The Cost of Conversion
When an individual comes to the realization that they need to "come home to Rome," there often results a loss of friends, family, and livelihood. The process of coming into the Catholic Church is not an "on the spot" decision made in haste under pressure and regretted in leisure. The Church has wisely made the process occur over an 8 month period of time in the Rite of Christian Initation of Adults. Usually the period of learning and initiation occurs from September to April when the Catechumen finally is brought into the Church receiving the sacrament of Baptism if not previously baptized, and the sacrament of Confirmation, and the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist. That is a tremendous amount of God's grace poured out on one individual in just one day. It's like experiencing the Last Supper and Pentecost all in the same day, whoa! Some will argue that Saul did not sign up for RCIA when he was converted and rightly so, but the early church developed this method of bringing converts in. The first three centuries of the early church used an apprenticeship model where the catechumen would live in a christian community and learn the faith for a period of time before he was finally brought in. This is what the present day RCIA classes seek to reproduce and the candidate is invited to share in the community of faithful believers until that final Easter Vigil Mass when he can personally share the Body and Blood of Christ with the local faith community as well as with the 1.5 billion Catholics worldwide.
In the early church, the process of conversion often led to ostracization as well as martyrdom. In the first 300 years of the Church, the individual catechumen knew that conversion was often a death sentence. Despite this, the Church grew and actually flourished throughout the ancient world. The "blood of martyrs was (truly) the seed of the Early Church."
Nowadays, the cost of conversion sometimes leads to the loss of lifelong friendships, the straining of family ties as well as financial hardship but not usually martyrdom in the Western world. The Journey Home program on EWTN has been documenting the conversion stories of many pastors, lay ministers and others who have literally "given all" to follow Christ in the Catholic Church. Many of these folks were theology professors and pastors with large congregations who lost everything to pursue truth. I am humbled and awed by the decisions they have made to forsake all to follow Christ where He leads them. Pray for the converts and their families, they are traveling through the "narrow gate." (Matt 7:13)
I encourage folks to tune into EWTN's Journey Home Program
this Monday 9/11/2006 to hear the story of a nationally known evangelical believer who has recently counted the costs and chose to convert to Catholicism, despite the harship it will no undoubtedly engender.