Triduum and Easter are upon us which means the Catholic Church is getting ready to welcome a great number of newly-confirmed converts (or reverts) into full communion. It can be a scary experience for many… you know that you’re where you are supposed to be but will you survive in this new community? After a year (or more) of formation you might still have questions. I can assure you that, in time, you will come to know and love the fullness of truth that is the Roman Catholic Church. Until then, here are a few must-haves for surviving as a new Catholic.
1. A ‘Catholic’ Bible
Well, as you have probably learned in your RCIA program, all these Catholic folk have plenty of extras in their scriptures. The truth concerning the Church’s cannon of scripture verses the one you likely grew up with is that Catholics use what I like to call the ‘Director’s Cut’ of the Bible, it contains all the awesome content that was to be edited out later. None of which was added by the Church in an after-the-fact sort of way; in fact, most of these ‘extra books’ disappeared from scripture during the Protestant Reformation. Now that you’ve crossed the Tiber, get the whole story.
2. A Catechism (of the Catholic Church)
Chances are your formation was more of a helicopter tour of the Church rather than an in-depth look at some of the Church’s richest dogmas. A catechism is the most beautiful, articulate, and concise expression of the Deposit of Faith that the Church has to offer you. For beginners, I might even suggest getting the YouCat; a question-and-answer form of the Catechism designed for youth and young adults (heck, I still use it…). The catechism might help explain some of the (potentially) most difficult teachings of the Catholic Church. More importantly, each ‘hard teaching’ references a footnote that will likely take you to the exact place in scripture from which this teaching originated.
3. A Confessor
The Sacrament of Reconciliation never gets any easier to do, but over time, the grace is felt evermore abundantly. I would strongly recommend finding a priest that you trust, one that consistently offers you sound advice and make it a point to confess all of your sins to him. Priests have a way of becoming our spiritual accountability partners. On top of the absolution we receive, we gain the added benefit of having someone recognize the patterns of our shortcomings so our assigned penance will become increasingly more effective in relation to our struggles.
4. A Rosary
“Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world.” – Pope Pius IX
This one, for me at least, took a while to see the significance. Coming from a Christian upbringing that puts total emphasis on spontaneous prayer, praying the Rosary seemed like futile effort in prayer. That is… until I gave it a try. I first began to pray the Rosary with my wife because I felt kind of silly doing it alone. The Rosary, as I have come to find, is the most powerful form of prayer. When we look at the Wedding of Cana where Mary petitions her Son concerning the wine that had run out we find scriptural proof that, despite being God Incarnate, Jesus still honored His mother. The Rosary is proof that, when we pray it with intention and fervently believe that Mary hears our intercessions, our efforts will not fall on deaf ears. The Rosary is, in fact, the quickest way to the ear of Jesus.
5. A Home
More often than not, Catholic Neophytes call the community where their initiation took place ‘home.’ It makes sense, especially if your formation experience was particularly fruitful. The fact remains that it is of absolute importance that everyone who comes into the Church finds a parish that they can plug into and become fully assimilated into parish life. This does not mean finding a place to set up camp and propping up your feet. Being Catholic isn’t about occupying a pew or memorizing the recited prayers; it’s about becoming a disciple of Christ. If you are coming from another church tradition it means that you are learning the path of discipleship directly from the source. So, now that you’re here… get moving!