Friday, December 28, 2007

Some Practical Concerns

Enough of the "Deep Thoughts" type issues, there are some more practical concerns about becoming Catholic. First of all, I live in a very small town and attend my church almost every service. It's hard to visit another church anonymously. It would be kind of a big deal if I showed up one Sunday at the local Catholic Church. OK, I know it's not really a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but these are my petty problems I'm listing. :) Additionally, our church is currently undergoing a controversy over our current pastor. (The short version is that he's a really nice guy, but it was probably a bad match from the start.) We've lost some members over the last year or so and he's gotten the blame for it. If I start publicly looking around, people will assume I'm mad at him and I don't want to undermine him any right now. I like living in a small town, but it's times like these I wish we lived in a big city and were members of a really big church.

But the biggest issue involves my immediate family. My wife and kids are very happy at our current church. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this is the church my wife grew up in. Other than when she was off in college and a couple of years after when she worked out of town, she has never been a member at another church. I was told numerous times by my in-laws (who are great people, I am very lucky in that department) that our children were the seventh generation to be baptized in our church. Yes, my wife's family was one of the founding families way back when. So I hope you see how leaving this church is not really simple. And this is the only church my children have ever known. They are both active in Sunday School and other activities. Who am I to disrupt that?

There is one possibility that occurs to me, but I would appreciate any feedback from others who've tried something like this. Because the Catholic Church in our town shares a Priest with another larger Church in a nearby town, their only service on Sunday is at 9:00 AM. I guess I could attend Mass at 9 and still go to our service at 11:00. But I don't know how that would really work out. Has anyone ever tried something like this and did it work?

Thanks for the advice everyone.


Cassian said...

I understand your practical concerns, but it's not clear to me why you feel the need to join now -- as opposed to say, a year later -- a local Catholic church, or regularly attend its liturgies (as an outsider). Your interest in, or attraction to, the Catholic Church is obviously genuine and well-grounded. But, given your particular circumstances, it might make sense for you to take things more slowly and really take the time to understand Catholicism by immersing yourself in good books, actively engaging in discussions with others and so on. I think your wife would be more receptive to your conversion, as well as to the possibility of her own conversion, if you had stronger convictions about Catholicism.

In terms of participating in the liturgical life of the Catholic Church -- albeit not full participation -- I recommend visiting from time to time a Cistercian monastery in South Carolina that should be pretty close to where you live. There, you will experience the richness of Catholic liturgy (and it doesn't have to be in Latin). The web site of the monastery is:

MHL said...

Thanks for the thoughts. I didn't mean to give the impression that this was a decision that had to be made this week. The truth is that I've been thinking along these lines the last several years. I'm only just gotten around to blogging about it the last couple of weeks. What you see here is a condensed version of what's been going on in my head for a long time. Rest assured that I'll make no hasty decisions.

I've tried to read pretty widely on the subject, but you're undoubtedly correct that I should probably read more. That's why I'm very grateful to all the posters who have suggested reading material. And as far as engaging in conversations with others, well this blog is my feeble attempt to do just that. I realize that before I make any actual decision I'll need to talk in person with a lot of people, including clergy both Protestant and Catholic. Please be patient with me as I get to that point.

And the suggestion about Mepkin Abbey is a great one. I read The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris several years ago and remember thinking I'd like to visit a monastery one day. Thanks for reminding me about that.

eulogos said...

I am not sure what you are asking if anyone has tried. I have been attending two church services each weekend for several years, cince my husband, a nonbeliever for most of our marriage, was baptized in an Episcopal church. For a year or so I went to Saturday evening mass and then on Sunday to the Episcopal Church. Then I switched to the Byzantine Catholic Church and he to one which was breaking away from the Episcopal church (going under an Anglican bishop.), and now we both go,usually first to the Byzantine Catholic Church, then to breakfast, and then to his Anglican church. It makes for a long Sunday, but thats OK with me. He sometimes grumbles about it a bit.

There is nothing wrong with visiting the Catholic church and then going to your family's church afterwards. How would your wife feel about this?

My wish would be that you first do what Cassian suggested, just because I have no idea what you will find at the Catholic Church in the nearby town. You know that we are far from monolithic in practice, that there are parishes which do Gregorian Chant (alas too few of them) and parishes which sing embarrassing little ditties as hymns. There are beautiful Catholic churches and ugly ones. There is good preaching, mediocre preaching (most common) and really piss poor preaching. You have a better chance of seeing the best of Catholicism at a monastery.

Was there a question about women's ordination in here somewhere? Or didn't I get to that post? In general, if you have difficulty with something, pray about it and let it be, come back to it later, as you may well see the issue in a surprisingly new light by then.
Susan Peterson

eulogos said...

I forget to check the email follow up comments box.

Cassian said...

Be forewarned that visiting Mepkin Abbey or anything comparable would significantly hasten your conversion process. Kathleen Norris' book is good for those who have no experience with monastic spirituality but you will get a whole new perspective on the richness of the Catholic faith if you make a day trip or even better, a weekend retreat.

marymargaret said...

I don't have any specific advice for you, but I can certainly appreciate your difficulty due to your small town life. I am also from a small town, and I understand that personal religious practice is also a matter of public knowledge. Personally, I am a Catholic revert (born and raised Catholic, left the practice of the faith, and returned some 15 years later), so quite a different situation. My only advice is to love and trust the Lord--He will not lead you astray. Be assured of my prayers for you and your family. I am quite impressed with your blog, and will visit it frequently.

Kelly said...


I have a similar situation and will give you my input for what it is worth. My two teenage sons and I have been members of a Charismatic Episcopal Church for 4 years. Although we do not live in a small town, our church family is small (9 families). I have had a fascination with and attraction to the Catholic Church for about 13 years now. I entered the RCIA program at a local Roman Catholic Parish because I wanted to learn more about the faith, not because I thought that I wanted to convert. I have since realized that I believe God is calling me to the Catholic Church. Since my sons are not converting, I attend Catholic Mass on Saturday night and take my sons to CEC Mass on Sunday. I talked to my CEC priest anbout being called to convert and to my RC priest about how to manage these types of issues thru my conversion process. My prayers will be with you and I will be a regular visitor to your blog.

Irenaeus said...

"...embarrassing little ditties as hymns..."

What a wonderful phrase, capturing the essence of how I feel about most contemporary music.

MHL, I'm in a similar boat; wife ain't excited about the prospect, plus my livelihood (working for an Evangelical organization) depends on my not being Catholic; I convert, I lose my job.

So I'm just praying for God to see a way clear for us, that we'd find ourselves either in Catholicism or Orthodoxy, that God would work out the details of getting us there. Wish I had more practical advice, but I'm all out.

Joyful Catholics said...

Being a convert myself, I can only say that reading Rome Sweet Home was one of three books that "sealed it" for me. I'd joined the CC circa 1980 but we left for 26 years for the more boisterous, "hipper sounding" music fellowships.

Finally, Dec 2004 my husband told he of his desire to return to the CC (whether I did or not) as he'd been born into it and raised Catholic. Well, I read 3 books he gave me and Rome Sweet Home was the 2nd. Scott's words were like nothing I'd read before. At this time, I was so parched and thirsty for Truth and tired of our fellowship and the pattern I'd begun to see 'come 'round again.' The other books were "Born Fundamentalist Born Again Catholic, by David Currie and Surprised By Truth (vol. 1)

As my husband just said, "change is hard." I was thinking about Peter and all the men Jesus 'called' they seemingly 'left their nets' at his calling, or their jobs and 'followed' Jesus. Maybe they took longer than it implies, but it doesn't say that they tarried too long to "work it all out" and make it "easy" on everyone else within their families, their bosses and or their jobs. I'm not implying that you "chuck it all" by any means, but you're on the right track it sounds like.

We know a doctor and his wife in a small town in Iowa who drive to Omaha (an hour away) to attend Mass every Sunday. They're in the same boat as you as their faith life is known in their little town. I will pray for you at Mass this morning. Trust in the Lord and lean not to your 'own understanding' It won't ever be a walk in the park or a neat, tidy transition, but a bloody path up Calvary, that will take us to the cross, where we'll have to die...but where we'll also rise with the Lord.

Jesus was from a small town and was hated and disliked by many there, but followed the will of the Father even though it took him to his death. It also took him to his resurrection. You're in good company. God bless you and your family as you pursue this path.

MHL said...

Thanks so much everyone! I'm sorry I haven't responded earlier, but I was away from internet access most of the weekend. Everyone gives very good advice. And thanks so much for the prayers, I'm sure I'll need them.

dachsiemama said...

God bless you on your journey! A helpful resource may be the Coming Home Network...I believe the address is It's for people on the journey, particularly (but not only) pastors who face loss of employment and other hardships when they convert. It's the website started by Marcus Grodi, who has the show Journey Home on EWTN--features interviews with converts and reverts to the Catholic faith. Very helpful in my own journey.

dachsiemama said...

Oh..and Surprised by Truth and Rome Sweet Home were the two books that really got me started. Don't let the titles put you off. Scott Hahn likes puns, but I forgive him! And Patrick Madrid is trying to play off C.S. Lewis' Surprised by Joy.