A Why am I Catholic? post, inspired by the work of Webster Bull.
Last week, a reader emailed me regarding the label “convert” and asked me to explain my thoughts about it. To be honest, I hadn’t thought about it much. Here are some of my thoughts, excerpted from that email. Feel free to share yours in the comments!
I think EVERYONE goes through a conversion experience; for some of us, it leads us across the Tiber; for others, it keeps you IN the Tiber. But I think there’s a time in your 20’s when the world goes topsy-turvy and all of a sudden, life matters in a whole different way.
I have never thought of the word convert as negative.
For some of us, life was bad before we found the graces of the sacraments. For some of us, there are things we needed baptism to erase and to hear the voice of Jesus actually say, though the priest, “You are forgiven.” I did some bad things in my life before being Catholic, nothing I want to share or talk about (I tell that to God pretty much daily: “Please don’t make me share THAT!”).
I’m OK with myself today because of the hospital that is the Catholic Church and her sacraments.
Maybe I’m a bit dramatic or an exception, but I don’t think it’s bad to draw a line in the sand, to say “BEFORE converting, I was this person; AFTER converting, I am this different person.” I am washed clean. I am new. And that is a miracle of the first class.
How must Paul have felt, on the road to Damascus? He wasn’t bad before, was he? He was just following the Law. But in doing that, he was persecuting Jesus Himself. He couldn’t see that, though, until after his conversion, until after that moment of grace.
And, to me, that’s what conversion is — a series of moments of grace.
That’s the other thing…conversion is ongoing. Everyone thinks it’s so neat that I’m a convert, that it’s my secret to Catholic success. Little do they know how much I struggle with things like yelling at my kids, accepting help from friends, remembering to take the anti-depressants that make me a nicer person. They don’t see me threatening to quit the parish project that no one really wants to see me quit, getting my feelings hurt by someone’s suggestion for improvement, procrastinating and wasting time for no good reason at all.
Tomorrow, I pray to be better than I am today. Yesterday, I don’t think I was as good as I am today. And that’s not just happy-crap talking. That’s the truth.
THAT is what conversion is to me.