This week the discussion guide introduces the five stages of evangelization, then lingers on #1, trust. Hence the discussion question I’m going to answer this week:
How was the bridge of trust built for you?
My answer surprised me: Even as a very-lapsed Catholic, I had an inherent trust in the Catholic Church because I was raised in a Catholic family.
I know it can go the other way: Being raised Catholic can show too much underbelly, too many shortcomings, and you end up the surly teenage daughter of the Church, resentful of Mother because her failings are so intimately known.
But I guess for me, being only mildly-Catholic prevented me from having to think about any hard questions. The Catholic Church of my childhood, after all, made no particular demands on me. We were Catholic the way we were German-Irish — didn’t mean we spoke any German or Irish, or possessed any cultural patrimony other than some choice last names. And yet I felt a certain glow of pride the first time I tasted German potato salad: I knew I’d found my culinary homeland. The Catholic Church was my religious potato salad.
I was double-helped into the Church by my various 80-something (then) Catholic relatives. My experience has been that 80 is kind of a magical year, and people really seem to get their head on straight about that time. (My now-senile Catholic maternal grandmother was an early bloomer — she hit the height of her curmudgeonly powers by her early 70’s.) So as it turned out, the most interesting and intelligent people I knew were all Catholics.
The funny thing about “trust” is what my evangelical acquaintances always assumed, post-reversion, when they found out I was Catholic. They assumed it was a potato-salad thing. That I’d grown up with a heavily liturgical Church, and I just liked the script and music and colorful accents, and I was sticking around the Church because it was all homey for me. For which reason, when confronted with my disparity-of-cult-plagued marriage, their proposed solution was that we visit the lovely evangelical Anglican place downtown.
I think very highly of that particular congregation, and would say so when the suggestion was made, but also I’d shake my head: You don’t get it. Sure, I’ll admit it, being at home with the Catholic faith, potato-salad-wise, made it easier for me to not to resist that final call to reversion. And review with me: My reversion was a spiritual event first, and an intellectual one only after. But trust me, I didn’t end up back at the Catholic Church out of love for the Gather hymnal.
If it were sincerity, devotion, kindness, and good music that I wanted, I’d be as committed an evangelical protestant as you could find. I left the Catholic Church because I didn’t have any particular reason to stay. No hard feelings, but what was the point? I returned to the Church when I discovered the point. Trust is a necessary part of conversion, but it is not the ultimate cause of conversion.