Converting the Past

“Hi, I’m Laura. I just converted – wait, no… um, became? No, that’s not right either. Reverted? Not really.

This mini-conversion goes through my head fairly often these days. I’ve surprised how much “converting” changes the past – and not just the present. Or at least how I see the past – my past.

Take my younger years. When I was actually living them, I might have called myself Catholic – sometimes. At my Confirmation, or at Christmas or on the census form but that was about it.

Later, when I became an Evangelical Protestant, I would never have described myself as having been Catholic. Instead, “I came from a kinda-Catholic family”, “I did the Catholic stuff, you know Baptism, Communion etc”, or “My background is Irish. Go Figure”. But I never said I was Catholic.

Not my childhood, though how cute is she!

But the Church says I was. Worse, the Church says that even when I was a Protestant, I was actually Catholic.

Hold up. The Catholic Church can do that?? I can leave, sneer and reject everything She teaches and still be Catholic? I can become Protestant and then… just stop. And I was always Catholic anyway?

Turns out it is impossible for a baptised Catholic to formally renounce their Catholic faith. They can be excommunicate, schismatic, lapsed, strange, bad, cafeteria, practicing and anything in between but if you were baptised, you are Catholic. To quote Dara O’Briain, it’s “the stickiest, most adhesive religion in the world.” [Warning: he’s a comedian.]

  • You can become a Protestant, pray for the Pope’s conversion, and tattoo the Solas on your heart – and the Catholic Church still says you’re Catholic. Just not a very good one.
  • You can hate God, persecute Christians and change your name to Richard Dawkins – and the Catholic Church still says you’re Catholic. Just a bad one.
  • You can murder six million people, build the Antichrist’s temple or even refuse to drink Guinness – and the Catholic Church still says you’re Catholic. Probably just a lapsed one.

Hilarious jokes aside…

This has rattled me a bit and forced me to look above those early years, looking for signs of grace I may have missed. For those times my grandmother took me to St Patrick’s and I named all the Saints on the walls, or the peace I felt when I lit a candle before a statue of Jesus in Church. Trying to remember if I prayed and what it felt like. But even if I don’t see many, which is the really real? What I say or what the Church says? What I thought was happening or what God was actually doing?

I was baptised and confirmed in the Catholic Church and apparently, despite my best efforts, that was always going to stick. Not because I’m weird, or co-dependent or brainwashed, but because God is mighty to save.

And His saving acts are the “realest” things in my life, whether I see them or not.


11 responses to “Converting the Past

  1. Raises interesting questions Laura – what does it mean to be a Catholic? Coming from the angle you show us here, it seems to depend not on us at all – somehow I like that 🙂

    • Thanks Jess, yes it is an interesting question – one I’ve barely begun to consider! From one angle, it all depends on us. From another, it all depends on God. But then I think about my brother who had exactly the same upbringing as me… and is an ardent an Atheist as you can find. Lots of think about!

  2. My friend Audrey took a very similar path to yours. She was baptized Catholic as a child; was an evangelical Protestant for a good number of years; and was surprised, when she came back to the Catholic Church, to learn that she was still considered Catholic.

    I was baptized in an evangelical church, so the Catholic Church recognized that as valid. I have no doubt that it was efficacious as a sacrament, even there — God’s grace was covering me in so many ways as I was growing up, even through so many dangers, toils, and snares.

    God is mighty to save! His grace is real and can’t be taken away!

    • Thanks Joseph! I’m glad to know there are other baptised Catholics who have done what I did. Maybe God knew we wouldn’t believe unless we found Him somewhere else. And then he started bringing us back home. 🙂

      But I’m always praying for the many, many baptised Catholics who are now in evangelical churches. Unfortunately, there are so many of us!

      And I’m so glad you can see God’s grace at work in your past – that is a powerfully comforting thing, particularly for we history nuts. And bonus points for referencing the hymn I think!

  3. It is that pesky baptism that does it, the church is the hardest church I know, the rules are laid out for you to see, but at the same time it is the forgivenest church I have every seen, you have to be on your scout’s honor not to sin the same sin, but they forgive and forgive and forgive.
    I tell my Priest he is better then a movie and cheaper. The only time I got chicken when we had a Vatican cannon lawyer speak, I am so lucky I always get steak. God bless

  4. Pingback: Happy Halfversary! | CATHOLIC CRAVINGS·

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