Mr. Shaun McAfee, O.P. is the author of Reform Yourself! and other books, is the founder and editor of EpicPew.com, and contributes to many online Catholic resources. He holds a Masters in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. Shaun has made his temporary profession as a Lay Dominican and temporarily lives in Italy.
If you just entered the Catholic Church on Easter, I would like to give you my welcome. If you know someone who just entered the Catholic Church on Easter, please welcome them, and share this short article with them.
For whatever reason you joined, you made the most important decision of your life: to follow Christ. In doing this, you’ve entered into his flock, his body, his eternal spouse—his Church. The years ahead of you will be mixed with wonderful memories and some challenges, too. I want to share some advice with you to aid you in your transition. What I have here is some suggestions, but also some important things to keep in mind for the rest of your journey.
(1) Appreciate and frequently make use of the sacraments
No matter your current state or in the future, I implore you to go to confession regularly, go to Mass weekly (daily, if you are able), and to nurture and grow in your vocation. Making regular confessions is the best means of avoiding sin, period. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, you receive special sacramental graces, you will receive absolution and atonement for what you’ve done and what you’ve failed to do, and you’ll have access to some of the best direction and general advice. Going to Mass each Sunday is not just a part of our law; it’s required for communion with Christ. At the Mass, we are filled with a superabundant, supernatural meal: Christ’s flesh and blood. The more often you go, the more change you will see within yourself, so I recommend going more than the weekly mandated feast days.
Lastly here, nurture your vocation it is Holy Matrimony or Holy Orders or religious life or the single life. Take time daily to do whatever is unique and special to your vocational life: aiding others, loving your spouse, disciplining as well as teaching your children, praying for those in the world, and so you’re your vocation is not just where you ended up in life: it’s what God wants you to be engaged in. Remember, those of you who are married, that you are the ministers of your sacrament—a powerful reality.
(2) Don’t sweat the small stuff
In the months before I chose to enter the Catholic Church, I was swept up in the excitement of joining the one true Church. Well, one true Church it is, but the people who make the Church are not perfect. You’ll soon realize (or be reminded) or the presence of human error and sin from members of the Catholic Church. It can be difficult to learn of the latest controversies churned out by the media, and local parish drama can appear worse than it is. You need to realize that the Church is a divine institution, but it was left in the hands of humans who are still on the path to salvation. Let this set in, don’t sweat the small stuff, and you’ll be fine.
(3) Share what you just did with people you know
You’ve just joined the longest-surviving institution in the history of humanity, and arguably the oldest religious system, too. You came into full communion with a group of people who believe that God became man, voluntarily died, and came back to life—because he loves us. The veracity of this Church is remarkable: a succession of popes traced to Peter, teachings from Christ and developed by a hierarchy that has withstood barbarian invasions, plaguing heresies and unthinkable persecutions — and a Faith that is relevant to every person, in every place, in every time. You don’t want to hold these truths to yourself. You want to share them! This is exciting stuff! Don’t keep it to yourself—this is not a private religion. Your first act of evangelization is simple and profound: tell the people you know about what you did, and why. That’s your mission now, and that’s your mission until you are called by our Lord to go home. Good luck!
And one more thing: pray for me, and the others who just entered the Church, and each year on Easter, remember to pray for the souls and consciences of converts everywhere, that they may endure in their faith and serve fruitfully in the vineyard. Again, welcome.