What To Expect When You’re Converting

So you’re thinking of converting to the Catholic Church? But you’re wondering, what can I expect? Well, veteran that I am, here’s a few things you can expect.

Expect to be excited, scared, joyful, anxious, and overwhelmed all once.

Expect to be “rebuked” and be accused of betraying the Gospel, the Reformation, and all the missionaries and martyrs in history. All of them. Expect to be told that you’re not a Christian now and ergo, you never were. And if you just read Galatians, it’ll all be fine.

Expect your friends to be (understandably) confused and/or concerned. Expect them to keep loving you just the same because that’s what friends do and you have amazing friends. Also, expect your mum to cry, and your dad to make jokes about “Proddys” and “Tykes”. (Oh, I wish I was joking.)

Expect to love receiving Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Expect to feel unworthy to do so, and just a bit light-headed and clammy when you go up to receive Him. And when you do, expect that all you want to do is giggle and do a happy dance because DUDE, YOU JUST ATE JESUS.

Expect some serious awkwardness when, after a glass of bubbly or two, you bring up the morality contraception at your Protestant friends’ engagement parties and kitchen teas.

Expect some serious awkwardness in general, actually.

Expect to feel conflicted about a whole host of issues, whether contraception, gay marriage, women priests, or singing “Come As You Are” for the fifth Sunday in a row.

what to expect

Maybe don’t expect this…

Expect to meet some of the loveliest people, and some not so lovely people, and some strange people. Actually, scrap that. Expect people. The Catholic Church is full of them. (“Oh look, here comes everyone!”) But do expect to be scandalised by other Catholics. Not in the gossipy-“oh ma word! Didya see what Susie-Anne wore to church today?” way. But in the “your irreverence, ignorance and blatant disregard for the teachings of the Church shocks me and makes me wonder what on earth I’ve got myself into here” way. (This isn’t fun.)

Expect to get heaps excited about the liturgical calendar. (We went from green to purple to red and back to purple and it was amazing!! This is much more fun!!!)

Expect to start loving the Pope. Expect to start calling the Pope Papa, and then expect to start casually referring to him as Papa Frankie. Because that’s just what you do now.

Expect several people to ask if this is really just about a boy. Do not expect them to be amused when you answer, “I wish! Joining the Church which was founded by Christ Jesus, guarded from error by the Holy Spirit and which possesses the fullness of truth, and getting a boyfriend all in one go? Winner!!!”

Expect to be blown away – repeatedly – by the depth and richness of the Catholic tradition. Expect to be overwhelmed by all the possibilities, all the doctrines, and all the devotions. Expect to lose sight of the important stuff (hint: JESUS) sometimes.

Expect to find the Rosary way more compelling than you thought you would. Also expect to lose a rosary about every few months, so buy the cheaper ones until you’re used to remembering where to keep this powerful weapon against Satan.

Expect to be mired in works-righteousness, dead religiosity, and meaningless mumbl0-jumbo.

Expect people to not pick up your sarcasm because what seems laughable to you, they probably think is actually true.

Do expect this.

Do expect this.

Expect people to assume this is just a phase, just an emotional crisis, just a quarter-life crisis, just a little rebellion, just an aesthetic longing for a vanished past, or just a post-modern experiment in theological pastiche. And if after a year, you joke – on April Fool’s Day no less – that it was all joke, expect that some people will find it easier to believe that you faked converting for a whole year than that you genuinely converted to the Catholic Church.

Expect to have times of peace and joy, but also times of doubt and fear. Expect that there will be times you wish you didn’t have to convert, but also expect that if you had the chance, you’d do it all over again.

Expect to have a minor aneuryism every time the words “Christian” and “Catholic” are separated by an “or”.

But most importantly, expect to love being Catholic, not because it makes you different or better or holier or smarter, but because it draws you closer to Christ. It’s His truths in the dogmas, His grace in the sacraments, His presence in the Eucharist, and His Spirit uniting you all.

It’s His Church.

So expect Jesus. You won’t be disappointed.


22 responses to “What To Expect When You’re Converting

  1. LOVE. THIS. And totally gonna start calling the Pope “Papa Frankie” now. Just casually.

  2. Hi Laura,

    I enjoyed the post, parts of it made me laugh (in a good way) and other’s brought back fond memories of my own conversions.

    I have to say, if you’ve developed a deep love of the Pope this quickly you are blessed, when I converted, the deep affection towards the Pope was a long time coming for me. For a long time I accepted intelectually that he was Vicar of Christ, but it took me for ever to truly feel the love for him as my Father (mind you, when I fisrt converted it was still JPII).

    Also, for me, I guess it was different because I come from an atheist family and was never a conservative protestant. For me the problem wasn;t friends who now thought I was going to hell, it was friends who thought I was turning my back on the struggle for progress and science and human rights.

    I loved your final bit about expecting Jesus, I’m going to use that some time.

    Anyway, it’s always good to hear the perspectives of a fellow convert.

    • Hey Jason, I’m so glad you liked it. You’re experience sounds really hard. At least I could always play the Jesus card. 😉 I think it was easier to love the pope because I admired Pope Benedict as a Scripture scholar and awesome theologian even before I became Catholic. And then there was all the excitement of the conclave and a new pope! 🙂 Thanks for commenting too!

  3. Great title, great picture, great post, Laura! I’m a cradle Catholic and I still lose rosaries, only now I don’t lose cheap ones….oh dear. Hopefully whoever finds them really needs them.

  4. Pingback: What To Expect When You’re Converting | The Back of the World·

    • Hey Thomas, thanks for commenting! I’m glad you enjoyed it and found it resonated with your experience. It’s good to know I’m not the only one! 🙂

  5. I really enjoyed this. As I am in the process of converting, I have many reactions, but the vast majority of people have no idea. My husband is a pastor, so there are obvious implications. My family lovingly makes jokes because it is hard for them to believe and understand my love for the Catholic church. They don’t really know what to do with it, and to be honest, some days I don’t either. But I love the mass, and receive a blessing, longing for the day I can receive the body and blood of our Lord. I am not comfortable participating in certain things at my family’s church, due to a lack of agreement with he teaching, but I go to services each Sunday after Mass. I sort of feel like an outsider in both worlds.

  6. I follow your blog, but somehow missed this post. I found it through the Back of the World…I want to like it a hundred times, it is SO good! I’ve been Catholic for three years, and have been accused of everything from rebellion to having my brains sucked out by aliens. I’m not kidding. I love being Catholic, and find this blog post the perfect guide to “what to expect”…I wish I’d have had it when we were in the process. Passing it on to my fellow future Catholics 🙂


  7. Thank you for this! I’ll definitely need to read this over and over again in the coming months as I go through RCIA. 🙂

  8. Pingback: What To Expect When You’re Converting | The Barefoot Pilgrim·

  9. For years, I would FIND rosaries in my home. I still have 3 or 4 of them. Never did discover their origin, but I suspect my mother of leaving at least one of them in a bathroom.

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