Conversion envy, do you have it? Converts are after all so fiery and in love with God, and have such interesting stories. They possess that infectious passion that just supercharges their evangelical spirit and deepens their impact. What’s not to be jealous of?
A couple weeks ago I was sitting in my in-laws’ family room, and with us was a young Catholic convert whom my brother-in-law had invited over. We were having a very lively conversation about the nature of Man’s love for God.
At some point in the conversation, we somehow moved from philia vs. agape to the differing degrees of passion for the Faith between converts and cradlers (cradle Catholics). This was when my brother-in-law’s friend (as a convert) said something to the effect of “Well frankly, usually the best people to have these conversations with are converts to Catholicism, preferably within the last five years. They’ve still got lots of energy…you know, before the fire burns out. Too bad there aren’t more around here.”
Look here, I got it. Converts have energy, and verve. They’re excited! Take Mark Shea, Jennifer Fulweiler, Brandon Vogt, Stacy Trasancos, G.K. Chesterton, or the 13 Apostles (12+ Paul), take whomever. I got it. Evangelical spirit and all, they’re on fire, they’re evangelical, and they’ve got great stories. I know, I know, even Pope Benedict thinks his fellow cradlers are boring, and had to apologize for us.
But don’t count us cradlers out. The cradler’s fire for Christ may not appear quite so bright, or seem so intense at first, it can still be just as strong and sometimes even more enduring. Just because we’re Catholics from cradle to grave,
The observation the above mentioned convert made many would say was fair, but it sure insulted me. With a matter of fact attitude he was dismissing the tireless contributions of many cradle Catholics who work hard to evangelize and spread the Faith to friends, family and complete strangers. There are many ways to evangelize and spread the faith, not all of them involve writing on a blog, praying in front of an abortion clinic, or bowling at the bowling alley with your local Catholic young adult group.
I’m going to use my wife as an example. She has been a Catholic her entire life. She was homeschooled from 1st through 12th grade using Seton Home Study (the Ferrari of Catholic homeschooling), and she attended Christendom College. You can’t have been longer in the cradle!
In spite of this “boring” life without a drastic conversion from atheism or evangelical bible thumping, she does quite a bit of evangelizing on a weekly basis.
Last year (and this year) she ran the local RCIA program for the chapel on base, hosted monthly bible studies in our home, taught adult Catholic education, assisted with mentoring the local Catholic young adult group, gave modesty/chastity talks to high school aged CCD students and did all this while teaching 40 piano students during the week, taking graduate courses toward a Master’s in History, and raising our son by herself without daycare for 7 months while I was off gallivanting around Afghanistan. This is not to mention that for an entire year before the 7 months I was off in Afghanistan, she did all the above AND sang for the extraordinary form of the Mass as a one person choir. (Non-sequitor: The Mass was celebrated by the now retired Fr. Aidan, a rather interesting character. He’s a Trappist monk who happened to also be a chaplain in the US Navy. Somehow he escaped the cloister. Last I heard they let their St. Bernard loose to go searching for him.)
While it is true that many converts have a loud voice when it comes to proclaiming the Truth and often a unique perspective, that doesn’t mean they take the lion’s share in evangelical output. There are many cradle Catholics who are steady and enduring lights in this dark world, though sometimes their energy and verve is not immediately apparent. To use an analogy, evangelical cradlers are much like wildlife, you’ve got to use a time-lapse camera to see how alive they are, but they are alive. They know the Faith and spread it in whatever way they can within their current situation in life.