We all have different journeys to the Catholic Faith. For those of us who came from Baptist or evangelical backgrounds (polity aside, they are essentially the same), we bring in different baggage and have different questions than someone from, say, an atheist background. In response to several questions from a recent convert, here are my answers.
What helped you grow in your daily life and understanding of the Church?
I recommend Christian Smith’s How to Go From Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in 95 Difficult Steps so much that he should pay me. Here’s why: unlike most other books by evangelical converts, Christian Smith largely does not focus on apologetics but, as a sociologist, instead focuses on the experience of an evangelical coming into the Church. The book helped me start to identify the difference between good habits and bad habits I learned as an evangelical Christian. Good habit: scripture study. Bad habit: spreading the Good News without understanding other peoples of faith like, say, Catholics.
The one thing I miss and haven’t really replaced is quality podcasts. I used to listen to well-produced, hour-long sermons that were downloaded millions of times and great for deepening my relationship with Christ EWTN’s programming is ok, Catholic Answers is focused on apologetics, the best things I’ve found is Scott Hahn’s resources at the St Paul Center for Biblical Theology and Father Robert Barron’s podcast, Word on Fire. I’ve yet to explore much of Cardinal Dolan or Pope Francis’s homilies. Also, I bought Scott Hahn’s New Testament study Bible to help me further explores verses I didn’t understand as a Protestant. If you’d like more information, Teresa Tomeo’s book, Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, not Conformed to Culture has a couple pages of good resources.
I feel awkward, like I’m not being a good Catholic. What should I do?
Be patient, this is a journey. Give yourself time—I know you want to do something, especially after having gone through RCIA, but give yourself room to grow. However, one concrete thing I’d recommend is to pivot away from apologetics. At some point you’ve got to stop learning the arguments against sola scriptura and continue your own personal journey. Instead, explore spiritual disciplines you know very little about—the rosary, the Liturgy of the Hours, adoration, the sacraments. Last year, when I was unemployed, I spent a lot of time struggling through the rosary in empty chapels. My relationship with Mary has deepened, some, but I’ve grown to really enjoy adoration and the peace of the Catholic sanctuary. I’d also recommend not giving up already established helpful practices like scripture memorization—this is all about growing deeper in the faith you already have.
What are the basic differences between Baptists and Catholics? Is there a graph?
My second-most recommended book is David Currie’s, Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic if you’re looking for longer answers. If you want shorter answers, Catholic Answers (www.Catholic.com ) is the only way to go. They have digestible information on any issues you want to know.
How do I evangelize as a Catholic?
Let’s set some context. In the Catholic Church, evangelization includes shaping the culture to reflect Christian values, performing acts of mercy like serving the poor, and verbally sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. In my experience, affirmed by many, Catholics today are least comfortable with the third point. Here is where cognitive dissonance may come in: I recommend you read this document by the U.S. Bishops (defines evangelization and many other things) and books like, John Paul II and the New Evangelization: How You Can Bring the Good News to Others ( if you just type New Evangelization into Amazon you will get a bunch of hits). However, you might not see it happening in your parish (be thankful if you do!) Be patient, pray, God is faithful and will not leave you alone.
Here’s what you shouldn’t do: Don’t go on a quest to prove to your family and friends that you are right and they are wrong in the name of Christ. Tone it down a bit, live out your Catholic faith, and be ready to answer questions as they come.
Thanks for writing!