There is a saying that to truly understand a city you have to have lived in it for twenty years or two weeks. The two weeks part of that saying means that someone with a fresh set of eyes sees aspects of a city that locals have overlooked or just grown used to. I think the same idea applies to Catholicism. To truly understand the Catholic faith you have to have faithfully studied and practiced it for decades or be a recent convert. Recent converts usually see the beauty and understand the theological framework of the Church that cradle Catholics may overlook or take for granted. For this article, I am going to write about a book I just finished which focuses on Catholicism through the eyes of recent converts.
I just finished reading Rome Sweet Home which is the story of Scott and Kimberly Hahn. Many of you may recognize those names because Scott often speaks on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) about he and his wife’s conversion to Catholicism. The book is a good read that takes you through their lives at devout and well educated Presbyterians to Scott’s conversion (to Kimberly’s anguish), and then Kimberly’s conversion. It’s a fascinating read where each chapter first tells Scott’s story and ends with Kimberly’s take on the same events. It almost reads like a mystery where Scott’s story often ends with some sort of cliffhanger which is later filled in by Kimberly’s story.
There are two aspects of the book that I’m going to touch on briefly. First, I was amazed by the intellectual honesty Scott and Kimberly showed in their conversion process. When confronted with information about the Catholic Church’s teaching on various subjects, Scott couldn’t escape how well reasoned they were and how much he agreed with them. It would have been very easy for Scott to turn a blind eye to the Church’s teachings and return to the comfort of his protestant lifestyle. But instead he kept digging; wanting to find the truth regardless of where it led him. The more he read and discussed Catholicism to find that large logic gap to disprove it, the more he fell in love with it.
You have to admire that dedication to the finding truth. Scott and Kimberly’s story should serve as an inspiration to us all in this season of Lent as we fast, pray, and meditate on finding truth in our lives. Are you dedicated to finding and then living the truth? Or will you turn a blind eye to the Church’s teaching when it throws up challenges or conflicts with societal norms? When you pray the rosary, meditate on the Sorrowful Mysteries and think about the giant price Jesus paid by not bending to the expectations of others. Ask yourself whether you have truly dedicated yourself to the truth and the way Jesus is asking you to live. That’s okay if you do not meet that high bar. It is why we pray in the first place — to ask God for the strength to seek out and live according to His Will, not ours.
The second aspect of the book which touched me was how deeply the Hahn’s longed for Eucharist after their conversation. They appreciate the power of this great gift from God. They were dismayed about how casually many Catholics receive Communion. They reasoned that many people truly do not understand who they are receiving in the Eucharist. Otherwise they would approach it with far more reverence and also a profound joy. I guess it takes a lifetime as a protestant with the host being just a wafer to truly stand in awe of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.
As we continue our Lenten prayers and fasting, meditate on the Fifth Luminous Mystery, The Institution of the Eucharist. Ask God for the faith to see the Eucharist like someone receiving Him for the first time. Imagine being a recent convert where you have gone your entire life denying your soul of that spiritual banquet of the Eucharist and now you are finally able to celebrate. So deep should our joy of the Eucharist be whether we have received it a few times or thousands of times. We pray for those going through RCIA as we lead up to their full membership in the Catholic Church this Easter. And finally, pray for those who receive communion without truly understanding what it is, especially if they receive it with mortal sins on their souls.