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I’m Catholic; Now What?

But as for you man of God, shun all this; aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Tim 6:11-12).

CL89 - bratton notxt web

© Heidi Bratton Photography

At times, there are certain sayings that conjure up fear or euphoria. Examples such as “I get it,” or “I should have known better” immediately bring to mind situations or events that spawned these types of comments. In a Catholic worldview of things, certain comments take on certain biblical connotations: “you are the salt of the earth” (Mt 5:13); or “judge not that you not be judged” (Mt 7:1); or “Get behind me, Satan” (Mt 16:23). These biblical nuggets convey an entire story; they are single phrases that evoke a vignette from God’s Word.

A similar type of saying drew a chill up my spine one particular Easter season several years ago while serving as Diocesan Director of Religious Education. A gentleman came into my office requesting to meet with me over concerns he had about his RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) formation and his acceptance as a new-initiated Catholic. If you know and understand catechetical work, the main emphasis is to instruct the faithful in forming a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. 

The Dilemma

The gentleman walked into my office and I inquired what specific concerns he wanted to address regarding his RCIA formation.  At first he described his background as a former Evangelical Protestant minister who had been a pastor for several years. Through his own reading of Sacred Scripture, the Early Church Fathers, Church History and much prayer with his family he came to the realization that the Catholic Church was indeed the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church (Acts 2:39-42; Mt 28:17-20).

What came next brought shivers down my spine. He related with particular detail how the lead catechist instructed the class that their journey to the Catholic faith was no different than any other denominational journey.

This first comment led to more revelations by this gentleman about the instruction he received.  The instruction was at best ambiguous, and when pressed with specific doctrinal questions about the faith such as Purgatory, the Immaculate Conception, or the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the catechist’s answer was usually in this tone: “You can believe it if you want to.”  The gentleman continued with his charitable explanation of his experience. He knew the Catholic Church was his home. What dismayed him the most was how those involved negatively viewed his zeal for the faith. He felt that he was not welcomed home nor given the opportunity to seek further instruction as a newly elect hence his statement to me: “I’m Catholic; now what?”

Welcome Home

Keep in mind, the term Catholic refers to the universal authority of the Church subsisting in Jesus Christ. It’s in keeping with the whole of the Gospel (CCC 830). The Church is Catholic because of Christ. We as the bride of Christ have been sent on a mission to proclaim the Gospel in his name (Mt 28:19; CCC 831).

My first action was to look him straight in his eyes and tell him, “Welcome home, my brother!” It was at that point that he began to cry. He knew the fullness of the faith and that he was home. However, what he had not received was the family embrace needed to reassure him his journey with Christ was not in vain. Many of us fail to understand the tremendous sacrifices our brothers and sisters endure to come home to the Catholic Church. On top of this, their evangelical zeal tends to be misunderstood.  It is imperative that the Church community open wide its arms to the newly elect. Active participation in the Mass and the spiritual and corporal works of mercy are part of the communal foundation for the newly elect to prosper and grow as part of their journey as new Catholics.

Sound Fellowship

So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners but you are fellows citizens with the saints and members if the household of God (Eph 2:19).

We are people naturally inclined to fellowship (CCC 1879). Now, before you suspect I am diving into an evangelical fix, the term fellowship is indeed a Catholic term! We look no further than Christ at the Last Supper (Mt 26: 17-29); the Road to Emmaus (Lk 24:28-31); the process of initiation into the Church (Acts 2:37-42). I recommend reading these specific scripture passages to see how fellowship is central to the whole aspect of our continual call to conversion. The gentleman that came to me naturally wanted as many possible Catholic outlets to express his new found faith in a beautiful way.  He wanted and needed fellowship with his new Catholic family.

Sound Catechesis   

The fidelity of the baptized is a primordial condition for the proclamation of the Gospel and for the Church’s mission in the world. In order that the message of salvation can show the power of its truth and radiance before men, it must be authenticated by the witness of the life of Christians (CCC 2044).

One of the main reasons the “Our Father” is presented to the elect on Holy Saturday is it represents the summary of the whole Gospel. When teaching the Deposit of Faith rooted in Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you present the story of God’s love in its entirety. The elect need to see the visible reality of God’s saving love revealed through His Son Jesus Christ. It is here where the catechist must reveal Christ as the heart of who we are as disciples and catechists (Catechesis In Our Time, 5, 20) and be an effective witness of the Gospel (Evangelization In the Modern World, 41).

Forming a Catholic Worldview

Christians recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the kingdom of God (CCC 1691).   

 Any properly trained catechist knows quite well that throwing a newly elect to the parish wolves without offering continual guidance and instruction may not bear much fruit. I do not mean to cast a negative view toward parish life, but the need for careful formation is vital to help the elect view parish life through a Catholic lens. Keep in mind many of the elect have this view I just described because parish life is still somewhat foreign.   

 Catechesis aims at developing an understanding of the Mystery of Christ (Catechesis In Our Time, 20). This is primarily done through the light of God’s Word. The grace received through the Easter Vigil should not diminish within the elect but be cultivated into new opportunities to dive into the mysteries of Christ.

Developing a Catholic worldview takes time. It is important to recognize the teachings of the Church are neither “impediments” nor “optional instructions” to be followed. Any baptized Catholic has the freedom to follow the teachings of the Church or not. This is an exercise in free will. The elect merit proper guidance to what the Church asks of them: fidelity to the Word of God, knowledge of Christ’s love for them, understanding that the Church is the body of Christ and that our call is to live a moral life in Christ. The Catholic ideal is to live an Incarnational life, knowing why Christ came into this world and took on human form. This understanding ultimately directs us to the source and summit of our Christian life in the Holy Eucharist (CCC 1324).

So how are those who were received into the Church at your parish this Easter doing now that they have been Catholic for a couple of months? Are any of them wondering, “I’m Catholic; now what?”


Marlon De La Torre, MA, MEd. is the Director of Catechist Formation and Children's Catechesis for the  Diocese of Fort Worth. Over the last fifteen years Marlon has served in multiple catechetical diocesan positions in Memphis and Kansas City. He is regular guest on the "Sonrise Morning Show" with Brian Patrick and Matt Swaim.  His new book is Screwtape Teaches the Faith: A Guide for Catechists based on The Screwtape Letters and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. His EWTN discussion about the book with Fr. Mitch Pacwa is here


  • Marlon,

    All well and good, but what did you do to the horrible catechist that is hurting the new faithful?

    • Marlon De La Torre

      Tito,

      The catechist was corrected in all fraternal charity. Fortunately or unfortunately however one may view this, the individual was given the opportunity to correct the doctrinal difficencies mentioned but refused. It became clear that this individual had agenda inconsistent with the Church’s doctrinal and catechetical structure.

      • Marlon,

        Thanks for the response.

        You should head on over to Gravatar.com and add a pic!

        In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,

        Tito

        • I can introduce you to a few dozen more that need some kind correcting…

  • Not long ago in this site I commented how I received my basic instruction on the faith from the EWTN programs by Fr. Corapi on the CCC. No one bothered explaining to me even where RCIA was conducted or when.

    Since my realization that the Catholic Church was the Church that Christ founded back in 1997/1998 I have been received in the Church. I had to travel across the ocean to be received but here in the US I met wonderful priests, religious, and lay persons that helped me and received me like a brother. Those were the exceptions.

    Having attended parishes in more than two different states I must say that indifference to the new converts or visitors appears to be the norm. If the new convert happens to be on fire with the truth of the Church expect envy showers, occasional shows of pitiful ignorance, stupidity, dirty looks, defamation and disdain.

    The proof of what I am saying right now is in the internet. Just Google my name read the accusations and the read what I have been writing for the last ten years. Compare. That’s it. There is no escaping it. Some of the defamation has come from priests and that strange animal: the ignorant cradle catholic who knows everything because he “was born in the Church” even when most of what he believes was cooked in the halls of the Democratic Party by Nancy Pelosi and our ever vigilant Vice President.

    Recently someone during Mass refused to give me the peace of the Lord. I cannot be accused of looking for trouble since the usher sat me there next to that very well dressed knucklehead. It was Good Friday Mass. “Hey, Christ may have died for you but I have the right to disagree. No peace for you dirty b*rd.” ha! Well, thank you sir. Thank you for the dirty looks I get from that überkatolik lady with the mantilla when I have the nerve to show up at Rosary time. Thanks for the rude “welcome” of the parish secretary and the general antisocial behavior of nearly everyone. God bless you all!

    Believe me: it is my pleasure to be shunned, defamed, insulted, derided, lied to… I deserve nothing better because I and my sins are the reason why Jesus was crucified. I delight in my Lord accepting me that way. I hope you do the same one day. Less time in Purgatory for me, thanks for the spitballs.

    As for those “nuanced teachings” that pop up everywhere… you know the rule: you mislead someone off the truth of Christ and you win a handsome millstone necktie and the chance to wear it while swimming by the Mariana Trench. Don’t thank me!

    I feel the most profound pity for our Holy Father that knows all what is going on and has to lead his sheep along with a brood of vipers. One can only imagine the patience of God (I am one that is grateful for it though) as His Face is buffeted daily by our disgraceful behavior.

    • Kenneth Jones

      JMJ
      Hey Carlos,

      From where I stand, it does seem that the concept of fellowship is lacking in our Church. I found a great bunch of devout men in the local Knights of Columbus council at my parish in the States (I’m in China now). As an example, I found it quite uplifting to hear the guys talk about saying a rosary while they waited in stalled traffic on the way to work. Instead of complaining, they took advantage and “offered it up.” My kind of men.

      You sound like one of them.

      Check out the K of C if you’re in a country where they operate, or perhaps another Knights of … organization is popular. A good mens group is dynamite.

      Cheers,
      Ken

  • noelfitz

    “He wanted and needed fellowship with his new Catholic family.”
    This is the key phrase for me. But the need for fellowship is broader than that just for converts. I wonder do I give fellowship and encouragement.

    C C-R,
    I am sorry that you had negative experiences.

    You wrote that you were refused the peace of the Lord during Good Friday Mass. The knucklehead might have been correct as there is no Mass on good Friday.

    • It was Thursday evening before GF which is known as the Vespers Mass for Good Friday sorry not to be so technically proper as to explain that dainty detail.

      As for denying someone the peace of the Lord is a requirement of both the Jewish and Christian traditions: “make peace with your brother before offering your sacrifice at the altar.” The giving of the peace is mentioned by the early Fathers also. Not being at peace renders the sacrifice unacceptable to God. That’s what I’ve been taught. In the free for all that we are experiencing in some parts of the world there even more sacrilegious actions being performed.

      In any case, I don’t care. If my presence gives someone a bad case of acid reflux… too bad. I am there for the Lord and if that make someone unhappy they will have to square that with him. I am not going to become Protestant and I am not going to shut up. I am also a pretty big guy so it may take some work to make me shut up.

      Did you check the blogs that the “rainbow Catholics” set up to defame my name? Isn’t that lovely?

  • noelfitz

    Carlos,
    You wrote:
    “I am there for the Lord and if that make someone unhappy they will have to square that with him.”
    I am sorry you are meeting some unfriendly folk in the Church. None of us are perfect, we are unholy people in a holy Church.

    But here in CL I hope you will find solid Catholic friends who discuss the faith and hang on it there.

  • Thank you Noel. If I relate my experience is not to point at the obvious fact that we are all sinners and make mistakes. The idea of the Church is to save souls and even the devil knows that you are not going to catch many souls being nasty and feeling that one’s turf is being invaded when someone comes in the Church.

    Today I found this quote in my mail: “Some seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge: that is curiosity. Others seek knowledge that they may themselves be known: that is vanity. But there are still others who seek knowledge in order to serve and edify others, and that is charity.” Turn this quote around and ask yourself why the average Catholic is so ignorant of his own faith. Many are just happy to be “social Catholics” because they have no idea of the truth contained in their faith and the reason why the faith was even given to us.

    In the meanwhile mosques continue to be built all across the Americas and out children are leaving to join the Secularists, the Marxist, the Atheists, the Muslim, or who knows what other strange siren song of this world.

    We’re bleeding souls and many are helping us to bleed faster. If we don’t make a point of practicing love across the board you know what is going to happen. One day we will have to give an account for the lost. Count on that.

  • noelfitz

    Carlos,
    many thanks for your post.

    I half agree with you.

    Many good Catholic parents have done their best to give their children a good upbringing, but the children have stopped practicing the faith. One has to accept this and hope God will have mercy on us all.

    I was at a very interesting lecture yesterday, in which the lecturer claimed from the enlightenment until about 1970 it was assumed that religion would die out as knowledge advanced. Now, particularly in the US, there has been a huge growth in religion. Reagan benefited from this. The lecturer spoke of his brother who is in an important US business in Washington where prayer breakfasts are common.

    Keep the heart up, things are not as bad as you may imagine.

    “All will be well, and all will be well and all manner of things will be well”.