Getting Comfy with Catholicism- A Convert’s Maturation

How long did it take you to get comfy with Catholicism? Over the last few weeks, I think I’ve turned a corner and am more comfortable than at any time over the last year-and-a-half. While I’ve been passionate about the faith since my conversion, I’ve felt disillusioned at times and hesitant to jump into ministry with full force.  I think, I hope, I pray, I’m entering into a new season with a newfound maturity.  Here are a few of the key moments that has led me to my new peace:

“Let’s just do something.”- Not long after we got married Jackie and I returned to my old evangelical church for a local fundraiser. As we were leaving I gazed longingly at the brochures about upcoming mission trips, at the pictures of missionaries the church supported around the world. This church had supported me to Mexico, to Poland, and would have supported me more if I had asked. After we left I began lamenting to Jackie about how I missed the evangelical zeal of my past life, of the nights praying for salvation of those around the world and giving sacrificially to plant churches , when she finally said, in essence, “Stop complaining about how things used to be and let’s just do something. Take that energy and use it in the Catholic Church.” My pride was wounded, I pouted, and a seed was planted.

Daydreaming at Mass- A little over a month ago I had zoned out during Mass and a thought came to me: how would I act if I were a pastor in this city, as had always been my dream? What intentional actions would I take to spread the truth of Christianity? Where would I volunteer, who would I mentor? It was an invitation, perhaps prompted by the Holy Spirit, to begin firmly taking ownership of my efforts at the local parish. Yes, I will not be a leader of a flock as I imagined as an evangelical, but how can I become a dedicated layman? It’s not that I wasn’t already involved in the parish, it was that I was less interested in fully giving myself to the mission of Christ. In past weeks I’ve articulated it as, “How can I become an anchorite for this parish, this city?”

Brandon Vogt, Scott Hahn,  and the power of the individual- I’ve admired Brandon Vogt’s work since I started blogging because of how much we have in common. We are both evangelical converts previously interested in seminary, married young, working full-time jobs, and trying to further the new evangelization. I was struck, then, when I contrasted his enthusiastic efforts with my disillusionment. What if Brandon, when he converted, had simply lamented Catholic media efforts rather than throwing himself full-throttle into publishing a book about Catholicism and new media and working with Fr Robert Barron to educate the world about the beauties of Catholicism? At the Defending the Faith conference I had the same thought: what if Scott Hahn had simply pouted, rather than leading hundreds of pastors to the Catholic Church? Which path did I want to follow?

World Youth Day- Seeing the crowds of people from around the world proclaiming their  love for Christ made me feel rejuvenated, revived, enthusiastic to be part of this movement. I’ve always thought it to be so cool when evangelical pastor Louie Giglio hosts thousands of youth each year at the Passion conference, but, honestly, Passion’s got nothing on World Youth Day. I was stunned, too, to find out that the next World Youth Day will be in Krakow, Poland, a city I visited as an evangelical missionary. My how things have changed!

Pope Francis- Finally, the world’s reaction to Pope Francis has led me to carefully reexamine any preconceived notions I have about evangelization. Francis is so kind, so loving, so genuine. In a world where many of our heroes turn out to be lying Livestrong frauds, we are starved for someone who is genuine. While not idolizing Francis, I do wish to emulate many of his actions. When I write posts on this blog and talk to non-Catholics, I want to genuinely care about these people, to love them and care less about winning arguments than serving them. And I want to care about the poor. Like, really. Not in a serve on a charity board type of way, but have them be my best friends type of way. It seems like what Jesus would do, did.

Please pray for me, pray for us. I’m working full-time and considering starting an online masters program soon while Jackie and I adjust to married life and become active in our parish.

Thanks for reading,

-Anthony Elias  Baratta

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