05 November 2015

Coming Out As Catholic To Your Family & Friends

This post will probably be most helpful for those who have religious parents of a different faith, particularly those of a different sect of Christianity (that is, a Protestant denomination like Baptist or Methodist), as that was my situation. It may be helpful for people in other social circumstances, but I won't claim to be able to speak to something I don't have the experience to cover. Okay, let's jump in.

So, after careful study and thought, you've decided to convert (or return!) to Catholicism. First, that is awesome! I'm super stoked for you and hope that you're finding a nice parish, getting yourself to an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program, learning Church history, choosing a Confirmation saint, preparing for Confession and getting ready to get down at Easter Vigil. You've got a great road ahead of you. But you still have to tell your family and friends about your decision. That can be super difficult, but it is an important step in the conversion process. Here is some of my advice when it comes to having "the conversion talk."



1. Remember Your Roots


Always remember where you came from, especially when it's from a non-Catholic Christian background, especially when your family is pretty devout in their own sect. Your family probably remembers you participating in Sunday School plays and learning about the faith right beside them on Sunday mornings. If your church was as fellowship-focused as mine, you'll probably have a long list of potlucks, picnics and house visits under your belt. In this circumstance, you have faith and community to contend with. You may find that when you say, "Hey, I'm converting," people hear "I don't appreciate what you did to help my faith," or "The memories I have of our times of fellowship together mean nothing."

Just because you now believe the Catholic Church is the Church Christ established while here on earth, you should not feel or communicate arrogance about your conversion. Did you come to the Church all on your own without God's grace? I didn't think so. Instead, be grateful for what God has done in your life, and that includes being thankful for the journey and where it all started.

2. Know Your Audience


Your audience will largely decide your delivery. That is not to say that you should be dishonest about why you are converting. Rather, only you know what kind of people you are telling your epiphany to. If your family is very devoutly Protestant, as mine was, you might find yourself with a large discussion on your hands (*see #3). You might need to emphasize how much they have helped you develop your faith and that this decision is not made against them, but for Christ. If your friends are not incredible apathetic to any religion, as many of mine were, you will face more confused looks than anything else. You may get to thrown down some fun facts (eg. "Do you know about St. Lawrence? He was a martyr who was tied to a grill and slowly roasted to death. Part way through, he said, 'Turn me over. I'm done on this side.' True story."). Knowing who you're speaking to will help you know how to say what you need to say.

3. Plan Your Speech


Now, this doesn't have to be a huge speech, but knowing what you want to say ahead of time can help you out when nerves might be hanging about. [Just don't be like me when I have to talk on the phone and write it all down, only to go off the cuff. "Uh...hi...hello...how are you? My name is Haley. ...Oh, right, I called about" Don't be a bumbling mess.]

If you are at a loss, just keep it simple. "Hi, so-and-so. I want to share some exciting news with you. I am converting to Catholicism. I have thought and prayed about this for a good while. I appreciate your prayers and would love it if you came to my Confirmation. Any questions?"

Don't make excuses. Don't tiptoe around the topic. If your audience is in the "That's interesting. I have many questions" camp, enjoy the opportunity to tell people what you love about the Church. If your audience is in the "What utter nonsense this is!" camp, be patient and charitable. You have had time to think about converting, while your people have not. Continue to be patient and charitable through any questions or exclamations. Looking back, I will always see the ways I could have said or done something differently, and the only thing I regret about converting is that I definitely could have handled telling the news in a more charitable way. Again, this is an opportunity to tell people what you love about the Church. Time to represent.

4. Find Your Support


If your loved ones respond positively to the news of your conversion, then celebrate! That is great! If your loved ones are straight up baffled by your decision, then pray for them and find the support you need in the Church. Invoke the saints: Saints Helen and Monica are patrons of converts (and the mothers of Constantine and Augustine, respectively). We also live in the age of social media; use it to your advantage. I have made many Catholic friends because of blogs and Twitter (check out my "favorite blogs" link above and follow me at @bakeorbake!). Get involved at your parish with Bible studies and weekly Rosaries, and get to know other converts. Find your own support group.

In Conclusion


We owe a great deal to our family and friends. These are the people who have seen us grow up, who know us better than others, and who have our best interests in mind. Remember these things when you share your news. Though this may be a difficult step at first, with time, your loved ones will likely adjust and may even consult you on an aspect of Catholicism. My family and friends came to my Confirmation and showed their support again at my Nuptial Mass. The process of converting can be exciting, but the result is important, too. Always show others the light of Christ.

2 comments:

  1. I was really nervous to tell my parents about my conversion at the time and I like what you said about not being bumbling. I become that bumbling mess when I'm nervous, but I practiced and practiced with my husband about how I could respectfully, but assertively, tell them. This topic is hard for most converts, I think. It's good to have these tips on hand! I googled everything when I was converting from "walk me through confession" and "how to genuflect" but there was never any good sources for interior, personal matters like this, and I was way too shy to speak to anyone about it.

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    1. Hi Hannah! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)
      I like that you practiced what to say! I did not do that and definitely would have benefited from such a thing. It is rarely a simple conversation to have, so I hope this post is helpful for someone.
      I'll have to think of more interior matters, as I'm trying to make more of these handy-dandy lists/how-to posts (as you've noticed). Is there anything you'd have liked to know/have a resource for way back then?

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