Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Cocky Convert Syndrome

After I was received into the Catholic Church in 1997, I was a cocky convert; I must've driven my college roomies nuts. Mea culpa! It took a few years for me to realize that I didn't have to "know everything" all of the time; that it's okay to have to grow-up in the faith a bit more, studying it, and most importantly, humbly living it out. Today, I feel much more grounded and solid in my faith than I did in 1997. I feel I can much more easily articulate sound teaching (at least I hope it's sound!) without getting frustrated with others or bursting an artery in my brain.

I think the cockiness arose from the fact that I felt I had to constantly justify my decision, which was a big one, and when I felt the prompting of the Spirit to accept the sacraments, I was sure I was doing the right thing. There were those who couldn't accept what I did, and I recall how a few months before my reception into the Church, my Baptist youth pastor (who had, up until that point, encouraged my study of the Catholic Faith) sent me a very warm Valentine's card urging me to reconsider my "choice of church" for fear that I had been too influenced by Satan and the Catholic "mystique". It's so easy to throw around the Scriptural and Patristic one-line proof-texts, thinking "Here it is, why can't you see it?! You have to see it!" And then I think, if this is real faith, and if this is truly God's gift, then maybe I have to let them see it in me too... in my life, in my choices. After all, it is the Holy Spirit who touches hearts.

I think another reason for the cockiness is the amount of attention converts get nowadays... from their parishes, friends, and family. Suddenly it seems there's something special to someone who would choose to accept the faith most are born in to. Yes, it may be true that most adult converts may have studied the faith to a level beyond the average cradle catholic, yet when it comes to the lived experience of that faith, converts are just beginners. We need the entire community. We're Catholic, after all, and we're all called to be saints.

And so I get worried when I see the potential for cocky convert syndrome in other converts, who obviously have a good zeal and love for the Church. The ability to articulate the truths of the faith is not automatic and takes more than just an intellectual understanding; Rather, the lived experience of these truths can give substance to the belief.

St. Augustine of Hippo, pray for us!

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