11 January 2016

Why Conversion is Like Marriage

Ever since I announced that I was converting in the Summer of 2012, I have received questions (and sometimes, incredulous comments).

"Why are you converting?"

"How did you know the Catholic Church was the right one for you?"

"But what about [insert doctrine here]?"

"But...you've been Protestant your whole life!"

My simple, reader's digest, keep it simple stupid response was: "Because I believe the Catholic Church holds the truth." Only recently have I realized that one of the best analogies I can give is this: conversion is like marriage.

Now, what could that possibly mean? Imagine people asking you these questions instead:

"Why are you getting married?"

"How did you know he was The One?"

"But what if he puts the toilet paper roll on backwards?" (He does.)

"But...you've been single your whole life!"

In a way, going through the conversion process is like going through the dating process. (I should admit that my dating experience is limited: my husband was only my second boyfriend.) You get to know someone/something you thought at first glance you might not be interested in. Or maybe something catches your eye at first sight and you dive in. You want to understand, and so you ask questions, you learn about their past, you try to see the world as they see it.

In our world of casual dating, many a convert approaches the Church in this way. "Oh, I'm just curious," I would tell myself. "I just wanted to know more. I just wanted to understand." There was no immediate commitment. I was not binding myself to the Church after the first Mass, just as I would not have married someone after knowing them for a week.

But there is something about the Church which prevents the convert from being too casual in his relationship with Her. The Church is mysterious, strong, constant and beautiful. Are we (those of us called to marriage, at least) not attracted to those qualities in our spouse? The Church is, after all, the bride of Christ.

This comparison, then, shouldn't be too surprising. It isn't that joining the Catholic Church is like finding the spouse God planned for you and marrying that person. It's that marriage reflects the relationship of Christ and the Church.

At our Nuptial Mass, our celebrant (a really awesome priest, by the way) had some very good things to say in his homily. Some excerpts:

"[You] now await in this Mass those precious moments which will make your union not merely a contract or a convenient arrangement, but a reflection of heavenly realities."

"Even though they make their vows to each other in the presence of the Church and Her minister, they quickly turn, taking their own love and offering it on the altar of God. In a sense, the vows of these two people are similar to the bread and wine which will be placed on the altar. They offer up their human love to the Source of all love."

"What better place is there, then, for an earthly marriage to take place than in Mass, the image of the marriage of Christ to His Church, the image of Heaven itself?"

The Sacrament of Marriage is understood to be lasting, faithful and fruitful. These words describe the Catholic Church as well. When one finds his spouse, he falls in love, and he commits to her in the presence of God. When one finds his spouse, he stops looking for another. It is likewise with the Catholic Church. When I found the Church, I fell in love, and I committed to Her in the presence of God. When I found the Church, I stopped looking for another, because the Catholic Church held everything that I desired, and more importantly, everything that I needed.

I am reminded of a quotation (on which I have commented previously) by G.K. Chesterton:

"It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment men cease to pull against it they feel a tug towards it. The moment they cease to shout it down they begin to listen to it with pleasure. The moment they try to be fair to it they begin to be fond of it. But when that affection has passed a certain point it begins to take on the tragic and menacing grandeur of a great love affair."

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