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Sunday, February 18, 2007

The dilemma of timing

Some people convert, or change faiths, because they find the 'target' faith more appealing, or better suiting to their nature. Others change because, quite simply, they have no choice.

To explain this, let me quote the former Anglican bishop of London, Mgr. Graham Leonard(?)--here he is speaking about ordaining former Anglican clergy, but this is equally pertinent to many converts:
We are talking about men who ... sincerely believed that they were following God's will as regards their vocation. Only later, and sometimes very painfully, have they come to the realisation that the ecclesial body in which they [were] did not enjoy the fulness of Christianity which subsists within the Catholic Church.
So, that's the problem. You think you've done the right thing, you think you've gone to the right place, and then you realise, as if lightning has struck you, that you've knocked on the wrong door.

It's a very tough place for people to be in. It's okay when they don't realise, but once they have, as Msgr. Leonard notes, it becomes a very painful situation. I found this pain accelerated my own journey "across the Tiber". It took me almost two years to work out that the Anglican Communion was not, for me, the full expression of my faith, but once I had realised that, there was an almost frantic desire in me to "get to the right place". Think of it, if you will, as realising you're not only late for the birthday party, but also at the wrong end of the motorway.

I think the important lesson to be learned here, though, is that timing is essential and crucial. You cannot go at faith like a bull at a gate; you must instead learn to work at God's pace. Even when bogged down in the pain of feeling distant and separate from those you long to be with, you must have faith that time will bring about that which is so desired. If we run too fast, then our faith becomes shallow and only skin-deep. If, on the other hand, time is taken--even painful time--then that faith becomes ingrained, and a part of our everyday life. You cannot run before you can walk.

4 comments:

Chris said...

Mark,

Great point. Timing plays a huge roll. When I think about my conversion experience I believe that things happened at the particular time God wanted them to. Just the right person came along or the right thing was said at each point along the way when I was becoming bogged down to push me along. And that is still happening now. You don't just wake up one day and have faith. It is a life long journey and you have to be patient with God's plan.

Mark said...

Thanks, Chris. Absolutely right about people and things just coming along.

It's like this: I had agreed with so many people that being received into the Catholic Church this Easter would be potentially impossible. It turns out it is happening (barring a calamity!) after all.

Schütz said...

Thanks for the reflection. It is very true. It is easy for those of us who have made the journey into the Church to look at others who are obviously on the road and wonder why they are dithering. But it all happens at God's pace, rather than ours.

I must say though that I have often been suspicious of those who act upon their conversion at (for eg.) retirement or long service leave or some other personally convenient time. Once the truth has been realised, you can't dilly dally.

Chris said...

I agree. For a long time I held out because there were still things that I wasn't sure about. But there definately came a moment when I knew that it was time and that God was ready for me to be received into his Church. I knew that there was nothing I could do to stop it then.

I would like to say I was amazed but unfortunately I wasn't surprised at the number of people (Catholic and non-Catholic) who asked me if I was married, engaged, or dating a Catholic as the reason for my conversion.