It's not the doctrines, dogmas or culture of Catholic Christianity that strike fear in me. Its not gestures, confession or being paraded in front of the congregation every other week.... Its the call to conversion that scares the crap out of me. It isn't limited to a group of candidates & catechumens during the RCIA process. Conversion is for everyone, like the air we breathe. Like the blood in our veins, we need conversion to live. Without it, we die. Or at least, we're supposed to. Nowadays, we have all sorts of spiritual "treatments" & "drugs" to keep us going. I'm convinced that's the only reason I'm still alive today. Spiritually speaking, of course.
I don't know that I actually expected to hear the call of conversion... even though that's technically what this process is all about. Conversion to me meant something more like exchanging currency than exchanging one way of life for another. And when I say "way of life", I'm not talking about going to Mass, praying the Rosary & being up in everyone's business about social justice from now on. I'm not talking so much about the functions of expression, but rather, the source of expression.
As a Protestant, I thought my source was God. And I'm not saying it wasn't... but it was definitely tainted... diluted with other things that allowed me to sustain my lifestyle. Bible studies, emotional worship nights, popular devotionals & rousing evangelical sermons kept me occupied for many years until I realized much of it was just hype. It didn't change me. Of course, it wasn't anyone else's fault but my own right? At least, this is what I was told. But why is it when I stepped foot into the Catholic church, my heart stopped (figuratively)? This was no ordinary place & my gut knew it. Why is it when I attended my first Mass, I was struck by the palpable solemnity of the occasion? It was just another church service, wasn't it? The priest was just some ordinary guy, right? How is it that the scripture readings came to life & cut to the heart of me? Why did a simple 10 minute homily stay with me for an entire week when an hour long sermon was quickly forgotten?
For all its ritual & perceived ornateness, the Catholic expression is actually a very simple one. There's no hype, no tugging on heart strings, no filler. Everything we do has a specific purpose which echoes the voice of Jesus to "Come & follow". We're not called to be members of a denomination. We're called to be disciples. We are called to conversion. I. Me. I am called to conversion. God doesn't want to give me a new pacemaker... He wants to give me a new heart. He wants to be the source of my salvation. Is that what I want too?