Welcome Home, Fellow Converts, and May Truth Sustain You Always!

(photo: Register Files)

I extend a very happy “Wel­come Home” to all those who will be received into full com­mu­nion with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil Sat­ur­day evening. As an RCIA team member, I have lis­tened to the emo­tions of new Catholics, after the Vigil, as they recalled mak­ing their first Eucharist. In them there is one feel­ing, unmis­tak­able and com­mon to them all: joy, often to the point of tears that would not be refused. I have not met, in my years working with RCIA and after, the Catholic con­vert who does not expe­ri­ence that same joy. Nor have I met the con­vert who, even after many years, does not get a glim­mer of that same joy in their eyes when recall­ing their own con­ver­sion story.

When I received the Eucharist for the first time, a brand-​new con­vert, on April 23, 2011, I had no clue what I should pray when I returned to my pew to kneel. I had heard the sto­ries of con­verts who broke down in tears of joy; I had heard the sto­ries of con­verts who had got­ten lost in pro­found med­i­ta­tion. But at the moment I had no tears nor pro­found med­i­ta­tions; I merely gave in to the irre­sistible urge to whis­per “Thank you” over and over again. I think it was Meis­ter Eck­hart who said, “If the only prayer you say in your whole life is Thank you, that is enough.” So I trust that my first prayer as a Catholic was enough.

For a while after­ward, when­ever I would return to my pew after receiv­ing the Eucharist, I would have no spe­cific prayer, but I would med­i­tate on Gala­tians 2:20: “Now it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” I didn’t real­ize it at first, but it struck me even­tu­ally that there is a great deal of Eucharis­tic the­ol­ogy in those words of St. Paul’s. St. Paul under­stood the Real Pres­ence.

So I say it as well to those con­verts new to the Catholic Church this year: Easter Vigil, and the days and weeks and months after it, will for­ever be an unfor­get­table peak expe­ri­ence in your Catholic life. You have come a long way, and many of you have sac­ri­ficed greatly, to be where you are now. It is right, it is fit­ting, it is proper, to have the joy that you now have. It is right to give way to tears when you take Com­mu­nion. It is right to look for­ward to the shiv­ers of being enthralled by the Real Pres­ence. Take this peak expe­ri­ence, as long as you have it, for the gift from Christ that it is.

God’s bless­ings, new Catholics, on being received into the full­ness of the faith.

But per­mit me to cau­tion you. Though your Catholic life is new, and just now on the moun­tain­top, your Catholic life and faith will not be sus­tained there. The shiv­ers go away. The fire gets dim­mer. You return from the moun­tain­top to the flat­lands. In a very impor­tant sense, it is right that this hap­pens; for oth­er­wise, your per­sis­tence as a Catholic would depend on your feel­ings at any given moment. And the Church is not about feel­ings but about Truth. Feel­ings come and go, and come again, and go again. But only truth is last­ing. It is truth that must sus­tain you.

Well, look. If you think it is about your feel­ings, then what are you going to do when all of a sud­den the hom­i­lies are bor­ing? Or when Fr. Soandso says some­thing in the con­fes­sional that grates you? Or when—as inevitably does happen—you return to your pew after the Eucharist and can only think, “Well, here I am”? These dis­ap­point­ments can—unless your eye remains firmly fixed on truth—ultimately ruin your Catholic life.

But I hope that none of you have become Catholic because it feels good, or sat­is­fies some emo­tional need, or because it is con­ve­nient, or helps you accom­plish some goal. I hope you have become Catholic because the Catholic Church alone pos­sesses the full­ness of truth. Boston Col­lege phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor Peter Kreeft put it best, start­ing with a quo­ta­tion of C.S. Lewis from Mere Chris­tian­ity:

“Above all you must be ask­ing which door is the true one, not which pleases you best. The ques­tion should never be, Do I like that kind of ser­vice? but, Are these doc­trines true? Is there holi­ness here? Does my con­science move me toward this?” Now, that’s very sim­ple, but that’s the essen­tial advice to give in mak­ing any hon­est choice. There’s only one rea­son why any­body should hon­estly believe any­thing: because it’s true. If you think dif­fer­ently than that, let’s get that set­tled before we do any­thing else.

If I would impress any­thing upon your minds, it would be that Truth alone mat­ters, and Truth is not an emo­tion (how­ever beau­ti­ful it may be) but a Per­son. When every­thing else has gone, it is Truth alone—it is Christ alone—that will sus­tain you. Here is the fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence between the Catholic Church you have just joined, and all the tens of thou­sands of other Chris­t­ian eccle­sial com­mu­ni­ties: The rest talk about Christ; but the Catholic Church has Christ. For He is present in the Eucharis­tic sacra­ment, and you may encounter Him there, every day if you like.

The Real Pres­ence mat­ters. It is the one thing that sets us most apart. When the good feel­ings and the peak expe­ri­ence start to fade, find refuge in the sacra­ment. Find refuge in the Eucharist; find refuge in Ado­ra­tion. These aren’t magic bul­lets that will sud­denly make you feel a surge of eupho­ria, but they will keep you focused on the one thing that mat­ters: Truth; for Christ is Truth.

Eupho­ria does come. But I have learned in my five years as a Catholic that it is unpre­dictable, and comes and goes with­out warn­ing. I am grate­ful for the eupho­ria when it comes. But I can not, I must not, rely on it. In Christ alone is the Truth that will sus­tain us through the ebb and flow of our unpre­dictable feel­ings.

So here then, to all the new con­verts to the Catholic Church, is my prayer for you: May truth always sus­tain you.

Wel­come home, dear broth­ers and sis­ters.