The unshakable faith and fervor of a convert is insufferable. I know, because I am one.
The reason I think the faith of convert is unshakable is that they have often been through something for which God had to intervene, personally. Faith, for a convert, is less about blind belief and more about personal experience.
I am Catholic.
I became a Catholic, surrounded by Mormons. While the LDS people I grew up around carried some of the strongest testimonies of faith, it was the hand of Christ himself who put me on the path I am on.
At 12 years old, I had already been seeking a home church. I begged every person I knew that went to church to take me to theirs. I got dressed up on Sundays and Wednesday nights and went tagalong to any services I could go to. In the meantime, I read the Bible and holy books from many other churches: the Book of Mormon, the Talmud, the Quran, and all the literature from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. By the time I was 14 I began to flounder. None of the messages I heard, none of the scriptures I read, none of the lessons I followed spoke to my heart the way prayer did. I wanted church to feel like prayer, like a connection between me and God.
I already had faith that God existed, loved me, and saw each person as valuable; no matter whether their clothes fit or not. I knew that God loved me (and everyone) and cared about what we did with our lives. No one could take that away. I had faith that there were Godly people in every church, but I could not always find them. I wanted a church where the people treated each other like God would, with love and acceptance, and I wasn’t finding it.
On the verge of giving up, I told my best friend about my search and how it was failing. We were at a bus stop on 2100 so and 500 East at 5:30 AM, like we had been every day of high school.
She pondered for a minute and said “Have you been here?” She nodded at the church building right behind us.
“No,” I replied, looking up at the unique building. It said “St. Anne’s Catholic Parish.” I blanched at the idea of anyone named “Anne” being saintly, but mused about the name and how it might be a sign.
I knew that my grandfather had been Catholic, but I had never known any personally.
“I don’t know anyone there.”
“We’ll go with you,” my friend said, volunteering her family to go with us.
We got all dressed up and met at the front doors of the church on Sunday. Crowds of people were filing into the building, and we tried to act confident as we followed them in. I was stunned to see cigarette ashtrays outside the doors. I was also stunned to see that many other people were there in shorts and T-shirts, which would’ve been far more comfortable than my long dress in the June heat.
We found a place to sit along the middle of the room and sat back to listen and watch. We knew nothing of the service. It was startling that the congregation participated in the prayers and responded to the priest, though I didn’t know that’s what he was called. Because I didn’t know enough about the service at the time, I couldn’t say just when during the mass it happened. What I can say is that I was sitting. I looked up at the suspended statue of the ascension of Christ over the altar and was overwhelmed with a vision. Instead of sitting in the church I was suddenly standing in a field, a meadow. As I spun around in the field, feeling the warm sun on my face and a breeze against my skin, looking around at paradise; I saw Jesus. He saw me and threw back his head laughing, then opened his arms to hug me. As he wrapped his arms around me, still smiling, he said “Welcome home.”
I came back from that vision, determined to join the church. It was not easy for a 14 year old girl to jump through all the hoops required. Just finding godparents was complicated. But after two years, I was finally baptized and confirmed.
Which Church (if any) a person belongs to is a very personal choice. I would never proselytize and tell others that being Catholic is right for them. For many years, being a convert was very difficult. Like being a Muggle born witch, I felt so far behind all the people who had been born and raised Catholic. Eventually, I found my footing and my place and I’ve never looked back. For me, I know I was home. It’s the only home I’ve ever really found.