My Nana converted to Catholicism in the 1920s when she married my Dad’s father, but during my childhood – with her beloved husband Martin long dead – what I remember was how devoted she was to the Blessed Mother. A chronic insomniac, Nana fell asleep each night while praying with her gold rosary in her hands. (A sharp dresser who was always impeccably groomed, Nana never missed Sunday Mass, adorned with her white gloves and black lace Spanish mantilla).
As illustrated by this week’s cover story, Catholics who are raised in other traditions and then discover the Church are some of our faith’s most knowledgeable and ardent adherents. Indeed, their reasons for coming into the Catholic Church can enlighten us about why our faith is so beautiful and true.
Two of my college friends found the Church later in life, independent of each other, and studied to become Catholics for different reasons. One is an intellectual who once told me that our faith is “the most logical” of all the Christian traditions, perhaps because Catholicism is directly rooted in the most ancient times and formed the basis of all of the world’s Christian religions. The other said that her years of work with the Sisters of St. Joseph in their health care system prompted her to learn more about the faith that guides them.
In the eyes of newer Catholics, Church traditions are new and wonderful. It’s through their perspective as brand-new believers that we “cradle Catholics” can develop much clearer and more nuanced insights into our faith.
New Catholics appreciate the reasons behind our beliefs, beliefs we never question or even think about. For them the Sacrament of the Eucharist is miraculous every time they witness it; the Sacrament of Reconciliation relieves them of the burden of sins they’ve accumulated for a lifetime; and each Mass dramatically allows us to witness Jesus’s sacrifice, Last Supper, and Resurrection.
Truly the insights these newbies provide into our faith traditions widen our perspectives, deepen our beliefs and prompt us to second-guess our thoughtless, blind approach to the Mass every Sunday.
All of us lifetime Catholics would do well to consider deeply the paths newer faithful have taken to our Church – and contemplate seriously the reasons they remain.