March 6, 2012

Some Thoughts on Where I Am These Days

A few days ago I turned forty years old. Since I was baptized when I was twenty, I have spent more or less half my life as a convert to Catholic Christianity. I'm still a little awed when I think of this having happened to me. On the one hand, there were lots of kids just like me at Connecticut College. Why should I have received this gift, this mercy of God? Maybe it's none of my business to know. On the other hand, the older I get, the more I can see the work of God preparing me for the vocation he has given me. I feel it in the daily practice of my priesthood; in many ways, some plain and practical and others very subtle, from a very young age God has been preparing me to offer the sacrifice of the Mass.

Of the half of my life I have been a Catholic, I have spent about two-thirds of it in religious life: a year and a half in the OFM right after college and then with the OFM Cap. starting in the summer of 2000. In another six months, on our Blessed Mother's birthday, I will have been a priest for five years. The first three years of my priesthood I spent working as a parish priest in Yonkers, New York. After that, the community asked me to move back to Boston to begin doctoral work. This assignment, however, has been interrupted by another. Last I heard, I am to move to Italy in the later spring, spend the summer in Assisi learning Italian, and then take a position in the Capuchin general secretariat in Rome starting in the fall.

It's funny being a convert. Some say converts make the best Catholics. Others say that converts tend to by annoying and given to rigidity. For better or for worse, I share some of the typical traits of Catholic converts and reverts of my generation, such as a delight in doctrine and a certain sort of  attachment to the practices and behaviors of the faith, what the older generation likes to call 'structure.' Like other converts and reverts, I have found in this a blessed deliverance from the vertigo of this world's relativism and a refreshment from the boredom of its hedonism. I want to say that I don't make any apologies for this, though that would be a lie. I have made apologies over the years, in my sin and to my shame.

So, on the one hand, being a convert makes me an intensely committed Christian, Catholic, religious, and priest according to a certain pattern and along certain axes. On the other hand, the convert knows God in all of his blessed adventitiousness, as a God who has worked life-altering discernments, desires, decisions, and movements in one's life before, and who has to be known as someone who is free to continue to do so.


Benedicta said...

Good news about your assignment. The messages that we received everyday helped us realize our mission.Been praying for you since you left your first assignment

Brother Charles said...

Thank you for your prayers!

Greg said...

Also am a convert. Know what you mean.

The fascinating thing about being a convert in this amazing faith is that one is invited to the table immediately. If one has love in one's heart, the invitations are quite amazing.

Your impending journey to Rome speaks to this fact - which I have observed.