When I was about six weeks old they dressed me up in a white silk christening gown, carried me into the church, stood around while I was baptized, renounced Satan for me, and then carried me back home as a child of God. I guess I slept through the whole thing, because I do not have one iota of memory of that day. What I just wrote about comes from what I was told. My siblings all went through the same initiation process into God’s family. We are known as “cradle Catholics’. So are many of you.
I was raised Catholic, taught Catholic, went to Catholic school for 12 years, was an altar-boy, and grew up in a neighborhood that was predominantly Catholic. Today, I am considered a ‘devout’ Catholic. Why? Because all of it stuck. I still love this faith I was born into. I even go to Mass almost every day of the week. It ‘stuck’ to my sister. She still faithfully practices her faith. My one brother will go inside a church for a funeral or a wedding. That’s it. He must have been coated with teflon because nothing stuck to him. My youngest brother somehow shed his Catholic skin, and, after many years, metamorphosed into a “Born Again Baptist”. I remember standing at his wedding thinking that I had traveled to ‘Bizarro World’ where everything was backwards. Up was down, hello was good-bye, fat was thin and so on. How could you go from Catholic to Baptist? Whatever–“judge not lest ye be judged”.
So I ask the question; How does that happen to people who have the same background and upbringing? How come so many of the people I knew from childhood and who came from the same type of Catholic background I did have rejected the faith and moved on to other creeds or no creeds? How come 75% of Catholics went to Sunday Mass in 1960 and today we are at about 22%? The answer may be found in the many volumes of psych books available or in the Bible or the Summa Theologica or maybe nowhere. I know I cannot answer the question. But, do not despair my faithful Catholic compatriots. Rejoice! There is an upside. They are called Converts.
Converts are the people who have discovered the Catholic faith on their own. Unlike me, who had my faith handed to me as a sleeping infant, these people consciously chose to embrace this gift after personally pondering and praying about it . They are like the first Christians who were mostly Jewish and found Jesus (and vice-versa) who was also a Jew. The first Pope was a Jewish convert. On the very first Pentecost Sunday thousands of people from all walks of life converted. This was the beginning of the faith spreading. Instead of babies, it was grown-ups. Who went out and suffered and died for this new faith they had accepted. They chose it, embraced it, and knew the consequences of their actions. Imagine that. I admire them SO much.
Last March during the Easter Vigil, 22 people stood up in my parish alone, and received the sacraments embracing the Catholic faith. I have no statistics available for 2013 but I have seen numbers of 150, 000 converts to Catholicism in the U.S. in 2012. That is FANTASTIC. These new, enthusiastic converts who are filled with the Holy Spirit are one of the reasons Holy Mother Church will be around until the end of time. It’s a beautiful thing.