I’m Catholic – but I wasn’t always.
I joined the Church last Easter, and found the year that followed to be super-eventful, super-educational, and super-meaningful.
That being said, I wish that someone had told me a few things after Easter, before I left the Church and set out as a full-fledged Catholic.
So, here goes: my first-year-of-being-Catholic-survival-guide:
Being a new Catholic is wonderful.
Sensing the Holy Spirit dwelling within you and your new Catholic dignity, you feel shiny and new.
But feeling that great can be scary, because you feel very fragile. You also feel fantastic, and you don’t want that feeling to go away.
But it will.
It has to, because humans can’t maintain such a high forever.
But that’s okay – there’s more to your Catholic journey than feeling good all the time.
Your first year as a Catholic will be a time of growth, change, and meaningful interactions.
Here are four things to keep in mind as you begin your life as a Catholic:
1. You are Catholic – not perfect.
You will mess up. Period.
In the Our Father, we pray that we be forgiven as we forgive others – we also must forgive ourselves.
When you were Baptized, your sins were forgiven, but there are still residual effects of sin – effects that may tempt you to sin again.
Strive always to do good. But when you fall short, go easy on yourself, and know that you can learn great lessons through repentance. The sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is an essential part of the Catholic life. Don’t forget about it, and be brave enough to take it regularly.
2. The Easter Vigil is over, but your conversion isn’t.
In this life, we can never say that we are finished converting to Catholicism.
If we were, we would be perfect.
We aren’t, but we can’t waste time beating ourselves up about it – we have too much learning and serving to do.
Never fall into the trap of thinking that now that you’re officially Catholic, you are finished learning.
There will always be more to know.
Knowing that is daunting – don’t let that freeze you in your tracks, either.
Find good books to read, good podcasts and music to listen to, and study prayer, the saints, the history of the Church and the Mass, and keep up to date with good news sources (such as www.romereports.com and @Pontifex).
Most importantly, take your time.
Who knows how long this life will last?
However long it is, spend it steadily growing in friendship with God.
3. Shoot for outer space, not just somewhere along the way.
People say that men and women who convert to Catholicism are typically the most energetic Church members.
That’s quite the feather-in-the-cap for new Catholics, but there is a dark side to it: new Catholics may find that they are surrounded by many Church members who don’t seem to be as excited about… everything… as you are.
Don’t let that scare you: you are not doomed to become someone who doesn’t seem very enthusiastic or serious about the Church.
It would be great if everyone was constantly energized about living the Catholic lifestyle, but that can be complicated for many.
When it’s hard for us to stay inspired, that’s when we need our parish, the Church community the most.
right now, the light you shine as a new Catholic, someone who had joined the Church by choice. What a tremendous gift.
One that illuminates the whole Church.
One day, when you aren’t quite as new, you’ll be inspired by those joining the Church, too.
4. Hang out with the Saints.
If you want to be good at something, find someone who is awesome at that thing, then do what they do.
Who are the people who have forged the best relationships with God? The Saints.
Lucky for us, there are loads of books and websites that we can use to learn about these amazing men and women.
Learn how they lived, and allow the information to influence your day-to-day routine.
Keep these four tips in mind as you begin your life as a Catholic. Be gentle with yourself. Make it a priority to continue learning. Do the most that you can. Study the Saints, then let them influence you.
Congratulations and welcome home.
May God bless you.
Are you a new Catholic? What’s it like so far?
Have you been Catholic for a few years? For your whole life? What has your Catholic journey been like?