Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As you know, I am a convert to Catholicism. Brought up in an Evangelical Protestant home, after college I went to study in England and was ordained as a minister in the Church of England. After fifteen years in the Anglican Church, I took the step to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church.
At OLR we have significant numbers of parishioners who are also converts to the faith. Over the years it has been my honor and joy to assist many others on similar journeys. During this time of welcoming others into the Catholic religion
I have become aware of various difficulties they face – not only in the process of conversion, but also in the years following their acceptance of Catholicism. Over the next few weeks in the pastor’s letter, I will address these problems. I’m aware that these are problems converts face, but they are sometimes also difficulties for “cradle” Catholics.
The first problem might be called “Utopianism”. “Utopia” means “Nowhere” and St. Thomas More’s famous book with that title describes an idealized, perfect society that, of course, does not exist. Utopia is therefore an imagined perfect world, and I’m afraid Americans are too often afflicted with the dream of a Utopia. This makes sense because our country was founded and strengthened by immigrants and pioneers who set out from a world that was extremely imperfect and risked all to come to America or up sticks and move to California to find a better life. When doing so it is hard to avoid the temptation to believe that the new life you are going for is going to be perfect.
This same temptation can influence our religious decisions also. We change religions believing that our new religion is going to be the perfect one. This is an illusion. You know the old saying, “If you ever find the perfect church don’t join it because you’d spoil its perfection!”
Looking back on my own decisions I can honestly say that my own decision to become an Anglican and go to England has loaded with a good bit of Utopianism. My decision to become a Catholic was more clear sighted because it required significant sacrifices. I have written elsewhere that I became an Anglican because I wanted to. I became a Catholic because I needed to.
Making a decision that is too much motivated by Utopianism will always lead to disappointment. We need to be clear about our Catholic Church and clear about Our Lady of the Rosary Church and School. While we all have high ideals and standards, we also need to be realistic about the human frailty and flaws that we all share.
I love the story about G. K. Chesterton’s search for a church. He said when he went to the Methodist Church his umbrella was still at the door when he left. He went to the Catholic Church and it had disappeared because someone had stolen it. He concluded that the Catholic Church was where he would fit in best.
That dose of humor and humility is what we need to avoid Utopianism. The Catholic Church is a boatload of sinners seeking forgiveness.