Rebecca Frech is the author of Teaching in Your Tiara: A Homeschooling Book for the Rest of Us, co-host of the popular radio show/podcast The Visitation Project, Catholic speaker, and writes the award-winning blog Shoved to Them. She and her husband live just outside Dallas with their seven children and an ever-multiplying family of dust-bunnies. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at @shovedtothem.
As I watched the new Catholics enter the Church during last year’s Easter Vigil Mass, I wept during the Baptisms and choked up during the Confirmations. Nothing makes me happier than the sight of so many (64 total at our parish) accepting Jesus Christ and entering into full communion with His Church. As I looked at the standing-room-only crowd of over 1,300 people, I wondered how many of them were back at Church for the first time, and remembered the Lent and Easter of 16 years ago that saw my own return to the Catholic faith.
As a teenager, I’d left the Church full of certainty that God did not exist. I’d traveled through agnosticism, and ended up a lukewarm atheist. Seven years later, I’d sat in the pews as a brand new revert, and watched the converts be welcomed with smiles, applause, and all of the pomp and tradition at which the Catholic Church excels.
Reverts are a different breed of Catholic, not really Cradle and not really freshly converted. Raised in the Faith, or converted at some point, and then fallen away. Those who experience a reversion to the Faith aren’t greeted with warm cries of “Welcome Home!” and public celebration. Instead, they simply decide one day to walk into a confessional, slide quietly into a pew, and pick up the familiar rhythms of the Mass and the unending cadence of the liturgical year.
Some are lit from within with the fire of a freshly converted Catholic, drinking in the teachings of an ancient faith they somehow never really knew. Others are worn and battered, broken after a long and painful battle with themselves. They are suddenly immersed in the very beliefs and theology which they had loudly and vehemently denounced to anyone who would listen. That was me — the battered and broken former denier, sitting in a pew, softly crying, and eating crow.
When we talk about the members of the Catholic Church, we tend to split them neatly into “converts” and “cradle,” and ignore that silent group of “others” in our midst. What an amazing opportunity for spiritual growth and edification we miss out on when we don’t call on the “reverts” to tell their stories of pain, rejection, and conversion. We also miss the opportunity to celebrate with them their triumphant return the One True Faith.
So for this year’s Easter Season, let’s celebrate these unsung heroes of our Faith and let them tell their stories. We need to reach out in love to the prodigals who are coming home at last, and let them know how truly happy we are that they are once again well and truly home.
Welcome home, Reverts, welcome home!