A short excerpt from an article submitted to a prominent Catholic periodical:
OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS
“When I finally took the quantum leap over the river into Catholicland, which I’ve called THE LAND OF MORE, it was almost as traumatic as the culture shock I experienced as an American cross-cultural missionary in
I was eager to experience all the “goodies” I heard about. I soon discovered I would also have to go through the woods, or the desert, or the jungle on this continuing journey. I had to put on my pith helmet and trek off through the hassles and trials of everyday life carrying my cross even while I enjoyed the feast of the wonderful sacramental life of the Catholic Church. It is true that there is a bountiful table spread in verdant pastures and beside restful waters (Psalm 23)—a picnic of sorts. But it is not entirely or always a picnic; it often takes place in the wilderness. I shouldn’t expect to wear the perpetual joy-grin and maintain the helium balloon emotional feelings that I initially experienced at my Confirmation. However, even the inevitable “dark night of the soul” and God-designed times of adversity carry with them precious treasures of darkness and deep blessings of progress in holiness….
Mirrors and Wardrobes
I knew I had truly come Home. Home naturally means family. Suddenly I had many new and former family relationships to sort out. How did God want me to relate to the wonderful evangelical family of faith from which I came? Should I isolate myself from now on and leave them behind? How should I successfully relate to my new Catholic family?
I was surprised to find what a greatly expanded Christian family I have now; it encompasses heaven and earth, past and present, people alive and those who have departed this earthly life. As a former evangelical, this required some adjustment to understand and savor.
I felt like the fictional character,
My journey Home was primarily an intellectual journey to find the Truth. I wrestled long and hard with theology and doctrine and tried my best to prove the Catholic Church false and not be drawn into it. After I was ultimately convinced that the Truth did lie in the Church, I couldn’t resist it; it was all very heady. As soon as the gift of faith took over, my heart and emotions also became joyously involved. Nevertheless, flesh and blood encounters with people in the Catholic Church are something else! I think it was easier to deal with dogma!
Suddenly the very people I previously avoided and criticized were my family, my brothers and sisters in Christ. They had nothing to say about my being dropped into their midst. To them I was “the new kid on the block,” formerly one of the “separated brethren.” I was among them for better or worse and not only “until death would us part.” We were together for eternity! However, I wondered whether they would accept me in real time. Would I ever have as close bonds with them as I had with my evangelical friends?
“I do” Led me Here
Shortly after I married my late husband more than sixty years ago, we sailed off literally “on a slow boat to
Instantly I had nine brothers-and-sisters-in-laws, their spouses and children, innumerable in-law nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, cousins, and a sizable contingent of shirt-tail relatives who wanted to get in on the action. At the top of the list were new authority figures—a mother-in-law and father-in-law.
Initially, I couldn’t communicate; I had to learn a new language. I was suddenly immersed in ethnic and family and cultural traditions which they took for granted I would embrace because of my new role as my husband’s wife. To say that this Iowa-born girl was in culture shock is to put it mildly.
I experienced living in a sweltering tropical climate for the first time; I had to become accustomed to strange new food. I struggled to observe new protocol among the family members—to address relatives by titles according to their birth order! There were new festivals and events and national heroes to celebrate, even a different calendar based on phases of the moon. It was not the current year by the A.D. or C.E. count, but the year four-thousand-something. Their music sounded strange and dissonant to my American ears. A British system of government now had jurisdiction over me. When I went through immigration upon arrival, they issued me an official new identity card.
Nevertheless, this was my permanent new home. I said “I do” at my wedding, and there was no turning back. I was happily committed; I needed and wanted to be accepted. I was not there to impress the established family of my spouse but to find my place in it. I was there to learn; I had to be humble. Success would require much time and loving patience on both sides.
A Stone Seeking its Place
Being received into the Catholic Church is like encountering a new culture with all the above ramifications and culture shock above. I expected to make cross-cultural adjustments when we embarked upon our missionary work overseas. As a Catholic convert now, I too am confronted with a different language; I must learn Catholic-speak! I have the same Bible, and my belief is still “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all….” (Ephesians 4:4, 5) However, even common theological terms and Bible expressions have different shades of meaning. There are customs, traditions, disciplines, feast days, rituals, celebrations, and solemnities to observe. Catholic Christians have different worship attitudes and habits, devotional expressions and practices, literature, music, and social interactions, although we love and serve the same Lord Jesus Christ….”
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