A Catholic convert wants to "get back that joy," and Katrina Fernandez fixes it for him
I’m having a pretty rough time. I converted about three years ago and I’m feeling pretty frustrated right now. I feel like the Church I was converting to simply doesn’t exist. Where’s all that Church tradition and rich liturgy? Things that we were taught in RCIA seemed so clear cut; here is what the Church teaches about this, here is what the catechism says. But in reality it’s not like that at all. People just kind of do their own thing and whatever they want.
I got so fed up with it all that recently I started going to an Orthodox church and their liturgy is sublime. I’ve actually looked into converting to Orthodoxy, that’s how disappointed I am with the Church right now. I wish I could just move to another diocese that had better parishes. How do I get back that joy I was feeling after I converted?
Your relationship with Catholicism is a living breathing relationship with Christ and His Church. In that respect it’s similar to other relationships you have in your life — friends, family, co-workers, and spouse. A healthy relationship that weathers time and turmoil is one with a sturdy foundation and one where each member participates in give and take. If you expect the Church to constantly give you fulfillment or meet to your expectations then you’re the “taker” in this relationship. I have to ask, what are you giving the Church?
Using the relationship metaphor further, let’s say you are in a marriage and are feeling dissatisfied with your spouse. What is the healthiest action to take; have an affair, get divorced, or seek therapy? Therapy, obviously. All you’re going to do is carrying your dissatisfaction to another partner and repeat your relationship patterns unless you seek guidance to reconcile the source of your discontent.
Leaving the Church, converting to another religion, or floating from parish to parish in search of that one perfect church is going to leave you in an endless cycle of unfulfillment and frustration. No church, no matter how sublime the liturgy is, is without its own sets of problems. That’s because every church, regardless of religion, is run by fallible man. Lucky for us though, that the Catholic Church is guided by infallible God.
To me it just sounds like your convert high is wearing off, which is completely normal. The “convert high” is a period after your conversion where you are floating on cloud nine, similar to the honeymoon phase. You’ve made it through RCIA, all your hard work has paid off, you’re an official bonafide Catholic and can receive Communion. Amen and hallelujah!
Then reality sets in. All the hard work is not over, but just beginning. You’re going to have to work to maintain and build this relationship and commit to nurturing it. Catholics are called to continual conversion, which means you never stop learning about your faith. This search for more knowledge helps you uncover more and more truths about Catholicism that were previously hidden to you, which in turn builds appreciation. From appreciation comes affection, and affection grows into love.
I know that there are truly frustrating situations within the Church that test our patience and faith, but we have to use these as opportunities to grow in those areas. We have to rely on God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit and accept that the Church has survived for over 2,000 years despite all that man has done to try to corrupt and ruin Her.
You’re going to have to train your eyes and ears to seek out God within the Church, not man. If you look for negative incidents to reinforce your current frustrations that is all you’re going to find. The best way to retrain your focus is through prayer, adoration, Mass attendance, the rosary, reading scripture, volunteering, or joining another group in your parish (study or prayer group). I also recommend, if it’s available to you, talking regularly with a spiritual director or your priest.
Again, what you’re feeling is part of the natural ebb and flow of spirituality. Perseverance, faithfulness, and prayer will help you find that missing joy.