On Giants' Shoulders

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Still Me?

I had an epiphany this week about why some people may be refusing my requests to be Facebook friends. These aren't people who have a history of problems with me, some of them are cousins with whom I haven't had a lot of contact in the past decade or so, but who have always been cordial to me or they are friends from my high school and college years with whom I simply lost touch. I put in a friend request to another one recently and after a few days got a message that they didn't know who I was, so would I identify myself. I did and have since had a nice communication back. The person said essentially, "oh I thought it might be you, but I wasn't sure."

Now my Facebook profile has a picture of me as well as a few relevant facts about me. The picture that was posted was from my daughter's wedding reception and my hair was down differently than I generally wear it, but otherwise I looked pretty much the same (older obviously, but nearly as slender as when she saw me last - unlike at the present moment). So why didn't she recognize me? Obviously, not everyone recalls women's married names, but I don't think that was the difficulty. I honestly think what happened was she saw my first name, looked at the picture, and then read down the profile. I highly suspect that when she got to the religious preference line she figured this wasn't someone she knew. I also suspect the same thing has happened with some of my cousins. The cousins who've been closest to me know that I converted to the Catholic Church, the ones who haven't been close (and I have a whole slew of cousins scattered all over the country), don't.

While people wouldn't necessarily be surprised if my hair color were different, my weight were different, or even if I had a new last name (after all our generation has been peculiarly unsuccessful at staying married to the spouse of our youth) they really didn't expect this particular change. I was militantly Protestant when these people last talked with me. I was an enthusiastic homeschooling evangelical Protestant. I wasn't the sort of person who became Roman Catholic. For most of my contemporaries becoming Roman Catholic was something you did if you married a Catholic, it wasn't something that you chose to do for religious reasons. You certainly didn't go from being a serious evangelical Protestant to being Roman Catholic. So obviously, even if the picture looked vaguely like their old friend, or their long lost cousin, it obviously was a fluke. Couldn't be me, not possibly.

Yet, it is. My hair color is still roughly the same (just peppered with some gray), my weight seems to go up and down like a yo-yo, but I'm the same shape now as I was when I converted. I'm still married to the same guy as I was 35 years ago. We still live in the same town on the same plot of land. The one big change is that I'm no longer an evangelical Protestant I am a thoroughly convinced Roman Catholic.

My genetic code is still the same, but in many ways I am not the same. I could walk back comfortably into houses I used to live in (even dreamed the other night about purchasing one of them and moving there). What I could not do is to return to being Protestant. I've gone to Protestant funerals, and even a couple of other Protestant church services with family. There is no nostalgic call there for me. While the hymnody sometimes speaks to me when I'm driving by myself in the car, the reality of a Protestant service for me now speaks only of emptiness. I think Catholic, I dream Catholic, I live Catholic (not perfectly by any stretch of the imagination).

So the me that they encounter truly is a bit of a stranger. Some, like my friend Sandy, will say things like, "but why Catholic?" Others will be too polite to ask. They will shake their heads at the peculiar notion and doubtless chalk it up to religious mania (being Pentecostal wasn't weird enough for her). However, I'd rather that they did ask, and that they'd really listen to the answer. It's just that the Church I entered is under a lot of fire lately and the idea of voluntarily becoming part of her becomes an even stranger notion to a lot of people. At the point I became Catholic the abuse scandal had only begun to get press. I was aware of it and aware as well that it reflected badly on some priests and bishops, but that the Church remained the Church, no matter the failings of some of it's leaders. If the Borgia popes couldn't destroy it neither could some bad men now.
I must say I felt real admiration for the people who were received into the Church this Easter when controversy was all over the news or even for my son-in-law who came into the Church much more recently than my children and I did. However, the truth of the Catholic faith is not changed by the failure of some of her children. We didn't become Catholic because it was popular, or successful, or entertaining. We became Catholic for the sole reason that we became convinced that here was where the truth was found. Here were the sacraments that would change us and give us the grace to become more holy. Here was the place where sins could be forgiven. Most of all here was Jesus, body and blood, soul and divinity. All those Protestant churches with all of their lively music, their friendly congregations, their opportunities for involvement, their lively Sunday Schools and youth programs were void of the presence of Jesus Himself.

So, still me, yes indeed. Yet in many ways a very different me. I hope that some of these people will do what my old friend Susan did and ask the question, "is that really you?" However, I hope they'll go beyond it to ask what the me that I still am is now a Catholic me. I'd love to show them the treasures I found in an unexpected place.


At 6:56 PM, Blogger Benedict Girl said...

Hey I'm sorry I haven't stopped by in a while. I am having a similar but opposite experience within my own family. we at one time were all catholic, but now my siblings who hadn't the blessed opportunities and gifts I've had and continue to have, are wondering why I am still Catholic! Honestly... But you know all that. I think the same goes for a lot of the friends I had in Catholic school. I don't know them well enough now to know, but I doubt they are catholic themselves in terms of personal belief.

I did want to tell you that my Blog Address changed to "sketchingbridges.blogspot.com" so you could change it if it's still in your blog list haha

Christ keep you,

At 2:22 PM, Blogger Karen E. said...

Beautiful post, Liz.


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