Becoming Catholic is a tricky business.
When I left my wonderful Evangelical church two years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. Now I’m a self-confessed Converty Pants (a term I made up for nerdy converts/reverts like myself!) So I’d like to share with you what you can expect when you’re converting to the Catholic Church…
Expect to be excited, scared, joyful, anxious, and overwhelmed all once.
Expect to be “rebuked” and accused of betraying the Gospel, the Reformation, John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Driscoll, [insert prominent Christian here], your ancestors, and all the martyrs who ever lived.
Expect to be told that you’re not a Christian anymore and ergo, you probably never were. But if you just read Galatians, all your problems will disappear!
Expect your friends to be (understandably) confused and/or concerned. Expect them to keep loving you just the same because that’s what friends do. (Give them some time but if they don’t want anything to do with you, they were never real friends to start with.) Also, expect your mum to cry, your dad to make dad jokes, and your whole family to think you’re quite weird.
Expect to love receiving Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Expect to feel unworthy to do so, and just a bit light-headed and clammy when you receive Him. This is normal because DUDE, YOU JUST ATE JESUS.
Expect some serious awkwardness when, after a glass of bubbly or two, you bring up the morality of contraception at your Protestant friends’ engagement parties and kitchen teas.
Expect some serious awkwardness in general.
Expect to feel conflicted about a whole host of issues, whether contraception, gay marriage, women priests, health care, or singing “Come As You Are” for the fifth Sunday in a row. Trust me, these will resolve themselves in time.
Expect to meet some of the loveliest people, and some not so lovely people, and some strange people. Actually, scrap that. Expect people. The Catholic Church is full of them. (“Oh look, here comes everyone!”)
Expect to be scandalised by other Catholics. Not in the gossipy — “oh ma word! Didya see what Susie-Anne wore to church today?” — way, but in the genuinely shocked — “your irreverence, ignorance and blatant disregard for the teachings of the Church actually makes me wonder what on earth I’m doing here” — kind of way. (This isn’t fun.)
Expect to get over-excited about the liturgical calendar. (This is a lot more fun!)
Expect to start loving the Pope. Expect to start calling the Pope Papa, and then expect to start casually referring to him as Papa Frankie. Because that’s just what you do now.
Expect several people to ask if this is really just about a boy. Do not expect them to be amused when you answer, “I wish! Joining the Church established by Jesus Christ Himself, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail, and getting a boyfriend all in one go? Saweet!”
Expect to be blown away — repeatedly — by the depth, breadth and richness of the Catholic tradition. Expect to be overwhelmed by all the possibilities, all the doctrines, and all the devotions. Expect to get into scapulars, mantillas, holy cards, Introits, crucifixes, Latin missals, rosaries, fish on Fridays, and even those horribly tacky Sacred Heart fridge magnets. (A personal favourite of mine.)
Expect to find the Rosary way more compelling than you thought you would. Also expect to lose a rosary at least once a month, so buy the cheaper ones until you’re used to remembering where you left the Weapon Against Satan this time.
Expect people to assume this is just a phase, just an emotional crisis, just a little rebellion, just an aesthetic longing for a vanished past, or just a post-modern experiment in theological pastiche. And after a year, if you joke – on April Fool’s Day no less – that it was all a ruse, expect some people will find it easier to believe that you faked being Catholic for a year than that you genuinely converted to the Catholic Church. (Not that I speak from experience…)
Expect to have times of peace and joy, but also times of doubt and fear. Expect that there will be times you wish you didn’t have to convert, but also expect to remember that if you had the chance, you’d do it all over again.
Most importantly, expect to love being Catholic, not because it makes you different or better or holier or smarter, but because it draws you closer to Christ. It’s His truths in the dogmas, His grace in the sacraments, His presence in the Eucharist, and His Spirit uniting us all. It’s His Church.
So expect Jesus.
You won’t be disappointed.