Easter morning, 2005, I took a deep breath and relaxed. RCIA was finished, the Vigil was over and I was officially Catholic. I looked forward to a good long spell in the pews, my metaphorical spiritual boat in snug Roman harbor. I didn’t want to wrestle with any troublesome spiritual issues. I didn’t want to lead any great projects, I just wanted to be for a while. I just wanted to come to church, worship and receive, and go on about my business pretty much unchanged.
I was almost immediately confronted with a slight difficulty in all this. Although I was now “officially” Catholic, I didn’t feel particularly Catholic. Though I had passed my exams, so to speak, I still felt like a poser in the ranks, just waiting for someone from the Archdiocese to come running in one Sunday, wrestle me from the pew and eject me from the church on the basis of fraud. I was Catholic in name, but didn’t feel Catholic in nature, and I was certain that it showed in everything I did.
Over the years, I’ve developed the knack of confident assumption of habits when the need arises, better known as “fake it until you make it." I adopted it again, certain that I would settle into a comfortable backwater of familiar Catholicism in a few months.
It was a classic case of God laughing while I was making plans. Just for the record, don’t plan on “faking it until you make it” when God is involved unless you are prepared to make it in a really big way. I was just hoping to get comfortable with the order of service, remember not to add the doxology immediately onto the Lord’s Prayer and keep the Catholic version of the Nicene Creed separate from the Anglican version I’d used for twenty years. What I got was a total re-prioritizing of my life.
It started when my pastor and the DCE asked me out to lunch a few months after Easter. Paranoid fantasies of the Archbishop revoking my spiritual visa really began to dance in my head at that point, but I went along. As it turned out, they wanted me to take over the RCIA class for the next year, and I went from trembling faker-in-the-pew to trembling-faker-in-front-of the class,
I had, only a few months before, declared that I believed all that Holy Mother Church asked of me, but now I was going to have to teach it. That shallow act-of-will to accept the Church was about to be put to the test, and I responded the only way I knew how. I buried myself in books. I read and re-read and read again. My book-learning grew, and I started to get an intellectual knowledge of proof-texts and arcane apologetic arguments about various topics of the faith,
Standing in the kitchen, peeling potatoes, it finally all came together for me. No voices, no flashes of light, no speaking in tongues, just a quiet “Aha!” when I realized the beauty and completeness of all the little bits and pieces I had been learning over the past year or so, how it all came together into one, seamless, utterly reliable whole that had been kept together by the Church for 2000 years.
I’ve since heard and read dozens of stories from converts, and almost all of them echo the same themes. People come to the Catholic faith because they are looking for Truth and Authority, they find it in Catholic teaching, and they convert. I suppose I did, too, but I did it altogether backwards. I came into the Church because I had no where else to go, and I promised to accept her teaching in return for the promise of a home. Once inside, by virtue of living in the faith and trying to teach it, I realized the Truth and Authority that I had needed—and had been seeking—all along.
And once confronted with undeniable, unyielding Truth, not malleable truth-as-I saw-it, I knew that I was not going to be going about my business ever again. Imperfectly, haltingly, sometimes really badly, I would be going about His.