Cradle Catholic. It’s a term all of us have heard, many of us have used, and most of us deserve. We became Catholic at our Baptism as infants and still are the Catholics our parents raised us to be. We aren’t converts – though some of us call ourselves reverts, that is, having returned to the Faith with zeal and conviction after some period of distance.
Cradle Catholic. It’s not something we discourage, by any means, since the Faith is a great gift to have received from your parents and to give to your children, bringing with it Life itself that lasts forever. On the contrary, it is something I cherish, and so should you. But is it enough?
Especially as I teach and lead the catechumens and candidates in RCIA who are seeking to enter the Communion of the Church, I pause periodically to ask myself if I would have had the personal openness, spiritual courage, and intellectual honesty to come to the Church had I not been born to her. And if I wonder about that, I have to wonder if I have had the personal openness, spiritual courage, and intellectual honesty to follow the Faith to the fullness of what it offers – and asks of me.
Sure, I can tell myself that since I have become a priest, I must have given everything Christ is asking, and must be enjoying all the graces he has for me. But Lent for me is a time of reflection and self-examination as well, so I always find areas where I come up short. That’s humbling, but enticing too, as I realize there is yet more grace.
But I have never had to confront the kind of costs of which I warn everyone who considers joining the Church as an adult: bewilderment, ridicule, and hostility. When you share your conversion, people feel free to tell you that no sensible, intelligent, educated, or virtuous person would do that. They distance themselves. Would I have been willing to endure that?
What the holy Sacraments of Initiation confer, and what our parents shape in us are precious indeed, but I have to ask – how many of us settle now for just what gifts we got before we were fifteen, or just what we learned from our parents, in any important category of our lives?
Because we attend Mass, because we are married with two, four, or six kids; because our kids are in Religious Ed, or even Catholic school; because we are happy and active in the parish community – do we think we are done turning toward God, and what He is asking, and offering us?
As we watch our brothers and sisters go to great lengths, and make great sacrifices, to enter the Church and live the Faith, there is no better time to ask yourself: is your Catholicism still in the cradle?
Please let me thank you for your immediate response last week to our collection to send some help to Japan. The amount given -- $5,598.06 – reflects your deep concern for your brothers and sisters you have never met. We will continue to accept anything you wish to contribute, and forward it immediately to Catholic Relief Services. However, our desire to help does not fade after we have written a check, so we will continue to pray, at Mass and at home, and offer our Lenten sacrifices for the help and consolation of these people suffering such dreadful disasters.