even a couple of years. I mean YEARS. Honestly, people take longer to learn how to paint or play a musical instrument than they do to learn the Faith and develop a spiritual life, a deep, interior Christian life. I see lots of people become interested in Catholicism, read some books, take instruction, balk at the period of the few months involved (I want it now! Right now! Why can’t I have it now?!), get received, then WHOOSH! They’re off! Everybody’s in a rush to teach before they’ve taken the time to really learn and develop. Ideas are not enough.
People take longer to learn how to paint or play a musical instrument than they do to learn the Faith and develop a spiritual life—-a deep, interior, Christian life.
Facts are not enough. Knowing a lot of things is not enough. When you begin in the Faith, you are like a baby, no matter how irritating that is to hear. That’s part of your babyness, that you find it irritating. I know. Been there, done that—to a degree. I’ve had the good sense to know that I don’t know my whole life. It’s why I began to search in the first place. It’s why I’m seeking—not for the source of Wisdom now, I found Him—but to understand, to know, to know more, to know more deeply, and to LOVE more. Because without Love, what is there?
Speaking of Love and conversion makes me think of Saint Paul. I think a lot of people think that Saint Paul got hit by a flash of lightning and then instantly set about teaching and preaching, making thousands of converts everywhere he went. And I think those people need to read his story again. Paying attention to the parts they think they know. I’ve had this conversation more than a few times, with various strangers (funny how that so often happens with me) and friends, but especially in an RCIA class where I was a sponsor, especially with the one who came there to teach us Catholics because she knew all she needed to know already. Oh, yeah. (That poor woman’s husband has surely been working off a lot of Purgatory time, lemme tell ya.)
Just one example of one aspect of what I mean: Read that story of Saint Paul’s experience on the Road to Damascus. Now tell me, what did he do? Right then, what did he do? You may need to read the story again, this time paying attention. A lotta people get this wrong. This is why it takes years to really become Catholic. Because we know so much that isn’t so. If you got it right, then that’s great! But I used to be surprised, though not anymore, at how manh times people only think they know the story.
Thanks for reading. Forgive any jumbled thinking. I’m trying to write this quickly to capture it while it’s coming to me, and also because I had said on the What’s New page that I’d post on Monday and it’s nearly midnight now. My, how time flies when we’re sitting here enjoying our chat by the fire. I do hope you’ll come back and have anotha cuppa with me again soon. Until then, may the Lord bless you and keep you, and may the peace of Christ be always with you. +JMJ+